National Harbor residents decry bright lights planned at MGM casino -- Gazette.Net


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Residents who live near National Harbor worry that bright lights and noise from a planned MGM casino will disrupt their quiet neighborhood and quality of life and reminded planning officials that “this is not Las Vegas.”

Several people who spoke May 8 before the Maryland-National Capital Park and Planning Commission in Upper Marlboro at a hearing on the casino’s detailed site plan said they were particularly concerned about five LED video boards that will face outward from the casino and advertise activities on-site.

But despite concerns raised about the appearance of the signs and their potential impact on motorists among other environmental, architectural and historical issues — the commission unanimously approved the plan.

William Nuckols III said part of what drew him and his family from Washington, D.C., to their National Harbor neighborhood is the quiet location that is now being threatened.

“It actually feels like we’re not in an urban setting,” Nuckols said. “We have a wonderful gem here in Prince George’s County.”

But he said he is concerned that the illumination from the planned LCD video screens will change this, in addition to being a distraction to drivers.

“Anything that’s sort of new and distracting, traffic bottlenecks,” he said.

His comments were echoed by William Cavitt of Fort Washington, who spoke on behalf of the Indian Head Highway Area Action Council, of which he is president. He said the civic association supports the casino project as a whole, but that the video boards are a public safety issue.

“Given the site location it is hard to understand what functions these LED video boards would serve,” Cavitt said. “If the proposed audience includes the drivers on the I-295 ‘S’ curve and on the Beltway, that would create a significant safety risk by contributing to distracted driving.”

In addition, Cavitt said the video screens — the largest expected to measure 60 feet in height by 100 feet in width, according to the site plan — are not “context-appropriate.”

“This is not Las Vegas. It is not Atlantic City. It is not any other location where MGM is located,” Cavitt said.

Oxon Hill resident Bonnie Bick called attention to the “viewshed problem” for nearby historic sites such as Oxon Hill Manor and the Addison Family Cemetery, meaning the casino and its lights will be visible from these places.

Bick said she agreed with previous speakers’ concerns about the LED video boards.

“Obviously it’s not a place that’s not going to be easily found,” she said.

Arthur Horne, an attorney representing MGM with Largo-based law firm Shipley & Horne, P.A., said studies have shown drivers are no more distracted by an LED video board than by a regular sign.

Residents have 30 days to appeal the decision, which is pending a final vote by the Prince George’s County Council.

Once MGM secures building permits, Horne said he hopes construction can begin in July and be completed in July 2016.

apopovici@gazette.net