Thomas Wilmot Suspends Construction on Lago Resort after Appellate Court Decision
Work was suspended on the Lago Resort & Casino on Monday after a judge ruled that the development plan by the town board of Tyre, site of the casino, violates state environmental law. Meanwhile, a pro-casino spokesman characterized the ruling as a “detout”, while anti-casino spokespeople said the decision is a serious problem for the Finger Lakes development.
Last Friday, the Appellate Division of State Supreme Court vacated the development plan, saying it violated state environmental laws. Work on the $425 million casino project came to a halt, until a new and better plan could be devised.
Ruled It Violated State Environmental Laws
When the ruling came down, opponents of the Lago casino said that “the ruling could present major problems for Lago”. The judges in the case ruled that the Seneca County town granted approval before properly assessing the planned development of the Lago Resort & Casino.
Casino Free Tyre, a group of area citizens who have opposed a Finger Lakes casino since the plan was announced in December 2014, celebrated the decision. New York state granted a license for the Lago Resort after a nearly-two year licensing process. The Lago license was one of three licenses offered for casino developments in the state of New York, after a 2013 referendum approves up to 4 licenses.
Tom Wilmot Ends Construction
Thomas Wilmot, the Rochester-area developer who is heading construction on the Lago Resort, said that the court ruling was purely “technical” and he said that it was a minor “detour”. Wilmot also said in a press release on Monday, “I would be disingenuous if I did not say how frustrated I am in this temporary delay. However, I am most disappointed on behalf of the people of Tyre, Seneca County and the Finger Lakes region who badly need the jobs and economic development Lago’s construction and operations will provide.”
The press release went on to say that Wilmot was suspending “continued construction” on the site until the situation was resolved. In other words, all of the local construction jobs created to build the $425 million casino no longer would be active. Nor would construction materials be purchased through the businesses in Tyre, which received a windfall when the state agreed to the license. Suspension of construction thus sets back the Lago Resort plan, but it also exerts an economic pressure on local business leaders and workers to restart the development.
Casino Free Tyre
Back in February 2015, Casino Free Tyre filed a petition with officials which called for an end to construction on the Tyre site. The petition contained over 1,000 signatures, but a subsequent investigation by WHEC’s New York State Exposed found that only 30% of the signatures belonged to people living in the Tyre region. A judge threw out the petition, so construction continued.
Jim Dawley, a spokesperson for Casino Free Tyre, said he is concerned about the consequences of a 94,000-square in the community. Dawley said in an interview, “You’ve jumped the border from what we’ve always assumed was the commercial zone into agriculture zone, changing the zoning. You’ve introduced how much cross town traffic. We’re only a four by four square.”
Hayssen and Wilmot’s Talking Points
Bob Hayssen, the former chairman of the Seneca County Board of Directors, discounted the ostensible grass roots nature of Casino Free Tyre. Hayssen said, “It’s only like five or 10 families really in this opposition compared to 30,000 people in Seneca County that I would say are 100-percent in favor.”
At the time, Tom Wilmot said the same thing. In February, Wilmot said, “The opposition really was like 10 households in the immediate area. The other people of Tyre and Seneca County have overwhelmingly supported this project.”
Jim Dawley Disputes the “10 Households” Allegation
Jim Dawley took issue with that characterization, saying back in February, “Again and again, it’s been presented that 10 households, small minority, micro-minority, all kinds of phrases they’re using to undermine the real numbers of people who are against this and opposed to this coming to our town.”
The report by New York State Exposed might have revealed the smaller number of signatures by Tyre residents, but the investigators also noted an interesting fact. None of the 208 signatures on the petition were from the local Amish, who are opposed to the Tyre casino. Therefore, the true demographics of the anti-casino group in Tyre could be significantly higher.
After the petition failed, Casino Free Tyre decided to file a lawsuit against the construction. At the time, the decision to continue fighting the Lago Casino seemed a bit quixotic. Now, the movement has made headway. It is hard to say how far Casino Free Tyre will be able to draw out the construction process.