ATLANTIC CITY — Glenn Straub, owner of the former $2 billion Revel casino hotel, angrily left a Casino Reinvestment Development Authority (CRDA) hearing Thursday after being asked for a landscaping plan.
Straub, whose attorneys had submitted a new traffic-circulation plan for the shuttered casino that was being well received, then said he wanted to withdraw his application for a site plan that would allow him to reopen the property.
"Withdraw!" he said to his attorney as he stood at the hearing room's entrance, one foot out the door, his head leaning inside.
"I'll go back to Miami, go back to Palm Beach, go back to Ohio, go back to West Virginia," he told the CRDA's land-use division, a normally obscure hearing board made up of professional staff on the state agency, in a quivering voice. "How many other people are spending money? What do I get? Not one politician, not one agency ever called to say, `Can I help you?' "
CRDA attorney Paul Weiss told Straub the landscaping plan was a routine part of any site-plan application. Revel had 105,506 plants in its original landscaping plan, he said.
"We're not looking for the applicant to plant 105,605 plants," he said. "We're looking for the applicant to have a landscaping plan."
Straub shot back: "Things like this is complicating our life. ... Government, government, government. We'll deal with this the right way, shut it down. You're blackmailing us, adding these things in here. We have $200,000 in this simple application. Now you're adding landscaping?"
He compared the situation to his purchase of the closed Miami Arena, where he said he "blew up six blocks" after he wasn't able to redevelop the arena.
Straub's outburst notwithstanding, the hearing continued without him at the request of his attorney, Nicholas Talvacchia.
Straub has said he is seeking to reopen the failed Revel, which he bought out of bankruptcy for $82 million. He has yet to receive a casino license or a city certificate of occupancy. The CRDA's approval of his site plan is required because an adventure ropes course changes the basic traffic pattern around the complex, which closed two years ago.
The board seemed inclined to approve Straub's new traffic plan, which accommodates the ropes course, which takes the place of the prior valet parking area. The new plan has valet parking moved inside the parking garage, and the existing three-lane exit converted to a one-lane entrance with two exit lanes.
Weiss said the division's recommendation would be sent to the full CRDA board for consideration at its Sept. 20 meeting. At the end, Weiss said: "Am I correct in suggesting to you that the applicant has not withdrawn his application?"
"That is correct," replied Talvacchia.
The sides are also fighting over whether Straub is required to pay into a Special Improvement District fund. Weiss indicated that that payment would probably be a condition of any approval of the new site plan for Revel. Talvacchia said Straub would object to that and might take up the matter in a different venue, presumably a court action.
Also at the meeting, residents of the nearby Bella condominiums expressed concerns about noise from the Revel's power plant and other issues with the building. One resident took Straub's side, shouting "Brilliant, Glenn, brilliant," after his tirade.
Weiss, the CRDA chief legal officer, said in a statement issued while the meeting was in progress that the land-use department proceedings were required "to ensure that the law is followed" and that the hearings "apply equally to every business in the Tourism District." Landscaping details are required as part of a site plan.
CRDA spokeswoman Elaine Zamansky said, "Everybody wants it to move forward. Nobody wants to see it empty."
By contrast, developer Bart Blatstein was not required to submit any new landscaping or traffic plan when he took over the former Showboat and reopened part of it as a non-casino hotel because he did not change the basic footprint.