Dozens of residents of the Virginia City of Richmond went out Tuesday afternoon to protest a proposal for the construction of a casino resort in the city’s Stratford Hills area.
The proposal was made by Rhode Island casino operator Bally’s Corporation and was one of the three bids that advanced to the next stage of Richmond’s selection process for a preferred casino developer.
A crowd of protesters carrying signs on Tuesday rallied on both sides of the city’s Forest Hill Avenue to voice their opposition to Bally’s scheme. They raised concerns of different nature, including noise, traffic, and environmental issues.
One Richmond resident, Jason Haase, said that the gambling resort could disturb wildlife. Mr. Haase, who studies the genealogy of the area, also noted that the land in and around the proposed Bally’s casino site were once home to a community of freed slaves and that community members buried family members there.
According to the Richmond resident, the land was once owned by Samuel Green and his son Robert Green, who were free people. He further told local news outlets that the site Bally’s wants to build its casino resort on was once a home site with seven structures and that it also probably includes the Green Family Cemetery.
Mr. Haase noted that he is not opposed to a casino in Richmond, but he really thinks Bally’s should do a professional archaeological study before building its property on a portion of land where there is a high potential to be home to multiple gravesites.
Being Good Neighbors
Responding to residents’ environmental concerns, Bally’s Senior Project Manager for Richmond Michael Monty said in a recent statement that they have carried out thorough environmental studies and that they are committed to “preserving and enhancing the natural beauty of our site, including any wildlife and wetlands.”
As for traffic, Mr. Monty pointed out that they would cut off public access to their property from Forest Hill Avenue.
Of Mr. Haase’s concerns, the Bally’s Richmond official said that they have reviewed a cemetery deed for a property located north of their proposed casino site and that they have not “seen any valid sources that would indicate any graves on our site.” Mr. Monty’s statement went on that they would address any information they have received regarding cemetery sites and that they are dedicated to being a “good neighbor” to their host community.
As mentioned above, Bally’s proposal is one of the three that are still under consideration by Richmond city officials, with plans presented by The Cordish Companies and a partnership between Urban One and Colonial Downs being the other two.
Bally’s scheme is the most expensive one of the three with an estimated $650 million investment. The company’s resort will include a hotel, a casino with slot machines, table games and a sportsbook, dining and retail outlets, and a performance space, among other amenities.
It is up to city officials to decide which one of the three developers in the race will be selected as their preferred casino developer. However, Richmond voters have the final say on whether a property of this kind should be built within city limits. They will be able to cast their vote on the matter in a November citywide referendum.
Source: Community members protest Bally’s casino plan, one neighbor says it could pave over a historical burial site, WRIC ABC 8News, April 6, 2021