Suffolk Downs Mitigation Package Coming Slower Than Expected

The host community agreement negotiations with Suffolk Downs are moving slower than City officials had hoped, but Economic Development Director John Festa said on Monday that he and Mayor Dan Rizzo expected the agreement to be in place by October.

Revere was the first host community to begin negotiations with a potential casino license bidder, but information has apparently been slow to come and the negotiations have been a bit lengthier than anticipated.

However, Festa said that might not turn out to be a bad thing.

“This is a very, very important package and when the package is revealed, I think the public will be very happy,” said Festa on Monday night at a City Council Economic Development Committee meeting. “It’s not moving as quickly as we thought, but that’s not a bad thing because it gives us a chance to look at and value each item. We’re hoping to have it all completed in October. That’s our goal at this time.”

While numbers were not yet public, Festa did indicate that the agreement is a 601-page document at this time.

Once that agreement is released, that will trigger the referendum vote – which is to be scheduled no later than seven days after the public release of the agreement.

Festa said that the City has retained a mitigation attorney to act on its behalf, an attorney whose costs must be paid for by Suffolk Downs. Likewise, Festa said that Revere is working in tandem with Boston to use consultants that advise them on impacts – from traffic to crime. Those consultants are being retained by Boston, but will eventually have to be paid for by Suffolk Downs.

“We do need a professional mitigation attorney who will be able to put an official mitigation package together for us,” Festa said.

Once all of the negotiations are completed and the document becomes public, Mayor Rizzo is planning to have a series so public meetings to discuss and analyze the final package.

“From the beginning, Mayor Rizzo wanted total transparency in this process and that’s what we’ll have,” said Festa. “We absolutely want to make sure no items are overlooked and we’re taking a cautious approach.”

While Festa could not reveal any numbers contained in the agreement right now, one could use as a gauge the recent payout to the City of Taunton from the Mashpee Wampanoag Indian Tribe – which is competing for a casino license in the southern region.

Last week, the Tribe presented a check to Taunton for $1.5 million. The sum is pre-mitigation money required to be paid within the confines of an Indian gaming compact signed by Gov. Deval Patrick – a slightly different process than what Suffolk Downs will use.

What is similar is the annual payments agreed to by the Tribe.

They are proposing to build a $500 million resort casino, roughly half the size and investment proposed by Suffolk Downs. For that development, the Tribe has agreed to pay Taunton $33 million in up-front infrastructure costs and as much as $13 million per year to help that city with public safety and other mitigation measures. Those annual payments do not begin, however, until the casino opens its doors.

So far, potential annual payments to Revere have not been made public, but will certainly be contained in the mitigation agreement. Suffolk has said that they plan to invest $40 million for the infrastructure of Revere and East Boston.

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