Petaluma seeks help to halt Rohnert Park casino

Petaluma City Council members will be asked Monday whether the city should urge North Bay legislators to reject the governor's gaming agreement with the Federated Indians of Graton Rancheria, who plan a huge casino near Rohnert Park.

Councilman Mike Healy, an attorney who has opposed this and other casino proposals in Sonoma County, argues the recently signed compact doesn't require the mitigation of impacts to surrounding communities.

"Even if Rohnert Park is happy and the county ends up being happy," he said, "that still doesn't take care of all the impacts."

The state compact requires the tribe to funnel $100 million into Sonoma County in its first seven years of operation and more after that. About $40 million would go to the county and $60 million to Rohnert Park.

The money is supposed to offset impacts on the environment, criminal justice and social service systems and traffic, among other areas.

But Petaluma Councilmen Gabe Kearney and Healy said that wasn't good enough. They have asked the council to consider sending a letter drafted by Healy urging state lawmakers to oppose the casino.

"The feelings are pretty strong," Healy said.

The state Legislature and the federal Department of the Interior still need to ratify the compact. The Legislature has held up approvals before but is believed to have rejected only one.

Casino opponents, including Assemblyman Jared Huffman, have acknowledged the odds against stopping the project are slim.

The casino is approved for 3,000 slot machines, 5,500 parking spaces, a 200-room hotel and restaurants and bars. If built to completion, it would become Sonoma County's largest private employer and, at $433 million, one of its most costly developments.

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