With only six members present at Monday’s hearing, the Prince George’s County Council, sitting as the District Council, chose to wait one week before approving the detailed site plan for the proposed MGM casino at National Harbor.
County Council Chairman Mel Franklin (D-Dist. 9) of Upper Marlboro said the council would take the matter under advisement and the District Council would reconvene July 21 when all council members would be present. Absent members included Eric Olson (D-Dist. 3) of College Park, Andrea Harrison (D-Dist. 5) of Springdale and Karen R. Toles (D-Dist. 7) of Suitland.
Without the council’s vote, MGM cannot move forward yet with construction on the $925 million casino project, according to Arthur J. Horne Jr., an attorney who represented MGM at the hearing.
“This is something we would like all nine members to support,” Horne said. “One week won’t really make much of a difference.”
Horne said the delay may push back the date MGM could secure a building permit, but it should not interrupt the schedule for the casino’s development. The casino is still set to open in July 2016, Horne said.
The casino complex would include 3,600 slot machines, 140 table games, a 300-room luxury hotel, a 3,000-seat theater, celebrity chef restaurants and luxury retailers, according to MGM.
During the hearing, National Harbor residents voiced concerns about the installation of LED billboards and increased traffic in and around National Harbor.
William Nuckols lives near National Harbor and said the planned LED signage would change the nature of the area surrounding his home. Illuminated features at the casino would include five LED boards, a free-standing marquee sign, hotel facade lighting and a lion statue, according to the Prince George’s County Planning Board.
“One of the things that is incredibly appealing to us is that it’s quiet and dark, which is something we could not get in the District of Columbia,” Nuckols said. “It is a big thing that gets people out of the District and invest in Prince George’s County.”
Councilman Obie Patterson (D-Dist. 8) of Fort Washington said the traffic numbers the planning board presented were “so far off target,” and did not believe the state or the county had fully examined the transportation situation. The planning board estimated there would be 2,296 trips to the casino between 4:30 and 5:30 p.m. weekdays, which they indicated was the “worst-case scenario.”
“You don’t know if you haven’t been there and experienced it,” Patterson said. “We are heading for a train wreck when it comes to transportation out there.”
Karen Egloff, who lives near National Harbor, asked Patterson to refrain from approving the site plan until the council had considered transportation and national security issues.
“Please do not pass this at this time,” Egloff said. “Why would you let people go ahead and construct something if it has a nightmare scenario?”