During an appeal hearing on Thursday, Somerville attorneys argued that the 85-year environmental license issued to the Everett Wynn Boston Harbor Resort by the state was “fatally flawed” and that the impacts of heightened boat traffic along the Mystic River were overlooked by officials.
During his closing remarks at the appeal hearing, Donald Pinto, the consulting attorney for the city, said, “Somerville has also proved that the process of the issuance of the extended term license was fatally flawed. The decision to grant an 85-year license was made entirely out of the public view,” as reported by Wicked Local.
Claiming significant environmental damage would be caused to the city, the billion-dollar resort’s Massachusetts Department of Environmental Protection (MassDEP) Chapter 91 license was appealed by Somerville Mayor Joe Curtatone last February. The appeal is a last ditch effort by the city to halt the project and the last major hurdle for Wynn before they are able to break ground in Massachusetts.
Several city-funded expert witnesses who provided the court with testimony against the casino were questioned by Wynn attorneys during Thursday’s hearing. Several MassDEP officials that granted Wynn the chapter 91 license were also questioned by attorneys for Somerville. During the hearing, the Journal was told by Wynn Everett President Robert DeSalvio that they are refraining from commenting on the proceedings until such time as the appeal is resolved. During the hearing, DeSalvio briefly provided testimony and Somerville attorneys asked him a few questions about his lack of experience in dealing with gambling venues that utilize water transportation networks.
June 21 is the deadline for both sides to provide closing briefs. A decision on the appeal is expected by Presiding Officer Jane Rothchild in mid-July. And about two to three weeks after, a final ruling will be made by MassDEP Commissioner Martin Suuberg, according to DEP Spokesman Edmund Coletta. Mayor Curtatone was not in attendance at the hearing but was represented by both Pinto and another consulting attorney who is city funded. To date, more than $400,000 has been spent by the city on the appeal, as well as four other casino-related lawsuits, according to Mayoral Spokesman Denise Taylor.
In his closing statements, in addition to the project not meeting the criteria required to justify the 85-year license being issued over a standard 30-year term, Pinto argued that when granting the license, MassDEP should have included a robust water transportations system as a condition of the license. He also said that by the time Wynn submitted its justification for the extended license term, the public hearing process had already been closed by MassDEP, which put that decision-making process out of the public’s view.