Trinity Hall's hopes to plant the region's first all-girls high school on a wooded parcel on Chapel Hill Road in Middletown were thwarted early Thursday by the Middletown Township Planning Board's 6-3 vote to deny their application for preliminary final major site plan approval.
The vote came at 1 a.m. at the conclusion of a marathon 6 1/2 hour meeting dedicated to public comment, which was mostly dominated by Chapel Hill homeowners who laid out arguments against the school's potential impact on roads, traffic, drainage, decibel levels, property values and their quality of life.
The motion to deny the application was made by member Michael Ostrander, and seconded by member Gail Caroll. Members Greta Siwiec, Charles Heck, John Deus and Frank Wilton joined Ostrander and Caroll in voting "yes" to deny the application.
Voting against denying the application were members John Kardel, Carl Rathjen and Mark Davis.
Shrieks of celebration, hugs and handshakes broke out among opponents of Trinity Hall's plan at the announcement of the board's vote. Several of the observers had endured six months of planning board meetings from the courtroom's hard wooden pews and worried about the outcome. "I'm jumping with joy," said a beaming David Robinson, a Chapel Hill Road resident. "The residents did their due diligence. This was not a fit, and it was very dangerous for residents," he said, referring to his potential traffic impacts on the country roads.
On the other side of the room, Trinity Hall supporters appeared stunned and saddened by the vote. Beth Koerwer said her daughter is one girls in the inaugural "leadership class" at Trinity Hall, which is temporarily situated on the Croydon Hall campus in Leonardo. Already, 30 students had contributed 500 volunteer hours of service to their community, she said. "I think the school would have been a amazing asset to Middletown," she said, shaking her head. She lamented the Planning Board's decision. "They missed the boat," she said.