BERNARDS TWP., NJ - The Bernards Township Committee moved another step forward in the creation of a redevelopment plan for the spent Millington Quarry by voting to designate the 180-acre property as "an area in need of redevelopment" under a state program.

Tuesday's resolution approving the designation for participation in the state program will also keep public hearings on the plan before the Township Committee. Officials say they expect the eventual redevelopment plan will have public recreational facilities along with private homes.

The other option was to have the Planning Board proceed with hearings on a plan. Earlier this year, the Planning Board already endorsed having the property designated as a state redevelopment site.

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"I for one believe [discussion of the proposed redevelopment plan] should remain here at the Township Committee," Mayor Carolyn Gaziano said at Tuesday's meeting. Gaziano said township officials want public input on plans for the future of the quarry property at Township Committee meetings, which are set up with regular opportunities for public comment.

"There's a number of goals we have for the property," she added. For example, she said the township wants to make sure that any development is 'environmentally friendly;' that no more soil or other fill is brought onto the property after the township's discovery several years ago that some contaminated soil was being brought in to fill in mined areas; study of the impact that children living in future housing would have on the township school system; that some of the future recreational features on the quarry land, including a large planned lake, would be open to the public; and more.

Gaziano said those were her goals but other members of the Township Committee, including Committeeman John Carpenter, said they had the same goals.

No date set for public hearings

Gaziano noted after the meeting that no date has been set for hearings to begin.

No details have been given, or decisions have been made, for developing the property, although township officials said that making the property a state redevelopment site would allow the township to have more influence over final plans.

The quarry property, even before preparation, has a probable purchaser for the land, and is said to want to cooperate with the township. Anne Babineau, a redevelopment attorney, was at Tuesday's meeting on behalf of the potential buyer.

At some point, Township Committee members would been to look at whether the developer should be allowed to make some "payments in lieu of taxes," in planning the property that could have some access for the public.

The largest undeveloped tract in the township. the property has for all intents and purposes ended its life as a quarry, the use which it had for about a century. "The Planning Board finds that all or nearly all rock that could be mined and sold commercially has been mined and sold and, after over 100 years of mining operations, the property is no longer viable as a commercial mining enterprise," says the resolution written by Planning Board Attorney Jonathan Drill.

The resolution written by Drill was approved by the Planning Board at its January meeting, and confirms the board's recommendation to the Bernards Township Committee that the township should declare the quarry site a "non-condemnation redevelopment area" under state standards, meaning that the property would not need to be condemned before being declared in need of redevelopment.

The Planning Board's resolution also included public input from such officials as former Mayor Bill Allen who, among other items, warned of tall cliffs in an area fo the property. Public speakers also urged township officials to ensure that the quarry owner should make good on commitments to clean up any remaining contamination on the property.