Officials in Bonita Springs are doing what they can to ensure the city will get a cut of an expected cash windfall that passage of a referendum on slot machines would mean for Naples-Fort Myers Greyhound Racing and Poker.
Now it's up to the county's voters to help make it happen.
The city council on Wednesday directed City Manager Carl Schwing and City Attorney Audrey Vance to continue negotiations with the dog track's owners on a development agreement that would go into effect if the referendum passes in November.
The agreement would give the Havenick family, which owns the track, development rights protected from most future planning and regulatory changes in the city's code.
It could also give the city a 1.5 percent cut of gross annual revenues up to $250 million. If the track makes more than $250 million in revenues, the city's take would increase to 2.5 percent for the excess.
The deal is also contingent on state legislators, who must pass a law permitting slots at the track.
"It's a very complex agreement and parts are still under discussion," said Vance. "But there could be some substantial revenue to the city of Bonita Springs."
The development agreement would apply to about 100 acres of land near the intersection of Old 41 Road and Bonita Beach Road, as well as to the existing track and clubhouse. Development could include new clubhouse facilities and restaurant, nightclub, office and retail space.
The track's owners would have vested rights for 30 years. Every five years, the 30-year term could be renewed by City Council.
"We're hoping it will serve as an anchor to the downtown Bonita historic district," said Vance. "We will have an idea what the development is going to be at the site, which is important. It is a gateway property."
While city council members agreed unanimously to continue negotiations on the development agreement, former city councilman Alex Grantt said costs such as added sheriff's deputies should be taken into account.
"We would probably need at least eight, 12 or even 16 added deputies to patrol the area," said Grantt. "I think it would behoove us to look at this and what kind of additional funding we could expect from the gambling industry in Bonita Springs."
But Izzy Havenick said his family has already contacted Sheriff Mike Scott about policing the area and intends to hire local off-duty deputies and police officers for security.
Manager Carl Schwing said Lee County has already reached an agreement with the track for a share of revenues and would provide extra deputies if necessary.
Mayor Ben Nelson said the deal is meant to compensate the city for added costs.
"It's about protection," he said. "If something that happens increases the density there, we will be reimbursed."
The agreement also calls for the track to give preference to Bonita residents when its time to hire new employees, and to rename the facility to incorporate the name of the city.
The track will hold a Sept. 13 job fair for Bonita residents, said Schwing.
Havenick said plans for the property are still in the very early stages, despite negotiations on the agreement.
"We never like to put the cart before the horse," he said. "They wanted a framework, so we came up with a framework. If we win, we plan on starting the preliminary stuff Nov. 7."