A golf course developer has closed a deal to
buy almost 800 acres of landfill and transform the blighted property into housing and
The seven-year project to transform six former landfills into golf courses, housing, shopping, and open space was announced more than three years ago by then-Gov. Christie Whitman. It endured numerous delays, and EnCap is now ready to set a groundbreaking date, said Bill Gauger, the company's president.
"Today's closing on the Meadowlands Golf Project marks another major milestone in this billion-dollar, environmentally sensitive project," he said in a statement.
Some officials were beginning to wonder whether the project ever would be built.
A half-dozen anticipated groundbreakings - as early as 2001 and most recently in the fall - passed without sign of action, while a major development partner backed out amid controversy surrounding his ties to Governor McGreevey and his position on the board of the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey.
EnCap officials are still finalizing details with potential partners to build the proposed housing units and retail space, company officials said.
The company was facing a May 12 deadline to take ownership of about 650 acres in Lyndhurst, Rutherford, and North Arlington and begin entombing the garbage.
In February, officials said the deadline would be met with or without partners in place.
On Friday, the company transferred almost $8 million to the New Jersey Meadowlands Commission - after a previous, non refundable, $8.7 million payment -to secure 785 acres of property, completing the first phase of the project.
Cleanup could begin in the next two months.
State Community Affairs Commissioner Susan Bass Levin, who is also chairwoman of the Meadowlands Commission, the agency that brokered the deal with EnCap, said a groundbreaking "sometime later this month" would be a significant breakthrough for the entire region and provide a shining example for Governor McGreevey's smart-growth initiative.
"An area that has been perhaps best known for its stench will now be an urban treasure," Bass Levin said. "We will be protecting wetlands, cleaning a landfill, and at the same time, creating a balanced model for economic growth."
The Department of Environmental Protection has approved EnCap's plan to cap the landfills with a dense layer of dredged harbor spoils and other material.
However, the agency is still awaiting an application for permits with detailed plans for the construction phase of the project, Commissioner Bradley Campbell said.
"This is one of the more ambitious redevelopment projects, which makes it very exciting in terms of potential as a model for smart growth," Campbell said. "But it also requires additional care to make sure the complex environmental challenges are properly addressed."
EnCap would build four golf courses on the landfills, anchored by a mini-village of restaurants and shops and - if they are all approved - as many as 3,500 housing units spread among the three towns. A hotel and office buildings are also part of the proposal.
One unresolved issue appears to be the health and environmental risks of building homes atop garbage.
Meadowlands officials have predicted that the project will create more than 7,000 jobs, and generate more than $8.5 million in income taxes, and more than $32 million in sales taxes. The whole project is expected to cost more than $1 billion.
North Arlington Mayor Mayor Russell Pitman said he was waiting to see the details of the proposal to assess its impact on his borough. He said he was in favor of turning the brownfields green but opposed placing more than 1,500 units of high-density housing, with no commercial ratables, that was proposed in the initial EnCap presentation.
But after talks with EnCap officials, Pitman said he was confident a compromise could be worked out.
"The devil is in the details, and I want to make sure the project will benefit the community," Pitman said.
Lyndhurst Mayor James Guida said the project will be a boon to all south Bergen County communities, which will benefit from the landfill cleanup and the millions in tax revenue the project is expected to generate.
"I think it's time we start this project," Guida said. "I've been looking forward to it."
By Yung Kim
NJMC & EnCap Conclude Preparations
The landfills in this transaction stretch across the lowland portions of Rutherford, Lyndhurst, and North Arlington. A second phase of the project would include additional landfills and property in North Arlington and Kearny totaling an additional 465 acres. The entire two-phase project would cover 1,250 acres.
Fridays closing marks the handover of land the NJMC has acquired for the project, to EnCap so that the cleanup of the landfills may begin this spring. As part of the closing, EnCap will pay $7.75 million. The NJMC will receive $4.25 million to reimburse acquisition costs, finalize acquisitions for phase one, and pay for other costs associated with the process. The remaining $3.5 million will go into an escrow deposit to finalize other acquisitions associated with phase one. EnCap has already paid an additional $8.7 million to the NJMC for a non-refundable deposit and other costs associated with the beginning of the acquisition process.
EnCap has committed to putting up a $148.8 million bond that will cover the cost of cleaning up the landfills and moving recreational fields, should the project fail to succeed.
The Meadowlands Golf Redevelopment Project, to be implemented by EnCap, is expected to turn the dumping grounds currently an ecological liability and hole in municipal tax assessments into golf courses, a resort destination, and a pedestrian village to benefit the entire region.
This landmark day represents the latest in what has been a series of successes for the Meadowlands, said NJMC Executive Director Robert Ceberio. We are reviving the Meadowlands for all of New Jersey, and this project is a crucial part of that.
The first phase of the project will be the remediation of the Lyndhurst, Rutherford and Avon landfills. This phase should take 4 years. The construction of the courses and mixed-use development is expected to be completed over a 7-year period.
The full project is expected to create 7,080 jobs over 11½ years. Income taxes of $8.5 million are expected to be generated over the same period. Sales taxes related to construction are projected to amount to $32.4 million. Construction of the two phases is estimated to cost $1.077 billion.
The Lyndhurst portion of the project would include 284 acres of golf course links, 350 hotel rooms, 150,000 square feet of office space, 930 active adult residential units, 850 open market residential units, and 100,000 square feet of retail.
Rutherford will benefit from 57 acres of golf courses, 400 hotel rooms, 600,000 square feet of office space, and 200 active adult residential units.
Development of the first phase of the project is slated for only 13% of the site with the rest turned into open space in the form of preserved marshes and environmentally friendly golf courses.
Remediation of the 7 landfills that sit in both phases of the project will prevent an estimated 12 billion gallons of pollutants from entering the surrounding ecosystem over the next 30 years, for an average of 400 million gallons per year.
The dumps of the Meadowlands once gave our state a black eye, today, were remaking them into a jewel in our states crown, Levin said.
Contact: Chris Gale, Public Information Officer
New Jersey Meadowlands Commission - 5/3/2004