A $1.2 billion resort casino planned along the Mystic River in Everett would stand 50 percent taller and take up slightly more open space than is allowed under state regulations for waterfront development.
The 300-foot hotel tower would far exceed the state’s 55-foot waterfront building height limit, and the sprawling complex of shops, restaurants, conference meeting space, a spa, and a 24-hour casino would be 10,110 square feet larger than is allowed under the state’s Chapter 91 waterway regulations.
But a municipal harbor plan, now being written for Everett, would allow the development to be approved, provided Wynn Resorts of Las Vegas creates public access to the waterfront, such as walking or cycling paths, benches and lighting, and other amenities.
“The Wynn development is not far off from what is required by the state,” said Sarah D. Kelly, a senior associate at Fort Point Associates, a Boston consulting firm hired by the city of Everett to develop the plan.”The harbor plan will address how we reconfigure things. We’re really not losing any open space. It’s just allowed in a different area.”
The municipal harbor plan is a key requirement for Everett under a host community agreement the city signed in April with Wynn Resorts. Wynn is one of three developers who have applied for the one casino license available for Greater Boston that will be awarded in April 2014.
The state’s gambling law also requires that a casino applicant pay for studies, such as the municipal harbor plan, so that a community is not burdened by the cost of hiring consultants.
“This is one of their mitigation measures,” said James Errickson, executive director of the city’s Department of Planning and Development. “We had been planning on doing a harbor plan anyhow; this just expedited the process,” he said of Wynn’s application.
The plan, which has been written with help from a citizens advisory committee, will identify two visions for the waterfront. One would allow for the Wynn resort proposed for the 32.4-acre site of a former Monsanto chemical factory located off routes 99 and 16.
The second vision would identify uses — recreational, residential, and commercial — that would be consistent with the goals of the city’s master plan for the lower Broadway neighborhood, where Everett meets the Mystic River.
“If, for some reason, the Wynn development does not move forward, the Municipal Harbor Plan will still have validity,” Kelly said at a Wednesday public meeting on the plan that drew about 25 residents of Everett and Charlestown.
The meeting was the second of three public forums planned to discuss the harbor plan.
A draft could be completed in August, and the third public meeting will be held in September before it is submitted for approval to the state Office of Coastal Zone Management, Errickson said.
The plan overall will aim to improve public access to the river, promote water transportation and recreational boating, manage and improve environmental resources, and support public and private investment along the waterfront, according to a presentation at the meeting.
“You don’t just want a blank waterfront,” Errickson said. “You want something that is also going to spur economic development.”
Some local residents expressed concern about the impact a casino or any other development would have on the heavily polluted site.
“I don’t see anything here that would improve the water quality,” said Terry Baldwin, who lives in Everett.
Errickson said the current property owner, FBT Realty of Everett, will be required to clean the land, if it were sold to Wynn or any other developer.
“Just by redeveloping the site . . . the water quality would be improved,” he said.
Mary Buscher of Everett suggested that salt marshes be restored along the tip of the site. “Natural areas are important to preserve,” she said.
Vivien Li, president of the Boston Harbor Association, said the plan should address water uses and transportation, particularly if a casino is to be built there.
“The idea of using water transportation to bring more people there would make it part of the visitor experience,” she said.
Vinnie Ragucci, an Everett resident and a staunch Wynn backer, pointed out that the proposal already calls for water shuttles to Logan Airport and stops around Boston Harbor.
“There isn’t going to be just one boat,” he said. “There are probably going to be a minimum of 10 stops. . . . All the boats are being designed to go under the [Alford Street] bridge, so that the bridge does not have to go up and down and tie up traffic.”Kathy McCabe can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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