Lawsuit Filed Against Rockingham County Commissioners Over Casino Development
Posted on: October 31, 2023, 09:31h | Last updated on: October 31, 2023, 09:31h
Landowners in North Carolina’s Rockingham County have taken legal action against county commissioners for alleged violations of zoning rules in the approval of a casino development project. The lawsuit claims that the rezoning application lacked important details, and accuses the county officials of ignoring legal requirements.
The Board of County Commissioners in Rockingham approved a request to rezone approximately 193 acres of land for NC Development Holdings, a Maryland-based company linked to The Cordish Companies. Cordish already operates successful casinos in Maryland and Pennsylvania under the Live! brand.
The rezoning effectively changed the designation of the land from “residential/agricultural” to “highway commercial.”
According to the lawsuit, which includes Camp Carefree, a long-running summer camp for children with disabilities, as the lead plaintiff, the county officials did not follow proper procedures when approving the rezoning application. Additionally, NC Development Holdings failed to provide a thorough explanation for the proposed rezoning.
The lawsuit names both Rockingham County and NC Development Holdings as defendants.
Allegations of Backroom Deals and Deception
Concerns were raised about potential hidden agendas when the county commissioners quickly agreed to rezone the land for NC Development Holdings. Speculations emerged that Senate President Pro Tempore (R-Rockingham), Phil Berger, had made a secret deal with Cordish to allow casino development in multiple North Carolina counties, including Rockingham.
Berger’s son, Kevin Berger, who is one of the commissioners that voted in favor of the rezoning request, has received campaign donations from Cordish, according to state election finance records. Furthermore, it is alleged that the commissioners were hosted by Cordish at its Live! Casino & Hotel Maryland.
Phil Berger attempted to introduce legislation to legalize commercial casinos in North Carolina, arguing that it would be a smart move considering the opening of casinos in neighboring Virginia.
The lawsuit claims that the Rockingham county commissioners violated the county’s Unified Development Ordinance and engaged in illegal contract zoning. It also accuses them of disregarding the impact on surrounding areas.
The plaintiffs express serious concerns about the judgment of local and state officials who would support placing a casino next to a beloved children’s camp that has served the disabled community for almost four decades. The statement by the plaintiffs emphasizes the need for transparency and accountability from elected officials.
One of the landowners named in the lawsuit, Kent Dozier, from Nash, claims that he was deceived into selling his property to NC Development Holdings without being informed about the company’s connections to the casino industry.
Dozier expresses his disappointment, stating that he was never informed that the land would be used for a casino, and he strongly opposes gambling activities.