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Angst Swells over Zoning Changes

Hundreds of community residents packed into the Ahern Middle School Thursday night for a planning zoning hearing.

Residents made it clear where they stood on the casino venture of Patriots owner Bob Kraft and Las Vegas casino mogul Steve Wynn: Thanks, but no thanks.

More than 500 residents packed the auditorium at Ahern Middle School Thursday night for a planning zoning hearing discussing the proposed verbiage change in the Economic Development Area Overlay District. The change would allow for construction of a commuter rail station, 300-foot buildings, hotels, indoor-outdoor conference facilities, a resort-style facility, among others. 

This is the third hearing on the proposed changes; the first, however, since Kraft and Wynn made public their desire to build a casino across from Gillette Stadium on Sunday.

"I don't want anyone to think that all along they've known, we've known, that this is all about a casino. Because that's just not true," said Kevin Wienfeld, chairman of the planning and zoning board.  "Then again, that doesn't mean that it denies them the opportunity should these changes go through."

The proposed changes came about over a year ago, said board member Bill Grieder, before the gaming bill was ever passed in the state legislature.

"But if it walks like a duck, talks like a duck, then I believe it's a duck," Walpole Town Administrator Michael Boynton told the board. "When you combine all the proposed changes…that's a massive, massive change of use that doesn't exist today. The Town of Walpole asks you to consider the human lives…and cast your vote no."

Members of Walpole's and Norfolk's planning and zoning boards were also present, voicing their opposition against the changes.  "Any buffering you can do (between the zones, town lines) would be appreciated," said Andrea Langhauser, Norfolk planning board member. "I would encourage you to get a traffic study report, and a state environmental impact report."

Though the majority of those present were against the changes, there were a few residents who took to the microphone to express their support. "Taxes are being continually raised, there are cuts in services with no revenue in sight except (a casino) to take care of it," said Daniel Flynn of Foxboro.  Flynn, a New England Regional Carpenters Union delegate, said that for the right reasons, a casino would be great for the area. "You've got a lot of folks worrying about paying their mortgage, jobs, and a casino would bring about 10-to-12,000 jobs to those who are hurting so bad," he said.

In 2004, as well as this past September, both the planning board and the board of selectmen were presented with the option to allow for a casino to be built along Route 1, even though the gaming bill had not yet passed. Each time, Grieder said, the boards' response was a unanimous "no." "Even if this were to change, as I understand the gaming bill, it would be a good five years before a spade ever hit the earth," said Wienfeld. 

First, the selectmen have to approve a casino proposal brought to the board by a developer, Jim DeVellis, Foxborough Selectman, told planning and zoning members. Once it's approved, the developer would have to apply for a license through the state gaming commission. From there, he said, the developer has to make presentations to neighboring towns, a vote to change the zoning, all followed by a town vote to officially approve the casino.

"It's a long, five-step process," DeVellis said. "And the (Foxborough) Board of Selectmen have not been presented with a casino proposal, the first step."

Other concerns voiced by residents included the potential increase in criminal activity, traffic, population growth and an overall change to the "small-town feel," of Foxborough.

"Foxborough is an idealic little town," said Jennifer Keen, who was raised in Foxborough and moved to Plainville a few years ago. "It's a great town to raise your kids in. Low crime, and nothing really bad about it."

The planning board rejected two measures Thursday that would have allowed new uses including multi-family housing, a convention center, buildings up to 300 feet, a commuter rail station, and bus station. 

Janet Sroczynski December 20, 2011 at 10:51 PM
@Jacob - go back in and re-read several of my posts to you. Your post above couldn't be more wrong.....hence why I suggested the Inc.com -500/5000 List of the Fastest Growing Companies in America List. Which you so quickly shot-down.....and did not take the time to even review, given the hasty response you sent along. The post will be read by many other people, I assure you....and they are more than welcome for the 500 companies at their fingertips, to review for job application work/opportunites and so forth. There are additional options for Foxboro and other surrounding towns to consider, in terms of employment and jobs....than just casinos. And that listing of The 500 Top Companies in America List, is proof of it. In your earlier post @Jacob, you mentioned how well educated you are and that you went to a "great university." With that said, surely you could help your father out. There are so many opportunities out there....sure, you might have to look a little harder, but the opportunities are out there.
Janet Sroczynski December 20, 2011 at 11:22 PM
@ Jacob - if it is of some help to you/others reading this post, then I suggest you request a copy of a Letter to the Editor that I had written and subsequently published in the local "Buzz" newspapers....that being it published in The Easton Buzz, The Mansfield Buzz, the Norton Buzz and the Sharon Buzz newspaper circulations. I wrote it on August 9, 2007 - and it would have published shortly thereafter. Write and/or call the group or check your local library for an archived copy of it. In that Letter to the Editor, I "floated" the idea of a TWLC-Tiger Woods Learning Center - 1) http://www.twlc.org -for the area next to The TPC of Boston at Norton, Massachusetts golf facility/grounds/William F. Connell Blvd. I suggested putting in a new library within the facility, nature trails, bike paths and an eDistance Learning program in an educational setting, with reference to viewing the grounds at Stonehill College for ideas. That is construction job(s), just not a casino.
Amy Ashford December 20, 2011 at 11:43 PM
Janet, don't waste your time and energy corresponding to "Jacob" He is not a resident of Foxboro, he is mostly likely hired by Wynn working for a consulting firm. He says he is a resident, but is not listed anywhere in Foxboro in public records. Is that picture on your Facebook page your dad on a crane? The Facebook page you opened up right when the casino plans were announced? Why were you thrown off No-Fox Vegas?
Janet Sroczynski December 20, 2011 at 11:50 PM
Thanks Amy Ashford for the heads-up. The information I provided above is also for other readers on the Patch too......honest readers of the Patch, who might be looking for suggestions.
Charlie December 21, 2011 at 04:02 AM
Listen folks I am a resident of foxboro and I vote yes on this casino and resort as long as infrastructure improvements r made, although I do want to see the proposal which we will soon enough, been a resident for 39 yrs and have 2 wonderful children, hope everyone has a great day and hopefully it doesn't divide the town, for some reason we think it's ok that our own keep moving away, believe Me this is an opportunity, there r some that will fight a 90,000 ft dept store, sometimes it really makes me and my wife wanna throw up,

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