Hearing to reconsider Andy Sanborn’s approval to build a new casino in Concord postponed

By JAMIE L. COSTA

Monitor staff

Published: 09-16-2023 9:16 PM

More than 20 disappointed Concord residents emptied out of City Council Chambers on Wednesday night when a public hearing to reconsider the city’s approval of a new casino off Loudon Road was postponed.

The question at hand was whether a casino and microbrewery, which were part of Andy Sanborn’s planned development, are allowed in the city’s gateway performance district. Resident  Kassey Cameron, who asked for the hearing, believes they are not allowed, while David Hall, the city’s code administrator, said they are. 

Hours before the Zoning Board of Adjustment was to discuss the issue, Cameron submitted new information to support her argument, which was past the deadline to give board members time to review, said chairman Chris Carley.

Besides the appeal to the ZBA, Cameron filed a lawsuit against the City of Concord asking a judge to invalidate the surprise decision made by the planning board in June on the grounds that she, and other residents, would have attended the meeting had they been aware the application would be heard before the board that night. 

The lawsuit argues the Planning Board’s vote should be voided because members of the public were specifically told the project was not up for discussion the night it was approved. Instead, Sanborn forced the board to vote after submitting a printed one-page traffic report to board members at the meeting. 

“The Planning Board not only took up the application at its June meeting, it approved the application at that meeting,” the suit states. “The Planning Board knew full well that the plaintiff [and the public] had not attended in reliance on the city’s representations.”

The process caused “a drastic deprivation of the public’s right to due process to meaningfully participate in the process of determining the significance of the impact of a proposed, large-scale casino, microbrewery, restaurant and ultimately hotel,” the lawsuit states

If the court agrees that the city made a mistake in issuing conditional approval, the application would be remanded back to the planning board. If allowed to go forward by a judge, Sanborn, who also owns the Draft Sports Bar & Grill and the Concord Casino, will be required to meet a list of conditions, including submitting a traffic signalization plan and providing sidewalks, pedestrian crossings and connections on Loudon Road. 

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The first phase of the project includes a 24,000-square-foot gaming room with 634 seats and an 8,500-square-foot restaurant and brewpub that can hold up to 150 diners. The new building would be located near the intersection of Loudon and Sheep Davis roads close to Interstate 393. The second phase of the project calls for a hotel and event center. 

However, the entire project could be shelved in the wake of the New Hampshire Lottery Commission’s decision to strip Sanborn of his licenses to operate a charitable gaming casino in the state. The Lottery Commission and the Attorney General’s Office found that Sanborn is unsuitable for charitable gaming due to his fraudulent use of COVID-19 relief funds to support his lavish lifestyle. Sanborn has requested a public hearing to challenge the agencies’ decision. 

Concord officials are independently reviewing the casino’s approval. 

“The city is currently evaluating the impact of the Attorney General’s decision upon the Planning Board’s decision,” Concord spokesperson Stefanie Breton said at the end of August.

The zoning board is tasked with reviewing  and acting upon appeals for granting variances, special exceptions, equitable waivers and administrative decisions under the zoning ordinance. The board will hold the hearing on the casino at its first meeting in October.

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