Three years after a controversial casino proposal was approved, the most vocal opponent of gaming on Surrey council inked an agreement with the province to allow the licence to go ahead.
Coun. Marvin Hunt said Thursday he doesn’t remember signing the document in July while he was serving as acting mayor.
He signed the host agreement on July 27, just one month after Boardwalk Gaming, the company that fought for a rezoning three years ago, sold the casino property to Gateway Casino and Entertainment Ltd.
“Your first assumption is that I read the documents I was signing,” Hunt said.
He said he was given a pile of documents three inches thick, with tags on them showing him where to sign.
“I simply sign them,” Hunt said. “As acting mayor, my job is not to second-guess what’s going on in the process. Council has made the decision, staff are bringing forward documents that are to be signed on the basis of council’s decisions.”
He said the bulk of the the documents are development variance permits and the like.
His job as acting mayor is to simply process and enable the decisions that council has made.
He said he assumes there have been a host of checks and balances undertaken by staff before the documents get to him.
“Council made a decision, and I’m on the (minority) of the council that lost the decision, so it’s not my prerogative to say, ‘I can’t sign this’, ” Hunt said.
Coun. Bob Bose said as mayor, he gave more than a passing glance to everything he was signing.
He said he finds it highly frustrating that Hunt inked the deal when there was a full meeting of council the following day.
“That’s really disappointing,” Bose said. “I never signed anything without knowing what I was signing.”
Last Monday, council decided to ask staff to examine the ramifications of requesting that the province not grant a gaming licence to the the proposed new Newton Community Gaming Centre (now Newton Country Bingo), at 7093 King George Blvd.
Several councillors are upset, saying Boardwalk Gaming won the rezoning and then flipped the valuable property to Gateway.
“I’m taking the position that this is matter of public interest, and I’m fighting to have the whole thing rescinded,” Bose said Tuesday. “This is between Surrey and the (BC) Lottery Corporation.”
Coun. Barinder Rasode was happy to see Bose’s motion on Monday and hopes the city can follow through with it.
She notes when the rezoning was approved three years ago, not-for-profit groups which rely on gaming funds were pitted against the community. Now that gaming funds have dried up, she says the feelings in the community are overwhelmingly opposed to the casino.
“Everybody is very clear that we don’t need to have this gaming facility in the heart of Newton,” Rasode said.
Resident Pat Cecchetto was one of the many lobbying for the project in 2009, and says there’s now way she’d speak in favour of the project now. She feels bad for the residents of Newton, who, she says, don’t need a casino in their midst.
“I do believe they are the victims of this,” Cecchetto said, adding she wishes she could go back in time and take back her support.
“I’m totally sorry,” Cecchetto said. “I think it was wrong.”