Massachusetts attorney general wants state to deny environmental permit to Wynn casino

Industries Associated Press

Citing traffic concerns, Massachusetts Attorney General Maura Healey is calling upon state environmental officials to deny Wynn Resorts a key permit for its $1.7 billion casino project at the Everett waterfront.

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Healey said in a letter Friday to the state's environmental affairs secretary that Wynn should not get the permit until a plan is in place to address traffic around Boston's notoriously congested Sullivan Square area located not far from the waterfront site.

"If you approve the Casino without a long-term traffic mitigation plan, we may never get one," she wrote. "This dangerous and congested set of roadways may be unfamiliar to many state residents, but it serves as a major regional transit hub and access point."

Healey, an anti-casino Democrat, said Wynn's traffic improvement plans need to take into consideration years of planning by community stakeholders and Boston's redevelopment plans for the area.

Healey lives in Charlestown, a Boston neighborhood located across the river from Wynn's proposed casino and among the most affected by the expected increase in traffic to the resort.

Her letter follows a July memo she sent to transportation officials calling for an independent review of Wynn's traffic plan. It also comes on a Friday deadline to submit comments on Wynn's permit application, which has been under review for about two years.

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Energy and Environmental Affairs Secretary Matthew Beaton is expected to issue a decision by Aug. 28.

Wynn needs the state certificate to break ground on the project, which would be Massachusetts largest casino project and would be one of the largest private developments in state history when it opens, as planned, in 2018. Project plans call for a hotel, casino, shopping, dining and entertainment complex on about 30 acres of formerly industrial land.

Wynn spokesman Michael Weaver said Friday that the environmental and traffic review requires the company to "mitigate our traffic impacts, not solve decades-long traffic issues which pre-date our project."

"We expect the fair treatment afforded any other developer," he said. "After two-and-a-half years, and millions of dollars and thousands of pages of traffic analysis, we are ready to move forward with our Wynn-funded $10.9 million Sullivan Square package, which will mitigate the incremental traffic impact of our project."

The Las Vegas casino giant's environmental and traffic plan has gone through many revisions since it was filed in 2013. It's now over 10,000 pages of detailed proposals to address project impacts.

In its most recent filings, Wynn proposed paying the state transit authority more than $7 million over 15 years to make improvements to the subway line passing near the property. State officials at the time said it would be the first time a private developer subsidized the cost of Boston's subway operations.

Besides Healey's letter, Beaton has received at least 18 written comments and nearly 700 submissions sent electronically, according to documents provided by the office. The electronic ones represent identical form letters speaking in favor of the Wynn project but signed by different people.

Wynn is one of three licensed casino operators in Massachusetts. MGM is developing a resort in Springfield and Penn National Gaming is operating Plainridge Park, a slots parlor and harness racing track in Plainville.