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Brookhaven scrubs plans to change part of the town zoning code over concerns about betting parlors

Rendering of the Suffolk Regional OTB Gaming Facility,

Rendering of the Suffolk Regional OTB Gaming Facility, Aug. 27, 2014. Credit: Delaware North Companies Gaming & Entertainment

Concern over language regarding off-track betting facilities and its potential impact on a proposed video lottery parlor in Medford has caused Brookhaven officials to scrub plans to change part of the town zoning code.

Supervisor Edward P. Romaine abruptly canceled a Sept. 17 public hearing on the proposed changes because they included "off-track betting parlors" among a host of uses that would have been allowed in downtown commercial districts. Romaine said the hearing would not be rescheduled.

Some Medford residents oppose the Suffolk County Regional Off-Track Betting Corp. plan to build a $76 million casino with up to 1,000 video lottery terminals on the eastbound Long Island Expressway service road east of Route 112.

Town Councilman Neil Foley, who represents Medford, said he was not sure whether the proposed changes would have affected the OTB plan. He said the OTB language was not been discussed by town board members before the meeting.

"I didn't feel comfortable with the language about OTB," Foley said in an interview. "It's a very sensitive topic to my council district and the town, and it should absolutely be pulled."

OTB officials have asked Eastern District U.S. Bankruptcy Court Chief Judge Carla E. Craig to order Brookhaven, Suffolk County or the state Gaming Commission to issue a building permit for the Medford casino. A hearing on OTB's request is scheduled for Wednesday in Brooklyn.

OTB officials have said gaming parlors are exempt from town zoning laws. Town officials have said OTB has not applied for a building permit.

Casino opponent Brett Houdek said the proposed code changes would have permitted OTB parlors throughout Brookhaven.

"It raised a red flag . . . Essentially it says that every general business district is eligible for a OTB betting parlor," Houdek said, adding he was concerned about "how it got in there to begin with. Doesn't anybody vet these things?"

Town Attorney Annette Eaderesto said town lawyers and planning officials had proposed adding OTB parlors and other uses such as community theaters and houses of worship to clarify the code.

Current zoning laws allow OTB facilities in downtowns as "indoor recreation," and the Medford site is in a commercial recreation zone that also allows betting parlors, she said. "It didn't affect the Medford site at all," Eaderesto said. "It would be allowed even without the code changes."

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