After breaking ground in mid-February on its $510 million casino resort near the town of La Center in southern Washington, the Cowlitz Tribe has announced that the project is now 40% complete and is due to meet a target of opening in the spring of 2017.
The update on the new venue located about 25 miles north of Portland, Oregon, came as officials for the nearby city of Vancouver unanimously passed a resolution at a public hearing that overturned a 2007 decision to oppose the casino, while ending their involvement in a long-running court case against the project.
According to a report from The Columbian newspaper, the city joined in a lawsuit brought by Clark County, operators of La Center’s card rooms, the Confederated Tribes Of The Grand Ronde and a group called Citizens Against Reservation Shopping that challenged a decision by the Bureau Of Indian Affairs to approve the land-into-trust application for the casino. The plaintiffs subsequently lost this action in US District Court but appealed to the DC Circuit Court Of Appeals with a final ruling expected in the summer.
The city’s latest resolution states that Vancouver will no longer participate in the appeal because it believes doing so could impede talks with the tribe that may benefit the communities of southwest Washington.
“We feel it will be a new beginning, turning a page on a history that maybe we’d rather not look back at,” Bill Iyall, Chairman for the Cowlitz Tribe, told the hearing. “But it’s a breath of fresh air. We’re more than happy to work on any remaining issues you have.”
The newspaper additionally reported that Clark County remains committed to the lawsuit but could change it stance and even let the new casino connect to the sewer system of La Center.
Moreover, the hearing saw tribal leaders offer assurances that they would be working to address concerns raised by the city in the areas of housing, transportation and the provision of social and health services for those suffering from problem gambling.
“The time is now to move forward in the right direction,” said Philip Harju, Vice-Chairman for the Cowlitz Tribe. “Better late than never.”