Casino fans, foes have their say

A hearing Tuesday night into the impacts of the Indian casino planned outside Rohnert Park recalled the passions that roiled Sonoma County from 2003 to 2008, before lawsuits, environmental studies and the economy's slide slowed a project that now appears close to fruition.

"Having a casino here would absolutely destroy Sonoma County," said Sebastopol resident Peter Walker, who suggested that the Federated Indians of Graton Rancheria's Las Vegas backers, Station Casinos, would bring "dirty money" into the county.

Out of an audience of perhaps 150 people who crowded the Board of Supervisors' chambers, Walker was one of many who said their quality of life and the county as a whole would suffer if the casino is built, something officials and experts now believe is virtually assured.

The casino's strain on public services and its effect on crime, groundwater and traffic were foremost among issues raised Tuesday.

"It cannot be cavalierly mitigated; it has to be worked on," said Dieter Stroeh, speaking to fears that the casino project will draw down precious groundwater supplies.

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