News Analysis: Redevelopment Authority Also Needed for Land Swap with MBTA

October 11, 2013
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If you read between the lines Monday night, while watching the debate among the City Councilors about the need for the administration’s request to establish a Redevelopment Authority (RA) in Everett, you might have heard that the RA is needed to ensure the viability of the proposed casino plan, though that is not the only reason the Mayor and his staff are pursuing this.

As Councilwoman Rosa DiFlorio so aptly explained, “. . .we don’t need the RA just for the casino, there are other areas of the city that need to be redeveloped and we also need it if the casino doesn’t come here.”

True enough, most people understand philosophically that the establishing a Redevelopment Authority will give the city the flexibility and authority it needs to ensure that key, undervalued areas of the city can be remade and revitalized.

However, the specific reason related to the casino, which no one is coming right out and saying has sped this process up, has to do with a 0.3 acre strip of land adjacent to the proposed casino site, which is currently owned by the MBTA and is critical to the casino resort development during its construction phase.

Due to the vagaries of state laws governing how municipalities and state agencies can do business, adopting the Redevelopment Authority legislation is critical to making sure that piece of land can be transferred to Wynn Resorts if the casino is approved and permitted by the state.

Without that land, Wynn could still access and construct their casino resort, but it will be much more difficult from a logistics standpoint and much more expensive.

That small strip of land provides the best ease of access to the rest of the property and is ideal as a construction staging site.

Unfortunately, due to state procurement laws, there is no way for the MBTA to cleanly sell the site to Wynn or the city of Everett.

If the city were to pursue a Chapter 30B purchase of the site, the MBTA would be bound to sell the land to the highest bidder – and you can bet that Everett can’t afford to get into a bidding war with other casino interests that would like to kill the Wynn proposal from the start.

Redevelopment Authority’s, though they are technically agents of the municipality that sponsors them, are not bound by the same state laws. As long as the RA can justify that the land deal makes sense for the overall advancement of its goals in the Urban Renewal Zone, they can pretty much purchase and land that the Council authorizes them to pursue.

Moreover, they can include clauses in land purchase agreements that protect their and the city’s interests. Clauses that cannot easily be added to a 30B land purchase.

No one is saying that the city should approve the Redevelopment Authority just to help Wynn Resorts with their proposal to build a casino in Everett.

Like Councilwoman DiFlorio said, there are lots of good reasons to establish an RA in Everett.

But, if you want to see the casino proposal in Everett move forward, then now is the time to establish the RA.