Newspaper article The Record (Bergen County, NJ)

Deal Urged in Landfill Battle

Newspaper article The Record (Bergen County, NJ)

Deal Urged in Landfill Battle

Article excerpt

The legal skirmish between Kearny and state officials over the fate of the only remaining North Jersey landfill that accepts heavy construction debris led a Superior Court judge on Friday to recommend to each side that they try to negotiate a compromise before the 11-year lease agreement expires late next week.

"I strongly suggest that all sides talk to each other before I reach my decision," said Judge Peter Bariso after a 40-minute hearing in Superior Court in Hudson County. "I have issues with both sides, and I can tell you that somebody is going to win and somebody is going to lose."

Bariso added that there is no "Solomonic approach" that would satisfy both sides on the issues of whether the New Jersey Sports and Exposition Authority -- acting with powers formerly held by the Meadowlands Commission before the agencies merged last year -- can seize the Keegan Landfill via eminent domain. Also at issue is who will be responsible for post-closure costs that Jim Bruno, an attorney for Kearny, said could reach $30 million.

Town attorneys have asked the court for a ruling to prevent the sports authority's takeover, claiming that the agency is acting in "bad faith."

While Bruno and another attorney representing Kearny, Greg Castano, were challenged by the judge on why the agency couldn't use its constitutional power to condemn land it deems necessary for its operations, Jay Stewart, an attorney for the sports authority, faced even more withering questioning.

Sports authority officials say that the landfill -- the only one left in North Jersey that accepts heavy construction materials -- must remain open for another 3 1/2 years to provide enough revenue from tipping fees to fund its closure after that point.

"Here's the problem I have: Why are you taking this property?" Bariso asked Stewart. "And I don't want to hear 'because we can.' "

Bariso added that because the eminent domain notice did not include a termination date of the end of 2019 -- the point at which the sports authority has said it would be able to afford to close the landfill -- it bolstered concerns that the agency might actually want to keep the landfill open "in perpetuity. …

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