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Plymouth Township Board Meeting Besieged By Northville Downs Opponents

What once seemed like a layup for the harness track’s relocation is now fraught




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It took a while for significant opposition to Northville Downs’ relocation to Plymouth Township to be birthed, but now its critics are crying at the top of their lungs.

At Tuesday’s Plymouth Township Board of Trustees meeting, approximately 150 residents showed up, according to Supervisor Kurt Heise, with 30 speaking in opposition to Michigan’s last remaining horse racetrack during a public comment period that exceeded the allotted three minutes by about two hours.

“It idealizes it to call it just a race track; it’s a gambling facility,” Plymouth resident Ron Hoge told WXYZ prior to the meeting. “We don’t want the gambling in Plymouth Township.”

“The level of gaming that’s happening and continuing to happen at Northville Downs is, frankly, kind of primitive,” Heise countered. “If you want to bet on sports, if you want to play cards, if you want to play the roulette wheel or any type of casino gaming, you can do that on your phone right now.”

Heise told MI Bets that one resident testified that the track is a union shop and “the men and women who work there are unionized and get good wages and health care.” Heise then added, “I do not know when this is going to appear before the board for final approval.”

Contrast that sentiment to a little over a month ago, when Plymouth Township’s Planning Commission unanimously approved Northville Downs’ Planned Unit Development (PUD) and the track’s relocation appeared to be on the brink of approval by the full Board of Trustees.

‘Arguments have really not changed’

Among Plymouth Township’s seven-person Board of Trustees, Chuck Curmi is the only one to date who has cast a vote against Northville Downs’ relocation. Heise isn’t sure if that balance has since tilted, saying Wednesday, “It’s not my place to poll them.”

“Any time you get a full house of residents, it is always a call for concern,” he added. “I would bet that about a third of the people there last night were given bad information, and another third were there to see what was going on. Don’t get me wrong — there were a lot of first-timers there that had legitimate questions. Most of those questions had been answered in the past. After last night, we’ve had about nine hours of public comment. 

“The arguments have really not changed. It’s either that gaming is bad, horses are going to be mistreated, the land is contaminated, traffic, and just generally the impact of all of this on the quality of life and brand of the community.”

Heise now hopes for a cooling of heads as the project continues to be considered.

“I just ask that folks keep an open mind and email me with questions. I do respond,” he said. “You might not like my answer, but I will tell you what’s going on. I think that emotions just need to be tempered on all sides, and I think the majority of the residents with concerns are there to listen and learn. We are there to learn and listen as well, but I think there is a fair amount of misinformation going on, which is not helpful to the process.”

Photo: Philippe Clément/Universal Images Group via Getty Images