By Seth Daniel
The hearing officer handling the Wynn Boston Harbor Chapter 91 appeal released a recommendation late on Friday that gave Somerville standing in the case, but little else, recommending that the Wynn license to be approved.
It is a decision widely seen as a victory for Wynn and casino supporters.
In a 50-page decision, the hearing officer, Jane Rothchild, wrote that she felt Somerville hadn’t made a case for why the Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) erred in granting Wynn it’s Chapter 91 Waterways License – the final license necessary for Wynn to begin construction on its resort casino in Everett.
“I find that Somerville has provided a minimum quantum of credible evidence on the issue of its standing as a aggrieved person,” read the decision. “I find that as to the remaining issues, Somerville has failed to prove by a preponderance of the evidence that the Department erred in issuing the Chapter 91 License to Wynn. The preponderance of the evidence supports the Department’s Chapter 91 license, expect as to the license term. Based on the flaws in the consideration of the extended 85 year license term, I recommend the Commissioner issue a Final Decision approving the license, but with…a modified license term of 50 years.”
The hearing officer, however, did require a few more amenities for the public from Wynn, including a 6.38 acre network of open space (4 acres were previously required), a requirement that Wynn operate its proposed ferry service for the 50-year license term, funds for a fishing pier along the eastern embankment of state property by the Amelia Earhart Dam and a canoe/kayak launch in the gateway Park north of the Dam.
“These projects would complement the multi-purpose dock at the casino site and provide additional activation of the Mystic River waterfront and greater access to the watersheet for smaller crafts, consistent with the City of Everett’s Municipal Harbor Plan,” she wrote.
That recommendation now goes to the Commissioner of DEP for consideration. The Commissioner can accept the recommendation or reject it or modify it. By press time, no action had been taken yet.
The news was well-received by Wynn officials, who said once they get the license in hand, they will begin construction immediately and are now preparing for a groundbreaking with CEO Steve Wynn in attendance.
They have said previously that if the DEP releases the license, they would begin construction whether or not Somerville appeals to a higher court.
“This hopefully concludes the longest and most publicly scrutinized environmental licensing award in the history of the Commonwealth,” said Bob DeSalvio, president of Wynn Boston Harbor. “Crews and resources are being mobilized. Once we have the signed license in hand, construction on Wynn Boston Harbor and the eventual hiring of 4,000 union workers will commence immediately.”
Wynn officials did add that they had proposed the 50-year license as a concession prior to the hearing of the appeal and had no problem with that change.
Somerville officials would not say if they plan to appeal any decisions by the Commissioner to Superior Court, which is the only venue left for the legal action.
Somerville Mayor Joe Curtatone said he was encouraged by the report, especially the new requirements.
“It is encouraging that the Hearing Officer made clear that Somerville did have standing to bring its appeal and that she saw the validity and importance of our arguments in particular around the unusual length of the license as well as the need to make the ferry a condition of the license,” he said in a statement. “As for the other concerns raised in our appeal that are not recommended to be addressed, we will await the Commissioner’s final word.”
Charlestown State Rep. Dan Ryan said he appreciated the new concessions called for, but he is ready to get people to work and to get the roads in the Town fixed.
“It appears that Wynn has cleared its last legal hurdle,” he said. “From a quick glance at the decision, I’m of the opinion that some reasonable concessions were added to Wynn’s commitment to the neighborhoods. I don’t know if a lawsuit was necessary to get these commitments, but this is where we are and it’s time to move forward. Let’s get people to work and get our roads fixed.”
Everett Mayor Carlo DeMaria was delighted by the news and said the new recommendations made by Rothchild only made the Wynn project package better for Everett and surrounding community residents.
“I want to thank Officer Rothchild for reviewing the permit appeal in a timely manner and her thoughtful decision,” he said. “All of the recommendations made will provide Everett residents with public access to our water ways for transportation and recreation for the very first time, add to the quality of life for our residents, and our neighbors, and will draw additional tourists to the region. I am looking forward to the final ruling from Commissioner Martin Suuberg. A great deal has already been done to clean up the site, and this decision clears the way for every aspect of the project to proceed at full speed.”
A decision on the recommendation is likely to take about one week or less.