Somerville Mayor Joseph Curtatone is denying allegations by Wynn Resorts Casino and others that his legal appeal challenging the awarding of a state environmental permit for construction of an Everett casino is a political ploy and a tactic to delay the project in an effort to seek a financial settlement.
In an interview with WGBH News to be broadcast Friday morning, Curtatone says that his decision to file an appeal is not about politics, or even about potential traffic problems. Rather, Curtatone explains, it's about the overall impact of the Casino project, and the profound environmental and health problems that will ultimately impact Somerville's neighborhoods.
Curtatone emphatically denies his suit against the casino is a money grab. “This case is not about money either,” Curtatone said. “We’re not interested in some arbitrary number, we’re not looking to be bought off. We’ve been awarded a certain amount of money as part of the surrounding communities’ arbitration process, and we believe that number although low, it’s not the biggest barrier. There are particular issues we are concerned about and that we believe have not been fully addressed in the full arbitration process.”
The 49-year old mayor says Boston's decision to drop its legal challenge against Wynn is totally separate from Somerville's. According to Curtatone, Somerville’s legal challenge could only be filed after the environmental permit - known as the chapter 91 permit - was issued.
He says as far as the timing of his legal appeal, this is Somerville’s fifth cause of action in the case.
The permit was issued on January 22, 2016. Curtatone says the city had 21 days to file the appeal, and the city only received notice February 3, 2016 and immediately filed an appeal.
Curtatone says none of the Somerville’s cases align with Boston’s challenges.
He says this case is squarely focused on the environmental and health impacts that the casino operations will generate with 18,000 new vehicles coming through the community each day.
The six-term mayor says he’s not looking to block the project, despite the fact that he doesn’t agree with a casino being built in Everett - that ship has passed.
Curtatone says within the last two years the city has expressed its concerns with Wynn Casino over health related issues, but no one from Wynn has contacted the city to address its concerns.
He says they will pursue this latest legal action vigorously.
When asked if the state was wrong to issue Wynn Resorts an environmental permit to begin construction, Curtatone cites findings pointing to conclusive evidence that his city will be negatively affected environmentally. It includes analysis by MIT showing that traffic will be diverted through the neighborhoods of Somerville, and recent studies by Tufts University, affirming the closer proximity you lived to highways the more pollution you breath, which results in an impact to residents' quality of life.
Earlier Wednesday, State Senate President Stan Rosenberg suggested that Curtotone was taking a page out of Boston Mayor Marty’s Walsh’s playbook by filing an appeal of the key environmental permit for Wynn Resorts' Everett Casino. Rosenberg says that the Somerville mayor is employing the same legal tactics to seek a financial settlement, similar to what Walsh received for Boston.
The appeal process is before the Executive Office of the Massachusetts State Department of Environmental Protection, which will render a decision, and which the city of Somerville could appeal.
Curtatone speaks in-depth about the issue Thursday, February 18th, on WGBH's Morning Edition with Bob Seay.
To listen to the extended interview, click on the audio file above.