DANVILLE — The Danville City Council unanimously approved rezoning property for the proposed casino Tuesday night.
The council, meeting via teleconference, voted 10-0 to approve rezoning 204 Eastgate Drive from I2 general industrial zoning to B3 general business zoning for Danville Development LLC’s proposed temporary casino.
Ward 7 Alderman Steve Foster abstained and Ward 1 Alderman Robert Williams, Ward 2 Alderman Dan Duncheon and Ward 3 Alderman R.J. Davis were absent.
Due to the rezoning request being denied by the Danville Area Planning and Zoning Commission members earlier this month, the rezoning needed two-thirds vote of the city council, or 10 of 14 aldermen, to be approved.
Mayor Rickey Williams Jr. said this is a vote for the history of Danville, and he believes people in the future will thank the council “for doing the right thing.”
Prior to the vote, Williams also said the late Vicki Haugen, with Vermilion Advantage, said “nothing good comes without sacrifice.”
He said Haugen also said some people will be controversial and look out only for their own interest.
Williams said voting for the rezoning is “truly in the best interest of our citizens moving forward.”
He said the hundreds of jobs are needed with the city’s high unemployment and the city also can use the revenue for infrastructure, pensions and other uses.
“I very strongly support this,” Williams said. He noted that the city also has the trusted partner of Wilmorite Construction, which will see the entire casino project though with building, operating and owning it.
Ward 5 Alderman Mike Puhr, who also was a casino steering committee member, went through the history to this point of the casino process.
He said the steering committee clashed with Vermilion Development’s Dave Cocagne about whom to support initially — Ciela/Haven Gaming versus Mille Lacs Corp. Ventures/Mille Lacs Band of Ojibwe of Minnesota.
Puhr said the tribal group did not offer any additional financial benefits to the city like Ciela/Haven did.
He also said the location change came about when the price for the Mervis land near Interstate 74 became too expensive. The appraised price had increased from $3 million to $12 million. A $6 million offer was turned down, Puhr said.
Wilmorite/Danville Development LLC agreed to buy out Haven.
Prior to Tuesday’s vote, aldermen received phone calls, emails and letters from the Mervis family and an attorney against the rezoning. Aldermen also received a new casino proposal from Mille Lacs for consideration.
Williams added annual estimated casino revenue would be substantially less, about $2.5 million instead of $6.2 million, to build new on a green site — with the coronavirus pandemic, Terre Haute’s casino and table games in Indiana — than the Eastgate site.
Aldermen said the city needs to get its casino application into the Illinois Gaming Board as soon as possible.
Puhr said the city still can be close to its goal timeline in getting the application to the IGB by October.
“I just don’t want to see us lose it,” said Ward 2 Alderman Rick Strebing.
Ward 7 Alderman Bob Iverson said the casino would be a use for the empty building. This isn’t the bigger and more grandiose casino first proposed, but, “this may be exactly what we need right now,” he said, also referring to factors such as the coronavirus and Terre Haute casino having a head start.