Milford selectmen press Foxwoods executives for details

The chairman of Milford’s Board of Selectmen told representatives from Foxwoods Resort Casino that the proposal to build a gambling complex off Interstate 495 could be dead before ever getting to a town vote if more specifics are not provided soon.

Expressing his frustration during a Town Hall hearing Monday night, Brian W. Murray said he has seen no substantive effort to show firm details of the local resort casino proposal, or to address the town’s concerns about its impact since the plans first surfaced in 2009.

“The time is past for glossy pictures. We need to see some specifics,” he said to applause from the approximately 250 people in the audience, many of whom wore red to show their opposition to the casino project, and had held signs in front of Town Hall before the meeting.

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The board expected to hear more details of the $1 billion complex being proposed for 200 acres off Interstate 495 and Route 16, but instead got a general presentation about the Connecticut-based company’s plans, and a promise from its president and chief executive officer, Scott Butera, that his team would work with the town to come up with a “gaming resort we can all be proud of.”

Butera, who became the public face of the proposal after original developer David Nunes was stripped of his authority by his investment partners, said he is aware of the town’s concerns, and will have answers as well as details about his group’s plans within six weeks.

“This is the most important thing on our plate,” he said. “We are incredibly serious about this. We will demonstrate that to you.”

Butera said Foxwoods Massachusetts will open an office on Main Street in Milford within the next week, and community members will be welcome to stop by to voice concerns, express their ideas, and get information about the proposal.

In the next several weeks, he said, his group will either come up with a plan that the community can support, “or we’ll walk away as good friends.”

Butera said his company joined the development team backing the casino in February, relatively late in the process.

“I wish we were here a year ago,” he said. “We came in thinking things were further along.”

Selectman William D. Buckley talked about “the elephant in the room,” alluding to the absence of Nunes, who had been the project’s liaison with the town for the past several years.

In a letter to the board dated April 4, Nunes said he would no longer be active in the negotiations with the town, and he had “shed any faith” in the project.

“It’s mind-boggling,” Buckley said.

Butera had little comment on the situation, other than to say he was sorry the letter had been sent.

Butera, who attended the meeting with lawyer Robert L. Allen Jr. and Allan Kronberg, president and general manager of Foxwoods Massachusetts, stressed his group’s experience as local operators of the largest casino resort in North America, and its knowledge of “New England tastes” and the state’s gaming market.

While giving few specifics, the Foxwoods representatives said they anticipate the Milford resort casino would be approximately 300,000 square feet, and include a “state-of-the-art gaming floor” with 4,725 slot machines and 125 table games, a 350-room hotel, specialty restaurants, and entertainment.

All of the selectmen voiced concern that too much needed to be done before a license is granted by the state Gaming Commission, expected early next year. The Foxwoods group is competing with two proposals near Boston for the single Eastern Massachusetts casino license to be awarded by the state agency.

According to the commission’s timeline, an agreement between the developers and selectmen would have to be reached by late summer to prepare for a town vote in the fall, selectmen said.

Over the next three to four months, developers not only have to present specific building plans for the resort complex, but also plans for dealing with a host of issues including traffic, sewage, a shortage of available water, town Conservation Commission concerns about wetlands and endangered species on the site, Historical Commission worries about Native American artifacts on the land, and zoning changes.

Selectmen said that not only do the developers have to present their plans, but the town needs time to evaluate them.

“I just don’t see how all this gets done,” Selectman Dino B. DeBartolomeis said.

Murray echoed those sentiments, telling the Foxwoods group that “at some point, time is going to run out.”

The Foxwoods group is competing with Suffolk Downs and partner Caesars Entertainment, which want to build a casino on the race track’s property in East Boston and Revere, and Wynn Resorts, which is proposing a gaming complex on the Mystic River in Everett.

Before the state Gaming Commission will give its final consideration of a casino application, the developers would have to reach a mitigation agreement with the complex’s host community, and the proposal would have to be approved by voters in a general election.

Murray said that if he doesn’t soon get the answers he’s looking for, he’ll have “no qualms in not entering into a host agreement,” meaning the local casino proposal would be dead.

“We share your concerns,’’ said Butera. “We feel confident we can mitigate them.”