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Casino, base may be compatible

Bureau of Indian Affairs releases draft assessment of tribal plan

The development of a second tribal casino complex on the West Plains wouldn’t necessarily encroach on nearby Fairchild Air Force Base, a draft environmental impact statement concludes.

The draft EIS prepared by the U.S. Bureau of Indian Affairs was made public Friday.

It calls for sound-dampening measures to reduce aircraft noise inside the casino and hotel, which the Spokane Tribe wants to build on 145 acres just west of Craig Road to the north of U.S. Highway 2.

The draft EIS also calls on the tribe to pay a share of improvement costs for intersections along the highway and other nearby roads, which would be more congested with traffic going to and from the casino.

Transit improvements would also be needed.

The document lays out four alternatives for development, including no development at all.

Alternative 1, the scenario being pursued by the tribe, calls for a phased development with 98,000 square feet of gaming area and 2,500 electronic gambling machines.

In addition, the plan calls for a 300-room hotel, café, steakhouse, food court, banquet facility, parking garage and bars. Retail space would also be built, including a big-box store with 107,000 square feet of floor space, as well as a tribal cultural center and tribal police and fire station.

Construction costs are estimated to be $404 million, and the project is estimated to generate $4.7 million in state, county and local property taxes each year, according to the EIS. A group called Citizens Against Casino Expansion on Friday issued a statement calling for a stop to the proposed project.

Among the group’s concerns is the proposal’s encroachment on Fairchild.

“The military does not look favorably upon businesses next to bases that prey on young service men and women such as casinos promoting gambling,” the group said.

The draft EIS said the tribe could reach a “memorandum of understanding” with Fairchild to address compatibility issues, and calls on the tribe to release the base from legal liabilities stemming from its operation.

The second alternative calls for a smaller gambling operation, no hotel and no parking garage. The third has no casino; instead, it is a mixed-use development with a hotel, retail and commercial space and a nearly 56,000-square-foot “children’s arcade.”

Annual payments to local governments in lieu of taxes would start out at $14,500 the first year and increase by $14,500 each year for the first 14 years, reaching a maximum of more than $200,000 a year. The amount would continue to increase at 3 percent each year.

There is a 60-day comment period. To comment, or to see more information, go to www.westplainseis.com.

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