NORCROSS -- The argument can -- and has -- been made on whether Georgia should allow casino gambling, in terms of video lottery terminals.
But in the Gwinnett Village community, where a $1 billion development featuring a gaming floor is proposed to redevelop an underutilized business park, the question Thursday centered on whether it would be good for the neighborhood.
"I do not want our quality of life to suffer on something that may be a negative," Laylene Shaw said Thursday after developer Dan O'Leary pitched his idea to the board of the Gwinnett Village Community Improvement District.
The district was formed six years ago by business owners willing to pay an extra tax to fund improvements to the dilapidated area, from road and pedestrian enhancements to landscaping and security patrols.
Some business and neighborhood leaders questioned whether the development would erase the years of work to improve the area, while others said the high-class tourist destination could only enhance it.
"It's going to improve the community, improve Gwinnett County and overall, the state of Georgia will have a more recognizable name in the country," said Shiv Aggarwal, the CID board president whose Global Mall is across Jimmy Carter Boulevard from the proposed development, which would be at the OFS site along Interstate 85.
Aggarwal pointed out that the project would not only add jobs to the community -- an expected 2,500 permanent full-time jobs with the first phase -- but it would provide a huge boost to the CID in terms of property taxes. The money, he said, could in turn build more enhancements like a needed reconstruction of the Jimmy Carter bridge over the interstate or an extension of public transit.
And surrounding businesses and hotels would see a boost to business, he added.
"It's like a chain reaction. It's going to get better and better and better," Aggarwal said.
Davida Baker, who has lived in the community for 30 years, said her neighbors are mostly supportive of the plan, but their major concern is how the attraction would add on to the already crippling traffic congestion.
"The surface streets are clogged any time of the day or night," Baker said. "Personally, I don't (gamble). It's not of interest to me. I'm interested in ameliorating the affect on the area."
O'Leary, the man behind the planned development, noted during his presentation that he faces an uphill battle to build the center.
While the Georgia Lottery Corporation has the ability to expand its program to allow for video lottery terminals, which look like slot machines but work like scratch-off tickets, board members have said they would wait for direction from the governor and legislators before moving forward. Gov. Nathan Deal has said he does not support any type of casino gambling.
But O'Leary said his plan to enhance the revenues of the struggling HOPE Scholarship by $350 million a year has been gaining in support.
"If this project is built, we will be a great corporate citizen ... and the best way to do that is to start an open dialogue," he said of his reason for making a presentation to the CID board. "I wanted to make sure (community leaders) had the opportunity to ask questions."