By Seth Daniel
A flurry of motions and decisions have been issued in the last week regarding the administrative hearing on June 2 between Somerville Mayor Joe Curtatone and the Wynn Boston Harbor casino – including one motion by Curtatone to delay the Thursday hearing that the state denied.
“The hearing includes a lot of pre-filed testimony,” said Ed Coletta, spokesman for the state Department of Environmental Protection (DEP). “The Wynn side and the City (Somerville) side will have their own experts to address the issues that have to be adjudicated. These experts have pre-filed testimony that will be discussed. These experts have to be available to be cross-examined by the other party in front of the hearing officer. After the cross-examination, the other side will get to respond.”
Curtatone had filed an appeal of the Wynn Chapter 91 waterways license issued by the Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) earlier this year, holding up the project and causing Wynn to institute a hiring freeze until the matter was resolved.
This Thursday, June 2, that resolution begins – and the discussion before Hearing Officer Jane Rothchild will be much narrower than originally discussed.
Last week, Curtatone moved to continue the June 2 hearing, hoping to further delay the process. However, Rothchild denied that motion and upheld the June 2 hearing.
Curtatone argued that there was uncertainty over issues and witnesses imposed by the highly compressed hearing schedule.
Wynn disagree, and the hearing officer also agreed.
Also off the table will be traffic, the Municipal Harbor Plan and any talk of revoking the Wynn MEPA certificate.
Traffic and traffic-related health concerns were some of the major issues trumpeted by Curtatone earlier this year when the appeal was filed, but the hearing officer in April determined those were outside the scope of the June 2 hearing.
“To the extent the Petitioner has alleged claims involving traffic, air quality, parking, private gain vs. public benefit, and to the extent those claims are not among those withdrawn by the Petitioner, those claims are dismissed,” she wrote.
Claims involving the Everett Municipal Harbor Plan were also dismissed.
Three or four issues do remain on the table, and one of them is the term of the Chapter 91 license granted to Wynn – which was 85 years.
Already, Wynn and the DEP have come with an amended term of 50 years, which will be a big point of discussion during the June 2 hearing.
“One obvious issue will be that the City has filed against allowing the 85-year term,” said Coletta. “The usual term is 30 years, but under some circumstances the department can decide to grant a term u to 99 years. Originally, on this, we decided on the term go to 85 years. Then, as part of the appeals process, Wynn and DEP got together to discuss the term and have a stipulation that brings it down to 50 years. That’s one thing that will come up and the hearing officer will determine whether it should be 85, 50, 30 or if it should go back to the Chapter 91 program office.”
Coletta said after the June 2 hearing, it will take about two weeks to get the testimony transcribed from the all-day hearing. At that point, both sides will file closing arguments to the hearing officer.
Within 30 days of those filings, the hearing officer will make a recommendation to DEP Commissioner Martin Suuberg.
“In the end, the Commissioner has the final decision and the hearing officer only makes a recommendation,” said Coletta.
The hearing will start at 9:30 a.m. on June 2 at One Winter Street on the second floor. The public is welcome and the hearing is expected to last most of the day. There will be no immediate decision.