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Everett OK’s urban renewal for casino

EVERETT — In a vote intended to bolster Everett’s chances of getting a $1.6 billion casino, its city council voted 10 to 1 Monday to approve an urban renewal plan championed by Mayor Carlo DeMaria.

The vote came after a spirited exchange between DeMaria and council president Michael Marchese at a hearing attended by more than 100 people.

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Marchese, the lone vote against the plan, focused his questions on the risk to taxpayers and property owners in the event the city begins urban renewal but the casino does not materialize. He pointed out that the largest parcel of land slated for urban renewal is assessed at $9 million but is projected in city estimates to be worth $35 million.

“Why pay $35 million for a $9 million property?” he asked.

DeMaria said two appraisals must be conducted before any property is bought or sold by the redevelopment authority.

Monday night’s vote merely approves a sprawling urban renewal plan for Lower Broadway; any later land deal would need City Council approval.

“This is the catalyst for Everett to get past the industrial age,” DeMaria said. “For years I’ve heard that taxes are too high and there’s no jobs for our children in Everett. Here’s your opportunity to change that.”

Wynn Resorts is competing with Mohegan Sun, which is proposing a casino at Suffolk Downs in Revere, for the sole casino license to be awarded by the state in the Boston area. Wynn negotiated a $35 million sale price last year for the Everett site with the owners, but after one was revealed to be a felon, the deal stalled.

The convicted felon apparently was bought out, but the Massachusetts Gaming Commission now requires that the owners assure there are no other undisclosed owners. One has refused to do so. That set the stage for the city to consider buying the land from the owners and selling it to Wynn.

Four Everett residents spoke in favor of the plan, including Vincent Ragucci, who said it would “allow the city to expand and grow and catch up with other cities.”

Two residents spoke against the plan. Mary Buscher said the city’s attempt to accommodate Wynn “is not clean; it makes Everett look slimy.”

Sean P. Murphy can be reached at sean.murphy@globe.com.
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