Hastings City Council denies proposed horse track and casino
HASTINGS, NE — A proposed horse track and casino will not be coming to north Hastings.
The Hastings City Council voted 4-4 to deny a pair of requests that would have paved the way for the development on the northwest corner of HWY 281 and 42nd street, just north of Walmart and south of Lochland Country Club. The proposal needed a six-vote supermajority to approve the re-zoning request and conditional use permit because enough nearby neighbors had protested.
Councilman Chuck Rosenberg voted against the casino because of the proposed location.
“The casino is a destination spot," Rosenberg said. "If you guys were on the bypass, you could probably get this passed right through but you’re insistent on that location and I think you’re making a big mistake.”
Rosenberg echoed the concerns from the protesting parties, who argued the project would deter future residential growth and lower area property values.
Last month, the planning commission voted 4-3 not to recommend the project, which was enough for councilman Ginny Skutnik.
“My deep respect for the planning commission, our staff and our comprehensive plan - I cannot vote for this,” Skutnik said.
The developer, Prairie Thunder Hastings, LLC, is backed by the Chickasaw Nation, which owns 26 casinos primarily in rural areas. Representatives said the company would invest $40 million in the project and hire 150 Nebraska workers. They forecasted it would generate more than $70 million in state property tax relief over 10 years.
“We ask you to have the courage to vote yes to what is going to be an economic driver and an economic benefit for all involved for the history of this town,” Prairie Thunder Hastings attorney Brian Jorde said.
Councilman Ted Schroeder supported the proposed location and voted for the project.
“I really believe this is the highest and best use of this property that’s available to us right now," Schroeder said. "I’d love to say I’m going to live long enough if this doesn’t happen that I’m going to see some big development there. I don’t think I’m going to.”
Five citizens spoke for the project and 10 spoke against it. Opposition letters also outweighed those in favor of the proposal. Some cited safety concerns, but the arguments against the location were most common.
“If you go to Council Bluffs, there’s no residents around any of the three casinos there, and that’s the big contention," Rosenberg said. "People, they just don’t want to live around it.”
All five of the other Nebraska communities with existing horse track licenses have already announced plans for casinos.
FOR: Matt Fong, Shawn Hartmann, Butch Eley, Ted Schroeder
AGAINST: Chuck Rosenberg, Joy Huffaker, Ginny Skutnik, Jeniffer Beahm