ROCKINGHAM COUNTY, N.C. (WGHP) — After a lawsuit was filed by several residents of a Piedmont Triad county, the county has issued a response to the allegations in the suit.
The lawsuit was filed on Oct. 18 against Rockingham County over the rezoning of nearly 200 acres of property to build a casino. Among the plaintiffs, all residents of Rockingham County, is Camp Carefree, a camp for special needs children whose property neighbors the rezoned area.
The plaintiffs allege that the Rockingham County Board of Commissioners ignored “basic legal requirements” when it approved the rezoning application, which was submitted by NC Development Holdings, which has links to The Cordish Companies, a gambling development company, further stating that Cordish-affiliated entities had donated to the campaigns of several politicians involved, including Senate Leader Phil Berger and his son Kevin, who is a commissioner.
Campaign data showed that at least eight lawmakers collectively received more than $34,000 in donations from Cordish-linked people between November 2022 and March 2023. Senate Leader Phil Berger, who attempted to tie casino legislation into the state budget and whose son Kevin serves on the County Board of Commissioners in Rockingham County, received $5,600 from Cordish Gaming Group CEO Joseph Weinberg.
In a new release shared Friday, Rockingham County responded, stating that they believed the rezoning is “error-free” and that the court will agree and dismiss the lawsuit.
“The property in issue sits along future Interstate 73, a four-lane divided highway. This area has
been earmarked as a future growth area for a couple of decades,” they wrote in the response.
The county went on to say all of the public comments that were submitted or expressed at the public input meeting were considered during the rezoning process.
“In addition to naming the County as a party, the Plaintiffs have sued the children of the founders of Camp Carefree and have asked the court to set aside the rezoning of their property,” they wrote.
The county will issue a legal response to the lawsuit by Dec. 22.
The issue began on Aug. 21, when the Board of County Commissioners voted in favor of rezoning the land despite what the lawsuit referred to as “overwhelming public opposition,” including from Rockingham County Sheriff and current candidate for lieutenant governor Sam Page. The land is mostly surrounded by residential homes, but also neighbors Camp Carefree, a non-profit that provides summer camp experiences for disabled and special needs children.
Berger “significantly delayed” the passage of the state budget while attempting to legalize casino gambling, with projects that would bring multiple casinos to the state and on tribal land in North Carolina, they write.
At least one landowner in North Carolina expressed displeasure at learning land he had entered an agreement to sell might be used for a casino project, accusing the developers of being dishonest when buying the land.
“We seriously question the judgment of local and state officials who think it is a good idea to put a casino beside a beloved children’s camp that has served disabled and special needs children and their families for nearly 40 years,” Citizens for Good Growth wrote in a release they shared along with the lawsuit. “Maybe if these elected officials had made a trip to Camp Carefree this past summer and spent time with campers instead of traveling to a casino in Maryland, they would know just how important it is to preserve our community. We hope this rezoning lawsuit will shine light on the need for transparency and accountability of all our elected officials.”