On Tuesday, Aug. 8, at a meeting of the Summerfield Town Council, the town officially entered into the debate over a proposed casino that would be built just north of Summerfield in Rockingham County near the Guilford County line.
Many Summerfield residents share a lot of the same concerns regarding the casino that Rockingham County residents have expressed. They’re concerned, for one thing, that the casino will bring crime to the community, as gambling establishments have done in other parts of the country.
Don Wendelken, a former member of the Guilford County Board of Elections and the owner and publisher of the Summerfield Scoop newspaper, said before the Town Council meeting that the feedback he’d been hearing from Summerfield residents was overwhelmingly against a casino. He said that, even though the establishment would be on the other side of the county line, there would clearly be an effect on Summerfield.
“It’s about eight and half miles away,” Wendelken said. “People in Summerfield are worried that it will mean more crime.”
He added that most everyone he talks to doesn’t want to see it built and he added that almost all of the opponents had very strong feelings in that regard.
Wendelken said he too agrees that a casino just across the county line would be bad for Summerfield.
In addition to concerns over bringing crime to the area, some are worried about it meaning more traffic and development. That’s in a town of about 11,000 people, where a large number of residents are opposed to development – or, at least, opposed to rapid development on a large scale.
At the Aug. 8 Summerfield Town Council meeting, the casino wasn’t on the agenda. However, the subject was interjected in the form of a resolution due to the fact that Rockingham County commissioners are set to vote on aspects of the casino request before the Summerfield Town Council is scheduled to meet again.
Town leaders were careful to say that the resolution adopted didn’t mean the town was taking a stand one way or another on the casino – but, instead, it states that the people’s voices in Rockingham County should be heard in the form of a ballot regarding the casino proposal.
Given the public sentiment expressed in Rockingham County so far, some believe that a referendum would never pass given current public sentiment.
“Whereas, it is known the North Carolina General Assembly is considering rural tourism legislation to expand casino and gaming beyond non-tribal lands in N. Carolina, specifically within three counties, one of which borders northwest Guilford County; and,
“Whereas, the Town of Summerfield recognizes the Legislature’s support of rural tourism and related incentives, but is concerned about media reports of substantial early NCGA support of broader legislation that would allow casinos, entertainment districts, and Class III gaming activity on non-tribal lands without local buy-in; and….
“Whereas, legalization of casino and Class III gaming is being considered outside of metro areas, specifically for Rockingham, Nash, and Anson counties, and significant public sentiment in Rockingham County suggests that North Carolinians want a voice in their rural communities regarding casinos and gaming activities,
“Now, Therefore, Be It Resolved That: the Town Council on behalf of the Town of Summerfield, North Carolina, supports granting North Carolina citizens the option of local referendums in relation to specific locations for casinos, entertainment districts, and Class III gaming activities on non-tribal lands in North Carolina.”
At the Summerfield Town Council meeting, Councilmember Lynne DeVaney encouraged Summerfield residents to let their feelings be known at the next Rockingham County Board of Commissioners meeting and said that she expected there would be perhaps 1,000 people there.
She added that, due to space concerns, people may want to take folding chairs in case the crowd overflowed onto the lawn outside.