City of Elk Grove Sends Signals of Support For Proposed $400-million Casino

September 26, 2016 |  

Although the City of Elk Grove has said it has not taken a position on the $400-million casino resort proposed by the Wilton Rancheria, recent actions indicate a willingness on the City's part to facilitate its approval from the Bureau of Indian Affairs. The proposed casino site is on a portion of the parcel of the unfinished shopping center now known as the Outlet Collection at Elk Grove owned by the Howard Hughes Corporation (HHC). 

The first signal came at the Thursday, September 15 meeting of the Elk Grove Planning Commission when by a 4-0 vote commissioners agreed to amend the development agreement with HHC. The development agreement is the document that dictates how the parcel that now includes the Outlet Collection at Elk Grove is to be developed.

The proposed location of the $400 million Wilton Rancheria is 
on the site of the unfinished Outlet Collection at Elk Grove 
Owned by the Howard Hughes Corporation. 
HHC, which had the development agreement amended two years ago year to accommodate the completion of the unfinished Outlet Collection at Elk Grove, requested another change. This change exempts about 35-acres from the 105-acre retail portion from the development agreement to be used for the proposed casino. 

According to page 3 of the staff report "The requested changes to the Agreements reflect the fact that the Bureau of Indian Affairs will not allow the Phase 2 property to be moved from fee to trust status unless the encumbrances such as the Development Agreement are removed from title." 

If the City Council rejects the recommendation of the planning commission and not allow for the carve-out of the development agreement, it is possible the BIA would not enable the parcel to be placed in trust. If that parcel is not put in trust, it would be eliminated from consideration as a site for the casino.

Conversely, if the City Council approves the release of the parcel from the development agreement, the BIA will continue its assessment of the parcel through the Environmental Impact Study. 

Although the City Council will make the final determination on the carve-out, based on staff's recommendation, it would be highly unusual for it to be opposed. 

Additionally, an email from Elk Grove's economic development director Darrel Doan to Wilton Rancheria Chairman Raymond Hitchcock Rancheria, seeking a meeting with Boyd Gaming, the proposed developer and operator of the casino on behalf of the Wilton Rancheria, asked Hitchcock to "make sure they [Boyd Gaming]  know we are supportive." 

On the City's casino FAQ page, the City has said that it "has taken no official position on the project and has no vote or land use authority on where the project is located." 
      
Along with the Planning Commissioner's release of the parcel from the development agreement, on Wednesday night, the City Council will deliberate the terms of the memorandum of understanding (MOU) between the City and the Wilton Rancheria. The MOU will, among other things, determine how much the City and other governmental agencies will be paid by for the effects of the casino on services such as traffic and public safety.

City staff has recommended approval of the MOU that will be presented. 

Wednesday's Elk Grove City Council meeting starts at 6 p.m.

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