TOWNSEND -- Selectmen voted unanimously Tuesday to enter into a surrounding communities agreement with the company proposing a slots parlor in nearby Leominster.
The agreement between PPE Casino Resorts MA, LLC, Townsend and other nearby communities would help to mitigate negative effects the slots parlor could have on the casino's neighboring towns, Town Administrator Andrew Sheehan said.
"It is presumed that most of the impacts here will be transportation related -- new interchanges, paving roads, things of that sort," Sheehan said.
A traffic study cited in the agreement estimated that about 100,000 vehicle trips per year will be made down Route 13 by patrons traveling to the slots parlor.
Sheehan also cited societal problems, such as gambling addiction, as being potential negative consequences of the casino, which would feature 1,250 slot machines and be located on Jungle Road, off Route 190 on the Lancaster line.
Under the agreement, PPE Casino Resorts would pay an annual community impact fee to the town, starting at $5,000 and increasing one percent per year. PPE would also reimburse the town for any documented public safety costs tied to the gaming facility, cooperate in the town's efforts to secure mitigation funding from a community mitigation fund created by the gaming legislation and make an annual benefit payment based on the casino's revenue.
"It is always challenging to predict the impact of development projects and the challenge is greater in the case of unusual projects such as this. The terms of the surrounding community agreement protect the town from anticipated impacts and provide mitigation for those impacts," Sheehan wrote in a memo explaining the agreement.
The agreement also awards local preference to employees from the surrounding towns in hiring for jobs related to the slots parlor.
"There are several local preference benefits, including construction jobs, vendor preference and permanent positions at the casino once it opens," Sheehan said.
In return for these benefits, the town agrees to support the project as it seeks approval.
Selectman Robert Plamondon said entering into the agreement made sense from a financial standpoint.
"If we don't agree to this agreement, then I think we're losing out on whatever financial resources we can gain from it," Plamondon said. "Townsend's not going to stop it, so why shouldn't we derive some benefit from it?"
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