City Council Braces for Casino Opening in 12 days

On Monday, June 10, Council met for its regularly scheduled meeting, where casino concerns were again among the items to be discussed.

With just 12 days to go before Encore is set to throw open its doors to an eager public, City Council is trying to get out in front of any issues that might arise from the sudden increase in tourists.

•Parking Stickers

Since January, Council Michael McLaughlin has expressed a concern that casino patrons could potentially flood the residential streets in the City of Everett, congesting the area and making it impossible for residents with no off-street parking to access their own homes.

Twenty-four-hour resident-only parking stickers are already in effect for the streets in Lower Broadway, but Councilor McLaughlin would like to see those expanded to Wards 1 and 6, which are in the immediate vicinity of Encore.

“I think we should be proactive and ahead of the curve, instead of reactive,” said Councilor McLaughlin in an interview with Independent.

At Monday’s meeting, Mayor Carlo DeMaria, Transportation Planner Jay Monty and Police Sgt. Joe Gaff were present to speak to the Councilor’s concern. They reported that the administration has decided to take a “wait and see” approach to the parking situation in Wards 1 and 6, adding that they could always adopt residential parking stickers on short notice if need be.

However, Councilor McLaughlin thinks it will be too late by then, and that Encore visitors will have already become accustomed to parking on those streets.

“There are around 8,000 cars in Wards 1 and 6,” he said. “How are you going to notify [their owners] and provide them with parking stickers overnight?”

Councilor McLaughlin cited conversations with his own constituents, who have been very preoccupied with losing their on-street parking to casino goers.

“We’re talking about eight million visitors [every year],” he said. “I think we have set up a major problem.”

Councilor McLaughlin expressed that he didn’t think the Traffic Commission was aggressive enough in tackling the parking issue. He tabled his piece until the August meeting of Council, where he invited the City to provide an update about parking issues in Wards 1 and 6.

•Alford Street Bridge

Councilors Wayne Matewsky, Michael Marchese, Stephen Simonelli and John L. McKinnon co-sponsored an item on the agenda pertaining to water vessel traffic.

Council has long been concerned that having to raise and lower the Alford Street Bridge due to boats passing under it would cause massive traffic backups along Lower Broadway.

Encore has stated that its own fleet of water taxis can move freely under the bridge without it having to be raised, but Councilors fear that more private watercraft like private boats and party yachts from neighboring yacht clubs will be flooding the waterways once the Encore resort opens.

Councilors had previously requested that the Boston Harbormaster or the operator of the Alford Street Bridge appear to explain the operation and plans for this expected surge in water vessels. He was not present at Monday’s meeting.

Council has numerous times invited Boston authorities to appear before them to answer their questions, and Monday night’s no-show was just another in a string of unexplained absences. This comes amid rumors that the administration is somehow preventing Boston authorities to appear before Council in matters relating to the casino.

•Parking Lot

Encore is offering on-site indoor parking to visitors for a fee. Encore Shuttle or Encore Runner will also connect patrons who park at other locations, including the 700-car Community Parking Lot at 31 Mystic St. and the 625-car RiverGreen Parking Lot at 1 Rivergreen Drive.

Councilors wanted to know how money will be managed for the lot on Mystic Street specifically. They requested that Encore and the City provide a breakdown of how much parking will cost, whether it will be charged by the hour, and where the parking revenue will be allocated.

Transportation Planner Jay Monty explained that the parking lot would cost $25 for between zero and six hours, and $40 for 6-24 hours. Visitors can pay in cash or with a card, but the payment system will be automated and there will be no live person at the booth.

A private company will be in place to oversee the parking lot and its equipment, while the City will be responsible for parking lot maintenance, upkeep and snow removal. A conservative estimate for the annual revenue from this one parking lot alone was $4-5 million, which goes directly to the City’s General Fund.

Councilor McLaughlin requested a copy of the contract the City signed with the contractor so he could understand the terms in more depth.

•Land Acquisition

Council President Richard Dell Isola Jr. introduced a measure to conduct a joint meeting with the City Council and the Everett Planning Board to review an application submitted by Encore to acquire land in Everett.

When Encore first arrived in the City, the land was blighted, underutilized and undevelopable. At Monday’s meeting, Council accepted the recommendations of the Planning Board, describing the plot’s transformation from unusable land to land suitable for live entertainment. The recommendations of the Planning Board will now be sent to the Mayor for his approval.

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