Give Tewksbury residents some credit. It couldn’t have been easy leaving all the chips on the table — to the tune of more than $4 million — and walking away from Penn National Gaming’s financial incentives in exchange for building a $200 million slots casino in town.
But that’s what they did — overwhelmingly — by rejecting a rezoning proposal for the casino project Tuesday night by a 1,568-995 vote.
True, Penn National was able to garner a lot of support from Tewksbury residents who saw a casino as a way to solve fiscal woes in town and take some of the tax burden off property owners.
But in the end, residents valued the character of their town too much to risk having a casino alter the face of it. And not even an 11th-hour visit to Tewksbury by football star Doug Flutie, who had signed on to build a restaurant at the proposed Merrimack Valley Casino, could get them to change their minds.
While bordering Andover residents didn’t have a say in the matter, they, too, breathed easier when the final votes were counted, relieved that their quaint suburban neighborhood — and their property values — would not be harmed.
Although they were able to send Penn National packing, residents at the Andover-Tewksbury line shouldn’t grow too comfortable in enjoying a 30-acre expanse of land around Ames Pond. Penn National saw value in the property. The site has been eyed for development in the past. And it’s likely the added attention the site has received in recent weeks will lead to more interest from would-be developers in the not-too-distant future.
But we don’t suspect a casino will be eyeing Tewksbury or Andover anytime soon. A Penn National representative says the company will now “go back and regroup.”