Saturday, April 07, 2007

U.S. Attorney's inquiry leads to revelation Lucky 7 Development plans to drill sewer pipeline across St. Clair River

Army Corps of Engineers investigation (prompted by U.S. Attorney's Office) uncovered plans for 350 Condos @ Harsens Island (MI) include drilling sewer pipeline across bed of St. Clair River's North Channel to connect project to sewer treatment facility. Developers Mike Malik & Tim Stoepker denied attempt to appeal Rivers & Harbors Act jurisdiction ruling

read more | digg story

U.S. Supreme Court Decision Fails to Clarify Clean Water Act

U.S. Supreme Court ruled there are limits to the federal government’s authority to regulate wetlands under the Clean Water Act, but failed to agree on the confines of that power. The Carabell case was argued by Dickinson Wright attorney Timothy A. Stoepker of Grosse Pointe

read more | digg story

Members say project to help build self-reliance


April 7, 2007

SANTA YSABEL – Hope for one of the area's largest, yet poorest, Indian tribes is perched on a ridge overlooking Lake Henshaw.

The Santa Ysabel Resort & Casino will offer 349 slot machines. The casino, with Lake Henshaw in the background, will open to the public Thursday.

A casino, the county's 10th, has taken shape there and is filled with 349 slot machines intended to bring in locals from Ramona and Warner Springs and tourists from Julian.

“It's all about the future,” said Bonnie Salgado, a Santa Ysabel tribal council member. “It's going to give our people more opportunities.”

The future begins with a private party for tribal leaders and their guests at 5 p.m. Wednesday. The doors to Santa Ysabel Resort & Casino open to the public the next day.

“It's not going to make us millionaires,” said Johnny Hernandez, chairman of the 781-member tribe. “It's going to help us with our infrastructure, our self-reliance, our sovereignty.”

A few years ago, it seemed the Santa Ysabel reservation, a 75-minute drive northeast of downtown San Diego, was too remote for a profitable gambling hall.

But, for now anyway, this $27 million, 35,000-square-foot casino on state Route 79 about 4½ miles north of Dudley's Bakery is aimed at backcountry gamblers and tourists.

“We're trying to be Ramona's casino, Poway's casino,” said Douglas Lentz, the casino's general manager. “If I've got 500 people here on a Friday night, I've got more than I need.”

Arizona's Yavapai-Apache Nation guaranteed the construction bank loan.

In addition to the slots, the casino will have blackjack and poker, a card-based roulette game, billiards and a video game arcade.

It will also feature a bar and a separate 24-hour dining area with floor-to-ceiling windows with views of the lake and Palomar Mountain. That area, named The Orchard, will function as a restaurant or a buffet, depending on the time of day.

There are plans for a steakhouse, a hotel and horseback-riding trails through the mountainous 15,000-acre reservation, Hernandez said.

About half of the reservation is on the western flank of Volcan Mountain.

Most of the 350 workers – who get health insurance and other benefits – are from nearby communities. Many are tribal members – not just from Santa Ysabel, but from neighboring reservations, too.

The number of slot machines is capped at 349 because tribes with 350 or more machines can't participate in a state revenue-sharing fund that gives nongaming tribes $1.1 million a year.

Nineteen of the 71 California tribes that received payments from the fund last year operate small casinos. One of the recipient tribes, the La Posta Band of Mission Indians, opened a 349-slot casino in East County earlier this year.

That gambling hall, less than two miles from the Golden Acorn casino on Interstate 8, has lived up to expectations, said general manager Jim Muse. Two-thirds of its customers come from the Imperial Valley and Mexico, he said.

Santa Ysabel, La Posta and a third tribe, the Torres-Martinez in Riverside County, signed compacts with then-Gov. Gray Davis in 2003.

Those were unlike the first compacts that tribes signed years earlier, in that the tribes agreed then to pay 5 percent of their net profits directly into the state's general fund.

They also agreed to work with local governments.

Santa Ysabel is paying the county $300,000 a year for problem-gambling programs, $190,000 for a sheriff's deputy and $100,000 for prosecuting cases related to crimes at the casino, said James Snyder, the county's public works director.

Some of those payments are due before the casino opens, he said.

“Their track record is that they do what they say they're going to do,” he said.

The decision to build a casino wasn't unanimous among tribal members, said June Christman, who voted against it.

“It's a paving paradise and putting up a parking lot kind of deal,” she said, adding that she hopes for the best now that the casino is a reality.

Christman worried about the effect of money on future generations.

“The kids have no idea about the camaraderie we used to have,” she said. “It's no longer there.”

Some neighbors aren't happy, either.

A family that owns a ranch across Route 79 from the casino has sued Caltrans over the permit it issued to the casino, saying it acted improperly and didn't conduct proper environmental reviews.

The Moretti family said in the suit that it isn't opposed to the casino itself, but rather the way in which a mile-long, $5 million road on the reservation will eventually connect with the state highway.

The latest traffic estimate indicates the casino will almost double the number of trips on Route 79 to more than 6,000 a day, casino spokeswoman Tina Lentz said.

A San Diego Superior Court judge rejected the family's request for an emergency order rescinding the permit. Negotiations are ongoing.

Hernandez, the tribal chairman, said that before the casino was built, the tribal leadership asked neighbors and tribal members for their thoughts, and that has helped avoid some of the tension that other projects have generated.

“We're going to work with the community here,” Hernandez said.

The main focus, though, is to make a better life for the tribal members, whose ancestors lived in nine villages between what is now Ramona, Warner Springs and Anza-Borrego Desert State Park.

They called themselves Ipai (EE-pay), which means “the people.” The Spanish missionaries renamed them DiegueƱo.

Driving on a potholed-road to the reservation's highest point in a small sport utility vehicle, Hernandez, 54, recalled stories his grandfather told him about Indians hiding in the woods from the U.S. Cavalry.

Growing up on the reservation, he remembered hauling water from the Catholic church and bathing with a bucket.

“We had kerosene lamps, a wood stove and great home cooking,” Hernandez said with a smile.

It's a life some of the 350 reservation residents still live.

The tribal government is working to improve the roads and string electric lines to homes still without power.

The efforts to improve life on the reservation have led many who left years ago to return. Hernandez himself left to go to San Diego State University. He abandoned plans for a degree when he started working for Pacific Bell in what became a 30-year career as a lineman.

Now the leader of his tribe, Hernandez drives through a canyon where he used to hunt rabbits as a child and talks about protecting parts of the reservation as well as providing for children and elders.

“I want to see us have total self-reliance,” Hernandez said. “And we'll take care of our elders and our youth.”

Onell Soto: (619) 293-1280;

Thursday, April 05, 2007

Blogger questions Detroit Arena assumptions

New Stadium?
by blogger mardenhill

"The location isn't new either but the lastest move by the Ilitch family leads many to believe its a done deal. According to the Free Press, Olympia Development received a grant to demolish a vacant building behind the Fox Theatre. ... "

Blog: What's Going On In The Head Of Randy.... -

State Subsidizing Plans for Detroit Hockey Arena

Photo illustration by David Guralnick and Tim Summ

Olympia Development received a $104,500 grant Wednesday to demolish a vacant building several blocks west of Fox Theatre.

New home for Red Wings?

Louis Aguilar / The Detroit News

DETROIT -- The Ilitch family, which controls a billion-dollar empire of pizza, sports teams and entertainment in downtown Detroit, is fast approaching a deadline on whether to build a hockey arena or renovate the Joe Louis Arena, the city-owned venue whose lease with the Ilitches expires in 2009.

Speculation about the family's plans was stoked Wednesday when the Ilitches' Olympia Development secured state funding to raze a vacant, dilapidated building smack dab in the area long rumored to be the preferred site of the arena -- a cluster of blocks west of the Fox Theatre complex, the Woodward Avenue headquarters for Ilitch Holdings Inc.

See full image

The Ilitch connection

  • An avid sports fan, Mike Ilitch buys the Detroit Red Wings in 1982.
  • Ilitch fulfills a lifelong dream with the purchase of the Detroit Tigers in 1992.
  • Marian Ilitch purchases the MotorCity Casino in 2005.

Daniel Mears / The Detroit News

The 30-year lease on Joe Louis Arena, which is the fifth-oldest arena in the National Hockey League, expires in 2009. See full image

The empty building at 138 W. Columbia is surrounded by blocks of Ilitch-owned parking lots and several structures. It's a half-block away from the Detroit Life Building, which the Ilitches intend to restore into high-end residential units. A few blocks away is the Grand Army of the Republic building, which the family plans to restore. Across Woodward from the Fox Theatre is Comerica Park, home of the Ilitch-owned Detroit Tigers.

An arena near the Fox would add a major dimension to a burgeoning sports and entertainment district largely created by the Ilitches.

While Ilitch Holdings said a final decision hasn't been made about a new arena, it said it continues to study the idea.

"Our organization is continuing to evaluate all options -- from a remodel of Joe Louis Arena to the building of a new arena at a new location," the Ilitches said in a written statement Wednesday.

"Relative to the demolition of 138 W. Columbia, our organization continues to move forward in making improvements to the Foxtown Neighborhood. With the Fox Theatre, Comerica Park, our headquarters operations, soon-to-be renovated Detroit Life Building, Hockeytown Cafe and the numerous other businesses in and around us, we are continually looking for opportunities to make it a pleasant, clean and safe environment for visitors, colleagues and local residents."

The only immediate plans that Olympia has for the property at 138 W. Columbia is additional parking, Ilitch Holdings said.

The Ilitches have said for more than a decade that they intend to build a modern arena for the Wings or renovate Joe Louis, for which the Ilitches had a 30-year lease.

Mike Ilitch, co-founder of the Little Caesars Pizza chain that started it all, has said repeatedly he prefers a site near the Fox Theatre.

On a February trip to Paducah, Ky., both Mike Ilitch and his son Chris Ilitch, president of Ilitch Holdings, gave some hints that a decision may be near.

"We don't see anything standing in the way of being able to go forward other than carving out the deal," Mike Ilitch said at the time. "We're looking forward to making sure that what we do now makes sense, that we can build it right, so that we can project our business."

But Chris Ilitch said they are still considering all options.

In January 2006, the Ilitches announced they had begun feasibility studies on the project.

Atanas Ilitch also has said that the area would be ideal for retail development. He heads Olympia Development LLC, the real estate arm of Ilitch Holdings. Atanas Ilitch said the company, sparked by the Tigers' success, was in talks to bring national retailers and an upscale grocer to Ilitch-owned properties near Comerica Park.

Detroit officials said they weren't aware of any decision.

"I haven't heard anything," said George Jackson, president of the Detroit Economic Growth Corp., the quasi-public agency that promotes development in the city.

A spokesman for Mayor Kwame Kilpatrick also said he wasn't aware of a decision.

Privately, several officials said the Ilitches own enough property behind the Fox to build an arena, though there are several parcels they don't own that could hinder the project.

The Joe Louis Arena opened on downtown's riverfront in 1979 after former Detroit Mayor Coleman Young built it to keep the Wings from moving to Oakland County. The team was under different ownership at the time. Joe Louis is the fifth-oldest arena in the National Hockey League. The Wings could expect to bring in at least $10 million in additional revenue each year with a new facility from naming rights and luxury boxes alone.

The Ilitches have not said how they would finance the project.

Every move the Ilitches make downtown becomes instant fodder for a rumor mill.

"It's like a parlor game around here," said Harry Kefalonitis, owner of Harry's Bar & Grill, on Clifford Street across I-75 from the Fox Theatre. "I hear they're looking at about 10 different locations back there."

Two years ago, when Mike Ilitch ate at his bar, Kefalonitis asked him if the new hockey arena would be built nearby.

"He just smiled and looked at me," Kefalonitis said. "But he didn't say no. And everyone around here always thinks if he doesn't say no, it means yes."

You can reach Louis Aguilar at (313) 222-2760 or

You may want to review these posts:

--The Verifiable Truth:

Wednesday, April 04, 2007

Barstow’s attorney joins firm that represents various other interests of Barwest’s principals

Attorney previously retained to represent the City of Barstow (CA) in contract negotiations and due diligence on twin Indian casinos proposed by a Detroit casino syndication has now joined a Michigan-based law firm with ties to the casino syndicators’ other business interests.

Dennis Whittlesey, an attorney reportedly experienced in Indian casino matters was recommended and retained to represent the City of Barstow in negotiations for municipal service agreements (MSAs) with Indian tribes that have agreed to partner with Detroit-based Barwest LLC.

Barwest has proposed side by side twin casino resorts for the Big Lagoon Rancheria and Los Coyotes Band of Indians in the remote Mojave Desert community. Barwest has the exclusive development and management rights for the twin casino resorts. While Whittlesey was representing the City in negotiations with Barwest and partners; Barwest was fronting Whittlesey’s legal fees on the City’s behalf.

Detroit business people Michael Malik and Marian Ilitch are the principals behind the Barwest casino syndication.

As it ends up, Whittlesey has joined the Michigan-based firm Dickinson Wright PLLC. The firm/attorneys represent a development partnership with Michael Malik (Tim Stoepker & Grosse Pointe Development/Lucky 7 Development LLC); and interests affiliated with Detroit’s Ilitch Family including Little Caesars Enterprises and Detroit Entertainment LLC (dba MotorCity Casino); as well as MGM Mirage/Mandalay Resort Group (the Las Vegas companies affiliated with Kirk Kerkorian that agreed to sell its majority shares in Detroit’s MotorCity Casino to the Ilitch Family in 2005.)

Harsens Island developer is actually a lawyer with ties to environmentally challenged corporate interests & the Ilitch Family

Michael Malik’s Harsens Island development partner is actually a lawyer with ties to environmentally challenged, and often controversial, corporate interests and Malik's casino syndication partners the Ilitch Family.
Tim Stoepker, the spokesman for so-called Grande Pointe Development, the group fronting development plans for Harsens Island on property owned by Michael J. Malik (Lucky 7 Development LLC), is actually an attorney with one of Detroit’s venerable law firms, Dickinson Wright PLLC. Among other things Tim Stoepker has represented the Ilitch Family’s Little Caesars Enterprises and the firm has represented other Ilitch Family interests and partners including Detroit Entertainment LLC (dba MotorCity Casino), MGM Mirage, Mandalay Resort Group. Recently the firm hired another attorney tied to Ilitch casino projects in Barstow, CA and elsewhere.

Stoepker’s official firm bio notes he’s experienced in the following areas:
  • Real Estate Development and Litigation
  • Woodlands, Wetlands, Land Use, and Zoning
  • Condemnations
  • Drafting of Construction Contracts
  • Litigation and Arbitration of Construction Disputes
  • Counsel to Waterfront and Casino Reclamation District
  • Counsel to developers of private waste water plants
  • Counsel for Lafarge Midwest, Inc. in relocation, development and construction of a Detroit Terminal for cement distribution
  • Counsel for residential, commercial, and industrial developers in rezoning, site plan, special land use, variances, wetland/woodland and infrastructure permits and approvals
Former Detroit Mayor Dennis Archer is chairman of Dickinson Wright PLLC. The firm employs approximately 200 attorneys in offices throughout Michigan and in Washington D.C. According to the firm's website, Fortune Magazine is set to name Dickinson Wright one of the top “Go-To” firms in the U.S. based on a recent survey of general counsels at the top 500 U.S. companies.

Monday, April 02, 2007

Casino syndicator's Lucky 7 Development Property in St. Clair County Michigan

Property controlled by Lucky 7 Development LLC, in St. Clair County, Michigan; with links to further detail and maps of respective parcels. Michael Malik acquired Lucky 7 Development LLC from Denise Ilitch, her former husband Jim Lites and his brother in 1999. It’s not known if these parcels were previously assets of Lucky 7 or if Malik acquired them another way and later folded them in under the "Lucky 7" brand.


Parcel Number


























Obtained from St. Clair County records

Grande Pointe Development LLC

Said to be the developer of a proposed 380 acre, 348-unit housing and condominium project on Harsens Island. Records indicate Tim Stoepker, an attorney in the Detroit office of the Dickinson Wright PLLC law firm is resident agent of Grande Pointe Development formed in October 2005.

Possibly Related

Grande Pointe Casino I LLC

Not Related

Grande Pointe Properties LLC

By mandate, CA tribes must use Detroit casino developer or abandon project

Barwest used the City of Barstow (through a Disposition and Development Agreement – DDA -- between the two parties negotiated behind closed doors) to dictate to Los Coyotes, or any other tribe, that Barwest must have the exclusive rights to develop the tribe’s Barstow casino resort project.

Originally, the City of Barstow and Barwest LLC – not the Los Coyotes Band of Indians -- had entered into an Exclusive Negotiating Agreement (ENA).

At the time a DDA was awarded:
  • Los Coyotes had already been informed (March 2004) by Governor Schwarzenegger’s representatives that he had denied the Los Coyotes casino resort proposal;
  • Los Coyotes leaders (as described in public testimony a year later) were loosing confidence in, and growing disenchanted with, Barwest LLC;
  • Big Lagoon had turned down Barwest’s initial advances; and
  • several other tribes were aggressively pursuing plans to develop their own casino resort projects in Barstow.

The following is excerpted from Staff rationale presented to the Barstow City Council prior to its decision to enter into a DDA with Barwest LLC. This DDA was agendized for a June 7, 2004 City Council meeting with no disclosure at a previous meeting and was approved with no record of discourse, debate, discussion or questions.

“On June 2, 2003, the Redevelopment Agency for the City of Barstow entered into an Exclusive Negotiating Agreement with Barwest, L.L.C. (Developer). On March 1, 2004, the ENA was assigned from the Agency to the City and extended for a period of three months, with additional extensions available according to the terms of the document. The ENA provides for a period of exclusive negotiations between the Agency and Developer to reach a Disposition and Development Agreement that, among other things, would provide for the establishment of exclusive rights of Developer to develop a first-class, high-quality destination resort, including hotels, restaurants, hospitality services and a casino within the City.

"The City and the Los Coyotes Band of Cahuilla and Cupeno Indians are negotiating a Municipal Services Agreement (MSA) that, if executed, will cause the ENA to sunset and will, in effect, remove any requirement for the Developer to develop the property. It has always been the intent and understanding of the City and Developer that Developer will develop and manage the Project. The attached Disposition and Development Agreement (DDA) will provide a specific time for the Tribe and Developer to enter into a development and management agreement.”

Sunday, April 01, 2007

The Bay Mills Land Claims Case Was a Scam from the Start

excerpted from testimony presented before the U.S. Senate Committee on Indian Affairs

What you're not being told by those who seek to exploit IGRA and Indian circumstances...

It is clear that Bay Mills filed its claim in order to obtain a casino by exploiting a loophole in the Indian Gaming Regulatory Act that allows tribes to conduct gaming on lands taken in trust after the passage of IGRA if the land is obtained in settlement of a land claim. Bay Mills seeks to parlay its situation into a casino on land 300 miles from its reservation to which it has no historic connection. Many of the reasons why this is so wrong are presented in the statement of George Bennett from the Grand Traverse Band. However, the the Bay Mills claim was clearly filed because of the IGRA loophole.

The Charlotte Beach claim did not originate with Bay Mills. It was the product of a Detroit area attorney who developed it specifically as a vehicle to obtain an IGRA casino. This attorney approached the Sault Tribe first with the claim, but we turned him down. He then took the claim to Bay Mills, who joined him up on his scheme. This attorney, Robert Golden, then represented Bay Mills in both court cases. The goal never was to recover the Charlotte Beach lands.

From its inception, the federal case had the air of a collusive suit. The federal complaint was filed on October 18, 1996. On October 10, 1996 – barely a week before suit was filed – one James F. Hadley purchased land within the Charlotte Beach claim area. A few months later, on March 19, 1997, Hadley, representing himself, entered into a settlement agreement with Bay Mills. Mr. Hadley just happened to own some land in Auburn Hills, a Detroit suburb, that he was willing to give Bay Mills in return for clearing his title to the Charlotte Beach lands, and he was also willing to sell Bay Mills land adjacent to that Auburn Hills parcel. The settlement was conditioned upon the Secretary of the Interior taking the Auburn Hills land into trust. The district court entered a consent judgment incorporating the settlement terms on March 28, 1997.

The goal was, of course, a suburban Detroit casino. Bay Mills soon filed an application to have the Auburn Hills land taken into trust for gaming purposes. The application languished in the Interior Department, which later decided that the IGRA loophole for a land claim settlement required ratification of the settlement by Congress. When it became apparent that the trust approval was not forthcoming, Bay Mills moved on to pursue a different casino site, and the consent judgment with Hadley was set aside on August 16, 1999.

Despite mounting opposition to the lawsuit by the Charlotte Beach landowners, Bay Mills tried to obtain other settlement agreements that would result in a casino. They focused on land in the small community of Vanderbilt, Michigan and developed several settlement proposals for obtaining the land. These proposals generally provided for the creation of a settlement fund with which the tribe would purchase a casino site. The final such proposal was circulated at the end of 1998.

Most landowners firmly opposed settlement, and they moved to dismiss the federal case because the Sault Tribe was not a party. In order to defend against this motion, Bay Mills attempted to show that the Sault Tribe was not properly recognized as a tribe and so had no rights in the property.11 Thus Bay Mills tried to prove that we were not a tribe in order to pursue its casino.

The district court dismissed the federal case on December 11, 1998. the 6th Circuit affirmed this decision. Bay Mills later lost the state case in the Michigan Court of Claims, lost on appeal in the Michigan Court of Appeals on April 23, 2001, and was denied review by the Supreme Court on March 18, 2002.

Long before the Supreme Court delivered the final blow, Bay Mills had switched from the courts to Congress in search of its casino. The site has changed – first Auburn Hills, then Vanderbilt, now Port Huron – but the goal has always been the same. Bay Mills ginned up a claim, entered into a suspicious settlement with a person who bought into the claim as a defendant eight days before suit was filed, attacked the Salt St. Marie Tribe’s very existence, and now seeks to put one over on Congress, all in pursuit of its goal. This is hardly a track record that Congress should reward.

From testimony presented to the
U.S. Senate Committee on Indian Affairs
Transcripts - House Committee on Resources; Hearing on HR 831 - June 24, 2004
Transcripts - Senate Committee on Indian Affairs; Hearing on S 2986 - October 10, 2002

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Ilitch has backed loosing sports teams and pizza, but casinos in Detroit? 10.09.06 ● Marian Ilitch #1 on "25 Most Powerful People" to Watch 2006” global gaming business o1.oo.o5 ● My Kingdom for a Casino Forbes 05.08.06 ● Big Lagoon’s casino dream awakens north coast journal 07.28.05 ● Shinnecocks launch legal claim to Hamptons land 06.16.05 ● Ilitch Plans to Expand Casino Empire 07.05.05 ● Ilitch outbids partners 04.14.05 ● Ilitch enmeshed in NY casino dispute 03.20.05 ● Marian Ilitch, high roller 03.20.05 ● MGM Mirage to Decide on Offer for Casino in Detroit 04.16.05 ● Secret deal for MotorCity alleged 02.15.05 ● Los Coyotes get new developer 02.08.05 Detroit casino figure to finance Barstow project 07.07.03 ● Indian Band trying to put casino in Barstow 06.04.03 Pizza matriarch takes on casino roles 10.23.02 ● Vanderbilt gets short straw in negotiations for a casino Lansing Journal 10.06.02 ● Indians aim to drive family from tribe in vicious dispute san diego union tribune 04.09.00 ●Malik owns 2000 Michigan Quarter Horse of the Year 01.01.00 ● Detroit Team to run Michigan’s newest Indian casino 05.23.99 Tiger ties tangle Marian Ilitch 04.29.99 ● Three investors must sell their Detroit casino interests 04.25.99 ● Partners’ cash revived election; They say money was crucial to Prop-E 04.25.99 Investors have troubled histories las vegas review journal 04.27.99 ● Investor served probation for domestic assault on 12 year old boy 04.25.99 Can a pair win a jackpot?: local men hope to... 03.17.97

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