About 75 Charlestown residents met on their home turf with Wynn Resorts executives for the first time on Wednesday and expressed concerns about how a planned casino would affect the environment and the already nightmarish traffic in Sullivan Square.
The meeting was held at Bunker Hill Community College, and although concerns were expressed, there was little outright opposition to the casino planned for nearby Everett. The gathering came one month after Boston Mayor Martin J. Walsh’s administration sued the state Gambling Commission in an attempt to block the $1.75 billion casino project, in part because of traffic concerns.
The suit asks a court to void the commission’s endorsement of the Wynn project and to declare that Boston has the right to hold a binding vote on the development.
Walsh, when filing the lawsuit, said the vast majority of casino patrons “would be required to drive through Rutherford Avenue and Sullivan Square in Charlestown — an area that already faces severe traffic congestion.”
Wednesday’s meeting, styled as a question-and-answer session, featured some pointed comments embedded in questions, but little hostility.
Robert DeSalvio, president of Wynn Everett, said Wynn Resorts has committed to contributing $25 million toward a long-term solution for traffic in Sullivan Square, on top of $10 million earmarked for short-term “fixes” to be completed by the time the casino opens in about two years.
Tens of millions of dollars more for transportation improvements will come annually from the 25 percent state tax imposed under the gaming law on Wynn Resorts’ gaming revenue, DeSalvio said.
“That’s a lot of money to mitigation of transportation problems,” he said.
DeSalvio was asked why Wynn Resorts is not funding the total cost of a long-term solution, instead of $25 million.
“I believe Wynn is doing its fair share toward a solution,” he said. “A $25 million commitment, I think that’s a great commitment. The long-term solution is not a Wynn Resorts project. It’s a city of Boston project.”
At peak traffic, between 4:30 and 5:30 p.m., the casino will increase the volume of vehicles in the Sullivan Square area by about 15 percent, according to projections, DeSalvio said.
Addressing another issue, Jamie Fay, president of an environmental planning firm working for Wynn Resorts, described a $30 million process of cleaning the chemically contaminated site to a level “where people can walk their dogs, kids can run and play.”
“It’s all private money, no tax money, no public money,” he said.
To clean up the site — 33 acres of waterfront land on the Mystic River — some soils will be dug up and trucked off the site, while other areas will be capped. He said cement will be mixed with soil along the waterfront to neutralize acids there and stop further leaching of heavy metals.
When a resident asked Fay to specify the route that will be used to truck out the contaminated soils, Fay said no determination has been made. He did say, however, that “none of these trucks will go on neighborhood streets.”
Another resident asked that the contaminated soil be trucked “north, through Everett,” not south through Charlestown.
Some residents focused their questions on the expected economic benefits of the casino, which is projected to create thousands of construction and permanent jobs on its way to becoming one the state’s top five employers.
“Everett has a preference in hiring because they are the host community, but Charlestown is right behind in preference as a surrounding community,” DeSalvio said. “And I want to stress there are 4,000 permanent jobs to go around.”
The meeting was hosted by state Representative Dan Ryan of Charlestown and Lynne Levesque, a Charlestown resident and former volunteer in the failed campaign to repeal the state’s casino law.
Levesque was quick to say she remains opposed to casinos.
“I have not gone over to the dark side,” she said. “But we lose nothing by talking. We want to start talking with Wynn to make the most of this in our neighborhood.”
Ryan spoke up for Walsh: “I know the mayor is fighting for Charlestown. I supported him and I know he’s a fighter. But until a judge tells us differently, we need to have a discussion.”
Wednesday’s meeting was required as a condition imposed by the state Gaming Commission when it awarded the coveted Greater Boston casino license to Wynn Resorts.