Jocelyn Pedersen/Oklahoma Watch
PERRY — The house, crouching in the middle of a neighborhood in east Perry, sat unoccupied for years.
Its shingles were rotted, and its metal porch railing was bent. Weeds and brush rose from the foundation past gaping, empty windows.
Last year, city officials notified the owners that they needed to clean up the property. The city wasn’t prepared for the counteroffer.
The Otoe-Missouria Tribe, which oversees the property, held in federal trust, proposed instead to raze the home and build a casino.
The news shocked many in this north-central Oklahoma community of 5,500. A casino, in the middle of a neighborhood, despite zoning laws and the lot’s proximity to churches and a park?
About 15 people spoke at a Nov. 17 council meeting, most in opposition. A local Ministerial Alliance objected to the casino.
After doing research, city officials decided not to fight the proposal in court, believing they couldn’t win. And so, recently, the tribe tore down the house at 1106 N. 6th Street, as well as razed two homes to the south that it had bought to create a parking lot. The 4,500-sq.-ft. casino is expected to open this summer, tribal officials said.
Jim Franklin, a member of the Perry Planning Commission, said most residents are now resigned to the casino.
“Do they want to have a casino in a neighborhood? No. Is there anything they can do about it? No,” Franklin said. “It’s three city lots, one of which is no longer part of the city. It’s a separate nation. They (the tribe) do not have to pay taxes there. They own that land and they are tax exempt.”
Controversy over locating tribal casinos in Oklahoma is not new. In Broken Arrow, thousands of residents have resisted a plan in recent years to build a casino located near homes and schools.
But the Perry casino, to be wedged among modest white-frame and stone homes, throws the issue into sharp relief. The plan raises questions about what limitations, if any, Native American tribes have when deciding to build a casino or other facilities in the middle of Oklahoma cities or towns.
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