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Court Rejects Claims Against New Jersey’s Xanadu Project

Fri September 26, 2008 - Northeast Edition

NEWARK, N.J. (AP) The state didn’t err when it gave the go-ahead to developers of the $2 billion Xanadu retail and entertainment project at the Meadowlands sports complex, a state appeals court ruled Sept. 17.

The three-judge panel denied claims by environmental groups and a losing bidder that the state failed to properly review the environmental impact of the project in 2004.

The lawsuit filed by the Sierra Club and Hartz Mountain Industries named the state Department of Environmental Protection, the New Jersey Meadowlands Commission and the New Jersey Sports and Exposition Authority, as well as The Mills Corp. and Mack-Cali Realty, the companies selected in 2003 to develop the site.

The suit claimed there was inadequate study of issues such as traffic, air quality and stormwater management, and characterized the issuing of approvals as “arbitrary and capricious.’’

The court disagreed, noting that the preliminary environmental impact study was “lengthy and detailed’’ and followed a template used previously during the construction of Giants Stadium and the indoor arena now known as the Izod Center.

“We are pleased that today’s decision upholds the process the state of New Jersey used to select a developer at this site,’’ New Jersey Meadowlands Commission Executive Director Robert Ceberio said.

The court was more receptive to the suit’s claim that the state and the developers failed to provide adequate opportunity for public comment or opposing views to be aired.

In a companion ruling that focused on a waterfront development permit for the project, the court ordered the DEP to “establish a method to permit public comment on future Mills’ submissions.’’

Jeff Tittel, director of the New Jersey Sierra Club, said his organization will consider appealing the decision to the state Supreme Court, and may also push to have an environmental impact study reopened in light of a recent proposal to add a 200,000-sq.-ft. aquarium to the project.

Xanadu was scheduled to open this fall, but developers said in May it won’t open until next summer.

Xanadu is to feature a 200-ft.-high indoor snow dome, movie complex, concert space and an upscale martini lounge and bowling alley, among other attractions.

In August, a Superior Court judge refused to dismiss a lawsuit accusing Mills and Mack-Cali of trying to renege on building a minor league ballpark in the Meadowlands.

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