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Port Orchard's casino war not over yet

"The owners of a Belfair minicasino who had failed in their attempt to move their business to Port Orchard have filed a lawsuit against the city.Henry and Karen O'Sullivan, owners of Hank's Country Inn, were joined in their suit by West Bay Center LP, a partnership that owns the vacant West Bay Shopping Center, where the O'Sullivans had hoped to site the casino. Michael Spence, representing the O'Sullivans, said he will ask the court to declare the city's denial of the casino's conditional-use permit improper and force the city to approve it, paving the way for casino gambling in Port Orchard. We didn't want it to come to this, but we didn't have much choice, Spence said. In the lawsuit, filed Friday in Kitsap County Superior Court, Spence argued the city improperly concluded that the proposed restaurant, lounge and casino would require a conditional-use permit.Based on that decision, the lawsuit says, the council violated a state law that says a gambling license is valid unless a city prohibits it throughout the city. At the time of his client's application, Spence said, there was no prohibition against gambling in the city. Their own attorney told them that this statute prohibits them from denying the application based on the fact that they're (conducting) gambling, Spence said. Spence also questions the wisdom of the city denying the permit application on the basis of a drawing. Following preliminary approval by the Port Orchard Planning Commission, the city council in June denied the conditional-use permit because the applicants had failed to show what exterior changes they planned to make to the building. The council then imposed a 60-day moratorium on gambling establishments within city limits, and asked its attorney to draw up an ordinance outlawing such businesses. It comes down to a drawing, Spence said. The planning commission accepted it, the (city) staff accepted it, then all of the sudden the information wasn't enough.The next thing you know ... they say they didn't provide all the information necessary. Clearly, they needed to come up with a reason to deny this so that they can stop it and force (my clients) to reapply. Spence said his clients' appeal is a land-use petition that can only overturn the city's decision, not win a monetary award. But his clients are free to file a separate lawsuit that does seek damages, he said. The city of Port Orchard has 20 days in which to respond to the current lawsuit. Loren Combs, Port Orchard's attorney, could not be reached for comment. "

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