Medford and county ask for more time to review casino plans

Jackson County and the city of Medford have upped the ante in the debate over a proposed casino by asking for more time from federal officials to analyze concerns over local impacts.

Letters written by both the county and the city raise potential issues about the Coquille Indian Tribe's proposal to build a casino in Medford ranging from transportation to increased treatment for gambling addictions.

"This is not just a Medford issue," Councilor Dick Gordon said.

The tribe has purchased the former Roxy Ann Lanes bowling alley, along with the adjacent property, formerly the site of Kim's Restaurant. The tribe has agreed to lease the nearby Bear Creek Golf Course.

The city earlier had asked for a 30-day extension to respond to the Coquille's proposal, but voted Thursday night to ask for a 60-day extension.

"We decided to err on the side of caution and ask for an additional 30 days," Councilor Bob Strosser said. "To be fair, let's know what the issues are and discuss them."

The tribe has asked the Bureau of Indian Affairs to place the 2.42-acre property in a U.S. government trust. That would start a process that could lead to reservation status for the site.

In addition, the Coquilles have asked the federal Office of Indian Gaming Management for an exception to a prohibition on allowing gaming on lands acquired after October 1988.

The Coquille tribe runs The Mill Casino in North Bend.

Medford is concerned with impacts to its water system, storm drains, sewers, traffic, parks, fire, police and emergency services. The city wants a better idea of a casino's effect on local revenues from property taxes and lodging taxes.

Jackson County wants to analyze potential impacts on the sheriff, the district attorney and the jail as well as on regional transportation and regional air quality. The county would like a better grasp of the impacts on social and mental health services, particularly related to gambling addiction.

"All we can do is put our two cents in as far as the impacts to the county," Commissioner Don Skundrick said. "Quite honestly, we are riding Medford's coattails."

Gov. John Kitzhaber request for an extension was approved by the Bureau of Indian Affairs so that state agencies can analyze the impacts of a casino in Medford.

City Attorney John Huttl sent the federal Office of Indian Gaming Management a letter on March 5 asking for an extension to review the process of converting private land into a federal trust, which takes it off the tax rolls.

— Damian Mann

Read more in Saturday's Mail Tribune.

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