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Wynn casino developers talk traffic, Charlestown community agreements

Posted by Johanna Kaiser  August 12, 2013 12:43 PM

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Developers working to build a proposed $1.3 billion resort casino in Everett told Charlestown residents last week they are willing to help address heavier traffic and other transportation issues in the neighborhood if the casino is built.

“We know we’re going to make very substantial investments and improvements that will accommodate not only additional traffic from this project, but that traffic will actually flow better,” Jeffrey Dirk, of Vanasse & Associates Inc., told residents at a community meeting Wednesday.

Dirk, who is studying the project’s traffic impacts, said that roughly 60 percent of the traffic travelling to the hotel and casino is expected to travel through Charlestown’s Sullivan Square, which is set to undergo a major redesign in the coming years.

The project, by Las Vegas developer Steve Wynn, would build a 15-story hotel tower, a 24-hour casino, spa, conference center, nightclub, ballroom, restaurants and shops on site of the former Monsanto chemical plant on the Mystic River in Everett.

According to traffic studies, traffic in both directions will increase by 1,300 cars on Fridays after 7 p.m. and by 1,700 cars on Saturdays after 7 p.m. if the casino is built, Dirk said. Those are peak times for the casino.

Project manager Chris Gordon said the casino has a significant interest in making sure traffic flows smoothly in the area and is willing to partner with local officials to adjust the redesign plan for Sullivan Square if necessary and help advance the project.

“If people trying to go to this casino sit in traffic all night, they’re not going to come back,” Gordon said. “We’re very happy to participate in Sullivan Square, including financially, but we don’t know what that agreement will be.”

That agreement, Gordon said, would be a “surrounding community” agreement established the by 2011 casino law. According to that law, municipalities around the casino can negotiate compensation or services, such as road improvements, to mitigate the impact of the casino.

Wynn and the city of Boston have held some meetings, but a mitigation plan has not been negotiated, according to Gordon.

“We would welcome an even more robust meeting. There’s been a little hesitancy on Boston's part to meet with us,” he said. “We’re very anxious to engage in a very significant discussion.”

Boston Mayor Thomas M. Menino told the Globe Wynn has not been forthcoming with information.

Menino, who backs a competing casino plan at Suffolk Downs, has suggested that some of the planned Everett casino development may be in Boston, and that the city should be declared a host community.

Such a designation would allow Boston to kill the Everett proposal by refusing to negotiate terms. Menino’s administration is already in negotiations with the developers of the Suffolk Downs casino.

The state’s gaming law allows just one resort casino to be built in the Boston-area.

Charlestown residents have also started a petition to designate the neighborhood a host community of the Everett casino.

The calls to be a host community are based on the odd shape of the city line, which darts across the Mystic River in a thin finger into the edge of the former Monsanto chemical site, but backers say no part of the project is on that strip of land.

“I know questions have come up. …We’re in Everett. The yellow line [outlining the development] is all in Everett,” Gordon sad. “The land we’re building on is all in Everett.”

City Councilor Sal LaMattina, whose district includes East Boston and Charlestown, said the developers should focus a plan to improve Sullivan Square and the community.

“Charlestown is really more impacted than Everett,” LaMattina said of the traffic impacts. “There needs to be a mitigation plan for this neighborhood that benefits the folks of this neighborhood.”

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