A Medford casino proposed by the Coquille Indian Tribe is under review by the federal Bureau of Indian Affairs in the first phase of what could be a lengthy process.
The city of Medford last week received a letter from the U.S. Department of the Interior asking for comments on the proposal to build the casino inside a bowling alley on a 2.42-acre property at 2375 S. Pacific Highway.
Other information requested by the bureau involves the impact locally from removing the property from the tax rolls.
According to the Assessor's Office, the property's estimated market value is $1.8 million and its 2012 taxes totaled $18,304.
City Councilor Bob Strosser said it is still not clear what sort of information the Coquille tribe wants from city officials as part of the application process.
"The first thing we need to know is what kind of information they are soliciting or are receptive to that we could provide in the interest of our community," he said.
Strosser said the city may request an extension to the 30-day response period, which ends March 6.
Nedra Darling, Indian Affairs spokeswoman, said it appears the tribe's application still is early in the process.
She said letters are sent out to different parties to get the tribe and the community involved in the discussion about the casino proposal.
Darling said it's difficult to say how long the process will take.
"There is not a typical time," she said. "Every application is unique."
In September 2012, the Coquilles, who own The Mill Casino in North Bend, announced they had purchased Roxy Ann Lanes bowling alley and the former Kim's Restaurant in hopes of opening a Medford casino. The tribe also agreed to lease Bear Creek Golf Course, adjacent to the two buildings.
The tribe purchased Roxy Ann Lanes for $1.6 million and Kim's for $675,000. The two properties total about 5 acres and the golf course is just more than 18 acres. The Coquilles have proposed creating a 500-video game casino that would be considered a Class II versus a Class III casino.
Under the federal Indian Gaming Regulatory Act of 1988, a Class III casino can have slot machines, blackjack, craps and roulette.
A Class II casino is allowed gaming machines only, no tables. The Mill and Seven Feathers, in Canyonville, are both Class III gaming facilities.
Ray Doerning, spokesman for the Coquille tribe, said the tribe will try to work with the city to make sure law enforcement needs are met and other utility and street services are upgraded, if necessary.
He said that so far the process has been going smoothly, with mostly supportive comments from the local community.
Doerning said the tribe has been working on a design for the casino and the remodeling of the existing Roxy Ann Lanes building.
"We're trying to do everything within the footprint of the bowling alley," he said.
Predicting how long it will take before the tribe starts working on the casino is difficult, Doerning said.
"It's a federal process, so it's always a bit lengthy," he said.
Wayne Shammel, general counsel for the Cow Creek Band of the Umpqua Tribe, which owns Seven Feathers, said he hadn't seen the letter but wasn't surprised the Coquilles continued to pursue their proposal despite opposition from his tribe.
He said the Cow Creek tribe ultimately will take steps to block the proposal, first administratively, then possibly through the courts.
"There are problems and insufficiencies with what they have proposed," he said. "The land in question has nothing to do with their occupational territory. It's just an economic opportunity to stretch the gaming laws."
What the Coquilles are proposing would damage the economic vitality of neighboring tribes, he said.
"They're creating territorial dispute among the tribes that wasn't there before," he said.
Reach reporter Damian Mann at 541-776-4476, or email firstname.lastname@example.org.