The New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) and the New Jersey Meadowlands Commission (NJMC) held the hearing in two sessions in the auditorium of the NJMC's DeKorte Park Plaza office in Lyndhurst.
The scope of the study was detailed in an outline released at the hearing, and public comment was accepted until Friday. The NJSEA will take public comment under advisement in a final outline to be released at the end of March. The hearing is the first step in the public consultation process for the study.
The proposed Meadowlands Xanadu is a mixed-use development designed to provide a year-round venue for entertainment, retail, restaurants, hotels and office space. It is being developed by the Mills Corporation and Mack-Cali Realty Corporation and will be built around the existing arena.
The NJSEA is conducting the study in conjunction with consultants The Louis Berger Group, while representatives of the DEP and NJMC act as hearing officers.
Thirty people spoke at the hearing.
Traffic is a concern
"It was roughly evenly split in terms of who was in favor and who was opposed [to the development]," said DEP Chief of Staff Gary Sondemeyer. "The dominant issue that came up repeatedly was, first and foremost, concerns about traffic congestion."
Sections of the outline address traffic in terms of parking, roadway improvements, mass transit planning and infrastructure improvements.
The Xanadu proposal includes a series of roadway improvements for areas outside of Secaucus.
Hearing attendees also requested that the impact statement include cumulative traffic impacts from any development in the Meadowlands district outside of the Xanadu Complex.
Traffic concerns were raised in a letter from Hartz Mountain Industries, who had proposed to build a convention center at the arena site in competition with Mills/Mack Cali.
"Anything short of a full and complete study is inappropriate for a development of this magnitude," wrote Hartz Mountain's Allen Magrini in the letter, which was also sent to over 200 local and state officials. "The local road system, which is often overburdened today, can only fail."
A consultation hearing is required by law when the NJSEA proposes major land use changes in the Meadowlands District. This is only the third time the NJSEA has gone through the process since the law was enacted 35 years ago.
"It was triggered first when racetrack and stadium were constructed," said DEP Chief of Staff Gary Sondermeyer, "and again when the Continental Arena was built."
The other concern was possible destruction of the wetlands.
The Hearing Officers are expected to produce a summary of the hearings on March 30, which will be open to public comment for a period of 60 days. Thirty days after the summary is released, there will be another public hearing. During the 60-day period, the public can submit written comments, or comment in person during the hearing.
The final result will be a Hearing Officers Report to be released in May or June which will address all the comments and make recommendations about the project.
In addition to the consultation process, Mills and Mack-Cali are responsible for acquiring all necessary DEP permitting.
"They don't have a direct role in consultation," said Sondermeyer, "but they have a role in the project approval by being required to obtain all permits from the DEP. There is a series of processes for permitting in which Mills and Mack-Cali have a lead role."
Secaucus Mayor Dennis Elwell, who did not attend the meeting, expects to review the EIS when he attends a Meadowlands District Mayors Council meeting later this month.