Sugarhouse Casino -- Securing Needed Changes and Protections
In 2009, DRN successfully resolved an ongoing legal case. In 2008 the Delaware Riverkeeper Network teamed with the Public Interest Law Center of Philadelphia (representing the Northern Liberties Neighborhood Association and neighbor Herbert Shallcross) to challenge the DEP’s approval of a sewage facilities planning module that accommodated development of the proposed SugarHouse Casino on the banks of the Delaware River. The legal action took the form of an administrative appeal to the Environmental Hearing Board, filed on November 3, 2008. Specifically, the appeal challenged the lack of public notification and participation in the submission of the module, as well as the approval processes and the level of transparency provided by the agencies involved. DRN felt that proposal would result in increased discharges of untreated sewage and PCBs from combined sewer overflows.
The approval by DEP that allowed the SugarHouse Casino development proposal to discharge sewage into the City’s combined sewer system, according to the Delaware Riverkeeper Network and Northern Liberties Neighbors Association, prompted public concern about worsening street and basement flooding problems in nearby neighborhoods and increasing combined sewer overflows (CSOs) into the Delaware River because of the casino’s demands on the City’s sewage infrastructure.
After the involvement of the Delaware Riverkeeper Network, Northern Liberties Neighbors Association and Mr. Shallcross, HSP Gaming redesigned the casino facility to pull it out of the River and back from the River’s edge, and decreased both the project scope and projected sewage flows for the interim casino.
The agreement accomplishes the petitioners’ key objectives, including greater public participation in the submission and approval processes. The settlement provides important protections for future phases of the project, and ensures the community has more information and opportunities to get involved in the decisions being made and plans carried out.
Key elements of the settlement include:
- public notification of future changes in the sewage plan, giving communities an opportunity to be heard;
- notice to the organizations of any meaningful events or changes in casino construction that affects sewage planning;
- public notification of any proposed expansion to the casino beyond Phase I at least 30 days prior to construction, giving communities an opportunity to comment and be heard;
- a commitment by HSP to install and maintain a permanent vegetative cover (green roof) on the first phase of the SugarHouse project to help manage stormwater impacts;
- public informational meetings by PWD regarding its Storm Flood Relief Project;
- publicizing stormwater inspection reports and making them available for public review.