Council again votes against Foxwoods

City Council passed another bill yesterday aimed at derailing or at least delaying construction of Foxwoods Casino Philadelphia along the Delaware River.

The legislation, sponsored by Councilman Frank DiCicco, changes the zoning of the proposed Foxwoods site from commercial to residential.

DiCicco's aim is to force the casino to appear before the Zoning Board of Adjustment for a variance. That could give the city more say in how and where the casino is built, and would also give anti-casino activists another chance to voice their objections.

"This is just another one of those roadblocks or bumps in the road that we're trying to implement to slow this process down," DiCicco, who represents the First District, said after the meeting.

The bill was approved by a veto-proof 14-3 margin. Juan F. Ramos, Carol Campbell and Daniel Savage voted against it.

Maureen Garrity, a spokeswoman for Foxwoods, called the legislation "blatant spot zoning, which we believe is illegal."

"If City Council spent as much time and creative energy in bringing jobs to the city as they do trying to chase them away, their constituents would be much better off," Garrity said.

Foxwoods, to be built along the waterfront in Pennsport, is one of two slots parlors to be built on the waterfront in the First District. The other, SugarHouse Casino in Fishtown, is already sited in a nonconforming zone, and the developers will have to go before the city for a variance.

A legal challenge appears inevitable. The city, the casinos, the Gaming Control Board, and various anti-casino groups are fighting over a host of legal issues in the state's courts. Last week, the state Supreme Court issued a preliminary injunction forbidding the city from placing an anti-casino referendum on the May 15 primary ballot.

Council yesterday also unanimously approved the formation of a citizens' committee - which would include no elected or appointed officials - to explore alternative casino sites.

"I'm going to fight this fight for as long as I have to. All we want is an opportunity to sit down with the Gaming Control Board and the potential operators to look for alternative sites. That's really all this is about," DiCicco said.

DiCicco and Council President Anna C. Verna also introduced an unrelated bill yesterday intended to prop up Philadelphia manufacturers. The legislation - which would cost the city about $5.6 million a year - offers modest tax breaks for manufacturing firms.


Contact staff writer Patrick Kerkstra at 215-854-2827 or pkerkstra@phillynews.com.