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Wednesday, September 27, 2023
Sept. 27, 2023

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City, county to rethink anti-casino stances

Councilors will look at resolutions at meetings next week

By , Columbian City Government Reporter

For more than a decade, Clark County and the city of Vancouver have been at odds with the Cowlitz Tribe over its plans to build a $510 million casino outside of La Center, even taking the tribe to court.

But a truce — of sorts — is in sight. Both councils will consider resolutions next week to improve relations with the tribe in an effort to mitigate the casino’s potential impacts on the area.

Monday, the Vancouver City Council will review a resolution to rescind a 2007 council resolution opposing the casino, which is under construction just west of Interstate 5 at Exit 16. The resolution would end the city’s participation in the current lawsuit challenging the casino, and it would invite dialogue between the city government and tribal government.

Although the county still remains opposed to the casino project and committed to its federal court case, the Clark County Council’s resolution, which is on Tuesday’s agenda, would open the door for talks with an aim of furthering the “public health and welfare of Clark County citizens.”

Both the county and the city are concerned about the casino’s impacts on the supply of affordable housing (due to the housing needs of hundreds of casino workers), road congestion and the demand for social and health services due to an increase in problem gambling.

The county contends the casino will require more law enforcement in the vicinity and that the casino’s development and operation will degrade the environment, according to the resolution. The resolution instructs the Public Works, Public Health and Environmental Services departments to talk about the construction of roads and sewage systems that impact the aquifer. It also advises the sheriff and prosecuting attorney to discuss public safety issues with the Cowlitz.

The city’s 2007 resolution directed the city attorney to “explore all legal options to enjoin the location of the casino in Clark County.” As a result, the city joined in a lawsuit by the county, operators of La Center’s cardrooms and a group called Citizens Against Reservation Shopping that challenged the U.S. Department of the Interior’s approval of the Cowlitz Indian Reservation. When the plaintiffs lost that suit in U.S. District Court, they appealed to the District of Columbia Circuit Court of Appeals. Oral arguments in the appeal were heard March 18, and a ruling is expected in mid-summer.

The city’s new draft resolution says Vancouver would no longer participate in the appeal because the city council believes doing so may impede talks with the tribe that could benefit the Southwest Washington community.

The resolution, to be discussed Tuesday, directing county departments and agencies to enter into discussion with the
Cowlitz Tribe regarding issues related to the construction and operation of a casino in northern Clark County. PDF
Related Coverage:New twist in vexing Cowlitz casino wastewater issue — Clark County health official recommending tribe be allowed to connect to La Center's system
Columbian City Government Reporter