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Brookhaven Town approval not needed for Medford casino plan, legal opinion concludes

Suffolk OTB can build a video lottery parlor in Medford without approval from the Town of Brookhaven, a Manhattan-based law firm concluded in a legal opinion requested by town officials.

The four-page letter from Nixon Peabody LLC obtained by Newsday supports Brookhaven officials, who have said the $76 million casino proposal is exempt from town zoning laws. Town leaders sought the opinion in response to opponents who want them to stop the project.

Brookhaven Town attorney Annette Eaderesto said town officials do not plan to file a legal challenge to try to stop Suffolk Regional Off-Track Betting Corp. from building the casino, which would have as many as 1,000 video lottery terminals. The town board in January approved a nonbinding resolution opposing the plan.

"It's my opinion, now backed up by the Nixon Peabody firm, that there's no way for the town to challenge the OTB," Eaderesto said. "We don't have any basis for . . . [legal action]. It would be a waste of taxpayer money."

The law firm's opinion said the casino must conform with "applicable local ordinances" to be approved by state gaming authorities. It also noted that the proposed casino site, on a Long Island Expressway service road east of Route 112, is zoned for an "indoor amusement establishment," such as a casino.

"This confirmation is all that is required of, or even permitted of, the town," the law firm concluded.

Casino opponents, who have sued Suffolk OTB to block the project, said Wednesday they believe the opinion supported their contention that the facility does not comply with town zoning laws.

"We're claiming victory. It says the town must address all zoning issues," opponent Brett Houdek of Medford said. "The town is the one putting this in our community now. It's not OTB, it's the town if they don't abide by the code."

Northport attorney Peter Creedon, who represents Medford civic leaders suing OTB, said he would include the opinion in legal papers he plans to file next week.

Suffolk OTB vice president Tony Pancella said the opinion backs the agency's view that the town has no legal role in the casino issue. "We're going to proceed and build the facility per state code," he said.

Casino opponents have said the casino would attract crime and excessive traffic. Supporters, including OTB employees and building trades unions, counter that the facility would generate hundreds of jobs and millions of dollars for OTB, which is emerging from bankruptcy.

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