To an overflow crowd, the Henrietta Town Board on Wednesday evening heard members of the community urge opposition to the Seneca Nation seeking a casino in the town.
«It’s time to take courage. It’s about taking the ball and saying, ‘We don’t want it here,’ » said Tom Haschmann, 65, a longtime Henrietta resident.
Lois Verde, 56, added: «We’re not against the Seneca Nation. We’re against the casino.»
Although the issue was not on the board’s agenda, 16 of the 17 speakers who made comments about the casino in the public forum part of Wednesday’s meeting opposed it.
The last speaker, Lynne Stewart, presented each board member with a packet of 1,168 names saying they are opposed to a new Seneca casino in western New York.
A key concern, according to the petition, would be the effect that a tribal casino would have on local businesses, since such a casino «would get tax and regulatory advantages that are unfair to local businesses.»
The Senecas, who run three western New York casinos, announced in August that they had reached a deal with Rochester developer David Flaum to explore a potential casino in Henrietta. In late January, the Senecas showed Henrietta board members casinos in Buffalo and Niagara Falls.
Prior to Wednesday’s meeting, Henrietta Supervisor Jack Moore told reporters that he talked to representatives of the Seneca Nation late last week.
«All they said was that they were looking at the property. They had some environmental issues. Once they resolved those, they would be trying to purchase the property,» Moore noted.
Moore has said that he didn’t know what property would be purchased but that he expected it to be south of Jefferson Road, between East Henrietta Road and West Henrietta Road.
Opponents of the casino have come together under the No More Casinos Coalition, which has financial support from Western Regional Off-Track Betting Corp. and the Finger Lakes Gaming and Race Track.
John Riley, spokesman for the coalition, said that nearly 1,750 signatures have been collected — including those presented at Wednesday’s meeting
Moore said that he, personally, had no desire to set foot in a casino, but he also cautioned that the Senecas have yet to put forth a proposal and that it deserved a fair hearing.
Craig Moffitt, 57, of Henrietta spoke in favor of the casino. «It’s the jobs,» Moffitt said after his presentation.
But the sentiments among the 100 residents who filled the Town Board meeting room, along with the several dozen who could not get in, were opposed to the casino.
«The Senecas don’t put the money back into the community,» said Henrietta resident Janet O’Connor.