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Potential Everett casino has neighboring communities wary over traffic

Posted by Jarret Bencks  November 28, 2012 01:18 PM

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A potential casino development in Everett has been met with a mix of intrigue and skepticism by neighboring communities.

Officials in neighboring Malden and Medford said they are interested in hearing details of a potential proposal in Everett, but there is question whether Route 16 could be made suitable for such a development.

"If you want to say you want to build this kind of development, that's fine," said Lauren DiLorenzo, Medford's community development director. "The real question is, can you? By looking at it, it would be very difficult."

The state's casino law calls for developers to negotiate mitigation with neighboring municipalites, but a development doesn't need referendum approval from those communities, only the host community.

The Monsanto Chemical Site, which is being considered for development by casino mogul Steve Wynn, is located just off Route 16 near the Mystic River and about a mile from both Malden and Medford. Both cities have residential neighborhoods nearby and the already heavily congested state road is the area's main motorway.

Expanding Route 16 is a challenge because of the river and previous chemical dumping in the area, which makes it impossible to build the road to highway standards, DiLorenzo said, and air quality there is already below state standards.

"The idea to create a concentrated development, primarily served by roadway is very, very concerning," she said.

The state's casino law allows for licenses for three resort casinos to be awarded in separate regions through a competitive bid process. Southeast and Western Massachusetts and Greater Boston can each be awarded one license. Prior to Wynn's interest in Everett, the only serious suitor for the Greater Boston license has been Caesar's Entertainment, which is proposing a $1 billion development at Suffolk Downs.

The Everett site would be a short distance from densely populated areas, including areas outside Everett. Medford Mayor Michael McGlynn said he would be looking closely at the impact it could have on Medford's Wellington neighborhood, about a mile from the site.

"As far as I'm concerned, that's the Wellington neighborhood," McGlynn said.

A developer, who McGlynn wouldn't name, viewed land in Medford near Wellington Station within the last month for a potential casino development, he said. He hasn't heard anything about it since, he said.

McGlynn said he first learned of the possibility of a casino in Everett when he spoke to Everett Mayor Carlo DeMaria Jr. Monday. He said he would wait until he heard the full proposal before taking a stance on it.

"At this point we have no plan, so we don't really know what we're talking about," McGlynn said. "I think once there's some detail there we'll be holding some meetings of our own."

Malden Mayor Gary Christenson also said he was interested in the project, but wanted to hear the full proposal before weighing in.

"It's probably too early to say, but we are interested in helping our fellow residents as much as possible," he said.

Traffic impact is his top concern, Christenson said, as the area lacks the highway connection that Suffolk Downs has to Route 1.

"This site would be a little more tricky to navigate," he said.

Peg Crowe, a City Councilor representing Malden's Ward 1, said traffic from retail development along Route 16 impacts her neighborhood as it is.

"It's already a mad house there," she said.

Jarret Bencks can be reached at bencks.globe@gmail.com. Follow him on twitter @JarretBencks.

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