The City of Boston – just as it spoke of productive meetings last week with Wynn executives – quietly filed a new lawsuit in Suffolk Superior Court’s Civil Division at the very same time asking for a declaratory judgment that would void the environmental certificate (MEPA) awarded to Wynn by the state in late August – raising the ire of Wynn officials just as the ice between the two seemed to show signs of thawing.
“Wynn’s final environmental impact report failed to disclose the full extent of the serious environmental impacts–in particular, impacts related to traffic–that will be caused by the construction and operation of its proposed project, and further failed to demonstrate that all feasible measures have been taken to avoid or minimize those impacts,” read the opening of the 41-page, one count claim that was filed on Sept. 28. “Wynn’s final environmental impact report thus violates MEPA and its implementing regulations.”
The suit, signed by Boston Corporate Counsel Gene O’Flaherty and outside Attorney Thomas Frongillo, called for a jury trial to invalidate the MEPA certificate.
The move came as quite a surprise to Wynn officials, who seemingly had no idea of the complaint until notified by the Boston Globe, which first reported the suit. Wynn officials, at that point, had been celebrating a key approval in Everett by that City’s Planning Board for the Wynn site plan. That had been approved Monday night, with news of the lawsuit crossing their desk the next day.
Wynn spokesman Michael Weaver said it was another example of Boston using the press to generate negative publicity rather than legitimate legal claims.
“Two weeks ago, the Wynn team was called to a meeting by Mayor Walsh, a meeting which was publically characterized by the Mayor as ‘productive,’” said Wynn spokesman Michael Weaver. “Yet, within days, the Mayor decided to launch litigation directly against Wynn, in a highly critical complaint full of unfounded accusations. It has become clear the Mayor has decided that litigation is his way of being
‘productive.’ We disagree, but will proceed accordingly. If this is what the Mayor believes a good working relationship should be, his experience is clearly different than ours. The litigation the Mayor distributed last will serve no one, least of all the citizens of Boston.”
Everett Mayor Carlo DeMaria said Walsh needs to come to the table, not run to the courts.
“This appears to be another baseless attempt by Boston to litigate a solution to Sullivan Square instead of working with their regional partners,” he said. “Wynn Everett is moving forward, that much is clear. I am committed to working with Wynn, with Boston and Somerville and with stakeholders to develop real solutions for Sullivan Square, not distract from the real issue by running to the courthouse when I don’t get my way.”
Charlestown State Rep. Dan Ryan, who advocated for the MEPA certificate last month in order to spark traffic planning issues, said he had no immediate comment on the new suit. He said he thinks Charlestown deserves a new road.
“I have no comment,” he said last Wednesday, Sept. 30. “I submitted six pages of comments to the SSFEIR public record. Those comments are available to anyone who cares to read them. My message hasn’t changed. I want our road fixed with or without a casino. I’ve worked on this issue before I was elected and before there was a casino proposal. We deserve a new road regardless of what’s on the other end of it. That is the overwhelming message that I hear.”
The crux of the argument in the new complaint centers on the incompatibility of the Wynn casino with the 2013 agreed upon surface option for Rutherford Avenue and Sullivan Square. That long-term planning project, which came before the casino project and several other developments in Somerville, concluded that the rotary would be removed and replaced with a grid of streets that would connect Charlestown to the T and spur transit-oriented economic development. The plan also would fill in the underpass and eliminate it from the traffic configuration.
The City’s suit said Wynn’s plan doesn’t acknowledge or account for that plan.
“The overarching vision of the City Plan is to enhance the entire area though a walkable, gridded city block layout,” read the complaint. “The grid system will include pedestrian- and bicycle-friendly streetscapes and sidewalk frontage that capitalizes on the new urban environment and proximity to public transportation at the Sullivan Square MBTA station. This is only accomplished by removing the Tunnel and the Sullivan Square rotary. The City Plan cannot accommodate traffic from the Proposed Casino…There simply is no room for the more than 16,000 daily casino vehicle trips at peak times that the Proposed Casino will introduce into the Sullivan Square and Rutherford Avenue corridor.”
The suit goes on to point out that the City of Boston is the owner of the roads and the tunnel, and allowing the casino would forgo the City’s opportunity to implement its 2013 plan, and would thus harm the environment with increased, and not decreased, traffic trips.
The remainder of the suit discusses the MBTA land deal in Everett, seemingly making many of the same arguments that were made in the Taxpayer Lawsuit filed in the same court earlier this year. That suit has had a hearing before a judge in Superior Court and a decision is likely coming soon.
Similar arguments were quoted in Boston’s new suit, and specific e-mails from MBTA officials uncovered in the Taxpayer Lawsuit were quoted in Boston’s new suit.
Boston filed its first suit in Suffolk Superior Court in January and a major hearing was held on that case last week, on Sept. 22, before a judge. A decision on whether or not that case – and several other parallel cases – can go forward is pending.