It seems that every time an obstacle emerges for one of the proposed Massachusetts casino plans, someone or something steps up to offer a solution. So when there were questions about who would benefit from the sale of land Wynn Resorts would use to host their Everett casino, maybe we should have expected a resolution to present itself before too long.
Eminent Domain Purchase Considered
In this case, the city of Everett itself may ultimately acquire the property before selling it to Wynn, sidestepping the murky situation that currently surrounds the land sale. The city would use their power of eminent domain to buy the land – as well as seven other properties in the area – for a total price of about $41 million. The land needed for the casino could then be sold to Wynn from the city.
According to Mayor Carlo DeMaria, this move wouldn’t be solely for the benefit of Steve Wynn and the potential casino resort he wants to build. Rather, this is a plan that was in development before anyone considered bringing gambling to the city.
“This area, as you are well aware, is critical to the future success of the entire city and will serve as a gateway to the entire region,” DeMaria wrote in a letter to Everett city councilors last week. “My administration is committed to realizing the extraordinary potential of this area and the city as a whole.”
Controversy Over Secret Partners
While the city may be willing to buy the land in order to develop it, that wasn’t the original proposal Wynn was banking on. They had planned to purchase the land for $35 million, presuming that the Massachusetts Gaming Commission was to approve their casino plan.
As we recently reported, the controversy over the land began after commission investigators found that the current owners of the property – FBT Everett Realty – might be lying about the involvement of Charles Lightbody, one of their original partners. Lightbody, a convicted felon, claimed to have sold off his interest in the property long ago, despite having put up $1 million of the original $8 million purchase price in 2009.
That could have been resolved if the other owners had pledged that the property sale wouldn’t benefit any unknown, secret partners. By Anthony Gattineri has refused to sign such a pledge, fueling speculation that Lightbody might have an interest. And since the commission has required the statements to be signed in order to approve Wynn’s license, it has put the sale in question.
A Public Purpose?
The question of whether or not the city of Everett can get around this problem through the use of eminent domain could be tricky. Under state law, the city can only take private land if doing so serves a public purpose. Mayor DeMaria claims the land is perfect for redevelopment and that the city would spend tens of millions to upgrade the area after the purchase.
But not everyone is convinced that anyone would develop the area if Wynn doesn’t get the casino license. City Council president Michael Marchese says he looks at the proposal as nothing less than a favor to Wynn.
“We haven’t had a developer here in over 20 years,” Marchese said. “We only know what we hear, and what we hear we don’t trust.”