RICHMOND, Va. (WRIC)– Three casino proposals still in the running for a license in Richmond have all presented their plans to community members this week. According to some residents in the Stratford Hills and Forest Hill area, the last and final virtual meeting was the most heated of the three.
After last night’s virtual meeting with Bally’s Corporation, the company proposing Bally’s Richmond Casino Resort, many residents told 8news they still have unanswered questions. Signs can be spotted in Stratford Hills protesting a potential casino. A Facebook group has emerged with more than 500 members, to ‘fight the proposal.’
“It really didn’t address the concerns of citizens that are directly impacted by this,” said Brooke Betts, a Richmond resident. “It seemed like a surprise to them that these were neighborhoods. It seemed like a real miss, like they had no concept of who lived here and who was going to be directly impacted.”
Bally’s Richmond Casino Resort is a proposed casino construction on a 61-acre area near Powhite Parkway and Chippenham Parkway. A group of neighbors, including Richmond resident Danyale Little, are worried about wildlife and the potential negative impacts on the environment.
“A casino would be great, just not here in this neighborhood,” Little said. “I really don’t think it should be in anyone’s neighborhood. Children and families use this area to walk. They jog. We have pets and it just would change the entire feel of the neighborhood. Unfortunately, I would probably look for another place to live.”
“The draw to this neighborhood specifically is the green space and quick access to the river and putting a casino right smack dab in the middle of it will just completely destroy the appeal of this neighborhood,” said Lauren Bell, a homeowner in the city.
Other residents continue to weigh in.
“Overall I can see the postives and negatives of a casino,” said resident Carlton Bragg. “However, the Stratford Hills area is not the proper location for a casino in the city of Richmond.”
During the virtual meeting, Bally’s explained to community members that it’s been investigating the wetlands for years.
In addition, concerns about potential gravesites have also been circulating in the community.
“They were dismissive of our concerns about potential gravesites for emancipated slaves on the site,” said Patricia Kinser, a Richmond resident.
During the meeting, Bally’s Corporation denied that there were any gravesites in the area.
Residents like Beth Musik are concerned about the impact on traffic. Musik has lived in Richmond for 45 years and lives in the Willow Oaks area. Musik told 8news, she attended all three virtual meetings.
“We’ve been living through Forest Hill construction since 2011 and now we’re going to live through a construction of a casino?,” asked Musik.
Earlier this week, 4th district Councilmember Kristen Larson said she did not support the proposal.
“This project was proposed without any input from my office or the community. I found out about the two casino proposed in the 4th district via the news media. While the reasons for opposition are wide ranging, access and traffic impacts for that parcel are a huge issue for the district.”Kristen Larson, 4th District City Councilmember
In response, Bally’s Corporation released an updated map cutting off access to Forest Hill avenue, while also creating access to the casino from all directions.
“We listened to Council Member Larson’s feedback regarding potential traffic issues Bally’s Richmond might create, and we are pleased to have fully addressed the issue she identified,” said Marc Crisafulli, Executive Vice President of Strategy and Operations for Bally’s Corporation.
Tuesday, the Cordish Companies proposed their plan for the Live! Casino & Resort Richmond in Scott’s Addition at Arthur Ashe Boulevard and West Leigh street. The casino would be located near the Diamond. Rob Norton, president of Cordish Gaming Group, addressed the traffic concerns.
“The folks going to a casino for enjoyment, they’re trickling in at different times and leaving at different times,” said Norton.
Last week, Councilmember Katherine Jordan, who represents the 2nd district, stated her position on a casino in a statement.
“As I made clear to my constituents, the Cordish Companies, the city’s economic development team, and the casino selection consultants, I am a hard “no” on any gaming at the Bow Tie Cinemas site. My constituents don’t want it, the thriving greater Scott’s addition doesn’t need it, and gaming and college sports just don’t mix. I welcome the developers to look at other non-gaming investments in our city.”Katherine Jordan, 2nd District City Councilmember
On Wednesday, Urban One Peninsula Pacific Entertainment and Live Nation presented its plan located off of I-95. The CEO addressed crime and traffic, stating that the site would have the least traffic impact of all three proposals.
According to Councilmember Kristen Larson, the city is asking community members to provide comments on the shortlisted proposals via the Resort Casino webpage by April 6. The evaluation panel will discuss the feedback on April 8 and 9. They will then recommend an operator and site to City Council in May. If approved by the council, Richmond residents will be able to vote “yes” or “no” to the proposal on the ballot on Nov. 2.