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Not all support casino in town of Florida

Saturday, July 5, 2014
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Not all support casino in town of Florida

With all of the hype surrounding the proposed casino in the town of Florida, one would think that everyone in the town supports it. This is not the case. There are many, including myself, who strongly oppose the construction and operation of a casino in the town.

The town of Florida was established in 1793 as an agricultural community. It prides itself as a rural town scattered with small family farms and rolling hills. The town’s own website boasts of its own rich agricultural history and rightly so, for the natural landscape has proven to be ideal for farming. Perhaps this is one reason why so many Amish have settled throughout the county in recent years.

My own family has been farming in this community for over 100 years, and my son hopes to continue farming as well. The proposed casino alone would alter the landscape and would most likely spur other large-scale development nearby, i.e. gas stations, chain stores and plazas, thus permanently destroying the cultural and physical integrity of the town.

Proponents of the casino highlight the economic benefits it will bring to the town and to the city of Amsterdam. No one is disputing the fact that Montgomery County is in need of an economic revival. However any major development must be done prudently. Fifty-years ago, we heard many of the same talking points from those who wanted to build a mall in downtown Amsterdam as we hear today from casino advocates. The Amsterdam Mall was built, the crowds came and left, and now the building is all but abandoned. Today, I think any reasonable person would admit that putting an indoor shopping mall on main street was a major mistake, and any economic benefits that came along with the mall have long since expired.

The mall is living proof that real revitalization and long-term economic development must include a sound vision, intelligent and fact-based planning and should take into account how it will effect the quality of life.

If economic revival and jobs are what we are seeking, I suggest mitigating the systemic economic pitfalls in the city of Amsterdam. Why is no one asking what can be done to attract businesses where infrastructure is already in place? How can we imitate what Schenectady, a city with similar demographics, has done to turn itself around?

If, in fact, a casino is really what this community wants, then why not tear some of the vacant buildings down, for example, the mall, and build it there?

Finally, what is the game plan if this area is not selected to have a casino? In any case, we should be asking ourselves what could be done to revive a broken city and create an atmosphere conducive to real and sustainable economic revival, rather than risk permanently destroying a beautiful rural community, all for a bet on a casino.

Kenneth J. Slezak

Rotterdam Junction

 

comments

July 5, 2014
8:55 a.m.
+1 votes
geneshan2 says...

I have to agree with much of what you have to say, but the fact remains that the Town needs revenue to survive. The residential homes carry the largest property tax burden of any town in the county and we have NO town tax. One main reason for that is the number of ag exemptions allowed on farm properties. No stones being thrown here, farming is a profession most of us would never want to tackle because of the hours alone and tax concessions are warranted, but it is what it is. If we want to maintain our rural atmosphere we need some tax paying entities. The casino, as planned, will not encroach on the town more than a few hundred yards down Rt.30. If there is some commercial development, good for us. I would love to see a market that offered better pricing than the convenience stores, and housing at the site and a hotel will help with our sales tax revenue.

There's an often used comment "take a chance, Columbus did" that comes into play here. If we do nothing, we get nothing. If we do something, maybe we'll get something. We can and will control any future projects because we DO want to protect what we have, but we have to look to the possibilities at hand. Our Industrial Parks will, in short time, be generating tax revenue. The problem is that that revenue will be bound for the county because we have no town tax (which is what I hope continues) so the trickle down from this revenue to the town will be minumul. We need our own sources of revenue.

 

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