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Despite appeal, Cordish finally breaks ground on Arundel casino

Officials from the state and the Cordish Cos. Thursday broke ground on its Maryland Live! Casino at Arundel Mills, despite a new attempt to file a complaint about the casino with the Anne Arundel County Board of Appeals.

The occasion marks the commencement of construction for the long-awaited and highly-contested gaming and entertainment complex. Anne Arundel County voters approved the project in November, but neighbors of the casino claim that the county’s approval of the casino’s zoning doesn’t adequately address traffic issues at the site.

“All my clients want is to have a comfort level that what is being proposed is ultimately going to work,” said Harry Blumenthal, an attorney for Villages of Dorchester Homeowners Association.

“They don’t want to wake up one day and find the roads aren’t working,” he said.

The association filed the appeal along with three residents, including Rob Annicelli, who led the community group that opposed the casino.

The appeal argues that the developer did not show the road network around the casino site, which includes Routes 100 and 295 and Arundel Mills Boulevard, could accommodate the added casino traffic. Blumenthal said the timing of the appeal had nothing to do with the groundbreaking, since he could only file the appeal within 30 days of the county’s approval. Anne Arundel gave Cordish permission to start grading the area for the parking garage Dec. 28.

Asked if the appeal was designed to derail the development, Blumenthal responded “absolutely not.”

“Whether a casino goes next to Arundel Mills or not is not a question anymore,” he said. But he added: “If you ask my clients, would they like to stop it, sure they would. They were the ones who led the charge.”

Annicelli led the Stop Slots at the Mall effort, which was backed by the Maryland Jockey Club. The club, owner of Maryland’s thoroughbred horse tracks, sought the county’s gaming license for Laurel Park but was rebuffed by voters on a ballot referendum in November.

One of the club’s corporate parents, Penn National Gaming Inc., has remained committed to winning approval of slot machine gaming at the track.

County officials could not be reached to confirm the appeal. County offices were closed Wednesday afternoon after a water main broke near the building, and again Thursday because of the snow.

Even with the filing of the appeal Wednesday and heavy snow accumulation, the groundbreaking went on as scheduled.

“Well, hell froze over and we’re breaking ground,” said Cordish Cos. Chairman David Cordish. Cordish, along with Lt. Gov. Anthony Brown, stressed the number of jobs coming to the area because of the new casino, as well as the new revenue for the state.

Anne Arundel County Executive John R. Leopold said not only was the casino creating revenue and job opportunities for the area, it was boosting development interest around Arundel Mills too.

“This project will be the largest taxpayer in the state,” Leopold said.

Maryland Live! will be the largest gaming facility in the state, with 4,750 slots and electric table games. The casino will create 4,000 jobs in total, with 2,500 construction jobs and 1,500 permanent positions with the casino.

Brown said the casino is expected to generate $400 million per year.

“There have been all sorts of disagreements,” he said. “But this is a groundbreaking for the racing industry, [minority business enterprises], for vets who are going to get jobs.”

Maryland Live! will be constructed by the Commercial Interiors/TN Ward Joint Venture. The joint venture is majority owned by Anne Arundel County-based Commercial Interiors.

The casino is expected to be completed by the end of 2012.

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