Golf Course Planned for New Jersey Gravel Pit

In mid-February a representative for the developer of a proposed golf and housing project in Ringwood, N.J., unveiled its conceptual designs for the local planning board during a public meeting. Attorney Jerome Vogel showed sketches of the project, which involves 424 acres that span the Van Orden Sand and Gravel and Saddle Mountain, property owned by the Braen family.

The meeting was packed with local officials and residents, including members of CLEAN, an environmental advocacy group that has contested the quarry’s operations for the past 10 years. “We want to have a free and open discourse with you,” Vogel told the gathering. “We do not view this as an adversarial process, although there are old friends behind me that will disagree.”

The Braen family's land includes 137 acres that stray into the neighboring town of West Milford. According to the preliminary drawings, that property will be used for the bulk of the golf course. West Milford Mayor Joseph Di Donato told reporter Carol Fletcher of the Garden State Suburban Trends newspaper that he had not heard anything yet about the project and couldn’t comment on it. Vogel said during the public meeting that drawings must first be prepared before he will fill out a permit application with West Milford officials.

Vogel is confident the Braens’ rather large expanse of property provides enough flexibility to comply with environmental concerns related to the golf course. The attorney emphasized that residential components will be sacrificed in order to accommodate the course. In addition, Vogel said the Braens planned to set aside 74 acres for a nature preserve.

Some officials commented that a golf course is currently a conditional use for the property, but homes aren’t and a zoning change may be necessary. There’s also a question about a golf course being spread across two jurisdictions. Other concerns voiced at the meeting dealt with pesticide applications, impacts to soils, effects of the project on protected plant species, and water usage. Vogel responded that those issues will be studied when the development group’s final site plan is submitted.

Although the meeting’s attendees – from officials to residents to members of CLEAN – voiced valid concerns, Vogel said he was pleased with the initial discussion. “This was the night I hoped for,” Vogel commented. “My client owns the property and has not only the right but the intention to develop the property. We thank you for your concerns and we will be back. We’re going to keep at it until we can satisfy you all.”