Lake Sun casino story

By Nancy Zoellner

Lake Ozark city officials said their phones have been ringing off the hook since the announcement was made that a casino could be coming to town.

In late October, the Osage Nation announced it had purchased 28 acres of land in the city and planned to spend some $60 million to build a casino and entertainment complex with a hotel and restaurant. The casino complex is to be located at the intersection of Bagnell Dam Boulevard and Osage Beach Parkway where the now-vacant Quality Inn sits.

At their Nov. 23 board of aldermen meeting, Assistant City Administrator Harrison Fry, newly appointed Lake Ozark City Administrator David Mitchem and even aldermen said they had been contacted by not only by locals who wanted more information on the project, but also by outside developers who now see Lake Ozark as a viable market.

“We also recognize that we have a couple TIF districts that have been largely undeveloped and a couple other holdings of significant size that are of interest to these parties,” Fry said. “The city needs to be preparing for this level of interest and a new type of development in Lake Ozark - to a scale that we’ve never seen. In fact, right before our meeting tonight someone stopped by ask about the city’s electrical capacity for these types of developments.”

He recommended that the city take steps now to plan for the exponential economic development that could be coming, adding that Mitchem had come up with a strategy that he felt would be helpful.

“We recognize that one of those who are calling us are talking a good game but I’m not sure they have the capacity to do anything,” Mitchem explained. “Others that we are aware of indeed have the capacity. I believe it’s important that the city engage developers early in the process. That makes buildout of their properties more predictable and it’s more predictable for us as we consider the impact on quality-of-life issues and on our infrastructure – water, sewer, streets, wastewater, housing, and workforce.”

To accomplish that goal, he said he would like the board’s permission to develop a questionnaire that would be sent to parties who have contacted the city. “That way we’re involved early in the process, we can make the whole process more predictable for them and us.”

Mitchem said that in addition to sending questionnaire to those who contacted the city, he also planned to send it major developers in Missouri and throughout the Midwest and post it on the Missouri Municipal League and the Home Builders Association websites. He said because affordable housing would also be needed for those who came to the area to work at the casino, he also planned to send it to financial institutions and builders in the St. Louis area that he had worked with in the past.

Mayor Dennis Newberry said he felt it was important to get the information out but stressed that they were not pursuing developers, adding “We’re just letting it be known that we’re open for business and that we would enjoy learning who would like to be a part of this community. We can use the announcement by the Osage Nation as a catalyst – as a springboard to keep things going.”

He also reiterated that, although he had been contacted several times by attorneys for the Osage Nation, he wouldn’t be endorsing the project until he had more information – and suggested that other city officials follow his lead.