COUNCILMAN Frank Di-Cicco today will introduce 10 proposed changes to how the city regulates the riverfront casinos approved by the state.
The changes include banning casinos in the city, challenging the state Gaming Control Board's choice of the local gaming sites and intensifying zoning controls for casinos.
Asked about his legislation, DiCicco said he has heard from many neighbors of the casino sites who asked him to "try everything." He conceded that a total ban on gaming sites had little chance of passing.
DiCicco will ask Council to pay for a legal challenge to the Gaming Control Board's Dec. 20 decision to award licenses to the SugarHouse Casino at Delaware Avenue and Shackamaxon Street and to the Foxwoods Casino at Columbus Boulevard and Reed Street. Both sites are in DiCicco's district.
DiCicco said Council last year approved hiring a lawyer to combat a state law that would have pre-empted local zoning control for casinos. He hopes his colleagues will now back funding for the legal challenge.
"It's kind of a similar situation here," said DiCicco, who plans to raise the money for the appeal if Council doesn't approve it.
The Gaming Control Board is expected to soon release its written opinions on its site decisions, which will start a 30-day period when appeals can be filed with the state Supreme Court.
DiCicco also proposes an amendment to the Home Rule Charter requiring voter approval by referendum for any casino site. To amend the charter, Council must approve the idea and then put it on the ballot for voters to consider.
DiCicco also wants Council's Legislative Oversight Committee to convene public hearings to examine how the Gaming Control Board awarded the licenses and to consider other sites for casinos.
Councilman Jim Kenney, chairman of that committee, supports the call for hearings and several of DiCicco's other proposals, calling them an "attempt to create some leverage" with the casino operators to protect the surrounding neighborhoods.
"I don't know what the end result is going to be," said Kenney, who has not polled other Council members on the issues. "I doubt the Legislature is going to repeal gaming. I doubt the sites are going to be rejected."
DiCicco's proposals include five zoning changes:
_ A ban on licenses for gaming facilities anywhere in the city.
_ A ban on casinos within 1,000 feet of strip clubs, pawn shops and payday-loan shops, and 500 feet from residential areas, schools, churches, playgrounds or religious institutions.
_ A change to the Commercial Entertainment District ordinance, requiring that a special-services district be up and running before a casino can open.
_ A change to the entertainment-district ordinance that would remove casinos as a permitted use and require approval from the Zoning Board of Adjustment.
_ A change to the entertainment-district ordinance saying no casino may be located within 1 mile of another. The Foxwoods and SugarHouse sites are 2.7 miles apart. This proposal focuses on the potential for more gaming licenses in the city someday.
DiCicco also wants a new traffic study of the combined impact of the two sites.
And DiCicco proposes changing the zoning on Foxwoods from commercial to residential while all this gets sorted out to prevent the issuance of building permits.
SugarHouse's site is zoned for light-industrial use, which means any request for permits would prompt a public review.