Over the past several years, the Coquille Indian Tribe has invested upwards of $6 million purchasing various properties around a proposed casino site in the southern Oregon city of Medford.
According to the Mail Tribune…
Initiation of the project began in 2012 when the Coquille Tribe spent $1.6 million for a 2.42-acre tract of land, which includes the Roxy Ann Lanes bowling center, in south Medford as the site for the casino. Following the purchase, the tribe submitted a request to the Secretary of the Interior to have the land placed into trust.
Further land acquisition:
Since that initial acquisition, the tribe has purchased additional land in the area and currently owns or controls approximately 45 acres around the site for its proposed The Cedars at Bear Creek casino.
The land into trust request triggered review under the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA). The law enacted on January 1, 1970, was created to promote efforts to prevent or eliminate damage to the environment. It emphasizes a transparent process and collaboration with local and state agencies and offers the public opportunities to voice their opinion. It is typically a lengthy process, which examines thoroughly the environmental, economic and social impacts of the tribe’s proposal, along with ‘alternatives to the proposed action and a “no action” alternative,’ according to the Coquille Tribe’s “Medford Wins” website.
The tribe is still waiting for the land to be placed into trust after a review by the federal Office of Indian Gaming in January 2017 confirmed the Coquille Tribe’s legal right to open a casino on the development property it owns in Medford once the originally-purchased 2.42 acres of land is placed in federal trust.
Chairperson of the Coquille Indian Tribal Council, Brenda Meade, said at the time…
“This memo confirms everything that we have been saying since we first announced our economic development plans for Medford.
“We thank the staff at the Office of Indian Gaming for taking the time to clarify this point and to correct any misinformation concerning the Coquille Tribe’s rightful place within the Medford business community.
“While we recognize that this decision will not be finalized until the end of the federal process, this clarification encourages us to move forward on planning for the Cedars at Bear Creek and further development in Medford,” added Meade, at the time.
According to the Mail Tribune, other tribes, along with Jackson County commissioners, former Gov. John Kitzhaber, U.S. Sens. Ron Wyden and Jeff Merkley and the city of Medford have all opposed the casino.
Meade said, “We are still very frustrated waiting for land to be placed into trust.” She added that the tribe isn’t able to make plans for the acquired properties until the federal government makes its decision on the initial 2.42-acre property it purchased back in 2012.
The news agency further reports that Meade communicated that she hopes the decision is made this year and made note of the fact that David Bernhardt was earlier this month nominated by President Trump to succeed Ryan Zinke. The former Interior secretary left the administration in January amid increasing federal investigations into his political activity, travel and potential conflicts of interest.
Meade also reportedly said that in April 2018, the tribe heard that the land in trust application would be fast-tracked by the federal government. She further communicated that even if the casino proposal is rejected by the federal government, other options for the acquired properties in Medford will be explored by the Coquille Tribe.
Change of location:
The tribe wants to build its Cedars at Bear Creek casino in south Medford along Highway 99. Earlier plans called for the conversion of the existing Roxy Ann Lanes bowling facility along with the former site of Kim’s Restaurant into a Class II casino with some 650 electronic bingo games and an upscale restaurant. At a Class II gaming facility players bet against each other and not against the house and are prohibited from offering table games or slot games, like other larger casinos in the state, such as Seven Feathers Casino Resort in Canyonville owned by the Cow Creek Band of Umpqua Tribe of Indians.
Nearly 32 acres of land at the site of the former Kim’s Restaurant are leased by the tribe.
City Councilor, Kevin Stine, said that he is “not opposed to the idea of having a casino in Medford,” and would like to obtain more information from the Coquille tribe regarding its plans.
Stine reportedly said that since joining the council in 2014, he has seen little opposition to the proposed casino being voiced. He added that the federal government, not city officials, possess decision-making ability for the tribal lands.
“The council has very little to do here,” he said.