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Bill may be added hurdle for casino plan

Monnes Anderson says Wood Village voters should have control

Gresham's state senator introduced a bill this week that could represent another hurdle for the group trying to bring a nearly $500 million casino complex to Wood Village.

The measure submitted by Sen. Laurie Monnes Anderson, D-Gresham, would prohibit putting a casino in an incorporated city without approval of the city's voters.

The bill, which is also being backed by state Sen. Rod Monroe, D-Portland, and Rep. John Lim, R-Gresham, is an effort to give Wood Village residents control of what happens in their city, Monnes Anderson said.

State voters in November 2008 will decide the fate of two ballot initiatives concerning the casino proposal. If approved, one initiative would amend the state Constitution to allow one casino on non-tribal land. Such a casino would be the first in Oregon's history. The other ballot measure spells out revenue distribution.

Backers of the initiative say turning the former Multnomah Kennel Club into a casino and entertainment mecca would bring thousands of jobs to East County and millions in taxes to schools. Besides the casino, the proposal calls for a high-end hotel, live music theater, restaurants and retail, bowling alley, spa and a water park. It would also keep tax dollars in Oregon, as opposed to flowing into Washington, where a mega-casino may be built in La Center.

But opponents, including Fairview Mayor Mike Weatherby, contend that traffic jams and other negative impacts from the entertainment complex would significantly affect local residents' lifestyle. They also question the appropriateness of Oregonians hundreds of miles away voting for something with strictly local impact.

'Where else do you see a development decided in a state election and not by local jurisdictions? It's absurd,' Weatherby said. 'This is a local issue.

'What gives these developers the right to have people in Coos Bay decide what affects us locally?'

He said he wishes Monnes Anderson's bill would have included a provision to allow neighboring cities to weigh in, since they, too, feel the impacts of major developments. The kennel club site is in Wood Village's city limits, however, directly across 223rd Avenue is Fairview.

But Weatherby said he nevertheless supports the bill: 'Anything that can be done to hold (these) developers' feet to the fire is good,' he said.

Lake Oswego investment advisor Bruce Studer, who spearheaded the ballot initiatives with attorney Matt Rossman, said he had not seen the bill and could not comment.

Monnes Anderson said she initially didn't give much thought to the duo's efforts. But a few residents who questioned the plan made her realize that 'anyone can come in and put a casino in our community,' she said. 'It can change the whole dynamic and flavor of a community.'

Her bill, which exempts casinos on tribal lands, will be introduced in the Senate in the next few days and then assigned to a committee.