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Foxwoods Mass. hires local lawyer for guidance on casino referendum

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Foxwoods Massachusetts, the partnership proposing to develop a $1 billion resort casino in Milford, Mass., has retained a Milford attorney to advise it in connection with an upcoming referendum and, possibly, a special town meeting vote on a required zone change for the project.

The attorney, Warren Heller, has been an elected member of the town meeting for 38 years, according to a press release announcing his hiring.

"As a lifelong resident of Milford, I have never before seen an opportunity that can provide so much benefit to the town," the release quoted Heller as saying. "I am pleased to be working with an organization of integrity, that has taken time over the past five years to meet with and listen to the concerns of the people of Milford, knows New England, and will develop a resort casino that integrates with the community. This is a once in a lifetime opportunity for Milford to reap the benefits of a parcel of land that would otherwise provide little return to the people of Milford."

An attempt to reach Heller was unsuccessful.

Both supporters and opponents of the casino project have mobilized since the town's Board of Selectmen voted Sept. 9 to sign an agreement with the developers and set a townwide referendum for Nov. 19. The agreement calls for Foxwoods Massachusetts to provide with more than $32 million in upfront payments and annual payments of more than $31 million to offset the impact of the casino, which would be built off Interstate 495.

A number of town meeting members have aligned themselves with citizens groups urging either passage or defeat of the referendum. For example, Steve Trettel, co-chairman of Casino-Free Milford, a group opposed to the casino, is a town meeting member, as is Geri Eddins, a spokeswoman for the group.

A town meeting vote on the zone change for the casino project would only be scheduled if the referendum passes.

The zone change would have to be approved by a two-thirds vote of the town meeting.


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