LYNDHURST, NJ-The proposal, reported here earlier, to carve four golf courses out of the landfills that line the NJ Turnpike through the communities of Lyndhurst, Rutherford and North Arlington, has moved a step closer to reality now that the Hackensack Meadowlands Development Commission has signed off on the proposal. The proposal had raised some environmental concerns, but in its latest action the HMDC has agreed that the proposal is the best use of the land. HMDC is the steward agency for development within the Hackensack Meadowlands region.

EnCap Golf Holdings, based in Tampa, FL, is the developer, and the three-year-old organization has made brownfields-to-golf-links its development specialty. “We are assuming all cleanup and landfill capping costs, which will save taxpayers millions of dollars,” according to EnCap president William Gauger. “This will be the largest brownfields conversion project in New Jersey’s history.”

EnCap plans to build four different golf courses, 72 holes in all with spectacular views of the Manhattan skyline, with at least one of the four open to the general public. Besides the links, EnCap plans to build a 650-room hotel, conference facilities, a marina and some mixed commercial space. HMDC will lease the land to EnCap for a reported $6.2 million a year for 99 years, and while Gauger won’t put a price tag on the project, earlier reports indicated that the total cost, including remediation of the sites, could run as high as $2.5 billion.

The developer plans to use materials dredged from New York harbor in the Port Authority of NY/NJ’s ongoing port deepening program to cap the landfills. A processing plant along the adjacent Hackensack River will remove any contaminants, according to Gauger. Most of the landfill sites involved are inactive, although at least one location is still an active garbage dump.

Sitework is scheduled to start next spring. The initial phase calls for up to 36 holes plus the hotel, and a projected 2005 opening date. Altogether a build-out of eight to 10 years is anticipated, according to Gauger.

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