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How Suffolk casino can signal best intentions

The Racing Forum on Motor Parkway in Hauppauge,

The Racing Forum on Motor Parkway in Hauppauge, one of the venues operated by Suffolk OTB. Credit: Suffolk Off-Track Betting Corp. 2010

It's becoming more clear that local officials and opponents won't be able to stop Suffolk County's proposed slot parlor from coming to Medford. What can be addressed, though, is making sure the new casino doesn't unduly affect the environment or the community.

Beseeched by residents, the Town of Brookhaven sought a legal opinion on whether the 1,000-machine video-lottery parlor is subject to local zoning laws. The town's lawyers said it is not. The state law that allows parlors in Suffolk and Nassau also exempts them from zoning laws. Beyond that, the proposed site near the Long Island Expressway previously held a multiplex theater and is zoned for an indoor amusement establishment, so based on zoning, a casino is an appropriate use for the parcel.

But the plan also must comply with county health and environmental codes. With so many community members still up in arms, the casino operators would be wise to exceed those standards. There is some question as to whether the parlor can operate with cesspools and septic tanks or must tie in to a nearby sewage treatment facility. Suffolk OTB president Phil Nolan says he had planned on using septic tanks, but will do whatever the county orders.

Suffolk OTB should hook up to the treatment plant, even though it will cost more and might not be required by code. We don't need any more big, busy, unsewered facilities threatening the environment with the potential for leaks and nitrogen leaching.

Avoiding that possibility would be a wise signal to the community that the OTB plans to be a great neighbor.