City Councilman Frank DiCicco will call this morning for a final vote on a zoning change needed for Foxwoods to open a casino in the former Strawbridge & Clothier department store at 8th and Market streets. That comes, even though Foxwoods doesn't have a lease to open in the former store and has not asked the state Gaming Control Board to approve its relocation from a South Philly location. And a dispute between the two companies that control the former department store has not been settled.
"That's an issue that the two parties have to deal with," DiCicco said of the dispute just before the start of Council's session. "I'm not going to be a player in that issue."
That's a change from one month ago, when zoning to convert the former store to a Commercial Entertainment District was approved by a Council committee. DiCicco warned on May 13 that the zoning would not go forward for a final vote until the outstanding issues were settled. The Pennsylvania Real Estate Investment Trust, which wants to lease the store to Foxwoods, has not settled a dispute with Gramercy Capital Corp., which controls the building's upper floors.
Unlike previous votes on casino issues, Council's chambers are not packed with anti-gaming protesters. Jethro Heiko, a founder of Casino-Free Philadelphia, listened in as DiCicco explained the zoning vote to reporters. He then accused DiCicco of "laying down" for the casino's investors. DiCicco ignored him.
UPDATE, 12:10 pm: Council just unanimously approved the zoning, but not before five people, including Heiko and activists from Chinatown, stood and shouted complaints. They were escorted from Council's chambers.
"This is a significant step forward for Foxwoods but it is not their final hurdle," DiCicco said just before the vote, noting the still outstanding issues.
"Bringing addiction to our city," shouted Ellen Somekawa of Asian Americans United as she left Council's chambers. "What are you people thinking?"