Dispatches from the Wynn War: Boston Files a New Lawsuit

Here we go again.

Wynn Everett

A rendering of the future $1.6 billion Wynn Resorts casino in Everett.

Boston Mayor Marty Walsh is doubling down in his battle against casino mogul Steve Wynn’s planned $1.7 billion resort just over the Mystic River in Everett.

On Monday, attorneys for Boston filed a lawsuit directly against Wynn Resorts in an effort to throw out the crucial environmental permit the casino company was recently awarded by Secretary of Energy and Environmental Affairs Matthew Beaton. The new lawsuit against Wynn is Boston’s second major legal action against the project. The city’s first, a complaint against the Massachusetts Gaming Commission, is currently making its way through Suffolk County Superior Court.

The lawsuit against Wynn comes at a time when relations between Boston and the casino giant appeared to be improving. Reports surfaced last week that the two sides finally stopped bludgeoning each other with steel chairs in order to engage in productive, private discussions. For months, Wynn and Walsh have slugged it out over the 24-story project in court and the media, often with nasty and sometimes personal pronouncements. 

Wynn officials continued that long, hostile tradition when they blasted the suit in a statement from the company’s senior vice-president, Michael Weaver.

“Once again, the City of Boston has used the media to deliver its inflammatory claims about Wynn Resorts.  Although we are unable to comment directly until the City provides us a copy, we can only assume this claim is a restatement of their previous lawsuits, which thus far have been without merit.  This is certainly an unproductive way for the City to engage in a dialogue with our company, and will be unlikely to benefit the citizens of Boston; yet it is likely to force the citizens to carry the burden of ever-increasing legal fees,” said Weaver.

Walsh downplayed the talk of bad blood between the two outside an event at the Frederick School on Wednesday.

“No, I don’t think so. I am doing my job as mayor of the city to ensure that the people of Charlestown are protected,” said Walsh when asked if he thought the suit was a sign of deteriorating relations between the two sides.

“This is a difficult situation, a difficult issue,” said Walsh, referencing the meeting last week.

Walsh declined to say how much the city is willing spend to fight the Wynn project. Reports pegged the cost of the city’s legal battle with Wynn at nearly $1.5 million and counting.

The mayor shot down a suggestion that the city filed a new lawsuit because their original one against the Massachusetts Gaming Commission is on the verge of being dismissed.

The other mayor at the center of this fight, Everett Mayor Carlo DeMaria, sounded a dour note about the project becoming a legal piñata.

“This appears to be another baseless attempt by Boston to litigate a solution to Sullivan Square instead of working with their regional partners. 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,” said DeMaria in a statement.

A spokesman for Gov. Charlie Baker declined to weigh-in on the issue, citing the administration’s policy to not comment on pending legal matters.

The lawsuit alleges Wynn and Beaton downplayed possible environmental and traffic problems the 600-room casino resort will create in the congested Sullivan Square area.

“If the secretary’s decision is not declared to be invalid, Wynn’s project will generate severe damage to the environment, causing the residents of Charlestown and the Greater Boston area to suffer environmental impacts that will materially degrade their health, well-being, and quality of life,” said the suit.

A chunk of Boston’s lawsuit references the Boston Redevelopment Authority’s 2013 Sullivan Square Disposition Study for the area, arguing Wynn’s proposal will run counter to what the city has in store for the nightmarish rotary. This is a change from past legal filings that focused dusty plans for the area from the 1990s.

“Despite acknowledging the existence of the city’s redevelopment plans for Sullivan Square, none of the traffic mitigation proposals in Wynn’s environmental impact reports accommodate the city’s plans,” said the suit.

The 2013 plan aims to completely overhaul the area by eliminating the rotary and tunnel while creating new space for mixed-use development.

While the battle continues in the courts and media, Wynn has shown no signs of slowing the project down, collecting permits and beginning prep work at the 33-acre site. Wynn projects the casino will be fully open by 2018.

Boston vs Wynn