Rockingham County faces lawsuit over casino re-zoning near children’s camp

October 31, 2023
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Camp Carefree is among the plaintiffs that have filed a lawsuit in North Carolina against rezoning after the state voted to move forward without gambling expansion.

Rockingham County, North Carolina commissioners approved a zoning request for a possible casino in August, but the county is now being sued by local landowners and a camp for special needs children. Citizens for Good Growth, a “tax-exempt social organization formed to promote economic development,” has filed a suit on the basis that 192 acres would be rezoned from residential/agricultural to “highway commercial” areas.

Plaintiffs in the lawsuit are Camp Carefree, which provides a free one-week summer camp experience for children with disabilities and chronic illnesses; Micris LLC; Brandon W. and Amy E. Leebrick; Donald and Christine Dohm; David and Wendy Forbes; Mary Lea Anderson; Jeffrey Darren Scott and Jill N. Meier. The defendants in the suit are Rockingham County, NC Developing Holdings and the property owners: Julie J. Sanders, Ellen J. Whitesell, Linda J. Carmichael and Susan J. Murray.

A statement from Citizens of Good Growth said, “Citizens for Good Growth stands ready to aid these landowners in this fight and recognizes that this battle is for the good of all citizens of the county, not just surrounding landowners.”

The lawsuit states that there was “overwhelming public opposition” to the re-zoning, and in early August over 3,000 people had signed an online petition against the new casino. Over 500 residents also showed up to voice concerns at a Rockingham County public meeting. Camp Carefree employees previously spoke out against it as well.

The suit also alleges that the application submitted by NC Development Holdings, in conjunction with casino operators The Cordish Companies, was illegal contract zoning. At least eight North Carolina lawmakers, including Senate Leader Phil Berger County Board Commissioner Kevin Berger, have also collected $34,000 in donations from persons associated with the Cordish Companies between November 2022 and March this year.

In September, the North Carolina state budget moved forward without Phil Berger’s proposed bill, which would have allowed for more casinos.

The statement from Citizens of Good Growth continued, “Not only was the Commissioners’ decision unlawful, but it was also shrouded in secrecy and deceit. They consistently told individuals and the larger public that the rezoning of the land had nothing to do with a casino despite their clear plan to build a casino on the land beside Camp Carefree.”

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