The public hearing gets underway here in about an hour. The argument will be over about three-hundred acres. Right now, it's just a patch of green grass. Most business owners see it as a different kind of green, but many people who live nearby are seeing red about the casino plans.
The red wine poured, but the flow of customers at Madera County's "Mariposa Winery" was just a trickle Wednesday afternoon. That could all change in the coming years, if the North Fork Mono Tribe builds its proposed mega casino a few miles south of the winery. The casino would most likely draw thousands of people to the area every week, and their cash is expected to flow all across the county.
Herman Perez, Former Madera Mayor: "Spending their dollars at the local grocery stores, the gas stations, the Laundromat, wherever it may be, so that's gonna infuse more money into our community."
Michael Leven, Mariposa Winery: "That's where we're looking to pick up incremental business is just from having a mass of people in the area that will be looking for things to do."
The increase in people traffic also means an increase in auto traffic. An environmental impact study showed it would bring an extra 10 tons of pollution every year. It also predicted more congestion on the already busy stretch of Highway 99 through Madera.
Perez: "We do need to improve 99. It is on the governor's list to improve."
The casino project could help move improvement projects up the list, contributing up to $19 million dollars for work on city and county roads. Neighbors are worried the increased traffic will mean more crime as well.
Joe Ridley, Neighbor: "We've seen what it does when it comes to other places. Crime goes up, traffic. We live out here because it's nice and quiet and all that's coming to a halt."
Madera County Sheriff John Anderson says the actual impact on crime is almost nothing and the tribe is paying for five extra deputies every year, just in case.
The total financial impact is expected to be about $50 million dollars a year in extra spending.