The legal theory goes like this: City Council decided to stall a vote on zoning for SugarHouse, a proposed riverfront casino. That delay equaled denial. That denial allowed SugarHouse to get the state Supreme Court to force the city to approve the zoning.
It worked so well for SugarHouse that Foxwoods, another proposed riverfront casino, went to court yesterday in a copycat action.
And City Council? It proposed a new way to delay the casinos.
Foxwoods, which filed a different zoning appeal to the Supreme Court that was rejected last month, rewrote its legal challenge yesterday to look more like the one filed by SugarHouse, which won its case Monday.
Foxwoods complained that it too is a victim of Council delay, even worse than SugarHouse, whose zoning legislation was bottled up in an uncooperative committee. Foxwoods couldn't even get its zoning legislation introduced.
SugarHouse attorney Steph-en Cozen said that the developers now plan to seek building permits "as soon as possible" for their site in Fishtown.
"I think it's going to be sooner, rather than later," Cozen added. "I think it's going to be weeks, rather than months."
Asked about Foxwoods, which would be built in South Philly, Cozen said that if that project met the same requirements as SugarHouse, "I can see no reason why they shouldn't receive the same relief that we received."
Cozen's press conference was briefly interrupted by Debbie King, vice president of the Northern Liberties Neighbors Association, who insisted that her neighbors opposed the casino.
King, who was escorted out of the building, wasn't the only person ticked off yesterday.
Mayor-elect Michael Nutter said he was "perplexed" by the Supreme Court taking over a zoning matter. Nutter said he needed to review the ruling further before deciding what action to take.
City Councilman Frank DiCicco, singled out in the court's ruling for comments he has made about delaying casino construction, came up with a new approach during a Council hearing on legislation to expand the Pennsylvania Convention Center.
DiCicco proposed an amendment that would stop the city from issuing any zoning or building permits or food-preparation licenses to local casinos until the state provides all of the funding for the convention-center expansion. That money will come from taxes on casino profits here and other locations across the state.
City Solicitor Romulo Diaz told DiCicco he thought that amendment, which Council did not vote on, would be illegal, according to the Supreme Court ruling.
"Do we roll over and play dead?" DiCicco asked. "I don't think that's what we're elected to do."
In Harrisburg, a group of state representatives from Philadelphia introduced resolutions calling on the state Attorney General to seek a restraining order to overturn a recent decision by the city Commerce Department to give SugarHouse control of 11 acres of state-owned riverfront property at its location. Those resolutions say that the city officials "overstepped their perceived authority" by granting rights only the state can grant.
Kevin Harley, a spokesman for Attorney General Tom Corbett, yesterday said that his office had already told state Rep. Mike O'Brien that it could act only on a request from the state's Department of General Services, which controls state property.
That department reports to Gov. Rendell, who has strongly backed SugarHouse as it sued Council for zoning and sought the property rights from the city.
O'Brien said he plans to file a legal challenge about those property rights for SugarHouse, which would be built in his district. *