Public safety officials present crime and traffic findings of proposed casino impact

By JAMIE L. COSTA

Monitor staff

Published: 03-16-2023 6:19 PM

Concord Fire Chief John Chisholm and Police Chief Bradley Osgood raised concerns that a proposed 43,000-square-foot casino, bar and hotel on the city’s East Side would bring crime to the city and draw increased traffic that could restrict public safety access on Loudon Road in an emergency.

Looking specifically at the site plan for the proposed casino before the Planning Board Wednesday night, the fire department could not identify a better location for the secondary access point to the development and could not anticipate how calls for service might be impacted.

“While it meets code, it may not be ideal to have these two traffic flows within a couple hundred feet of each other on Loudon Road, as proposed in the project plans, due to potential traffic congestion or the fact that a single event could potentially disrupt both access routes into and out of the property,” Chisholm said.

Between 2020 and 2022, there were 962 reported car crashes on Loudon Road and the proposed venue will add significant traffic to the area, added Chief Osgood.

The chiefs’ concerns seemed to contradict a traffic study conducted by the design firm TFMoran, which indicated minimal impacts to eight intersections in the areas surrounding the casino and predicted a relatively minor impact in overall traffic. However, a signal, crosswalk and sidewalk will be warranted at the intersection of Break O’Day Drive and Loudon Road where the entrance and the exit of the casino will be.

“The traffic study from TFMoran said otherwise and stated minimal impact,” said resident Kassey Cameron during public comment. “Their input of it being a significant impact should be weighed just as heavy since they know first hand.”

Cameron asked planning board members to consider the impact on public safety and general services in the event of a car crash and emergency calls and suggested the applicant, Andy Sanborn, a former state senator and owner of the Draft Sports Bar & Grill and the Concord Casino, be responsible for private security to mitigate the impact on emergency services.

“As a taxpayer, I’m not looking to allow the owner to skimp out on security and use the police for free on the taxpayers’ dime,” she said. “There will be an impact to the amount of police that would need to go to that area, which will increase the needs of the town to hire a new police officer and create more overtime; who is going to take care of that?”

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Osgood presented statistics showing that calls for service in the area of the Draft on Main Street have nearly doubled since it opened a casino in 2019. In the four years before the business launched, the department received a total of 64 calls to the area, which increased to 103 calls in the four years following.

“In our analysis, we see that calls have risen in the four-year period that the gaming room was established but our analysis has not concluded that the gaming room was the cause for the additional calls for service,” Osgood said.

During the public hearing that was continued from the last planning board meeting, residents expressed further opposition for the project, citing the concerns about increased crime, addiction and sin, while others favored the casino for its charitable contributions to non-profits in the area.

As part of charitable gaming operations, the state of New Hampshire requires 35% of gross revenue be donated to charities every 10 says. Since the launch of Sanborn’s first casino in 2019, he has donated to more than 36 local charities and plans to expand to 72. Charities include educational funding, animal welfare, addiction services, homelessness, veteran support, food pantries, elderly housing, children’s programs, sports teams, retirement homes, and more.

If approved, the first phase of the project, which was determined complete and granted conditional approval in January, would be a 24,000-square-foot gaming room with 634 seats and an 8,500-square-foot restaurant and brew-pub that can hold up to 150 diners. The new building would be located near the intersection of Loudon and Sheep Davis roads and close to Interstate 393. Future plans call for a hotel and event center.

In closing public comment, Concord City Planner Heather Shank asked to continue the public hearing again and requested that an emergency services impact assessment be completed and submitted by the applicant ahead of the April 19 meeting.

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