Casino developers propose Dec. 12 Special Town Meeting to vote on zoning

The Notos Group, the developers behind the proposed Wareham Park racetrack and casino, have requested a special Town Meeting be scheduled for a vote on their zoning proposal.

The developers pitched their idea to selectmen at the board’s Nov. 5 meeting.

The district being proposed is a modified version of the Hospitality Recreation and Entertainment District originally proposed to the town over the summer.

The new proposal could be voted on at a Special Town Meeting proposed for December 12.

The developer’s lawyer, Jeffery Tocchio, presented the proposal, and insisted that the zoning was not connected to any project in particular and that the group’s main aim was to help Wareham’s economic development. But when asked by Selectman Judith Whiteside about the rush to bring the proposal to a vote rather than waiting until the spring when the coronavirus spread may have slowed, Tocchio said that the company had a number of contracts and potential partnerships that would be strained by further delay.

The district would encompass roughly 300 acres of land between Glen Charlie Road and Rte. 25.

That land is currently zoned as residential.

“What this does is it would allow for us to help you folks put in a zone to allow economic sustainable development and not have to just rely on single family zoning, which requires three acres for a single house,” Tocchio said.

Tocchio argued that single-family homes are a relatively high drain on local resources and contribute relatively little to the tax base, while a corporate project would have the opposite impact.

The new zoning would require projects to be developed on lots that are a minimum of 100 acres in size, and allows for new uses which were not specified at the meeting.

All projects would be subject to a Special Permit process by the Planning Board, which allows the board to exercise more control over what is and isn’t allowed.

The district also specifies that projects would need to maintain 2o percent open space and minimize light pollution.

“What it does is it gives an opportunity for the town to attract development to come into town, something that’s different than just single-family houses. But in order for you folks, as the town goes forward, to effectively be able to shift a lot of the burden financially in town for revenue to [entities] of a more commercial nature,” Tocchio said, adding that most towns in Massachusetts are experiencing a financial crisis, and Wareham has additional infrastructure needs that will be expensive.

If the Board of Selectmen votes to open a Special Town Meeting on Dec. 12, the Notos Group would then need to hold a hearing with the Planning Board to discuss the zoning proposal. And the Selectmen would need to vote to put the proposal on the Town Meeting Warrant.

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