BERNARDS TWP., NJ - After sparks flew, and strong opinions were expressed at Tuesday night's hearing on a draft proposal to build 235 homes, retail space, a hotel and 50-acre lake at the defunct Millington Quarry, the township is trying to scale back to informal meetings with the developer and other officials.

The first meeting is scheduled to begin at 7 p.m. on Thursday, Nov. 30, with the second also scheduled to begin at 7 p.m. on Monday, Dec. 4. Both meetings are scheduled to be held at town hall at 1 Collyer Lane in Basking Ridge.

Most of Ridge HS PAC was filled with residents who attended Tuesday night's hearing/presentation on the Millington Quarry plan. Most of the speakers were still opposed the proposal on the 180-acre defunct quarry property off Stonehouse Road, but some said they thought the proposal - for which the proposed developers said they are seeking additional public interest - deserved a good look. A video of the entire meeting is on YouTube.

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"I think this development in isolation is very interesting and lovely," said Lisa Winter, one of the last speakers of the evening during a 3-hour-plus meeting. However, she said felt the main issue was really the Township Committee's decision to rezone for hundreds of buildings in a multi-use development on a property that is still zoned for industrial use, and had long been envisioned for development with homes on two-acre lots on at least part of the land. 

After a long period of development in the township, "You did a good job of buying up open space," Winter told the Township Committee's members. She then expressed surprise at what she called plans for a "high-density development."

"This is really important to get this right," she said of deciding the quarry land's future. "I would be happy to leave it the way it is," she added.

One of the evening's first speakers, Chau Shearer, said she had originally opposed the plan, but then reached out to the township and proposed developers for additional information. "Every single one responded to me," she said.

Based on what she said she had seen in her own neighborhood, Shearer said she didn't see that large homes on larger acreage are selling at this time, and she thinks the proposed plan is better. She also expressed concern that the quarry owners might seek to develop the land with a state-affordable plan "builder's remedy" in which many market-price homes are built in exchange for subsidized affordable housing to meet a state obligation.

But longtime resident John Gray noted that the property, deeply quarried for more than a century, is not a "pristine" site waiting to be developed.

"It was a mining industrial site," Gray said, from which the owners had mined many millions of dollars worth of stone, and then later earned additional profit from allowing fill from all over the region to be trucked into the property. He said that the property should remain zoned as an industrial zone, "considering its industrial use, and considering what's buried there."

At the next scheduled Township Committee meeting at 8 p.m. on Tuesday, Dec. 12, the Township Committee will discuss school enrollment estimates, and have The Elm Group and Princeton Hydro summarize their earlier reports, said Mayor Carolyn Gaziano.

Community Investment Partners will discuss a traffic study, Gaziano added.