As Las Vegas casino mogul Steve Wynn looks at Everett for a possible resort-style gambling complex, the potential development is stirring a mostly cautious response from city leaders.
Reacting to the surprise news that plunged Everett into the thick of the high-stakes drama of casino development in the state, the city’s elected officials voiced excitement but also concerns about what it would mean for Everett to host one of the gambling venues.
To begin public dialogue on the issue, the city is inviting residents to an open forum on the proposed development at 6:30 p.m. Tuesday in the Connolly Center, 90 Chelsea St.
Wynn is considering the former Monsanto Chemical Co. property on the Mystic River, a 37-acre site on Lower Broadway, as the possible location.
At the ground level of those who represent Everett residents, especially in that neighborhood, the reaction has been measured.
Common Councilor Cynthia Sarnie, whose Ward 6 includes the site, said at least for now, she opposes the development.
“As much as I like a casino, I don’t like it in my backyard, and this is literally at my back door,” Sarnie said. “I do understand that it does bring in jobs and taxes . . . but I’m looking at the quality of life we have to deal with and what is going to happen to that.”
She said if city voters passed a referendum in favor of the casino and the plan had the backing of her ward, she would reconsider.
Common Councilor Michael J. McLaughlin, who also represents Ward 6, called the plan a “great opportunity” for the community to reactivate a long dormant site, and generate jobs and infrastructure improvements. But he said more details are needed.
“I think we need to reserve judgment until we see the plan,” said McLaughlin, who has heard mixed feelings voiced by residents about the project. “There are a lot of positives but also concerns about the traffic impact.”
Ward 6 Alderman Sal Sachetta said he loves going to casinos and “I believe a casino would be good for the city of Everett because it would lower our taxes.”
But Sachetta is skeptical a casino will get built in Everett, citing the enormous cost of needed infrastructure work and the prominent support that the rival Suffolk Downs casino plan enjoys, notably from Mayor Thomas M. Menino of Boston.
Ward 4 Alderman L. Charles DiPerri thinks the casino plan is worth exploring, but “right now, we don’t have enough information to determine if it would be right or wrong here.” In particular, he wants to see how developers would address the “massive overhaul” of local roadways he said would be needed to accommodate the project.
Ward 5 Alderman Robert Van Campen also isn’t ready to take a stand on the plan “because at this stage it is entirely conceptual.
“In a community that in the last 5½ to 6 years has seen virtually no substantial economic development, anything at this point is worth pursuing,” he said. “I think at the end of the day, a casino as a job creator is a positive.”
But “on the flip side of it are all the social ills that are well documented about the impact of casinos,” Van Campen added. “So I think at this point we should . . . reserve judgment till we see the proposal itself.”
Everett Common Council president Daniel J. Napolitano said his initial reaction to the potential casino in Everett is positive.
“I think it potentially could bring great things to the city of Everett,” he said, pointing in particular to jobs and the potential boost to local businesses. “The people who approach me on the street seem to have a favorable disposition” toward the project, he said.
Napolitano said he wants to see more details before he is ready to embrace the idea.
“I want to see what the building looks like; I want to see what the traffic studies say, how they are going to improve the infrastructure in the area,” he said.
Mayor Carlo DeMaria Jr. accompanied Wynn on a tour of the Everett site last Wednesday.
“This is an exciting prospect, bringing with it the possibility of infrastructure improvements, tax money, building permit fees, school funding, and most importantly, jobs for our residents,” DeMaria said in a written statement.
“However, before we get to that point, there are conversations that need to be had and work to be done,” DeMaria said. “My staff and I have already begun to meet with local leaders, community members, and officials from the Massachusetts Gaming Commission to discuss both the benefits and potential challenges of any development on our waterfront.”
Wynn tried unsuccessfully earlier this year to win support in Foxborough for a $1 billion casino on land across from Gillette Stadium. A proposed casino in Everett would put the developer in direct competition with Suffolk Downs in Revere and East Boston — which has partnered with Caesars Entertainment — for the single casino license available for Greater Boston.
State Representative Stephen Smith, an Everett Democrat, said a casino could help the city’s tax base and the proposed site is in a good location and “is a piece of property that we have been waiting for many years to develop.
“I want to see what people have to say, what the residents feel about it,” he said, adding that so far “what I’m hearing is that they are all in favor of it.”
In a statement, state Senator Sal DiDomenico, an Everett Democrat, said, “A large-scale development in this area has economic, traffic, and environmental impacts that would affect a majority of my district. If and when a proposal is submitted, I will review it, and I will work to ensure all parties involved, most importantly our residents, have equal opportunity to weigh in on this project.”John Laidler can be reached at email@example.com.