BERNARDS TWP., NJ - An update on Bernards Township's consideration of a proposal to have the redevelopment of the nearly-defunct Millington Quarry proceed through a state program for blighted properties is due to be presented to the Bernards Township Committee on Feb. 28.

Speaking at the Feb. 14 meeting, Bernards Township Committee members John Malay and John Carpenter said they would like to move quickly on proceeding with the designation of the 180-acre quarry property as an area in need of redevelopment.

Malay noted there is a prospective buyer for the deeply quarried land off Stone House Road.

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The Bernards Township Planning Board in January already endorsed the filing of an an application seeking to designate the Millington Quarry as a state redevelopment site. 

The matter is now back with the Township Committee about whether to proceed with the application, which proponents say will help jumpstart a new use for the quarried land, and also give the township more say in what eventually ends up on the mostly depleted quarry site, which is the largest undeveloped tract in Bernards Township.

The Township Committee was due to hear an update on the proposal on Feb. 14 from Township Attorney John Belardo, who was unavailable to give the report that night due to a sudden family emergency.

Township Committeewoman Carol Bianchi urged the Township Committee to wait to hear Belardo's report - now scheduled for the Feb. 28 Township Committee meeting - before moving along any further on what she called a "complex process."

"We want the public to be involved in this," Bianchi added. 

Mayor Carolyn Gaziano said that night she would prefer that the plan be heard before the Township Committee rather than sending the matter back to the Planning Board.

"We want to make sure this project is going to enhance the town with amenities that can be used by the public, not just [a] private [development,]" Gaziano said.

The township attorney's report is now due to be presented at the Bernards Township Committee meeting scheduled to begin at 8 p.m. on Tuesday, Feb. 28.

Former Township Committeeman Bill Allen attended the Feb. 14 meeting, and asked the Township Committee to address the "three elephants in the room" in discussions of the quarry's future.

Allen asked the Township Committee to consider how the risk of having people fall from a steep rock cliff - or being hit by falling boulders - could be minimized; and what activities would be permitted in an area of the property that has been filled with soil that tested as contaminated. 

In a rehabilitation plan examined in depth by the Planning Board a few years ago, a large lake is proposed   for the deepest quarry pit on the property. Allen again asked township officials to consider how long that pit would likely take to naturally fill in with water, and also what the quality would be of the future lake water.

Last December, the Planning Board's public hearing on the quarry redevelopment plan was attended by Allen and Ann Parksekian, a former member of the Bernards Township Planning Board, both of whom urged township officials to require the Millington Quarry owners to meet pledged responsibilities to make the property suitable for redevelopment. 

In a list of concerns presented to the Planning Board at that time, Allen asked, "What happens if this redevelopment process does not produce an approved plan for development? It is reasonable to assume that responsibility for meeting the requirements of the current rehab plan, or a successor rehab plan, will remain with the current property owner." His letter to the board that night requested that that the Millington Quarry's responsibility be confirmed.

Allen, Parsekian and other speakers noted that the quarry has been given the responsibility for cleaning up parts of the property that tested as contaminated after the quarry's operator trucked in soil as "fill" for steeply quarried areas. The township's efforts to stop contaminated soil from coming into the site led to legal action that was eventually settled.

Last year, township officials and representatives for the quarry said that moving forward through the state's redevelopment program could produce a viable plan for future development on the property.