Maura Healey Urges State to Not Issue Crucial Permit for Wynn Casino Project

An environmental permit is at the heart of the ongoing saga over Everett's box of slots.

Planned Wynn casino in Everett. Rendering by Wynn.

Planned Wynn casino in Everett. / Rendering by Wynn

Look, we know the battle over the Wynn casino is on the verge of being more complicated than the plot of True Detective season two, but we’re here to help make sense of it. Here’s the latest in the ongoing saga of the battle over Everett’s box of slots.

In a letter to Secretary of Energy and Environmental Affairs Matthew Beaton, Attorney General Maura Healey said that the Everett project should not receive a crucial environmental permit from the state until Wynn whips together a “long term” traffic plan for the rotary from hell that is Sullivan Square.

“We urge you not to issue a Massachusetts Environmental Policy Act (MEPA) certificate for the casino until Wynn’s certificate includes a long-term traffic solution for Rutherford Avenue and Sullivan Square that takes into account years of planning by community stakeholders and is compatible with the City of Boston’s redevelopment plans for that area. If you approve the Casino without a long-term traffic mitigation plan, we may never get one,” said Healey in the letter, made public on Friday.

The MEPA permit is crucial for the $1.7 billion project because it is required as part of a land deal between Wynn and the MBTA. The land deal was held up in April after Governor Charlie Baker and Beaton raised questions about the transaction’s compliance with the state’s MEPA law. Wynn bought the 1.75 acre parcel from the MBTA for $6 million in March because it needs the land for access to the casino. A review of the project’s affects on the environment, including traffic, should have been conducted before the land deal went through.

Healey’s filing though is primarily about the long term traffic situation in Sullivan Square, not the MBTA’s land deal. Healey said in her filing that Wynn’s traffic study of the area is underwhelming and fails to take the longview of the situation.

Beaton is expected to make a decision on the MEPA filing next week.

Healey listed four points in her filing for why a long term solution to the Sullivan Square traffic situation is needed.

“Both the current and prior Administrations have called for Wynn to develop a long-term traffic mitigation plan as vital to compliance with MEPA;  the Massachusetts Gaming Commission (Commission) made funding of long-term traffic solutions a central condition of Wynn’s license;  the relevant parties have recently commenced discussions of a long-term traffic solution that should be allowed to continue; and allowing the multi-stakeholder planning process to continue unimpeded will best ensure that the public’s interests, particularly related to traffic, regional economic development, and neighborhood planning, are represented at this critical stage,” said Healey.

Healey, a Charlestown resident and long time casino opponent, noted in her in filing that officials from Wynn, MassDOT, Boston, Somerville, Everett, the Gaming Commission, and the Office of Energy and Environmental Affairs met this month to hash out long term plans for the Sullivan Square area. The meeting was productive, she said, for the ongoing MEPA process.

In an email to Boston on Friday, Wynn officials suggested that their project was being unfairly targeted by Healey’s office.

“After two-and-a-half years, and millions of dollars and thousands of pages of traffic analysis, we are ready to move forward with our Wynn-funded $10.9 million Sullivan Square package, which will mitigate the incremental traffic impact of our project.  We note that our development is the only project which has ever fully mitigated its traffic impact in Sullivan Square,” said Michael Weaver, senior vice president of marketing for Wynn. 

Wynn’s longer term commitment to the Sullivan Square area is expected to be in the $35-55 million range.

Weaver said in his comments that the Wynn project is being asked to do things that projects like Assembly Square in Somerville and North Point in Cambridge are not.

The MEPA process requires that we mitigate our traffic impacts, not solve decades-long traffic issues which pre-date our project.  We expect the fair treatment afforded any other developer in the MEPA process,” said Weaver. 

In July, Wynn announced that they plan to subsidize Orange Line service to the tune of $7.36 million over 15 years for increased service to stations near the casino. Wynn is looking at adding ferry service from the Seaport and Long Wharf to its Everett casino.