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Somerville drops Wynn casino fight

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Construction began earlier this month at the site of the planned Wynn Resorts casino in Everett.Craig F. Walker

Somerville Mayor Joseph Curtatone announced Monday that the city will not appeal a key environmental permit granted last month to the $2.1 billion Wynn Resorts casino planned for Everett, ending a protracted, public dispute

At a news conference, Curtatone said the city had dropped its legal fight against the development, the last significant challenge to the luxury resort, and accepted the company's pledge to help offset traffic and environmental impacts.

The Department of Environmental Protection affirmed the permit last month over Somerville's challenge, but added conditions that Somerville officials applauded, including ferry service to the waterfront site.

"The city of Somerville successfully resolved a number of our community's core concerns regarding the Wynn casino project," Curtatone said. "While we did not get everything we asked for, the appeal did yield significant and meaningful results for our residents, so we feel the process worked."


Somerville appealed the DEP permit in February, forcing Wynn Resorts to postpone its groundbreaking and sparking a war of words between company officials and Curtatone. The company began construction of the casino last month with plans for a June 2019 opening.

Officials with the casino, called Wynn Boston Harbor, hailed Somerville's decision.

"With all legal challenges behind us, we can now focus entirely on making Wynn Boston Harbor one of the most powerful job generators and economic catalysts to ever benefit the Commonwealth," said Wynn Boston Harbor president Robert DeSalvio. "We are pleased to be joined with all our neighboring communities in making this a historic development for all."

The casino and hotel complex, which is being built on a Mystic River parcel where a chemical plant once stood, is projected to draw some 18,000 automobiles each day.

The city's appeal argued that the casino will have an adverse impact on the environment, but casino supporters dismissed Curtatone's opposition as an attempt to boost his political career.


On Monday, Curtatone said the ferry service is projected to "reduce casino road traffic by an estimated 6 percent, and in one of the most congested areas of the country, every bit counts."

"Every trip shifted off the road and onto that ferry will reduce air pollution in our neighborhoods and traffic delays for all," he said.

Curtatone said the city spent more than $400,000 on legal fees pursing five separate legal challenges, but said he had no regrets. "We fought the good fight," he said. "While we would always like to win, we are proud of the fight we took on to protect our citizens"

Curtatone said he harbored no hard feelings about the exchange of angry words with Wynn officials. "We are past that," he said. "I don't take it personally."

"We will all be more successful if we work together," he added.

Everett Mayor Carlo DeMaria, one of the casino's earliest proponents and a harsh critic of Curtatone's tactics, released a statement saying he "looks forward to collaborating with surrounding cities."

Somerville's resistance had been on center stage since late January, when Boston officials agreed to drop its litigation against Wynn Resorts in exchange for an additional $400,000 in annual payments, bringing the total to $2 million a year.

Somerville, however, will receive no additional payment. Under the state's 2011 casino law, communities that host a casino are compensated for traffic and other impacts, while surrounding communities — in this case, Boston and Somerville, among others — can negotiate for compensation.


Two years ago, Curtatone demanded $1.5 million in annual payments for 15 years, as well as improvements to nine intersections in Somerville near the casino site. Wynn refused, and the matter went to arbitration, where Somerville received $150,000 upfront, followed by $650,000 in annual payments.

Tensions didn't end there. Last winter, Wynn Resorts launched a personal attack against Curtatone, saying the city's appeal was "a selfish, blatant attempt" to politicize the casino issue for his own benefit.

Curtatone said then that he expected Wynn's "armada of lobbyists, lawyers, and consultants" to attack him personally, but that it was "nothing I can't handle."

Sean P. Murphy can be reached at smurphy@globe.com. Follow him on Twitter @spmurphy-boston.