Despite lingering concerns about traffic and lighting, the Prince George’s County Council, sitting as the District Council, voted 8-1 in favor of MGM’s detailed site plan for a casino complex at National Harbor.
The vote clears the way for MGM to secure a building permit for the $925 million project, which will include 3,600 slot machines, 140 table games, a 300-room luxury hotel, a 3,000-seat theater, celebrity chef restaurants and luxury retailers.
County Council Chairman Mel Franklin (D-Dist. 9) of Upper Marlboro said the council is making action happen in county by approving the site plan.
“This is a big deal,” Franklin said. “We are on the precipice of a substantial step forward in economic development in Prince George’s County.”
Lorenzo Creighton, the president and chief operating officer of MGM National Harbor, said the next step of the project, expected to be complete by June 2016, would provide temporary structural support to the construction site.
“We’ve been moving dirt,” Creighton said. “It’s exciting to see trucks on the site.”
A transportation committee was formed to evaluate traffic on routes 210 and 414 during construction and Councilman Obie Patterson (D-Dist. 8) of Fort Washington, said he hopes a comprehensive transportation plan will address major traffic concerns in the area.
“I am not totally happy today about it,” Patterson said. “I believe maybe working with the comprehensive transportation committee may get us closer to where I think we need to be in the near future.”
Patterson who last week said he has had “sleepless nights” over traffic issues around National Harbor, said his concerns were addressed in part during a meeting with the State Highway Administration. Patterson said addressing traffic concerns is key to improving and maintaining quality of life in the county.
“I am not going to give up on making sure that transportation remains a top priority,” Patterson said. “I think I owe it to the citizens of Prince George’s County.”
Councilwoman Mary Lehman (D-Dist. 1) of Laurel, who cast the only dissenting vote, said casinos were not a part of the future she envisioned for Prince George’s County.
“I am voting no because I hate to see the economic future of this county depend on games of chance,” Lehman said.
Lehman said she was also disappointed with the inaction on noise and light concerns, which residents raised at last week’s hearing. Residents argued that lights from the casino would be a nuisance.
“I really feel for the people who live nearby and will be commuting through the area. What a shame,” Lehman said, “It’s really going to make their lives just so difficult. To believe you can just address it after the fact is just folly.”