EAST RUTHERFORD, NJ-A special panel appointed by the New Jersey DEP and the New Jersey Meadowlands Commission issued a 60-page report on the proposed Meadowlands Xanadu project at the Meadowlands Sports Complex here that is at least mildly critical of the co-developers’ plans from an environmental standpoint. The Arlington, VA-based Mills Corp. and the Cranford-based Mack-Cali Realty are the developers.

And if the report’s findings and recommendations are accepted by DEP and the NJMC, both state agencies, it could add hundreds of millions of dollars to the cost of the mega project, according to observers. At the moment, the 4.7-million-sf entertainment/retail/office/hotel project slated to rise around the Continental Airlines Arena is carrying a price tag of $1.3 billion.

The report was most critical of the developers’ traffic study, and it recommends that the study be redone to include a wider area. It also recommends that it be expanded to include the impact of the project on the region’s mass transit.

The report also recommends that Mills and Mack-Cali pay an additional, unspecified amount for any off-site traffic improvements the project would require. The two firms, under their agreement with the New Jersey Sports & Exposition Authority, the state agency that owns the site, would pay $65 million toward such improvements.

Other recommendations put forward in the report call for a $2-million payment to the state to cover any negative economic impact of the project on surrounding towns, as well as a $1.7-million-per-year payment in lieu of taxes to the 14 communities that make up the Meadowlands region.

The report also calls on Mills and Mack-Cali to conduct a new air quality study, to add an on-site air monitoring station to their site plan, and to investigate whether the project should have its own wastewater treatment plant. Finally, the panel wants the two developers to pay $100,000 per year for wetlands preservation, with the payment going to the Meadowlands Conservation Trust.

The initial response from the two developers is that the requirements, if approved by the two state agencies, won’t “break the deal,” in the words of a Mills spokesperson. “We’re still planning for a Sept. 29 groundbreaking.”

Officials of the NJSEA also say they don’t foresee any delays. George Zoffinger, its CEO, indicated following the report’s release that the agency would also comply with the various recommendations if they’re approved.

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