BERNARDS TWP., NJ _ A crowd attended a scheduled hearing before the township Zoning Board of Adjustment on Wednesday night on an application to subdivide the Millington Quarry into two tracts _ one about 50 acres, and the other almost 130 acre _ but the hearing turned into a discussion of which township board has the jurisdiction to hear the case.
As of now, the proposal is due to come back before the zoning board at 7:30 p.m. on May 16, so the board can decide whether to itself consider the application, or to move the application to the Planning Board and Township Committee to conduct a hearing.
The Board of Adjustment meeting on March 6 was attended by dozens of residents, including members of the local Stop the Quarry citizens group.
The night before, on Tuesday, March 5, the Bernards Township Committee voted 3-1 to approve a resolution saying that prior to seeking to split the defunct quarry off Stonehouse Road into 2 lots, the owner must submit an overall rehabilitation plan update to the Bernards Township Planning Board. As it has in the past, the Planning Board recommends whether the Township Committee, which has a final vote, should approve a plan envisioning a future for the deeply quarried land. The quarry owners should submit a revised plan by this April 30, the resolution said.
Following Wednesday's meeting, Michael Lavigne, an attorney representing Millington Quarry, said there would would be "no furtherance of a development plan" by the subdivision of the quarry property. He added the quarry has a potential buyer for the entire property, but said he is not the attorney involved with the potential land sale.
The zoning board's attorney, Steven Warner, assigned dates to the quarry's representative and the township to offer arguments for where jurisdiction for the hearing should end up _ although he noted that his decision, which he said he is aiming to make at the May 16 zoning board meeting _ could be challenged.
Before that time, further filings could be filed with the Board of Adjustment office at town hall. "The Board of Adjustment file will be open to the public," board secretary Cynthia Kiefer said in response to a question
Prior notification sent out by Stop the Quarry group
"Why would the owners ask to subdivide but not provide any information on their reasons or intent?" asked an email sent out by the group prior to the meeting. "Have they earned our trust?"
Last week, Kiefer said in response to a question that no development is proposed as part of the request.
The owners of the now-defunct Millington Quarry are asking to subdivide the property off Stonehouse Road into two lots, one containing 50.3 acres, with a larger remaining tract of 129.5 acres to be the second lot.
The first and smaller lot includes an area that was was remediated in cooperation with the state Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) after local officials and citizen watchdogs accused the quarry operator of trucking in contaminated soil to fill quarried areas.
The Stop the Quarry group said that the property is being divided into a contaminated and non-contaminated sections in preparation for development.
The email sent out said that toxins are still present, including under a portion of a proposed recreational lake. "How can half of a contaminated lake be divided? How can the NJDEP oversee half a lake?" the email asked.
During years of hearings for the afterlife of the quarrying operation, part of the property was envisioned for development with single family homes and a large lake in the former quarry pit.
Another proposal for the property -- including multi-family homes, a hotel, office space and retail space -- was presented to the public in 2017, where it sparked much opposition as residents complained that the plan would have brought overdevelopment to the area, and failed to address lingering questions about soil contamination.
The plan, envisioned under a state program for blighted properties, was eventually rejected by the Township Committee in January 2018.