Richmond City Council votes to stop plans for casino

April 6, 2011 6:47:47 PM PDT
The hard-fought battle over whether to turn a prime piece of Richmond real estate into an Indian gaming resort came to an end Tuesday night. The City Council voted against building a casino on Pt. Molate. But as one fight ends, it appears another one begins.

The quiet point on the water's edge has been at the center of a heated real estate battle that stretched on for more than six years. But Tuesday, it took one final City Council vote, and another 5-hour debate, to seal Pt. Molate's fate -- there will be no mega casino there, which means now a new fight over what should replace it begins.

"We had hoped something was going to happen out here. We've been waiting for 10 years and they keep going back and forth and back and forth and change their mind," said Eric Johnson who owns a yacht harbor on Pt. Molate. He is tired of waiting for a transformation on the abandoned Navy base.

His buddy, Willie Agnew, is Pt. Molate's caretaker. He is tired of waiting for much needed jobs in this city.

"I'm 78 years old. There's casinos all around. I've been to three in my whole life," said Agnew. "So if they build one here in my backyard that doesn't mean I'm going to go gamble off my child support money, or nothing."

On both sides of the fight there are opposite views for what Pt. Molate should be.

"I've been here for 10 years and nobody has helped anything out here," said Johnson.

And that debate still goes on between casino backers and the environmentalists who twice sued to protect the 412-acre piece of shoreline.

"We start over. We're not going anywhere. We don't quit," said Robert Cheasty, president of Citizens for Eastshore Parks. "We're going to make this a beautiful site and protect it and do what we can."

The developer now has 120 days to come up with a plan for Pt. Molate -- a plan that does not include a casino.

"What I want to see is something that truly reflects the image of a Richmond in transition, of a Richmond on the rise," said Richmond Mayor Gayle McLaughlin.

"I want it to be whatever is the best for the city," said Agnew.

That may be the only thing everyone agrees on.

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