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Selectmen to devote Tuesday meeting to gambling proposal

Town manager Kevin Paicos says Foxboro should consider taking a place at the table among communities vying to host a gambling casino, and the board of selectmen have decided to air that issue next Tuesday. The agenda for the board’s Sept. 6 meeting in the Andrew Gala Room at Tow n Hall lists only one subject for public discussion, “Gaming,” from 7 to 9 p.m.

With a bill to allow three resort-style casinos and a slots parlor in play on Beacon Hill, Paicos last week proposed changing Foxboro’s zoning bylaw to allow such uses in the Route 1 area, including on what is now land owned by the Kraft Group.

Kraft Group attorney John Twohig presented the Planning Board with a 15-page packet of zoning amendments to make way for an up to 500-foot tall wind turbine, a high-tech office facility, a convention center, a roughly 20-story luxury hotel, and a range of related facilities.

Some of those zoning changes may be placed on a special town meeting warrent in October, after the planning board holds its formal public hearings, chairman Kevin Weinfeld said.

One provision – discussed by Paicos, not Twohig – would modify the definition of “entertainment facilities” in the Route 1 Economic Development Area Overlay District to include a gambling casino.

Weinfeld said Twohig stressed to the board that Kraft Group’s ownership in an NFL football team would preclude Kraft from having ownership in a casino.

Weinfeld, board vice chairman Bill Grieder and town planner Sharon Wason all said Paicos asked for Twohig’s legal assistance in drafting the gambling language proposal, and that the proposal – though potentially affecting Kraft-owned property – was not pushed by Kraft Group.

Jeff Cournoyer, spokesman for The Kraft Group, agreed.

“It’s not unusual for the town to ask John Twohig to assist with drafting language in certain instances and we’ve always allowed that in the past when he has particular expertise in an area,” Cournoyer said Friday.

“My understanding is that it’s not something we initiated but that the town manager requested.”

Grieder said the planning board has been discussing some of the potential zoning articles with Twohig for months, “but we’ve never had any discussion or inclination that a gambling casino was part of the process.”

Grieder said that “if an article has not been duly vetted, it will not be placed on the warrant,” and that board members told Paicos that their board will not be sponsoring the casino article.

The board’s agenda for the meeting did not mention casinos, but more generally “review of draft renewable energy” and economic development area “zoning provisions/amendments.”

About eight years ago, Foxboro voters turned down a non-binding referendum to allow a race track with slot machines, known as a “racino.” In subsequent years, the use was eliminated from the zoning table.

Board members said Paicos is free to ask selectmen to place the casino article on the October warrant, and he indicated he may discuss the matter during selectmen’s regular meeting Tuesday.

During his approximately 45-minute presentation to the planning board Thursday, Paicos said he has not personally made up his mind for or against Foxboro hosting a gambling casino.

He said, however, that Foxboro should not let itself be shut out of the statewide discussion because of its current zoning restrictions.