For affirmance -- Chief Justice Weintraub, Justices Jacobs and Mountain, and Judges Conford, Sullivan and Lewis. For reversal -- None.
This is an appeal, on direct certification by this Court, from a decision of the Department of Environmental Protection and the Hackensack Meadowlands Development Commission, dated October 16, 1972, approving the selection by the New Jersey Sports and Exposition Authority of a site in the Hackensack meadowlands for the establishment of a sports and exposition complex. The decision found that the proposed site was the most suitable location "from an environmental point of view" and that considering all relevant factors, a rational basis existed for its selection.
In New Jersey Sports & Exposition Authority v. McCrane, 61 N.J. 1 (1972) this Court upheld the constitutionality
of the New Jersey Sports and Exposition Authority Law, N.J.S.A. 5:10-1, et seq. In substance this law provided for the establishment of a sports and exposition complex in the Hackensack meadowlands and created the Sports and Exposition Authority to carry out the legislative purpose. Our opinion sets forth the broad outlines of the project, the powers conferred and obligations imposed on the Authority, and the means provided for financing the development.
In upholding the constitutionality of the statute we noted that section 23 thereof required the Authority, in undertaking the meadowlands complex, to consult with the Hackensack Meadowlands Development Commission and the Department of Environmental Protection with respect to the ecological factors constituting the environment of the Hackensack meadowlands "to the end that the delicate environmental balance of the Hackensack meadowlands may be maintained and preserved."*fn1 We held that the informal conferences which the Authority had with the named agencies during its consideration of a site for the complex did not satisfy the purpose of the statute.
It was the unanimous view of all of the members of the Court that the statute imposed an obligation on the Authority:
"to present its proposal for site location to the Meadowlands Commission and the Department of Environmental Protection, and seek their opinion that in using such site the 'delicate environmental balance of the Hackensack meadowlands may be maintained and preserved.'" 61 N.J. at 32.
Accordingly, while upholding the constitutionality of the Act, we remanded the matter for a hearing, on notice to the
public and the parties to the action, with opportunity for the Authority and all interested parties to present their views on the subject. Any party desiring review of the administrative decision was given leave to apply for direct certification by this Court.
We recognized that the consultation directed by the statute was not itself a quasi-judicial process, but since the end product could then be attacked judicially on an appeal to the Appellate Division, we suggested that the named agencies might well permit the parties to appear before them to make a record which would suffice for the appellate review, thereby obviating the time delay which a two-step affair would entail. The agencies accepted that suggestion and the record made is adequate for judicial review of the quasi-legislative decision of the agencies. On that judicial review, the attacking parties of course have the conventional burden of demonstrating, not that the agencies' action was merely erroneous, but that it was arbitrary.
Pursuant to the remand, the Authority had a study made of the potential environmental impact of the construction and operation of the proposed complex. This study confirmed the selection of the site in question as the best from an environmental standpoint. However, it made numerous recommendations of changes in the project "to minimize the impact of site development and to enhance the environment of the area." The major recommendation made was to revise the Site Plan to preserve and restore approximately 130 acres of ...