The report, written by the New Jersey Meadowlands Commission Executive Director Robert Ceberio and Department of Environmental Protection Chief of Staff Gary Sondermeyer, addresses concerns with the project including: traffic, parking, business, environmental issues, and tax issues that impact communities within the Hackensack Meadowlands.
"If we're going to have state agencies making decisions that affect communities, then as a bare minimum, we need to be sure the recommendations that are made to safeguard our communities are followed," said the mayor. "It is critical that the Meadowlands Commission's recommendations be adhered to."
The mayor hopes his letter will encourage other mayors to send similar letters and ultimately convince the Sports Authority to adhere to the Hearing Officer's report.
"I recognize the enormousness of this project and the numerous approvals of numerous governmental entities that are needed," said Elwell. "But in the end, with having had little say, it is the communities that are most affected by these large-scale projects."
Under unfinished business at the Town Council meeting, the mayor discussed his letter.
He said, "[The hearing officers] have presented a report that spells out some of the deficiencies, in their opinion, in Xanadu. . . and as a chairman of the Meadowlands Mayors Committee, I'm urging every mayor in the district to send out similar letters pointing out the deficiencies and requesting that at a bare minimum, before Xanadu is approved, that the deficiencies are addressed and adhered to."
He added, "[W]e had to have something in our hand that we could point to with authority, not just through hearsay. In essence, what the hearing officer's report says is that if this project was being built under their zoning, these would be the things that would have to be done."
One resident praised the mayor and also voiced his own concerns about the New Jersey Sports and Exposition Authority's plans.
Frank MacCormack of Secaucus said, "I want to thank the board for taking the action they are taking on the Xanadu project. I, for one, am vehemently against the Xanadu project. It's going to affect Secaucus as far as I'm concerned to a great, great degree."
MacCormack discussed traffic implications, especially along Route 3. He also raised concerns about groundbreaking since he believes there are still many issues that need to be addressed.
He said, "They are announcing a groundbreaking. I don't think they should be able to break any ground until all the reports are in."
Michael Gonnelli, Meadowlands Commissioner and superintendent of the Secaucus Department of Public Works, spoke at the caucus meeting hoping to clarify a misconception that the New Jersey Meadowlands Commission has the authority to control the New Jersey Sports and Exposition Authority.
Gonnelli said, "Xanadu is a project that's being put forth by another state agency, which is the New Jersey Sport and Exposition Authority. We have no say what the sports authority does. Past history shows that." He added, "They are exempt from us. We have no control over them."
Gonnelli explained that the Meadowlands Commission was given an opportunity to be involved in the Xanadu process by having Robert Ceberio, New Jersey Meadowlands Commission executive director, serve as one of the hearing officers. By serving as hearing officer, Gonnelli explained, Ceberio could sit in on public hearings, all the plans, hear all the presentations, and based on that experience, come forth with recommendations. The hearing officer's report reflects the recommendations.
Gonnelli further explained that traffic is a major concern of Secaucus residents. He said that since Xanadu is expected to be built in phases, the developer should check traffic estimates after each phase is completed.
In other business, the mayor, Town Council and Hartz Mountain Industries issued ceremonial checks to several local organizations. The money was raised through a recent carnival at Harmon Meadow.
Also at the meeting, it was announced that the town attorney is preparing an ordinance that will deal with the issue of pocket scooters. The attorney needs to sit down with the police department to discuss enforcement, and the ordinance will probably be introduced at the next meeting.