Casino Faces Possible Roadblocks Despite Deal With City, County

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Now that an agreement has been hashed out between West Side Casino developers and the city of Columbus, it will be up to city and county leaders to approve it. But even if they do, there are still possible snags that could hamper the project.(Photo: Faris (flickr))
Now that an agreement has been hashed out between West Side Casino developers and the city of Columbus, it will be up to city and county leaders to approve it. But even if they do, there are still possible snags that could hamper the project.(Photo: Faris (flickr))

Now that an agreement has been hashed out between West Side Casino developers and the city of Columbus, it will be up to city and county leaders to approve it. But even if they do, there are still possible snags that could hamper the project.

Columbus City Council and Franklin County Commissioners face a June 10 deadline to approve the west side casino annexation deal.

Columbus City Council President Andrew Ginther was not available for comment but spokesman John Ivanic said the likelihood of passage is good.

“We do look forward to the economic development of the West Side casino site moving forward,” Ivanic said.

Franklin County Commissioner chair Marilyn Brown also declined comment, saying she had not been briefed on the agreement.

The agreement ends months of acrimony between the city and casino developer Penn National. Penn National will annex the property into the city. The city will extend water and sewer service to the site and pay the developer $15 million dollars for road improvements and site clean-up.

City Attorney Rick Pfeiffer helped negotiate the agreement. During an appearance on All Sides with Ann Fisher, Pfeiffer said the threat of a court defeat pushed the talks to a conclusion.

“When the city is looking at the possibility of losing a guaranteed future cash stream at a minimum of $10 million a year, losing that, and being told by the judge not only will you lose that but you gotta give these guys sewer and water, that causes you to have a pause and think about what you want to do,” Pfeiffer said.

As part of the agreement, the Arena District site will be sold for no less than $11 million dollars – a third what the company paid for it. Penn National said it will eat the cost.

But City Attorney Pfeiffer argued Penn National will nearly break even.

“If in fact there are parties that can reach an agreeable sale of that property and that’s out of our control, that’s out of the city’s control, and let’s assume it’s in the $11 million area, and you put that to the $15 million, you’ve got $26 million. So to a degree Penn is saying we’re willing to take a loss, but not a complete loss,” Pfeiffer said.

As part of the agreement, all parties – the city, the county and Penn National – have agreed to drop their lawsuits. But two other suits remain.

Dispatch Printing has sued Penn National in an effort to get them to annex. Penn National filed a counter-suit claiming interference. Neither suit has been dropped.

Dispatch Printing attorneys did not return WOSU’s calls, but one told a Dispatch reporter the suit will be dropped once Penn National annexes.

And Dispatch Printing bought a vacant lot next to the site to give it standing as a neighbor in zoning disputes. It’s unknown if Dispatch Printing will fight a zoning certificate.

If there are no other disputes, all the suits are dropped and no further challenges, Penn National hopes to open its Columbus late next year.

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