Those against a casino on a 192-acre site along US 220 Rockingham County ran a textbook opposition.
The casino opponents held rallies that attracted hundreds of people.
They presented petitions signed by thousands.
They recruited well known people to their cause: Rockingham County Sheriff Sam Page and former 6th District Congressman Mark Walker, to name two.
The opponents flooded the Rockingham County commissioners with letters, calls and emails. Chairman of the Rockingham County Board of Commissioners Mark Richardson said he received 200 or 300 emails from casino opponents.
They got good news coverage.
When speaking at the Board of Commissioners meeting, they made good points and didn’t recite the same things over and over again.
They hired an attorney to make a legal argument before the Board of Commissioners.
In the end, with all of that organization and work, the opponents were not able to get a single vote on the Rockingham County Board of Commissioners.
The request to rezone 192 acres from Agricultural Residential to Highway Commercial passed by a 5-0 vote.
An issue that the opponents couldn’t overcome was that the rezoning request was not to rezone the 192 acres along US 220 a couple of miles north of the Guilford County land for a casino.
The request was to rezone the property to Highway Commercial and allow any of the multitutude of uses that are permitted in the Highway Commercial district.
The attorney representing the developer and the property owners, Will Quick of the Brooks Pierce law firm, didn’t speak long, didn’t use his rebuttal time at all and he didn’t talk about casinos. What he said was that the developer had presented no site plans and had not determined how the tract of land would be developed.
The opponents are convinced that the plan is to build a large casino complex on the property and having the land rezoned is a piece of the puzzle.
But that was not the question before the Rockingham County commissioners. The question before the commissioners was whether or not to rezone property in an area they had designated for economic growth to Highway Commercial, a zoning district that would allow that economic development and, under current North Carolina law, building a casino on that site would be illegal.
It is widely believed that included in the state budget bill will be a change in the North Carolina laws to allow casino gambling in three counties – Rockingham, Anson and Nash.
But so far nothing is official.
It is as if the opponents to allowing a casino in Rockingham County were fighting a phantom, and in this case the phantom won.