City officials are still working on amending the proposed casino ordinance

Discussions about where casinos belong in Keene continue at City Hall as staff works to develop a zoning ordinance that would determine their placement.

Discussions about where casinos belong in Keene continue at City Hall as staff works to develop a zoning ordinance that would determine their placement.

After the council voted in February to send the ordinance back to the drawing board so more details could be ironed out, it has been the subject of a pair of joint meetings between the council’s Planning, Permitting and Development Committee and the Keene Planning Board .

It is now scheduled for a third joint session on June 10. The ordinance also requires a public hearing and a recommendation from the PLD committee before the full City Council makes a decision.

The latest version of the ordinance limits the number of charity gambling facilities, including by banning them in the one location where Keene’s only casino already exists. Other details that are still being refined include requirements for the size of a gaming facility and its distance from homes.

During the May 13 joint session, panelists proposed including a minimum size of 10,000 square feet for a facility’s gaming floor, and other proposed language would prevent casinos from being built next to a residential area.

City officials are currently proposing to limit charity gambling facilities to three parts of Keene’s commercial district. Although they are still determining the precise boundaries, these areas include parts of Winchester Street such as Riverside Plaza (where Walmart and HomeGoods are) and the Applebee’s lot, parts of West Street such as Kohl’s Plaza and West Street Shopping Center, and Monadnock Marketplace , where Target is located, among others.

In its original form, the proposal would limit charity gambling facilities to the city’s downtown growth and commercial districts while banning them from the downtown core.

According to a Keene zoning mapThe downtown growth district includes areas near the spine of the city, but is actually located far away from the main shopping and dining area of ​​Main Street. It includes parts of West Street, Gilbo Avenue and Emerald Street to the west, and Community Way and part of Water Street to the east. A portion of Main Street between Davis Street to the north and Winchester Street to the south is also part of the downtown growth district.

Keene’s only gambling facility, Wonder Casino at 172 Emerald St., operates in this zoning district.

If the ordinance passes, Community Development Director Jesse Rounds said Wonder Casino, which at the time would be a nonconforming use in the downtown growth district, could still do business and expand at its current location .

“I think the idea would be that if we were interested in additional charity gambling facilities, they would only be in these proposed areas,” he said.

The debate over casinos in Keene was prompted by a September letter from then-Mayor George Hansel asking city council members to consider not allowing charitable gambling facilities in the downtown core district.

City staff introduced the zoning change in October, and discussions have put on hold business owner Dorrie Masten’s application for a casino in Central Square while the ordinance awaits a council decision.

While some in favor of the downtown Masten casino argued to council members that a charitable gambling facility could attract more business to the local economy, others have said it could bring too much vehicle traffic to downtown Keene and can ensure that parking spaces remain occupied for a longer period of time. .

At the May 13 joint committee meeting, PLD Chair Kate Bosley told the group that progress has been made on the proposed ordinance, but discussions need to continue on how charitable gambling facilities fit into Keene.

“Council was definitely uncomfortable with the way it was written and wanted a lot more thought put into it,” Bosley said. “… We had to have these conversations and really figure out as a group what we think is the best strategy for this type of use in our community.”

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