Lawsuit Over Rezoning For Casino Expansion Dismissed In Rockingham County

A lawsuit filed by Rockingham County landowners over the rezoning of land for a casino has been thrown out because the court lacks jurisdiction in the case.

Judge Clayton D. Somers dismissed the suit, which was filed in October 2023 by the owners of Camp Carefree and other plaintiffs.

The judge explained his ruling:

“Having carefully considered the [case], the court has found … that defendants’ motions to dismiss pursuant to Rules 12(b)(1) and 12(b)(6) should be granted for lack of subject matter jurisdiction. All of plaintiffs’ claims are dismissed with prejudice as to all defendants, such that this entire action is dismissed with prejudice.”

What Was The Lawsuit?

Camp Carefree, a nonprofit organization established in 1986 in Stokesdale that provides care for critically ill, disabled, and special needs children, along with 10 other parties – Micris LLC, Brandon and Amy Leebrick, Donald and Christine Dohm, David and Wendy Forbes, Mary Lea Anderson, Jeffrey Darren Scott and Jill Meier – were listed as plaintiffs in the lawsuit.

The defendants in the case were Rockingham County, NC Development Holdings LLC, and property owners Julie Sanders, Ellen Whitesell, Linda Carmichael, and Susan Murray.

In August last year, the Rockingham County Board of Commissioners unanimously voted in favor of a petition to rezone and convert 192 acres of land south of Madison off Ram Loop and US Highway 220 to commercial use for developing a North Carolina casino.

Ram Loop Map

This parcel of land is adjacent to residential and some commercial land, including Camp Carefree. NC Development Holdings requested the rezoning through the Cordish Companies, a gambling development company.

The plaintiffs argued that the board had not considered basic legal requirements and that there had been illegal contract zoning, including several procedural errors, in rezoning the land for commercial use. Contract zoning refers to the practice of making a deal with a governing body to be granted zoning code exemptions.

The plaintiffs issued a statement stating,

“Not only was the commissioners’ decision unlawful, but it was also shrouded in secrecy and deceit. They consistently told individuals and the larger public that the rezoning of the land had nothing to do with a casino despite their trip to Maryland [to consult with Cordish] and clear plan to build a casino on the land beside Camp Carefree.”

The plaintiffs also cited testimony by County Sheriff Sam Page against the rezoning. “I ask you to be transparent, truthful, and upfront about your decisions, because there is a lot of conversation that’s going around that gets me concerned as a sheriff, and I’ve investigated a lot of cases.”

The suit claimed that individuals associated with the Cordish Companies gave significant campaign donations to lawmakers who supported the rezoning process.

What Now For NC Casino Expansion In Rockingham?

In response to the lawsuit, Rockingham County said in a news release that the rezoning process was error-free and that “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.”

The news release indicated that the lawsuit would be dismissed. Now, that has come to fruition, which clears the way somewhat for further casino expansion in the county. That likely will have a positive impact on the Rockingham County economy on various fronts, not just directly through casino revenue but also through higher property values.

According to research from NCSharp, a casino in Rockingham County could result in property values rising by more than 30% in the first two years and could create around 1,750 jobs, which would make it the largest employer in the county.

All of this relies on the state legislature taking up the question of casino expansion again. That won’t happen until at least 2025.

About the Author

Nikhil Kalro

Nikhil Kalro is a sports betting writer at NCSharp. With an interest in strategy and mathematics, applying that to sports writing was the natural progression. Nikhil’s previous experience includes working with ESPN for five years. His specializations include soccer, football, basketball, tennis and esports betting.