Prospective Point Molate builders secure fresh extension

Dozens attended the March 2 City Council meeting wearing T-shirts supporting a local casino project.

Dozens attended the March 2 City Council meeting wearing T-shirts supporting a local casino project.

The developers of a possible casino project on waterfront property in the city succeeded Tuesday in securing another extension to get their plans in order.

Upstream Point Molate LLC, which hopes to build a resort and gaming casino on a peninsula formerly used as a naval fuel depot, now has until April 20 to submit an updated project plan. In exchange for the time, the developer will pay the city $90,000 for maintenance, security and other expenses associated with the site, according to a city report.

A divided City Council passed a resolution Tuesday granting the extension. Councilmembers Tom Butt, Nat Bates, Ludmyrna Lopez and Jim Rogers approved, while Mayor Gayle McLaughlin voted against the extension. Councilmembers Maria Viramontes and Jeff Ritterman abstained from the vote.

The move follows a similar measure passed in January, when the council granted Upstream a two-month extension, that time over the dissenting votes of McLaughlin, Ritterman and Butt.

Butt has switched his position on the casino at least twice. This time, he initiated the resolution to grant the extension.

Butt said he has renewed hope that the proposed project still has life.

“Progress is being made,” Butt said.

Upstream has long hoped to develop a project along with the Guidiville Band of Pomo Indians at the former naval fuel depot. Layers of state and federal regulations must still be negotiated before any project could commence, a point that opponents stressed at the meeting.

The issue is a divisive one in the community.

At Tuesday’s meeting, a large contingent of supporters, many in pro-casino T-shirts, packed the chambers. On numerous occassions, members of both sides heckled one another as they took the public-speaker microphone.

McLaughlin, a stalwart opponent of the project on the grounds that casino developments carry social costs for the city, repeatedly reminded public speakers to state their city of residence. Most of those who declared their home city were union construction workers from other Bay Area cities.

But in a city where the unemployment rate is well above the state average, any compunction about gambling was outweighed by the debate over jobs.

“I have no interest in regulating morality,” said John Marquez, a former City Councilman. “We need these jobs for Richmond.”

Corky Booze, a longtime local advocate, said promises of jobs were unlikely, and even in the best of scenarios, merely a distant possibility.

“A shovel won’t go in the ground for five years” at the minimum, Booze said, due to gaming regulations which require federal approval.

John Salmon, a Napa-based executive of Upstream Investments LLC, said the T-shirt wearing, poster-board holding supporters in the chambers were present to lobby the council because they are in need of jobs.

“We didn’t make them come here,” Salmon said.

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