HILLSBOROUGH, NJ - Mayor Doug Tomson, gavel in hand, presided over Tuesday night's Committee meeting, but even he will admit that he wasn't in charge.
Instead, a disembodied electronic voice provided instructions as to when comments were appropriate from an audience that was barred from being in the room where meetings are usually held.
They called in on their phones, and were allowed to "cross the bridge" to make their comments. A few callers waited in the queue, while those before them had their say, before the voice announced that the bridge was closing - and opened again for the next caller.
"This is the temporary new normal," Tomson offered.
In deference to the Coronavirus (COVID-19), public health and New Jersey's prohibitions on large social gatherings, the meeting was live streamed on YouTube; at one point, there were 93 persons watching and listening.
Also highly unusual for the Township Committee - no proclamations were handed out, a proud tradition that recognizes the good work and good deeds of school kids, volunteers, civic organizations, first responders and those who contribute to a better life for all.
The tradition will be implemented once again when COVID-19 restrictions ease, according to Tomson.
In addition to Tomson, the meeting was attended by Deputy Mayor Shawn Lipani, Committee member Gloria McCauley and Committee member Frank Delcore. Committee member Olivia Holmes phoned in to participate. Township Clerk Pam Borek and Township Administrator Anthony Ferrara were also present, along with a few other department heads and officials. Each sat several feet apart as suggested by the new "social distancing" standards.
A larger-than-normal crowd had been expected at the meeting for a discussion of an ordinance that would affect the development of the former Glen-Gery quarry and brick works factory on Hamilton Road.
As expected, the ordinance was tabled and scheduled for discussion and a possible vote at the April 28 meeting of the Township Committee.
The proposed ordinance would rezone a portion of the former 350-acre quarry and brick works factory on Hamilton Road from mining to residential and permit construction of 380 single family homes on 8,000 square-foot lots. The potential developer is M&M Realty Partners LLC of Piscataway, according to Tomson. The developer would also be obligated for financing construction of 88 affordable housing units that would be built elsewhere in the township.
M&M Realty Partners is one of several companies owned by prominent developer Jack Morris, who is part-owner of the Hard Rock Casino in Atlantic City. He is the owner and principal of Edgemere Properties, builder of the Edge luxury apartments on Main Street Somerville, as well as other properties in New Jersey, Florida and other states.
Morris is also chairman of the Robert Wood Johnson University Hospital Board of Trustees and RWJBarnabas Health Board of Trustees.