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03-05-03: Botkins officials delay buying land for casino
The Daily Standard
    BOTKINS - At least one of the landowners involved in a potential casino gambling development apparently is having second thoughts about the deal.
    Botkins village officials did not act on a land option to purchase 80 acres owned by Janie Pohlman of Sidney as they were expected to do at a special meeting Tuesday. Pohlman's attorney, David Hornbeck of Columbus, had contacted village officials earlier in the day about his client's desire to cancel the deal to purchase her land.
    The town also holds options to buy a couple of other parcels of land near Interstate 75 that would be a part of the development.
    Pohlman's land is critical to a proposed entertainment complex anchored by at least some form of casino gaming. The 80-acre tract lies in the center of a nearly 300-acre parcel developers are considering for the development.
    Tom Schnippel, a Botkins construction contractor who is involved with the development, reportedly plans to ramp up pursuit of an alternative site in case the Botkins proposal falls through. Schnippel did not return messages left this morning by The Daily Standard.
    The option on Pohlman's land expires March 13. Pohlman believes the option Village Administrator Michael Vanbrocklin signed to purchase her property is invalid.
    Pohlman's dissent on the option deal and the possibility of legal action have been mentioned at a couple of recent meetings called by opponents of the project.
    Hornbeck this morning told The Daily Standard that he and his client believe the option agreement is invalid.
    "In summary, it does not appear from reading the ordinance ... that the authority was extended to the village administrator," to exercise the option, Hornbeck said. "The option has no legal merit."
    The casino issue has sharply divided the community of about 1,200 since The Daily Standard first reported on the issue in November 2002. Both sides seem to have ample support at community meetings and the online message board at botkinsohio.com includes a mix of comments for and against the proposal.
    As presented by development representatives, the project would include a video bingo hall, restaurants, hotels, retail stores, meeting and banquet facilities, concert hall, golf facility, all-weather, indoor water park and other amenities. Preliminary plans show the complex would be developed during a 10-year period in seven phases at a cost estimated at $550 million.
    Supporters of the project claim it would create 4,000 on-site jobs and as many as 16,000 jobs within a 50-mile radius of the facility.       pponents point to the social ills and potential backlash of allowing gambling to come into the community.
    California-based National Capital I has teamed up with an unidentified Indian tribe to pursue the project. Gambling would only be legal with a Native American interest involved, and even then, changes to existing law would have to come about before full-scale casino gambling could go on at the site.
    Village officials have said they have made no decision on whether to move forward with the project. They say they want all available information before acting.
    "I personally believe Indian gambling will come to Ohio," council member Keith Maurer said in a previous statement. "I believe it would be worthwhile for the citizens of our village to look long and hard at this possibility. I believe that jobs created by this project, along with its secondary and support jobs ... could make it possible for our children to return to live and work in the area."
    Opponents meanwhile, most notably a group called Concerned Citizens Against Gambling, have rounded up 1,300 signatures from residents in Botkins and the surrounding area who don't want a casino in the area.
    Another informational meeting on the issue is set for Thursday evening. At that time, people on both sides of the issue will present further information.


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