The Kraft Group delivered a clear message Thursday to anyone concerned the company’s pursuit of zoning changes to property along Route 1 could reopen the possibility of a casino coming to Foxborough.
“We are not pursuing a casino,” said Jeff Cournoyer, spokesman for The Kraft Group. “We are honoring the town’s position on that, as we said we would from the very beginning.”
Voters said “no” to the possibility of a casino being developed across from Gillette Stadium on Route 1 in Foxborough at May’s Town Election after months of heated debate over whether or not the proposal should even be heard. Following the May 7 election, the Kraft Group responded with the following statement on Tuesday, May 8:
“When the Commonwealth of Massachusetts passed gaming legislation, we brought forth an opportunity with the unquestioned premier developer and operator in the industry. We have the greatest respect for Steve Wynn, his team and his business model, and believe this unique opportunity was worthy of a chance to be heard. With Monday’s election, we believe the citizens of Foxborough have spoken. As we originally committed, we have heard them and respect their collective voice. With that democratic statement, as opposed to the voices of five individuals, we will be suspending our efforts regarding a destination resort development. We thank all of the residents who reached out and participated in a dialogue about the future of the town and thank Wynn Resorts for their interest in Foxborough.”
On Thursday, reports surfaced in the Foxboro Reporter and Sun Chronicle suggesting zoning changes proposed by the Kraft Group to the Planning Board last week could lead to the company revisiting plans to build a casino if approved.
Cournoyer called those reports “irresponsible” and “false.”
“Had the reporter [of the article in the Reporter and Sun Chronicle] bothered to contact us to ask that simple question, we would have told him [we are not pursuing a casino], like we have every time someone has asked since we announced that we were ending our efforts on the Wynn Foxborough development,” Cournoyer said. “Unfortunately, we weren’t given that opportunity.”
The article in question was written by Frank Mortimer and published in both the Foxboro Reporter and The Sun Chronicle Thursday morning.
William Grieder, vice chairman of Foxborough’s Planning Board, reportedly told Mortimer the Kraft Group’s Oct. 11 presentation on zoning changes “led people concerned about casino items to wonder if the company is ‘just continuing to lay the groundwork for that to be revisited,’” according to Mortimer’s story.
Cournoyer said Thursday that statement could not be further from the truth.
“This is a false controversy and anyone who is fueling it is acting irresponsibly,” Cournoyer said, adding the Planning Board requested the Kraft Group submit suggested zoning changes, which was done at last week’s meeting with nothing “new” or controversial being presented.
“The proposed changes are the same as they have been dating back to before the Wynn [casino] proposal,” Cournoyer said. “They contain no language regarding gaming and would have no effect on town zoning bylaws that prohibit gaming. The Planning Board knows this.”
Cournoyer also refuted Mortimer’s claim that neither the Kraft Group representatives nor Planning Board members provided an answer to “several in the audience” who asked if these “proposals included the ability to have a casino.”
“The reporter who wrote [the article published in the Reporter and Sun Chronicle] was not even at [last week’s Planning Board meeting] on which the story was based and the result is a poor reflection of the events,” Cournoyer said, adding Kraft Group representatives offered an example of what type of “resort” the company was looking to develop on Route 1.
“At [last week’s Planning Board] meeting, when asked to elaborate on language in the documents that reference resort, conference and entertainment uses, our representative used Great Wolf Lodge as an example of a type of ‘resort’ that would feature family-friendly amenities and activities, lodging, conference space, etc.,” Cournoyer said. “Therefore, we did address the questions that were raised at the meeting, unlike what the [reporter suggests.”
For those unfamiliar with Great Wolf Lodge, it is the largest chain of indoor water park resorts with 11 locations nationwide – none in Massachusetts, according to its website. Click here for more information on Great Wolf Lodge.
Despite Thursday’s reports and Tuesday’s news that the Foxborough Board of Selectmen have dissolved the town’s negotiating committee with the Kraft Group because it was subject to open meeting law, the company remains optimistic that it can work closely with the town to further develop Patriot Place and Route 1.
“We are following the town’s process to seek zoning changes that would allow us to continue to develop Patriot Place in a way that will be consistent with or complementary to our existing development,” said Cournoyer.
Note: This article will be updated after Town Planner Sharon Wason has been successfully reached for comment.