gREEN: The regulars gathered at Blake’s Cafe & Cupcakery on Friday morning were “cautiously optimistic” about a proposed racino that could be built on property at the Akron-Canton Airport.
Some expressed concerns over any increase in Massillon Road traffic that a racetrack could generate.
The airport is a potential site in a deal Gov. John Kasich is considering that would allow Thistledown, a thoroughbred horse-racing track, to relocate from North Randall.
“Traffic is already bad, especially during rush hour,” said Kathy Jamil, who has lived in Green for 27 years.
Jamil and friends Darla Weimer and Sherry Calhoun, who have been meeting for coffee every Friday morning for about five years, agreed that any new jobs the track could create “would be a benefit.”
“It would be fun, but it could also be bad for someone else, especially if they have a gambling problem,” said Weimer, who also lives Green. “It could make a lot of wives mad.”
Others cautioned that racetrack and slot machine gambling, if not controlled, could change the family-oriented livability factor Mayor Dick Norton has set as his goal for the community.
“Look at the area Randall is in now. It’s not the community Green is,” said Gene Grabiec, who lives in Green and is director of scouting for Premier Scouting Services LLC and a member of the Green Chamber of Commerce.
Grabiec and Rick Jacobson, president of the Windham Group, an executive search and consulting firm, meet regularly to chat at the coffee shop. On Friday, they were discussing the possible move of the racetrack to the community.
They share a concern the blighted area just south of Thistledown, where the closed Randall Park Mall is located, could happen in Green if people lost interest in the track there.
“The mayor has said he wants the city to be a place where people want to raise their families. I’m not sure we would want to if it is like Randall Park,” said Jacobson, who served four years on the city’s planning and zoning commission.
“I’m not sure that it won’t attract crime and a certain caliber of people,” that the community doesn’t want, he said.
Both men, who said they consider Norton a personal friend, agreed that if the mayor can maintain control over the project, he will work to protect the quality of life Green residents enjoy.
“If it did come here, Dick would put very high restrictions on the business,” said Grabiec.
Jacobson agreed and said he trusts the mayor’s business savvy.
“Just look at what he’s done here. It’s because of his judgement we have two hospitals and a new grocery store and a very financially secure community.”
Mike Castelli, pastor of the Green Campus of The Chapel on Raber Road, said in a phone interview Friday that the nondenominational church would not take a position on the proposal.
“As a citizen of Green, and my kids are in the school system,” he said, “I am grateful for the fact that we really do have good civic leaders that have looked to seek the best interest of the community.”
“All we can do is hope and pray that they have got that in mind as they make decisions.”
Pam Montieth, interim associate pastor of Greensburg United Methodist Church, said the church’s official stand is against gambling.
“It’s a Catch-22. When these gambling places come into town, of course there is always the big promise of jobs, a big promise of revenue for the schools. The long term is, it would be destructive to society even in the short term of providing jobs,” she said.
Lori Howerton, chief executive officer of the Green Chamber of Commerce, said the organization welcomes all new businesses to the city.
“The board members and myself are always excited and openly embrace new businesses and we can understand why a business would choose a community like ours,” she said. “Green certainly is a great place — a prosperous place for new businesses.”