In Richmond, Virginia plans are underway to turn 61-acres between the Powhite and Chippenham Parkways into a Bally’s integrated resort. However, not everyone is thrilled about the prospect. All along Forest Hill Avenue, an access road to the potential site, dozens of protestors turned out yesterday to wave signs at traffic. The signs are mostly professionally printed and use the same slogans, “Don’t Bet On It. Say no to proposed casino.” and “No casino. Keep Richmond beautiful.”
The signs may be matching, but what is most striking about the protestors is their variety of concerns. There are locals like Jeanne Walls who told NBC: “We will be looking at a twenty-story hotel with nothing but lights and noise 24/7.” Other residents are worried about the quantity of traffic that will end up using Forest Hill itself.
There are environmentalists like Jason Haase who are concerned about the “regular wildlife corridor that goes down through there” and the “lots of different species that live back there.”
And there are those who are concerned about the possibility of building over human remains. Haase is also a genealogy buff. He talks about the way private property in the area often holds family grave plots. “I have found that there are eight gravesites just in this area,” Haase said. “On the actual casino proposal property, neighbors have reported going down to the property for funerals.”
Haase is also keen to stress that many of these properties were once owned by freed slaves. “If Bally’s does get the proposal,” he says. “They could at least honor the disenfranchised people and do a full archeological and gravesite study.”
Overlooking the issues
The variety of the protestors’ concerns creates a sense that they are applying a see-what-sticks strategy. Reports indicate that the real main concerns are traffic and noise. Bally’s have attempted to assuage this NIMBY-ist feeling by guaranteeing that the casino site will not be accessible from Forest Hill. This should keep traffic out of the residential neighborhoods nearby.
According to Michael Monty, a Bally’s spokesman who also spoke with NBC, Bally’s intends to “preserve and enhance the natural beauty of our site, including any wildlife and wetlands.” How often enormous corporations really worry about these matters is no doubt a question protestors have already weighed the answer to.
Monty also calls out Haase’s racially charged gravesite accusations. “We have not seen any valid sources that would indicate any graves on our site,” Monty told the press. The statement somewhat calls to mind the introductory scenes of The Shining, in which the Overlook Hotel’s history is delineated by Stuart Ullman including the Native American burial grounds beneath the haunted house.
The key thing that will decide the issue will be the city-wide referendum in November. In the referendum, all Richmond residents will have their say on whether or not the project is allowed to go ahead.
Featured image source: Flickr by RaymondClarkeImages