The move was seen as an act of goodwill by the council after the county lost an attempt to challenge the casino in court
CLARK COUNTY — Next April will mark two full years since ilani casino opened its doors in North Clark County. The opening marked a victory for the Cowlitz Tribe over Clark County and several north county cities that fought against them.
That fight included a 2015 resolution adopted by the Clark County Council, taking a hardline stance against the tribe and the casino.
“This is a resolution from 2015. It was based on legal arguments at the time involving a suit that multiple jurisdictions locally had joined together in the suit or were at least parties in the suit,” said outgoing Councilor Jeanne Stewart at the board’s most recent meeting. She was making a solo argument against rescinding the resolution, a move requested by members of the tribe.
“To rescind it is an indication that we were wrong in all matters,” said Stewart. “I think there are still some matters that are potentially outstanding.”
Among those she mentioned the casino’s controversial waste management system. A state ruling determined that, since the site of the casino falls outside the county’s Urban Growth Boundary, they couldn’t tie sewer into the city of La Center. As such, the tribe built an on-site sewage treatment plant.
“I still have concerns about that,” said Stewart, “and I have concerns about the capacity and the volume, and that they’re not limited by the number of wells they can drill. No one can restrict that.”
Councilor Julie Olson said she also had concerns, but so far the tribe has proven able to do what they promised.
“Our Public Works Department is working with them, and so far everything has been exactly as they said it would be as far was water quality and treatment,” said Olson.
Councilor Eileen Quiring, who will be sworn in next week as county chair, said she feels the 2015 resolution contains language which, today, could be seen as offensive to some.
“It says it will create a significant adverse impact on Clark County,’” said Quiring, “and I’m not a hundred percent sure that that’s happening.”
Outgoing county Chair Marc Boldt said he doesn’t disagree with much of what was said in their earlier resolutions, but that they lost in Federal court and need to be on good working terms with the tribe going forward.
“I can be a big boy and say I lost in court, so let’s move ahead,” said Boldt.
“We are where we are now and, having an old resolution on the books that opposes a non-compliant casino when we’re at the place we are where I think non-compliant isn’t really an appropriate term,” said Olson.
“Just as a communication of goodwill, and an opportunity to continue to develop our relationship with the tribe and ilani, that I think this is a good move to consider for the council,” she added.
Ultimately the council voted 3-1 to rescind the earlier ordinance, with John Blom absent.
“Rescinding it indicates pretty much that we think everything we did was wrong, and everything that’s there now is OK, and that we have no further issues,” said Stewart. “That may not be the case as we go down the road here.”