By MIKE LAMB
BARSTOW — A decision on the proposed local Indian casino could be made at any time, and the Super Wal-Mart project is still going forward, city officials said.
Those announcements and an update on a scaled-down aluminum plant project were provided by the city manager and planning manager at the urging of two concerned citizens attending Tuesday night’s City Council meeting.
“Right now (the casino) is in the hands of the Bureau of Indian Affairs,” City Manager Curt Mitchell said.
The Los Coyotes Band of Cahuilla and Cupeno Indians seeks to build the casino on about 23 acres of land near the Tanger Outlet Center.
The project to build a casino off of Indian reservation land is part of the Indian Gaming Regulatory Act. It specifically allows a federally recognized tribe to apply to have land taken into trusts so that it can be used for Indian gaming if the Department of Interior determines that it would be beneficial to the tribe and not detrimental to the surrounding community. The governor also would have to sign off on the project.
The environmental impact statement that was released April 18 estimated that the Los Coyotes casino project would bring $160 million in investments to Barstow, as well as 1,000 construction jobs. Once operating, the casino would be expected to produce $126 million in annual revenue and support 1,085 jobs in the community.
“The final environmental impact statement has been published. Theoretically, they could make a decision at any time,” Mitchell said. “They have to meet what is called a two-part determination. One, that it benefits the tribe and two, it will not be detrimental to Barstow and the surrounding communities. We believe our project is a model for two-part determination, but it’s entirely up to the Bureau of Indian Affairs.
“Once they make that determination, they would have to get concurrence from the governor and the tribe would then negotiate a compact with the state.”
Gaither Loewenstein, economic development and planning manager, said the Super Wal-Mart project is moving forward but dealing with challenges. The 200,000-square-foot superstore is planned to be built at the corner of East Main Street and Montara Road on 28 acres.
The development is expected to bring 85 to 100 jobs and also add space for five additional business parcels that could bring another 100 to 200 jobs. The other planned businesses are two restaurants, a bank and retail store.
“The Wal-Mart project has submitted some of the plans,” Loewenstein said. “They also submitted a grading plan. It’s a very challenging site as it turns out. And what they have done, they took a second look at their grading plan and they asked to resubmit and change the grading plans, because they wanted to get the retail pads up closer to grade level at Montara Street. Revised grading plans are expected at the end of February, early March. So that project is moving forward.”
Mitchell said the city is expecting an application by developer Eric Shen for a scaled-down version of the original Barstow Aluminum Plant project that was proposed last March. Mitchell announced in November that the original project was unlikely to happen, but a smaller version could still become a reality.
City officials unveiled the plan in March to construct a 964-acre aluminum plant just south of the defunct Sun & Sky Golf Course. The City Council approved the framework of a redevelopment agreement with Shen’s Newport Beach-based Scuderia Development to build the 2.95 million-square-foot facility for China Zhongwang Holdings Limited. If built, the plant was expected to employ as many as 2,000 skilled workers.
“It’s very unlikely the project will proceed as originally planned,” Mitchell said in November. “The property options also expire on Nov. 30 and we are being reimbursed for our actual expenses for the purchase of those land options.”
On Tuesday, Mitchell said he expects the application from Shen in the near future.
“The city continues discussions with Mr. Eric Shen with the development of the scaled-down version of the aluminum cast house project with private financing,” he said. No further details were provided.
Originally posted by The Desert Dispatch