Council rolls the dice on casino proposal

By Geoff Lee

June 30, 2016 12:00 AM

Little Pine First Nations chief Wayne Semaganis spoke about the latest land zoning phase of a casino project by the Border Tribal Council at City Council Monday.

A proposed casino for Lloydminster is looking like more of sure bet this week.
City council approved a casino Monday as a discretionary use at the 18-acre project site at the northeast corner of 40 Ave. and 44 St. subject to planning and engineering conditions.
The zoning approval followed a presentation of the project by Little Pine First Nations’ chief, Wayne Semaganis on behalf of Border Tribal Council investors.
“Another step in the process has been met and we keep moving on,” said Semaganis.
“Whatever the process has to be, we will follow it.”
Mayor Rob Saunders said the developer, Little Pine Business Developments Inc., will require permits for each step in the development through the city’s planning and engineering departments.
The zoning approval meets one of the requirements of the Saskatchewan Indian Gaming Authority that gave its conditional approval to build and operate a new casino in Lloydminster earlier this year.
The proposal also has the approval of the Saskatchewan Liquor and Gaming Authority with public consultation required.
Saunders voted to defeat a motion by Coun. Larry Sauer, who wanted to table the zoning approval pending an immediate round of consultation.
“I felt it needed to be tabled today because I just thought that one of the things the Saskatchewan Liquor and Gaming Authority said to the developers was they had to provide a robust community consultation plan and execute that plan,” said Sauer.
“In my mind, that needed to happen first, because how do people make an informed decision if they don’t hear what’s going on?”
Representatives from the Lloydminster Ministerial Association told council the casino should be considered on moral grounds.
Saunders noted everyone’s entitled to a personal opinion which council respects, but said, “As a council we have to deal with what’s exactly in front of us.”
He added council is not an approving body of any legal operating entity, especially something that’s been permitted by the Province of Saskatchewan.
“They are the permitting body and they’ve asked for certain compliance and this was one step in the way to get that zoning approval done,” said Saunders.
Semaganis said the 12 or so First Nations backing the project as members of the Border Tribal Council are fully committed to public consultation.
“We’ll have public consultation meetings probably at the exhibition grounds, they will be announced,” he said.
He said when they met previously with local church minsters at the Days Hotel in Lloydminster, half of them were in favour of the casino and half of them weren’t.
“But we have to consult with them and that’s part of the steps,” he said.
Coun. Linnea Goodhand said the casino is a hot topic, but she noted what council considered Monday—and subsequently approved—was whether the casino could go ahead as a discretionary use in its current location.
“There were some public presentations around whether it was a good idea or a bad idea, but ultimately majority rules and the decision to move forward was granted,” she said.
Goodhand said it was not a decision about the morality of gambling nor a decision about whether the city should support or reject a casino.
“It was whether Border Tribal Council has met its obligation and having been compliant with all the steps for approval – clearly they have been,” she said. “They will continue to be and the project will go ahead on their timeline as they see fit.”
Goodhand noted there’s still work to be done, but said she hopes council is past pondering the question if the casino is a good idea or bad idea because that was not up for debate Monday.
“We will not have a referendum about whether this is good idea or a bad idea,” she said.
Coun. Ken Baker cited a previous non binding plebiscite in 2003 against a casino proposal by a non First Nations group during council discussion.
“It was a non binding plebiscite and council voted 4-3 not to have a casino,”  he recalled.
“That’s where I was headed today before we were cut off in the debate.”
The new casino proposal is part of huge potential development called the Eagle West Park project.
Semaganis said it would include one or two hotels, a mall, a convention centre, restaurants and even housing in a multi-phase development.
“I’m talking about a hockey arena down the road for the city of Lloydminster,” he added.
Semaganis said the Border Tribal Council investment group had previously spoken with potential partners like Costco to lease sites on what will be urban reserve land under federal zoning.
“But because this whole process has taken so long, we are going to have to chase those investors down again,” he said.
“Plus, we need housing for the people that are going to be working there whether it’s houses or apartment buildings.”
Semaganis noted with all the permits required from different entities, he couldn’t project a construction startup date.
“What ever permits we require to move ahead we have to get those in place first,” he said.

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