Several hundred people attempted to attend the Milford Selectmen's meeting Monday, to listen to a scheduled presentation of casino opponents.
The board chairman would not move the meeting to the Town Hall's upper chambers to accommodate the turnout, angering many in the crowd, who would not leave the building and tried to jam into the smaller meeting space.
"Move it to a bigger room upstairs," called out one man, frustrated because he could not see the presentation, nor hear it.
At one point, Milford Police Chief Thomas O'Loughlin tried to create a channel into the selectmen's room, telling people they needed to comply with the state Fire Code.
The representatives of Casino-Free Milford had been scheduled to give a 20-minute presentation, providing an overview of the organization's arguments against a casino proposal.
Milford is one of three locations in greater Boston that has an active application for a resort casino. The Massachusetts Gaming Commission will issue one resort casino license for the region that extends from Boston to Worcester. The Milford proposal, submitted by developer David Nunes, working with Warner Gaming and now Foxwoods Resort Casino, is competing with two closer to Boston: redevelopment of the Suffolk Downs racetrack in East Boston and another at a former industrial site in Everett.
Milford Selectmen had invited Casino-Free Milford to give the presentation. But Brian Murray, chairman of the board, told the crowd that he would not move the location of the meeting. He later explained, before the group's leaders began speaking, that it was not a public hearing. The board has not yet had a proposal forwarded from Nunes or his partners.
"There is not a proposal before the town," Murray said. "This is simply information gathering for our board."
After the meeting, Murray said he was not told that some 200 people would attend, and logistically, it was not possible to move the location of the meeting without losing the live broadcasting capability of Milford TV, which was taping the meeting and would need advance notice to move its equipment. "We felt it was more important for folks at home to be able to watch it on TV," Murray said.
In the presentation, Casino-Free Milford co-chairmen John Seaver and Steve Trettel provided an overview of arguments against a casino in Milford, based on research they conducted with volunteers over the past several weeks. In a report delivered to selectmen, Seaver and Trettel said a resort casino would draw finances out of the community, by negatively impacting property values, damaging other businesses in town and putting a strain on public services.
Casino-Free Milford, which includes members from Hopkinton and Holliston, as well as Milford, is not anti-gambling or anti-casino, said Trettel. It is opposed to Milford, a small town, as the location for one.
"Milford is not an appropriate location for a destination casino complex," he said. The proposed location, east of Interstate 495, just north of Route 16, is surrounded by residential homes and properties.
Although the scale of the Crossroads Massachusetts casino proposal has not been made public by Nunes, the Casino Free Milford presentation drew on comparisons for traffic to Foxwoods. The resort casino in Ledyard, CT draws 55,000 daily visitors on weekends, Seaver said, and 40,000 during the work-week. "That's the kind of population, in that range, we may have to deal with," said Seaver.
The developer has said in the past that a dedicated exit off I-495 will be the primary access to the casino. For several reasons, Trettel said, this is problematic.
Although the interstate runs alongside the proposed site, all new interchanges must provide access in both directions, he said, which means the developer would need land on both sides of I-495 to anchor a "flyover" bridge. Developments including Target and Best Buy occupy the western side of the highway.
In addition, he said, access off a highway must be to a public road, and can't be to a private facility. And the federal rules also require a mile or more between exits on highways.
"Don't do it on a promise. He can't guarantee approval of the interchange," Trettel said.