ENID, Okla. — While two Enid city commissioners say there currently are no plans for development on property being purchased near Government Springs South Park, a third commissioner says there have been discussions about a casino in east Enid.
On Nov. 15, the commission approved a contract to purchase property for the expansion of Government Springs South Park, near 8th and Garriott. At that time, City Attorney Andrea Chism said all of the acquired property will be added to the park.
"It's also commercially zoned, so if the city had the opportunity to do something for economic development purposes, it can do that as well," Chism said.
On Monday, Ward 2 Commissioner Aaron Brownlee said there are not any current plans for the area.
"The property became available and it was worthwhile to acquire for future park expansion or economic development," he said. "The city is open to economic development opportunities with this, and any other property that has a potential long-term benefit. We realize that Garriott frontage could be valuable for many reasons. However, there are no current plans or a proposal from any developer on the table regarding this property.
"There are no current plans or proposals regarding economic development with this property with or without a casino."
Ward 4 Commissioner Rodney Timm said Monday he is not aware of a development in the works.
"We hear of things all the time, but we hear it and it never happens," he said.
When asked if it was a casino, Timm said "no."
Part of the plan is the commission is trying to improve the park, he said.
"The original plan ... I think, if somebody wants to put something along the road, it might be an opportunity, but mainly just trying to upgrade the park and have more room to do things there," Timm said.
He said the city has been trying to do something with the park for a couple of years already.
On Tuesday, Ward 3 Commissioner Ben Ezzell said he was unaware of any plans for the property prior to the Nov. 15 meeting, and he had been absent during a prior executive session in which the property purchase was discussed.
He noted the reason for the purchase discussed in the Nov. 15 meeting was to expand the park, but a discussion on possibly developing the property occurred during an executive session later in the meeting.
"The bulk of that executive session was spent meeting with a developer, Richard Grellner, affiliated with the (United Keetoowah Band of Cherokee Indians) tribe who is interested in developing a casino on or adjacent to that site," Ezzell said. "Rodney Timm and Aaron Brownlee explained during the executive session that they had been working with this developer for several months under a nondisclosure agreement, and that they wanted Mr. Grellner to sit down and explain everything to the entire commission before it went further. Mr. Grellner repeatedly thanked the commission for the purchase of the property, and explained that it would simplify the execution of his development in the future.
"Although there is no proposal in writing, the outline of a deal was discussed by which the city would swap Government Springs South for some amount of money to be invested in a ballpark somewhere else in Enid. The city engineering department, at the request of Aaron Brownlee, had gone so far as to mock up a very rough design showing several soccer, football and softball fields in a future park south of Oakwood Mall/Lowe's. In addition, there was discussion of the casino paying the city an offset for sales tax that they are not required to collect. Again, there was no written agreement, but lots of details were discussed, and Mr. Grellner suggested that there may be something concrete to be considered as early as spring 2017."
Grellner did not immediately return a phone call after a message was left Tuesday.
Ezzell said Grellner explained "they already have some interest" in an old laundry facility, but he did not explain the nature of that interest. He said Ward 6 Commissioner David Vanhooser also mentioned he had been approached by the developer about potentially selling a medical complex he owns at 9th and Garriott, and Grellner discussed potentially purchasing other privately owned surrounding properties.
Vanhooser declined Tuesday to comment on this particular topic, at this point.
However, Ezzell is opposed to an Enid gaming project.
"I am opposed to any casino being built in or around Enid. I explained as much to Mr. Grellner and the rest of the commission during the (Nov. 15) executive session. I would like to see the city oppose any casino development instead of encouraging said development by purchasing property to make available for sale or trade," Ezzell said. "The content of an executive session is generally not discussed by individual commission members, but there is no prohibition on doing so. In this instance, I believe that it is in the best interest for the city of Enid to disclose the details of this proposal before it progresses any further."