City of Boston files new lawsuit to block Wynn casino

The City of Boston has opened a new front in its effort to halt the $1.7 billion casino planned for Everett, filing a lawsuit challenging the validity of a key certification that allows Wynn Resorts to begin construction.
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The new lawsuit shatters any notion of a compromise between Boston Mayor Martin J. Walsh and billionaire casino mogul Steve Wynn, who had traded insults and accusations for months over the proposed casino on the Mystic River waterfront but have recently appeared to be finding common ground.

The filing on Monday came less than a week after Boston appeared to suffer a setback in its other suit against the casino, which alleges that corruption underpinned the awarding of a license to Wynn. A Suffolk Superior judge questioned the city’s legal grounds for that suit.

The latest legal attack names Wynn as the defendant in a 41-page complaint filed in Suffolk Superior Court and asks a judge to invalidate the environmental certification for the casino approved late last month by the Baker administration’s secretary of energy and environmental affairs.

In the lawsuit, the city asserts that Wynn and Secretary Matthew Beaton glossed over or ignored substantial concerns about how a 24-story casino and hotel complex would affect traffic, especially in Boston’s often-congested Charlestown neighborhood, which is near the site for the planned casino.

A Wynn spokesman, saying the company had not received the complaint from the city, sounded a note of exasperation.

“Once again, the City of Boston has not allowed Wynn to see their complaint directly, but instead has used the media to deliver its inflammatory claims,” the spokesman said in a prepared statement.

“We can only assume this claim is a restatement of their previous lawsuits, which thus far have been without merit,” the statement said. “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.”

Walsh had signaled a possible rapprochement with Wynn Resorts last Wednesday, when he met quietly with two top Wynn executives at City Hall and later released a statement saying the two feuding parties were making progress in negotiations about the effect of the casino on Charlestown.

But the city’s complaint makes it clear that the conflict rages on.

Despite “numerous meetings with city officials,” Wynn “has consistently ignored the city’s concerns, failing to fully disclose the environmental impacts of its project and failing to provide clear and direct responses to the city’s comment,” the lawsuit says.

The filing repeats Walsh’s longstanding assertion that Wynn has underplayed how the casino resort could imperil the environment.

Wynn “failed to disclose the full extent of the serious environmental impacts” and “failed to demonstrate that all feasible measures have been taken to avoid or minimize those impacts,” according to the lawsuit.

“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,” the suit says.

The city estimates in its lawsuit that the casino will generate 20,000 to 23,000 new automobile trips per day by patrons and employees and that many of them will travel through the notoriously busy Sullivan Square rotary.

As part of the certificate he approved for the casino, Beaton required Wynn to participate in — and help pay for — a new transportation planning effort to address long-term traffic problems in and around the square. The effort would be led by the state Department of Transportation.

Beaton’s office did not respond to a request for comment late Tuesday.

A spokeswoman for Walsh confirmed the filing of the lawsuit and declined further comment.

The City of Boston is not going it alone in attacking the environmental permit. The City of Somerville filed a similar complaint on Friday, naming as defendants Wynn Resorts and the state Gaming Commission.

In its suit, Somerville officials argue that the traffic congestion from the casino will flow over into their city.

Gareth Orsmond, a lawyer for Somerville, wrote in the complaint that Beaton’s decision “kicked the can down the road, even though the road is already congested and there is no place for the can to go.”

Evelyn Addante, a retired transportation planner in Charlestown who opposes the Wynn casino, said she is glad Boston and Somerville filed these new lawsuits. She said she agrees that state environmental officials issued their permit prematurely.

“They didn’t answer our questions and they simply issued the certificate,” Addante said, “Everything is being streamlined for this project to move forward in an unfair way.”

Beaton’s proposal for a working group to address long-term traffic issues offered no assurance that the traffic problems will be fixed, she said.

“They developed a process, but a process is not an answer,” Addante said.