Small Boston Board the Center of Newest Casino Controversy

Just five days before receiving a pointed rejection letter from the Boston’s transportation commissioner concerning a critical Sullivan Square approval process for intermediate traffic improvements, Wynn officials say they met cordially with Mayor Martin Walsh and a top transportation planner to implement changes Boston wanted and to increase the budget for the project by nearly $5 million.

So, after a successful meeting and a handshake on June 10, Wynn said last week it came as a surprise to the company when that same administration sent a letter saying the changes were unacceptable, Wynn hadn’t followed the process and the Wynn casino license should be revoked. As a condition of its license from the Massachusetts Gaming Commission (MGC), Wynn had to submit a plan to the Boston’s Public Improvement Commission (PIC) by the end of January, and the board has become the unlikely battlefield for a major disagreement.

This week, in the ongoing soap opera between Boston and Wynn, controversy has erupted in a place that is typically wrought with the mundane – the PIC – and after several fiery back-and-forth letters between Boston transportation officials and Wynn Everett officials, the casino company says it is at a loss.

Wynn Spokesman Michael Weaver said they met with BTD officials at least seven times concerning the intermediate plans for Sullivan Square/Rutherford Avenue traffic – improvements that have to be made before the casino company opens at its Everett site.

Those plans have been the subject of meetings in Charlestown, detailing $6 million in suggested changes. Now, after the meetings with the BTD – and most recently a meeting with the mayor present – the changes have expanded and the budget has also expanded, Weaver said, to $10.9 million – all funded by Wynn.

“The primary topic of those meetings was to work with BTD on the details of pre-opening mitigation improvements to Sullivan Square,” said Weaver. “Obviously, BTD was fully engaged in the process:  their requested changes to the pre-opening plan caused the budget to increase from $6 million to $10.9 million. We find ourselves with a fully-funded pre-opening Sullivan Square mitigation improvement plan, which was created in partnership via seven meetings with the BTD. In more than seven meetings, including one with the Mayor and BTD Deputy Commissioner Jim Gillooly on June 10 , no objections were raised to our PIC application process. We are, therefore, perplexed at why the City steadfastly refuses to allow us to make desperately needed improvements to Sullivan Square that were created with BTD and will be fully funded by Wynn.”

BTD Director Gina Fiandaca was not available for comment this week when the Patriot-Bridge inquired, but letters to Wynn dated June 15 and June 22 said all that needed to be said about her position – that being Wynn has not submitted an application to the PIC and should stop saying that it has.

The PIC is a Boston agency that deals with proposals – often from developers – to widen a street or change the markings or make a new turning lane. It is an agency devoted to small details and largely absent of any inklings of drama.

Enter a casino project that the Boston doesn’t acknowledge, and there is instant discord.

Referring to Boston’s expanded lawsuit in the June 15 letter – which claims that Wynn hasn’t submitted an application to the PIC as required in its MGC license – Fiandaca wrote that Wynn has not met the conditions of its license. Wynn first publicly breached the PIC subject at a meeting before the MGC on May 28, when it said it had filed documents with the PIC on Jan. 30.

“Finally, you also informed the MGC that Wynn had ‘not received an indication from the PIC or any agency that our application is deficient in any way,’” wrote Fiandaca. “However, Wynn’s submission was not an application and did not petition the PIC to take any action. Accordingly, the submission was not an application and did not petition the PIC to take any action. Accordingly, the submission merited no response. The PIC had no duty or obligation to respond to Wynn’s engineering report. It will take no action on it. I also respectfully ask Wynn to discontinue referring to its Jan. 30 submission as an ‘application,’ as that characterization is inaccurate and misleading.”

The next day, Wynn Everett President Bob DeSalvio fired back a response to explain their participation in the detail-oriented PIC process – which requires engineering reports, drawings and petitions submitted in a collaborative process.

DeSalvio indicated that Wynn had submitted to the PIC on Jan. 30 an engineering report, an 11×17 coordination plan, an 11×17 coordination plan with pavement markings, a 24×36 coordination plan and a 24×36 coordination plan with markings. Since that time, Wynn officials say BTD has proposed extensive changes, which have increased the budget significantly and widened the scope of the intermediate plan.

“Given the magnitude of the existing problem, the complexity of the proposed long-term solution and the significant investment that Wynn has committed, we appreciate the challenges that BTD is experiencing in processing our submission,” wrote DeSalvio. “The PIC issues a checklist entitled ‘specific repairs checklist’ for the PIC process and a process description entitled ‘specific repairs procedure.’ To clear up any misunderstanding, there is no formal ‘application’ listed on either of these two documents…Wynn’s transportation consultant has filed and received approval from the PIC for many applications and followed the first three steps of the proscribed procedure…The fourth step in the process is to consult with the PIC’s legal counsel to provide a ‘full submission package’ to the PIC for review. This would include a petition signed by the interested party…typically, the PIC and the applicant work closely to coordinate. This has historically been a collaborative process. We remain available to meet at any time to move this forward. Please propose some dates and times.”

In a letter coming back to Wynn on Monday, June 22, the BTD didn’t seem to be interested in any meetings.

Fiandaca wrote that Wynn submitted four unstamped engineering reports and no petition, which she said is required for the PIC to take action on any such matter. She concluded by saying Wynn didn’t follow the process and did not submit the required application, and therefore did not fulfill an important milestone required in its licensing agreement with the MGC – an argument very similar to Boston’s recently re-filed lawsuit against the MGC regarding Wynn’s license.

“It is apparent from the incomplete nature of the conceptual documents submitted by Wynn on Jan. 30 that it had to yet complete the surveying work necessary to identify its needs for permits, and was therefore unable to meet the license condition deadline,” she wrote. “Unable to submit a complete application, Wynn instead adopted a piecemeal approach, submitting partial, raw work product that fails to convey any concrete plan. Wynn’s submissions are so deficient that they fail to provide even the basic information…To justify Wynn’s flawed submission, you have attempted to recast the well-defined PIC application process to suit Wynn’s own needs. You have erroneously equated the commencement of one or two checklist steps with the actual submission of an application.”

Fiandaca also called out Wynn’s transportation consultant, Howard/Stein-Hudson, which has worked many times before with the PIC. In her June 22 letter, she included a previous application from the consultant that had more detailed information and signed petitions. She did not, however, detail the process that transpired to get those full documents to the PIC. The example, from 2011, also came long before Fiandaca became commissioner of the BTD, which was only this past January.

“Your letter intimates that Wynn has a better understanding of the PIC’s requirements than the PIC itself,” she wrote. “We assume that was not your intention, as it clearly is not the case.”

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