Special Meeting

Call Meeting to Order

Dennis Miranda called the meeting to order at 6:00 p.m.

Statement of Compliance

Pursuant to the Open Public Meetings Act, Chapter 231, P.L. 1975 adequate notice as defined in Section 4D of Chapter 231, P.L. 1975 has been transmitted from the Vernon Municipal Center to the New Jersey Herald on April 12, 2010, and published on April 13, 2010. Notice is posted on the bulletin board and filed with the office of the Township Clerk.

Roll Call

Jessica Beutel A
Dan Boltz P
Michael Furrey A
David Gornstein A
Carol Kadish P
Allison Petryk P
Tim McCurry  
Dennis Miranda, Chair P

Also Present

Jessica Paladini, Recording Secretary
Ariana Miranda, Student Member
Cathleen Caccavale, Land Conservancy
Barbara Heskins Davis, Land Conservancy

Pledge of Allegiance

Oath of Office

Chairman Dennis Miranda administered the oath of office to two new members: regular member Tim McCurry and student member Ariana Miranda.

Open Meeting to the Public

Dennis Miranda opened the meeting to the public. Seeing no one come forward, the meeting was closed to the public.

Closed Meeting to the Public

Chairman Dennis Miranda announced that the township received official word today from Larry Fink of the Green Acres Program that we lost $1.55 million in Green Acres grant money the town had amassed but lost because it was never spent. The Environmental Commission and the Township Council had been warned several times during 2009 that unless the grant money was used it would be lost. The grant money had been allocated to the Township of Vernon during each of the five years that it had a dedicated open space fund. Soon after the township stopped collecting money for open space, it was warned to use the money or it would lose it. Larry Fink notified the township that open space money was no longer available from the state. Commission members commented that it is a significant loss to the township and should not have happened.

The Land Conservancy Presentation
Recreation and Open Space Inventory

Barbara Heskins Davis of The Land Conservancy said the township might be able to apply for matching grants from the state Green Acres program. There will be a grant round and applications will be due in July. The grant applications must be project specific, however.

Dennis Miranda discussed the township’s petition for plan conformance and the Master Plan the Land Use Board is updating. He stated two concerns: sensitive lands that should not be developed and certain lands the township planner has identified as “urban” areas on the revised maps. One such area is on Hamburg Mountain, he said, which is state-owned preserved lands. He said some of the map changes in the plan conformance petition are inappropriate and may not be accurate. He said there is a disconnect between the open space plan and the plan conformance.

Barbara Heskins Davis of The Land Conservancy said the planner should have a copy of the open space plan and know which lands are preserved. She can recommend whatever zone she wants but that does not mean those lands can be developed, she said. She said the purpose of updating documents is to present a new vision, new lands, and new information for planning purposes.

In 2009, the state Green Acres Program said all municipalities must have a recreation and open space inventory.

A recreation and open space inventory is like a “contract” between the municipality and the state, she said. It is permanent and is very difficult to try to change once presented. It must permanently protect land for preservation and conservation.

The township may be able to get about $250,000 from the state if it expends the entire approximately $800,000 it currently has in the open space fund. Dennis Miranda said all that Green Acres money will go back into the bank, away from Vernon, and that’s not a good thing. He suggested the township restore the open space tax.

Cathleen Caccavale of The Land Conservancy presented the open space maps to the commission and discussed points of interest, such as the Four Seasons Greenway, the Vernon Grasslands, agricultural lands and identified tillable lands, Pochuck Mountain, Lake Pochung, the proposed Scenic Byway along Route 515 and 94 to the New York state line. She stated that Vernon school students are working on a sanctuary on the Sammis Road property the township owns that has been preserved as open space.

She mentioned Camp Sussex is now being taxed at a commercial rate. This land was previously non-profit and not taxed. The township tax assessor began taxing it about a year ago, claiming there was no activity on the parcel.

Ms. Caccavale highlighted a natural area at Pochung Lake that is surrounded by a lot of woodland areas. Although it is a private community, the township should work with the community to put in trails there, she said. “It’s not all about acquisition,” Ms. Caccavale said. “It’s also about stewardship.”

The “piece de resistance” of the open space plan, she said, is the Scenic Byway with its rural historic district and the Four Seasons Greenway and recreational corridor tying to the Appalachian Trail, the bike trail, and Canal Road.

Environmental Commission members said they were very pleased with the Recreation and Open Space Inventory and said it was an outstanding document.

Carol Kadish moved to approve and adopt the plan; Allison Petryk seconded.

Roll call vote: Daniel Boltz, yes; Carol Kadish, yes; Tim McCurry, yes; Allison Petryk, yes; Dennis Miranda, yes; Ariana Miranda, yes.

Allison Petryk moved to adjourn the meeting; Dan Boltz seconded the motion. All were in favor; none opposed.

The commission meeting adjourned at 7:00 p.m.

Jessica S. Paladini, Recording Secretary
Minutes approved: April 19, 2010