State development secretary sees bright future for Lynn

LYNN ? When state Secretary of Housing and Economic Development Daniel O’Connell speaks, people listen, especially in Lynn.And that they did Friday at the annual meeting of the Lynn Business Partnership, where O’Connell was guest of honor and talked comprehensively about how his state office intends to help the city.O’Connell delivered plenty of welcome news. For instance, before he lends support to any gambling resort at the Suffolk Downs racetrack in East Boston, an adequate transportation system must be created between Lynn and Boston, he said.It was just that sort of viewpoint that caused those in the room to listen carefully. Rep. Steve Walsh, a Lynn Democrat, was among those glad to hear it, noting that the resort would likely generate additional traffic congestion along the Route 1A corridor, a roadway already inadequate for the daily volume.”The bottleneck at Bell Circle could choke off Lynn forever if the casino is built,” said Walsh, stressing that the gambling resort plan under consideration by Gov. Deval Patrick must include funds to improve transportation infrastructure in the affected areas.That so-called transportation infrastructure could have been summed up in two words: Blue Line.For more than half a century, Lynn, state and federal officials representing the North Shore have tried to get the Blue Line rapid-transit rail extended northward from its terminus in Revere to downtown Lynn. Millions of dollars have been spent on studies ? economic, demographic, environmental and otherwise n but the initiative has lacked widespread support, mainly because the project is designed to connect Lynn to Boston n period.But construction of a gambling resort, which would theoretically benefit more than the residents of Greater Lynn, could prove the lynchpin because it provides another solid reason to extend the rail line. It would relieve congestion for North Shore commuters while allowing the gambling resort to flourish.Gregory Bialecki, state undersecretary for Housing and Economic Development, assured the business partnership members that Patrick is studying all options and favors building “up to three” gambling resorts in Massachusetts rather than a slew of smaller gaming establishments.The legislative bill under consideration would ensure the host community maintains control of the resort, and that the facility would follow green-building architectural concepts, environmentally-sound smart growth principles, and be a transit-oriented development.”Any resort would take all of these factors into consideration,” Bialecki said, explaining that 50 percent of the gambling proceeds would be applied to transportation system improvements, and the other 50 percent used to offset property taxes.As undersecretary, Bialecki has been authorized to “pre-permit” important developments in Massachusetts, which could streamline the permit process to 180 days or less. Obtaining permits in Massachusetts has been known to take years.The idea behind such executive power, known as the state’s first permitting ombudsman, is “to move at the speed of business,” he said.Bialecki was responsible, in a large way, for Lynn’s receipt of a $2.5 million grant that will be used to relocate the electrical transmission lines at the southern end of the Lynnway. Moving the towers to the opposite side of the Lynnway would create more suitable development sites along the waterfront, he said.The undersecretary helped Lynn development officials tailor the grant application, which at first glance did not seem to fit the city’s needs.During his presentation, O’Connell reminded the gathering of business and community leaders that Lynn is blessed with hundreds of acres of vacant harborfront land ripe for development.That rare property and a trained workforce are Lynn’s strengths, he said, praising the Lynn legislative delegation for working smoothly with other government officials and agencies to push these developments forward.O’Connell said the state’s creative e

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