City officials in Elk Grove said Monday that 14,800 signatures were submitted to the city clerk by opponents of the Wilton Rancheria Tribe’s proposal to build a $400 million casino on 35.9 acres of land in central Sacramento County, according to The Sacramento Bee.

Earlier this month, opponents of the casino started to gather signatures for a ballot referendum to reverse the Elk Grove City Council’s October 12 decision in favor of the casino. The number collected far exceeds the 9,000 required to qualify the effort for the ballot in Elk Grove and sets up what could potentially be a costly ballot fight. The validity of the signatures, however, first needs to be verified by City Clerk Jason Lindgren, who said will take 30 days.

The land, located along a portion of California State Route 99 in Elk Grove, is owned by Dallas developer, the Howard Hughes Corporation, which is currently in the process of building an outlet mall on the parcel next to the casino site. Opponents of the proposed casino want to enable the ballot question and reverse the City Council’s decision which released the corporation from a previously arranged option agreement. That decision enabled the land to be put into Federal trust for the tribe; something that would not have been possible had the 36 acres remained encumbered. Hughes has said that the casino is “essential for continuing our leasing momentum” at the outlet mall.

Just who is behind the petition effort, however, remains a mystery. A complaint has been filed with the Fair Political Practices Commission (FPPC) by the Sacramento Region Business Association which supports the casino. The complaint seeks to uncover the anti-casino petition drive’s source and accuses the petitioners of “a conspiracy to hide information from” voters, according to the news agency.

The funding source of the petition drive must be disclosed within 10 days of receipt of donations totaling $2,000, according to the FPPC.
The Sacramento law firm of Bell, McAndrews & Hiltachk submitted the petitions, however, the petitions, as well as the accompanying paperwork, do not identify who is behind the petition drive, according to the report.

If the city clerk determines the validity of enough signatures, the Elk Grove City Council can opt to reverse its previous decision or may call a special election. The latter of which could cost the city up to $500,000, said Lindgren. However, qualifying the anti-casino referendum for the ballot is far from certain. As the news agency reports that City spokeswoman Kristyn Nelson said that “recession” documents, which also need to be verified, have been submitted by 200 people who say they don’t want their signatures included on the petitions.

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