By Seth Daniel
The Wynn Everett organization put on the full court press against Somerville Mayor Joe Curtatone this week – saying Somerville’s Assembly Row development will generate 200 percent more traffic than the casino and construction delays caused by Somerville’s appeal (filed Feb. 12 with the state) would cost businesses $55 million a month.
Wynn has long argued that they were the only private developer putting “skin in the game” with the fixes to Sullivan Square, noting as early as last winter that Somerville had contributed next to nothing for traffic mitigation for the Square.
However, those comments took on a whole new purpose this week in light of the appeal filed by Curtatone on Feb. 12 disputing the awarding of a critical state environmental license for the casino.
“Assembly Square accounts for 24,000 vehicle trips to the area and future phases will add 16,000 trips for a total of 40,000 vehicle trips per midweek day. Wynn will account for 20,130 weekday trips, half the amount of Assembly Square,” said Michael Weaver, spokesperson for Wynn Resorts. “Despite the disparity, Wynn will spend $265 million in traffic mitigation whereas Somerville spent $116 million – $100 million of which was taxpayer funded. Wynn has one-half the traffic and more than twice as much spending in mitigation.”
Curtatone said Somerville was within its rights to appeal, and expected Wynn to get “personal.”
“Here’s the bottom line: we are exercising our legal rights to an appeal, as set forth in the process that Wynn knowingly entered into,” said Curtatone in a statement. “From Wynn’s reaction, it appears that Wynn did not plan for the entire process and all of its possibilities or that they would rather deny us our right to appeal based on the law. So the public needs to pay close attention to what Wynn does in the coming weeks. They are going to get personal. They are going to get political. And we suspect they are going to get vicious, because they know the City of Somerville is in the right.”
Wynn officials also indicated that the delays caused by Curtatone’s somewhat unexpected appeal will cost millions of dollars and they pegged the yearly losses at $660 million. That figure, they said, includes direct annual expenditures from Wynn: $242 million in annual taxes and fees, $170 million in payroll and $248 million in goods and services
Those losses, Weaver said, included losses to public safety, transportation, parks and schoolchildren through gaming taxes that won’t come as a result of the delay. The list reads as follows:
- $29.3 million annually in education funding for the children of Massachusetts
- $31.4 million annually in transportation funding to improve the roads and public transportation for the people of Massachusetts
- $10.5 million annually for a healthcare trust fund for the families and elderly across Massachusetts
- $13.6 million annually for a community fund to support firemen, police and other public services in surrounding communities
- $6.3 million annually for a cultural and tourism fund
- $41.8 million annually in a local aid fund for communities across Massachusetts
- $20.9 million annually for a Commonwealth stabilization fund
- $9.4 million annually for a local capital project fund for cities and towns across Massachusetts
- $19.9 million annually for an economic development fund
- $20.9 million annually for a debt reduction program
- $5.2 million annually for a racehorse development fund
- $25 million annual PILOT and impact fee payments to Everett
- $4.5 million annual slot license, gaming license and public health trust fund fees
- $3.3 million other taxes and fees to Everett and surrounding communities
Mayor Carlo DeMaria voiced his frustration over the process last week.
This week, Vinnie Ragucci Jr. of Everett United had the same frustrations.
“The Mayor of Somerville himself has built a development which is going to generate in excess of 7,000 to 10,000 cars a day going to his shopping center and he’s concerned abut Everett, which has taken a polluted site and put a reasonable amount of money to improve the infrastructure,” he said. “I firmly believe he absolutely no grounds to complain.”
Curtatone said their five appeals, which includes last week’s Chapter 91 Waterways appeal, are in place to protect residents from health consequences.
“In our five lawful appeals, we seek to address real and serious health and quality of life issues with real consequences that will impact real people, many of whom are among our lowest-income and most vulnerable populations,” he said in a statement. “As to their claim that Somerville-as opposed to the normal process-is determining the timeline, Wynn knows full well that every permit and process they’ve undergone is subject to appeal and if they were honest with the public and lawmakers, they would factor the appeal process into their timeline rather than draw some arbitrary line in the sand for the dishonest purpose of vilifying me and the Somerville community.”