Tribe’s $500M Fall River casino plan dead Biotechnology park project back in play

Tribe’s $500M Fall River casino plan dead

Biotechnology park project back in play


NO CHIPS: Wampanoag Tribal Chairman Cedric Cromwell, left, and Fall River Mayor William Flanagan talk to reporters last year about the possible future of a gaming resort in Fall River. That plan is now dead.
By Thomas Grillo  |   Saturday, January 22, 2011  |  http://www.bostonherald.com  |  Local Coverage
Photo by Angela Rowlings (file)

All bets are off for the Mashpee Wampanoag tribe’s plans to build a casino on a 300-acre parcel of wooded land along Route 24 in Fall River.

Mayor William Flanagan, who last year touted the site as the perfect location for a $500 million resort-style casino, has told the tribe that the city will stick with the original plan for a biotechnology park on the land.

The prospect of bringing gambling to the South Coast was controversial from the start. The first hurdle faced by the tribe was legislation that precluded the site from being developed for gambling. Later, the Patrick administration said if Flanagan proceeded with a casino development, the city would have to pay back the state more than $30 million for a highway ramp to the site. The ramp was built when the site was slated for the University of Massachusetts at Dartmouth’s proposed multimillion-dollar biomanufacturing facility.

Things got even muddier last month when was a Superior Court judge issued an injunction preventing the city’s Redevelopment Authority from selling 45 acres to the tribe for $4.5 million with an option to purchase an 255 additional acres for $16 million.

“At that point, I envisioned having neither a casino nor a biotech park on that land,’’ Flanagan said. “I told the Patrick administration that we should get back on track to have the UMass biomanufacturing facility located there.”

Gregory Bialecki, secretary of housing and economic development, declined a request for an interview. A spokesman said in a statement, “The secretary’s meeting with state and local officials and university and life sciences representatives was positive and informative. It helped to further our dialogue on a project that will create jobs and build an industry cluster in a key region of the Commonwealth.”

Still, Flanagan insists Fall River is the right place for a casino. He said the Mashpee Wampanoags are still committed to Fall River and are looking for alternative sites to build a casino. “The tribe’s goal is to find a tract of land without any restrictions that they can buy to be ready for when the gaming bill is reconsidered by the Legislature,” he said.

Tribal council Chairman Cedric Cromwell did not return a call seeking comment and a spokeswoman for the tribe declined comment.

Lawmakers came close to legalizing casino gambling last year. But a deadlock over whether slots should be allowed at racetracks doomed the idea as House Speaker Robert A. DeLeo and Gov. Deval Patrick were unwilling to budge.

This time, DeLeo and Patrick have hinted that they are willing to compromise, but neither side will say what a compromise will look like.

Article URL: http://www.bostonherald.com/news/regional/view.bg?articleid=1311115

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