del Lago Resort & Casino – A small firm doing big things
The design and review of the Lago Resort & Casino involved an extensive two year design and government permitting process leading up to its grand opening on February 1, 2017. Sitting just off the NYS Exit 41 (Waterloo/Clyde) in Seneca County, the 94,000-square-foot casino includes a hotel, parking garage, spa, entertainment venue and restaurants. del Lago is one of four Upstate casinos awarded licenses after New York authorized state-regulated gambling facilities in November 2014. Owned and operated by Wilmorite Management Group LLC, BME Associates served as the lead consultant for the site plan design and municipal approval process contributing significantly to the project’s on-time completion within a strictly NYS imposed timeline.
Managing Multiple Challenges on a Tight Timeline
Peter Vars, P.E.
The scope of the project was almost overshadowed by the scope of the challenges surrounding it. Chief among those was an incredibly short time frame to complete the New York State application process – a timeline capped by an ironclad deadline. With approval of casino gambling in November 2013, New York State established an aggressive application deadline of July 1, 2014. That meant designing and receiving approval in less than eight months. Missing the deadline would kill the opportunity, since other locations were also vying for the casino licenses.
“We had to complete what would be a normal 12 month rezoning, environmental review (SEQRA) and site plan process in seven months.”
Like every other municipality in NYS, the Town of Tyre had no zoning regulations for a casino; prior to the referendum casinos were not allowed. This meant creating the zoning and local law first. With a time line of just 6 months, our staff of engineers and environmental professionals went to great lengths to assist the Town in the adoption of a local law for a casino use and then prepare the necessary application. Tantamount to this was completing the State Environmental Quality Review (SEQR) process within this 6 month timeframe; a process that would typically take 9-12 months for a project of this size.
Working with Wilmorite and their team, we lead the SEQR process by being proactive with the Town to identify potential impacts and addressing them, and mitigating them through design as part of the initial site plan design process. With no detail overlooked, BME was successful in accomplishing a complete design and municipal approval process including:
- Develop and adopt a Planned Unit Development (PUD) local law.
- Apply the newly adopted PUD code to the Resort & Casino parcel and complete a re-zoning process.
- Complete the State Environmental Quality Review Act (SEQRA) process for the Type I action which included wetland delineations, comprehensive stormwater management design, archeological determination from the State, traffic impact analysis, noise and visual impact studies, a geotechnical evaluation, as well as habitat studies for the Bog turtle and Indiana bat. The SEQRA application was prepared in a format such that an Environmental Impact Statement was not required, thus saving several months of time.
- Coordination and completing several studies including sewer capacity analysis, water supply and fire protection, visual simulations, and NYS Thruway Authority and Department of Transportation permits.
- Preparation of complete site plans for a ±211,000 SF state-of-the-art gaming facility, 6-story 206 room hotel, 790 space parking garage and surface parking for 2,350 vehicles, and secure Final Site Plan approval.
Project Withstands Legal Challenges
The timeline was not the only challenge BME faced in securing the required approval for the project’s desired completion. The project was met with well-funded opposition, including legal challenges to the municipal decisions.
In response, BME, along with the legal team assembled by Wilmorite, went to a full-court press in order to ensure every detail in the procedure was covered. We did everything again with deliberate redundancy and as a result, the final review submission was approved by the Town, and soon after NY State issued the license for del Lago to begin construction. The decisions by the Town was challenged in the courts, and all approvals by the Town were affirmed by both the State Supreme Court and the Appellate Court. All in all, the project and its approvals withstood 13 different legal challenges, all with success, and a key component in this was the thorough and complete record that was compiled by BME in the materials prepared and the presentations made to the various approval agencies.
The result of this effort is a destination within the Finger Lakes region that represents all that BME is capable of doing from a site engineering and regulatory agency approval standpoint. We are proud of the services we delivered in the timeframe that they were delivered.