EASTERN SHAWNEES Tribe reps meet with area officials

Litigation and GOP opposition await plans for any Ohio casinos.
WARREN -- Eastern Shawnee Tribe representatives were back in the Mahoning Valley on Thursday to talk with Trumbull County officials about economic development, and water and sewer service extensions to land in Lordstown.
The session involved the potential for new investment and jobs in Lordstown, but was not directly related to the casino resort the tribe would like to locate on a 137-acre site there. The tribe has an option to buy the land.
The tribe isn't all about casinos: Its ventures include lodging, storage units, custom cabinetry, bingo and a travel plaza. A member of the Eastern Shawnee also owns a company that grows hydroponically-grown, pesticide-free, greenhouse beefsteak tomatoes, for example.
County officials declined to comment about the closed-door session, which did not involve county commissioners.
Those who attended
On hand for the tribe and its financial representative, National Capital 1, were Betty Watson, Marty Ellis and Tom Schnippel, National Capital 1's president.
At the table for the county were Gary Newbrough, sanitary engineer; Alan Knapp, planning commission director; Tony Carson, county administrator; and Jason Earnhart, assistant prosecutor. Lordstown village also sent a representative.
"It was about a nongambling-related economic development project that could produce jobs," Earnhart said, declining to say more.
The Oklahoma-based Eastern Shawnee has unveiled potential casino-resort projects in Lordstown and Lorain in Northeast Ohio, Monroe near Cincinnati and Botkins in west-central Ohio.
The proposed Lordstown casino site is northeast of the Ohio Turnpike between Exit 216 and state Route 45. The investment there would be $125 million to $250 million. Most of the property is in Lordstown, but roughly 30 acres are in Jackson Township, Mahoning County.
This would bring "thousands of good paying jobs and millions of dollars to the local economy," the tribe, county commissioners and Lordstown announced at a media event early this year.
But many state officials, including Gov. Bob Taft, Auditor Betty D. Montgomery, Attorney General Jim Petro and Secretary of State J. Kenneth Blackwell -- all Republicans -- oppose the expansion of legalized gambling.
Lordstown Mayor Michael Chaffee has said a Shawnee casino could bring great economic benefit. Village council has approved an intergovernmental agreement with the tribe that would share some electronic gaming revenues.
Residents, however, successfully petitioned to get a public vote on that agreement on the November general election ballot.
Lawsuit filed
The tribe, meanwhile, is suing the state, claiming ancestral and other rights on lands.
The tribe's suit was filed last week in U.S. District Court in Toledo, seeking a court declaration that the Eastern Shawnees hold title to about 94,500 acres near Lima and Wapakoneta and 640 acres near Bellefontaine. The suit also seeks court recognition of tribal hunting-and-fishing rights to 11,315 square miles in all or part of 36 counties stretching from Union County in the north to Meigs and Athens counties in the east, south to the state line and west to Hamilton County.
According to the lawsuit, the Eastern Shawnees originally owned, occupied and controlled vast land in Ohio from the middle of the 17th century until they were forcibly removed in the middle of the 19th century and relocated to reservations first in Ohio and later in Missouri and Oklahoma.

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