Wynn Resorts officials at Encore Boston Harbor have seemingly pulled a fast one in suddenly changing the use of what was to be an employee parking lot on Air Force Road in the Village – opening it up to be a community parking lot with more than 600 parking spaces for use by the general public and casino overflow.
The news came during the Zoning Board of Appeals (ZBA) meeting after a continued hearing with Wynn on the Village parking lot suddenly became tabled until February.
After that transpired, it was learned that the proposed employee parking lot had been switched to a 613-space community lot that would be open to commuters, residents, casino overflow and some employee parking. The proposal was first-introduced as a structured employee parking lot, and was presented as so during a public meeting at the Connolly Center late last year – a meeting where the City required Wynn to do an independent peer review.
At some point in the last week, though, Wynn seemed to have decided to lease employee space at Wellington Station and elsewhere and open up the Village lot to casino overflow parking and anyone else who wished to park there.
The striking news ignited a maelstrom from some City officials, primarily Councilor Michael McLaughlin who – not able to speak during the ZBA meeting on the tabled matter – confronted Wynn officials about what he termed a secret change.
McLaughlin represents the area and said he is dead-set against a community parking lot that would inundate the Village area with commuter parkers and casino patrons. It’s an area that has already been challenged with increased traffic by the introduction of the Pioneer Charter School and its pickup/drop-off patterns.
“I am highly insulted and very disappointed in this company,” he said. “This is a complete slap in my face and I cannot remember being this angry about something in a long time. Wynn is trying to jam this down the throats of Ward 6 and myself. We don’t need another community lot, and you can’t tell me every commuter coming through Everett isn’t going to try to avoid the Tobin and jump into that lot at our expense. No one ever told me about this until today. I have always cooperated within reason and I can’t understand why myself and the people of Ward 6 are being so disrespected. This is outrageous.”
A Wynn official after the meeting seemed to indicate the City had requested the lot to become a community lot, but City officials disagreed with that after the meeting.
In a letter to the City’s Planning Department on Monday, Jan. 7, WorldTech President Richard Benevento reported on several items of study for the peer review, but also referred to the lot as a “community lot” rather than an employee lot – as it has always been billed.
“WorldTechhs reviewed the supplemental materials provided by the applicant and offer the following comments based on our review,” it read. “It appears that several positive changes have been incorporated into the site plan that better accommodate drop-off activities, pedestrian accommodations and overall circulation…A technical memorandum was prepared by AECOM, dated Jan. 3, 2019, supplementing information provided in the original ‘Rivergreen Parking Facility Traffic Analysis’ detailing the local impacts of a proposed community parking lot.”
City officials produced documents on Tuesday showing that until about one month ago, the lot was proposed and planned as an employee lot. In notes from a Dec. 4 private staff meeting with the City, it was revealed for the first time by Chris Gordon, president of Wynn Design and Development, that they were now looking to propose an “open temporary community parking lot to be used for public parking, including use by the City of Everett playground currently under construction.”
Later on Dec. 10, a Site Plan Review document presented to the Planning Board was altered from an original Site Plan Review document to get rid of the employee parking plan and suggest an open community parking lot.
The plan would still be for it to exist only three years, upon which time it would be developed into some commercial venture.
City officials said that paper trail indicated that in no way did they suggest the community parking lot use.
ZBA members, informed of the change after the meeting, said they could only think about the issue in front of them – saying they might demand that it be withdrawn and the new proposal be presented publicly now that it is a totally different use.
“I would say it has to be withdrawn and re-advertised for a new public hearing,” said Chair Joe DeSisto after the meeting. “It’s a different use. It’s very different.”
John Tocco, of Encore, said they recently had to lease property at Wellington to accommodate employees right now, as they couldn’t hold up the entire project to wait for construction of the Air Force Road lot.
He said they will re-file for the Feb. 4 meeting to show the new community lot use, and to fully discuss that.
He said there are plenty of ways discourage commuters from the lot, which would be for the general public.
“You can already park at Wellington for $5 and get into Boston,” he said. “There are plenty of ways to discourage commuters from this lot. If you’re looking to get to Boston, there’s already a better and cheaper way for commuters. No one is going to park in the middle of Everett for more money, and load up on a shuttle to go to Wellington.”
He said their vision would be that the lot would be used by those coming to use the new playground, to walk on the RiverWalk, to go to the breweries or to use any of the amenities nearby.
The Air Force Road lot would be in addition to the 823-space parking lot across from the Wynn site on Lower Broadway that has already been approved for temporary overflow parking. That lot would be in operation by a third-party for up to three years and would serve to accommodate additional traffic related to the casino and the new HarborWalk park upon opening.
It would also mean that the Wynn project would have introduced nearly 1,500 new surface parking spaces on the west side of the City in one-years’ time – something that Everett has always tried to stay away from and something that goes flatly against Mayor Carlo DeMaria’s policy to reduce the usage of cars and vehicle commuters in Everett.