OXFORD, Maine – For better or worse, the first phase of the Oxford casino won’t look like what a lot of voters imagined.
Oxford Planning Board members Walter Mosher told Black Bear Entertainment owner Rob Lally on Thursday night that he’d heard concerns from citizens that the scaled-back first phase of the casino was “not what they voted for.”
Since shortly after voters approved the $164 million four-season resort casino in November, Black Bear Entertainment has been touting a three-phase plan, beginning with a 66,000-square-foot gaming floor and restaurant. Lally said it would be roughly the same size as the Hannaford supermarket in Oxford.
According to Lally, plans for later phases are rough estimates, and could change based on how much business the casino attracts. He expects a 200-room hotel, a spa, and other amenities, which voters were promised before the election, will come in the second and third phases.
“We’d start with 500 machines and ease that up to 800,” Lally said. “We’d have a dozen tables and work our way up to two dozen.” He said the early casino will include a retail store, a bar and lounge and a restaurant.
“What we don’t want to do is try to overbuild this and overcommit to any of this,” Lally told the board.
One welcomed change made since Black Bear released preliminary plans was a scaling back of a side entrance on Rabbit Valley Road to a gated entrance with a call box for emergency personnel.
For Stuart Davis of the Planning Board, it was a relief. Davis, who lives off Rabbit Valley Road on Old County Road, said he was concerned about traffic clogging the road.
Lally said many Rabbit Valley Road residents had similar concerns. “Closing it off was an easy decision after those discussions,” Lally said. He said the entrance may still be used as a service entrance.
Robert Berry of Main-Land Development Consultants said the site plan application he gave to the Planning Board was about 1,000 pages. He and other consultants to Black Bear presented some of the highlights of the plans and answered questions about drainage, sewage and traffic.
At the request of the Planning Board, architect Scott Celella of JCJ Architecture went to his car and brought back an unofficial floor plan, which featured a large gaming floor across the front half and dining in the back half.
He said the size and shape of the building is finalized for the permitting process, but the inside layout is still being determined. He showed conceptual art previewing how the casino will look from the front and the side.
Because there is no water or sewage service on Pigeon Hill yet, plans include on-site water and sewage, including a 400-foot long in-ground septic tank about a quarter of a mile behind the casino, with filters on the way for waste such as kitchen grease.
Diane Morabito of Maine Traffic Resources said the road in front of the casino will need to be widened to provide for a left turn lane for northbound traffic.
Oxford has hired Jeffrey Amos, president of Terradyn Consultants, LLC of New Gloucester, to review the permit. Amos said he had a few problems with stormwater pond calculations, but they could be fixed with “a few tweaks here and there.” He said he’s waiting for revisions on stormwater drainage.
Other than that, he said he found nothing out the ordinary.
Black Bear Entertainment left the site plans and the drawings of the casino’s exterior at the Oxford Town Hall for residents to view.
Distributed by McClatchy-Tribune Information Services.