After proposing to reverse the state’s gambling law and spending hundreds of thousands to fight the Wynn casino in Everett, Somerville Mayor Joseph Curtatone announced Monday that his city will no longer appeal the permit granted by the state Department of Environmental Protection.
“I want to be clear, our appeal was never about stopping the casino but rather about our civic duty to protect the health, safety and quality of life of our residents,” Curtatone said in a statement. “While we did not get everything we asked for, the appeal did yield significant and meaningful results for our residents, so we feel the process worked.”
The city of Somerville was appealing the Wynn Boston Harbor’s Chapter 91 waterways license, issued by the DEP, which delayed construction and forced a hiring freeze. According to Wynn, that forced the April groundbreaking on the $2 billion resort to be pushed back until August.
On Monday, Curtatone said that recent changes to the permit, after his administration challenged it, have satisfied the community’s core concerns with the casino, which will sit along the Mystic River, opposite of Somerville. Now, there will be an increased amount of public open space and a decreased term for the license, from 85 years to 50 years.
“This means current residents will have greater community benefits now, and the next generation will have an opportunity to reassess benefits within a more reasonable time period,” Curtatone said.
The appeal also ordered Wynn to operate a ferry, which Curtatone said was not previously a condition of the license. The ferry, required for the full 50 years of the license, should reduce casino road traffic by an estimated 6 percent, according to the Wynn organization.
“In one of the most congested areas of the country, every bit counts,” Curtatone said. “Every trip shifted off the road and onto that ferry will reduce air pollution in our neighborhoods and traffic delays for all.”
With these changes, Curtatone said that he sees no need to further pursue legal action in court. In total, Somerville has spent $399,758 on Wynn-related legal fees since last July, according to Boston.com.
"With all legal challenges behind us, we can now focus entirely on making Wynn Boston Harbor one of the most powerful job generators and economic catalysts to ever benefit the Commonwealth,” said Robert DeSalvio, president of Wynn Boston Harbor, in an email. “We are pleased to be joined with all our neighboring communities in making this a historic development for all."
Curtatone wasn’t the only one to fight the casino. In January, Boston Mayor Marty Walsh ended a long legal battle with Wynn Resorts with a Surrounding Community Agreement that focused on commitments for traffic improvements.
"Our efforts over the past two years have been to protect the people of Boston and ensure the neighborhood of Charlestown is treated fairly," Walsh said in a statement after that decision. “Residents have been trying for years for a solution for traffic congestion in Sullivan Square and Rutherford Avenue, and we must work together to improve local transportation infrastructure. I offered to keep an open line of communication throughout this process and I thank Steve Wynn for coming back to the table to listen to Boston's needs."
Construction on the 33-acre Wynn Boston Harbor resort officially kicked off on Aug. 3. It is the largest single-phase construction project in the history of the Commonwealth, according to Wynn, and will generate 4,000 union jobs and 10 million labor hours.