A group of five area citizens have brought construction on Ceasars Horseshoe Casino on Russell Street in south Baltimore to a grinding halt. Baltimore Circuit Court Judge Yolanda Tanner issued a temporary restraining order in light of the lawsuit, halting construction crews which had just begun work on the site this week.
The citizen group launched the lawsuit against the Baltimore casino, claiming the casino group never offered residents the chance to address their concerns about the environmental impact of the casino’s development on the building site, or the changes in its proposed action plan. That site on Russell Street once housed an industrial complex, and pollutants were found in the soil seven years ago.
The casino project is backed by city and state officials, and the Maryland Department of Environment (MDE) did perform a study on the site and drew up an action plan concerning the possible contaminants found there. However, the residents say they were never allowed to discuss the plan or raise any of their concerns with city or state officials, and that the plan was later changed as well.
“The environment is being ignored, the middle river is being ignored, so the hope is that those comments would be paid attention to and that a more comprehensive remedy would be put in place before the buildings go up and eliminate the possibility to remove the hotspots of contaminated soil,” environmental attorney Timothy Henderson said.
Lawyers for the City of Baltimore have responded by saying the lawsuit is frivolous, and that the seemingly heroic, underdog citizens behind it are actually nothing more than puppets being directed from the shadows by a mystery organization bent on delaying the casino’s development.
“The motivation for this expensive litigation can hardly be to have one more ‘informational meeting’ about the voluntary cleanup of the casino site,” city attorneys Matthew W. Nayden and Daniel J. Sparaco wrote in their response to the lawsuit. “More likely these interests are served by derailing this complex, time-sensitive construction effort.”
They also state that Caesars was under no obligation to seek input from area residents regarding the action plan for the building site, which the MDE also disputes.
More hearings on the matter are scheduled.