East Taunton neighbors aim to remove land from trust until lawsuit is decided
Mashpee Wampanoag Tribal Council Chairman Cedric Cromwell was behind the controls of this excavator that took down an existing warehouse in April to make way for the new First Light Resort & Casino project in Taunton. Merrily Cassidy/Cape Cod Times file By Cynthia McCormick Posted May. 28, 2016
East Taunton residents opposed to the Mashpee Wampanoag tribe’s casino are seeking an injunction to at least temporarily remove tribal land from a federal trust that is paving the way for construction of the First Light Resort and Casino.
The plaintiffs in Littlefield v. U.S. Department of the Interior filed a motion for a preliminary injunction Friday to be in place until the outcome of their legal challenge to the federal government is decided.
Michelle Littlefield and other residents of East Taunton are challenging the tribe’s ability to open the First Light Resort and Casino by questioning the federal government's ability to take land into trust for tribes recognized after 1934.
Under the Indian Gaming Regulatory Act, tribes need land in trust to pursue a casino on reservation land.
The Mashpee Wampanoag Tribe broke ground for the casino in April, seven months after the U.S. Department of the Interior approved taking 151 acres in Taunton and 170 acres in Mashpee into trust as the tribe’s initial reservation.
But the Littlefield plaintiffs argue that allowing the tribe to complete the casino while the lawsuit winds its way through the legal system would deprive them of any remedy if they win their case.
Plans for the casino, which will cost an estimated $600 million to build, include a 300-room hotel with twin towers and a gaming room with 3,000 slot machines, 150 table games and 40 poker tables.
Cedric Cromwell, Mashpee Wampanoag Tribal Council chairman, said the First Light Resort and Casino project “is moving forward and focused on getting the first phase up and running by next summer.”
“We do not see this lawsuit against the federal government as having any impact on our progress,” Cromwell said.