BERNARDS TWP., NJ - The often contentious relationship between Millington Quarry and the township has taken a turn for greater cooperation. As part of the process, the Bernards Planning Board has scheduled a public session on Dec. 6 to seek comment on a plan that would turn the deeply mined property into a new section of town.

The plan, which supposedly would have the support of the current quarry owner and a contracted buyer of the 180-acre property, would mix residential and commercial development with open space for the public, according to a discussion held before the Bernards Township Committee in July.

The meeting is scheduled for 7:30 p.m. on Dec. 6. At that time the public may comment on this issue. The board may or may not chose to adopt a resolution on Dec. 6, or possibly at a later date, said Fran Florio, Planning Board secretary.

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In order for the redevelopment planning process to proceed, the township Planning Board would have to next designate the property as an area "in need of redevelopment." That designation would need to be certified by the state. 

Taking the route of making the property a state redevelopment area would allow the Township Committee and Planning Board more flexibility and input into a development plan, according to last summer's discussion and the documents on the website.

Bernards Mayor Carol Bianchi said then that the process will be made as public as possible. She added the township is aiming for a redevelopment plan that would minimize its impact on schools, be aesthetically pleasing and result in an environmentally responsible use of the property.

The Planning Board had been considering setting the Dec. 6 workshop for the meeting scheduled two days before Thanksgiving - but Township Committeeman John Malay, who sits on the board, suggested that more members of the public would be free to attend in early December.

Long history

The quarry operation itself dates back about a century, and during that time, the course town's relationship with the quarry owners did not always run smoothly.

The quarry owners and the township had been involved in litigation a number of years ago after the quarry brought soil and fill, which in some cases had tested as having contaminants, to help "reclaim" the quarry. Quarry representatives, who countered that the township had asked that the quarrying pits be filed as part of an earlier "reclamation" plan.

Anthony Splendorio, a township resident and landscape architect who owns the "Back to Nature" center off King George Road, was present at last summer's presentation before the Township Committee as an adviser to Shopoff Realty Investments, contracted owner of the property. He said plans at that point were mostly conceptual.

"It's an amazing landscape," Splendorio said of the property, on which mining has for the most part halted, and is already undergoing reclamation.

Splendorio said the property will include a lake - already approved by the township Planning Board in a reclamation plan reviewed by the Planning Board and approved by the Township Committee last year.

Some documents describing the process of how such a plan might come to fruition -- which would invite input from township officials and also township residents at public meetings -- were posted last summer on the Bernards Township website.