DEP extends comment period for proposed wetlands construction at Xanadu site

Jessica Perry//January 6, 2012

DEP extends comment period for proposed wetlands construction at Xanadu site

Jessica Perry//January 6, 2012

State regulators have extended the public-comment period on the environmental impact of a component of the American Dream Meadowlands project that would involve construction on a wetlands site.

The comment period, now open through Jan. 18, centers on a plan to build water and amusement parks next to the main site in East Rutherford, and was pushed back from the original Dec. 19 deadline. Department of Environmental Protection spokesman Larry Ragonese said the move was an acknowledgement of the scope of the multibillion-dollar project.

“It’s a major development issue, and we just wanted to ensure that no one could say they didn’t have a real fair shot of looking at this, have time to read through the environmental impact statement and ask questions and get responses that they need,” Ragonese said.

In November’s public hearings, Triple Five, of Edmonton, Canada, discussed its plan to build the entertainment parks on a site that includes about 5.5 acres of wetlands. The hearings were to be followed by a 30-day public-comment period on a draft supplemental environmental impact statement on the plan.

A Triple Five executive said at the hearings that the retail and entertainment complex once known as Xanadu was “not economically viable” without the amusement parks. Such parks, he said, have been key to the success of the company’s other destination malls — the Mall of America, in Minnesota, and the West Edmonton Mall.

Triple Five spokeswoman Jill Renslow said Friday the firm understands the DEP’s decision to extend the deadline and “the fact that they need ample time for the public comment.”

“We know it’s not uncommon for the comment period to be extended, not only in New Jersey, but in other places, so we’re used to that process,” she said.

Renslow also said Triple Five is “progressing nicely” in its efforts to finalize financing for the project, which is expected to cost another $1.8 billion beyond what has been spent by previous owners.

“Everything’s coming together,” she said. “It’s just the fact that it’s a complicated project that takes some time, and hopefully, we’ll have some news to share soon.”