A small fleet of heavy machinery in a field just south of Rohnert Park's Home Depot served notice Thursday evening that work has started on a 3,000-slot-machine casino resort that a Sonoma County Indian tribe has pursued for nearly a decade.
And in a 4-H hall a mile or so across town, some residents were pleading with county officials to do everything in their power to minimize the casino's impacts on areas ranging from ground water to traffic, noise and crime.
"You are the last public officials that get to weigh in on this thing, and we're depending on you," said Steve Schwartz. His main concern was that two wells the Federated Indians of Graton Rancheria plan to drill on their 254-acre reservation will draw down private wells in the area.
He spoke at a town hall meeting called by county Supervisors Shirlee Zane and David Rabbitt to gather public comments ahead of negotiations between the county and tribe over how the tribe will address, financially and otherwise, the project's impacts.
A single voice at the meeting, which was attended by about 60 people, said the tribe was being made to jump through hoops.