Supporters and opponents of a proposed Medford gaming parlor remained divided over details of the $65 million project after a meeting at Suffolk OTB headquarters, participants said Wednesday.
About 20 people -- including elected officials, community leaders, OTB officials and representatives of the Buffalo-based company that would operate the facility -- talked for about 90 minutes on Tuesday during an invitation-only meeting in Hauppauge.
Opponents at the meeting raised concerns such as traffic, sewage and potential crime at the former movie theater site where Suffolk Off-Track Betting Corp. plans to build a 98,735-square-foot parlor with 1,000 video lottery terminals.
OTB officials said they would conduct environmental and traffic studies before building the casino. Construction could begin in three months, and the facility is expected to open in February 2016, OTB vice president Tony Pancella said Wednesday.
Brookhaven Town Councilman Neil Foley, who attended the meeting and opposes the casino, said the discussion was "civil." "I think to me the most important part is both sides are meeting and they're trying to iron out their issues," Foley said.
Pancella said he told residents the agency would provide security at the site to address concerns about safety. "We explained that this thing doesn't work for us unless it works for them," he said. "It's going to be safe and secure and it will be done properly."
Don Seubert, an opponent, said he was disappointed with answers provided by OTB officials on topics such as site selection and said more residents should be included in discussions. "It needs to have a full process and full open hearings," said Seubert, vice president of the Medford Taxpayers and Civic Association.
Town officials have said OTB and video lottery facilities are exempt from local zoning.
County Legis. Robert Calarco (D-Patchogue), who said he opposes the casino, said "lack of communication" from OTB officials has contributed to skepticism among residents.
"I think a lot of people have this sense there's been no communication and no transparency," said Calarco, who was at the meeting.
Joe DeStefano, a Medford Fire District commissioner, said he was concerned about firefighter safety at the site. "Everybody is under the understanding that this thing is coming, so let's get together and get things we need," he said.