Come June 30, there’ll be a showdown at the Keegan landfill, pardners, so don’t get caught in the cross-fire.
For the past several months, the N.J. Sports & Exposition Authority – which runs the dump – has been angling not only to keep the place open but to raise the elevation of the site.
But Kearny – which covets the property for its own use – is telling the agency, in no uncertain terms, to ‘git off my land’ when its lease runs out in another four months, even though, by kicking out the landfill, the town will forfeit the annual revenues it receives from the lease payment and host fee which, last year, totaled $1,387,211.
To that end, the mayor and Town Council last Tuesday approved a resolution “authorizing the issuance to the NJSEA of a Notice to Quit/Demand for Possession and Compliance with Lease Obligations.”
The notice being sent to the NJSEA says that the property must be “surrendered” to Kearny on or before June 30 with certain conditions having been met:
• That the landfill must be “closed in accordance with the … regulations of the state Department of Environmental Protection,” which, Mayor Alberto Santos said, means that the NJSEA must show that it has sufficient escrow funds set aside for “post-closure costs,” such as “monitoring vapor levels” on site.
• That “there must be a flat ‘plateau’ of approximately 45 acres on the top of the closed landfill to accommodate the proposed recreational uses referenced in the lease” and, that, in the meantime, the NJSEA should arrange to place any remaining wastes received “strategically … to act as surcharge as needed on those parts of the landfill that were former wetlands areas to … minimize differential settlement which may occur during post-closure.”
• That “all equipment of the NJSEA, including … scales and related ramps, must be removed” from the site.
The notice also directs the NJSEA to shut down landfill operations by June 20, the actual “expiration date of [its] DEP permit” and to “immediately provide your schedule of pre-closure activities …” and to “immediately notify your customers” of the discontinuation of the lease “so as to avoid a self-created ‘emergency.’ ’’
Santos said the town is fearful that the authority may deploy “certain drastic measures” – like delaying the landfill’s closure – which “may present significant conflict to the town” in its effort to convert the site to other uses.
“That’s why we want to place the town in as strong a position as possible,” the mayor said.
As stated in the notice, “The Town will vigorously oppose any legal action by NJSEA for continuance of the landfill operations based on any alleged ‘emergency.’ ’’
Another possibility that, Santos said, could arise is NJSEA invoking the power of “eminent domain” in an effort to seize the land for the public good.
The authority, which declined to comment on Kearny’s notice, has been trying to make a case for extending the life of the landfill, claiming that it is the only North Jersey facility licensed to accept construction debris of which it accepts more than 300,000 tons a year. To that end, it wants to raise the mounds of compacted waste from the current average elevation of about 60 feet to about 100 feet.
But Kearny isn’t buying those arguments. The town wants to get on with the business of developing what it considers to be a more productive use at the property.
What that turns out to be remains a matter of conjecture.
Last October, the town engaged Hatch Mott McDonald, consulting engineers of Iselin, to conduct a “feasibility/future use analysis” of the landfill and HMM was to partner with the CBRE Group Inc., a global commercial real estate services and investment firm, to recommend the best uses for the site.
That report has been completed and delivered to Kearny but Town Clerk Pat Carpenter told The Observer she’s been advised by town attorneys that, at this point, it is a “working document,” and therefore, not yet open for public inspection.