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Casino opponents say morning meeting time keeps them away

Long Islanders gather for the Islandia Village Board

Long Islanders gather for the Islandia Village Board meeting, amid controversy over a proposed Suffolk OTB casino at the Islandia Marriott Hotel, on Tuesday, Aug. 2, 2016, at the Islandia Village Hall, in Islandia. Credit: Heather Walsh

The Islandia Village Board has called a special meeting for Friday morning, but did not provide details about an agenda or whether the board plans to vote on a controversial Suffolk OTB casino proposal.

The 9 a.m. meeting at Village Hall was announced on Tuesday on the village website.

Mayor Allan M. Dorman did not return a phone message. The village clerk’s office was closed on Wednesday.

“I can only confirm that the Village of Islandia will be holding a special public meeting of the Board of Trustees on Friday, Aug. 12 at 9 a.m.,” village spokesman John Zaher said in an email.

Trustee Diane Olk, who until last week was the village’s deputy mayor, said she did not know the purpose of the meeting. She was removed as deputy mayor on Aug. 2 after she criticized Dorman’s handling of the casino issue.

Villages are not required to announce agendas in advance of special meetings, said Kristin O’Neill, assistant director of the state Committee on Open Government.

Many casino critics expressed frustration Wednesday over the timing of the meeting and the lack of information about its purpose.

“It’s suspect,” said Bruce Edwards, president of the Ronkonkoma Civic Association. “I don’t like the way they do things there. ... There’s no way of knowing what’s going on.”

Some casino opponents said Wednesday they were scrambling to get time off from work to attend the meeting. Edwards and another opponent, Larry Kelter, president of the Wind Watch Homeowners Association in Hauppauge, said they would not be able to attend because of prior commitments.

Kelter said the timing of the meeting was “a tactical move specifically to avoid getting a big audience on a Friday morning because they will most definitely move for a vote.”

Delaware North, the Buffalo-based company developing the casino for Suffolk County Regional Off-Track Betting Corp., has requested a special permit for 1,000 video lottery terminals at the Islandia Marriott Long Island hotel, on the Long Island Expressway north service road. OTB officials have said they hope to open the betting parlor in three to four months.

A Delaware North spokesman was unable to provide additional information Wednesday.

The Suffolk County Planning Commission last week referred the issue back to Islandia after finding it could not take action on the proposal.

Dorman canceled a July 12 vote on the casino after a contentious July 5 public hearing at which most speakers opposed the project. He stopped a village board meeting last week after nearly two hours of heated debate over the OTB plan. Several agenda items were not discussed because the meeting ended early.

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