Call Meeting to Order

Dennis Miranda called the meeting to order at 7:30 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 February 5, 2010, and published on February 10, 2010. Notice is posted on the bulletin board and filed with the office of the Township Clerk.

Roll Call

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

Also Present

Jessica Paladini, Recording Secretary
Ariana Miranda, Student Member

Pledge of Allegiance

Presentation—Native Plants for Your Home Garden

Chairman Dennis Miranda welcomed the 28 people in attendance for his presentation on native plants for the home garden.

The presentation began with the question “Why go with native plants?” Some reasons are the following:

  1. They are indigenous to where we live.
  2. They adapt to the local climate.
  3. They provide reliable food for wildlife and insects.

Dennis gave a very informative and extensive PowerPoint presentation on dozens of native plants to the township. The presentation followed with a question and answer period with the audience.

Open Meeting to the Public

After the presentation, at 8:23 p.m., Chairman 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

Master Plan Discussion

The commission discussed the proposed Master Plan and expressed its concern that there is no water study with the plan. The Master Plan does not acknowledge the availability of water at all. The plan does not include a water study, as required in the MLUL 40:55D-28 (2). Michael Furrey said the 2003 Hatch Mott MacDonald said there is no water deficit, but the Highlands Plan says there is. The commission thinks a new study should be conducted in light of all the redevelopment areas and proposed construction in the township.

The chair expressed disappointment that the commission had not put together recommendations for the Master Plan at the May 3 meeting. This can never happen again, he said, stating the commission has a statutory responsibility to make recommendations to the Land Use Board on the Master Plan.

The commission members continued to discuss the Master Plan and their concerns about it. Dennis Miranda questioned the rationale of al the redevelopment zones. Michael Furrey stated there was no scientific data in the plan concerning the viability of the redevelopment zones and high-density development. Dennis said the proposed Master Plan is silent on the amount of water available for these development projects. First and foremost, he said, the town needs to conduct a study of all available water to sustain all the development projects.

Michael Furrey also said once a groundwater source is contaminated, “You can’t go back.” He recommended the township conduct a source water protection plan, as well as a water budget plan.

Dennis Miranda also said unless the township has a comprehensive stormwater management plan, no further development should take place.

Carol Kadish said the Master Plan should at least be addressing soils. She and the commission agreed the Master Plan is disproportionately deficient in describing rich natural resources and topography that need to be protected and where development should be minimized. Kadish also said there are many errors on the maps with regard to zoning and said several areas are marked commercial-recreation when they should not be.

Dennis Miranda said the proposed regional town center plan is inconsistent with the goals of the State Development and Redevelopment Plan because it includes all lands of the Black Creek marshes, habitats of state and federal threatened and endangered species, C1 waters, and steep slopes.

The commission agreed to recommend that the Land Use Board adopts the Open Space Plan at the same time it adopts the Master Plan.

After discussing many aspects of the proposed Master Plan and agreeing on numerous concerns, Carol Kadish moved to forward the list of recommendations as discussed to the Land Use Board to add to the Master Plan. Daniel Boltz seconded the motion.

Roll call vote: Jessica Beutel, yes; Daniel Boltz, yes; Michael Furrey, yes; Carol Kadish, yes; Allison Petryk, yes; Dennis Miranda, yes; Intern Ariana Miranda supported the motion with a “yes” vote, but her vote is not part of the official record.

Vernon Township Environmental Commission Recommendations for the Master Plan

The Vernon Township Environmental Commission, by unanimous vote of its members present, Jessica Beutel, Daniel Boltz, Michael Furrey, Carol Kadish, Allison Petryk, and Dennis Miranda, on May 17, 2010, hereby makes the following recommendations for consideration by the Vernon Township Land Use Board for the Master Plan Draft proposal:

The Municipal Land Use Law, Chapter 291, Laws of New Jersey 1975 of the New Jersey Statutes Annotated, 40:55D-1 et. seq. stipulates the following in 40:55D-28:

40:55D-28 (b)

b. The master plan shall generally comprise a report or statement and land use and development proposals, with maps, diagrams and text, presenting at least the following elements (1) and (2).

(1) a statement of objectives, principles, assumptions, policies and standards upon which the constituent proposals for the physical, economic and social development of the municipality are based

(2) a Land Use plan element (a) taking into account and stating its relationship to the statement provided for in paragraph (1) hereof, and other master plan elements provided for in paragraphs (3) through (14) hereof and natural conditions, including, but not necessarily limited to, topography, soil conditions, water supply, drainage, floodplain areas, marshes, and woodlands; (b) showing the existing and proposed location, extent, and intensity of development of land to be used in the future for varying types of residential, commercial, industrial, agricultural, recreational, educational, and other public or private purposes and combinations; and stating the relationship thereof to the existing and any proposed zone plan and zoning ordinance.

The Vernon Township Environmental Commission feels the Land Use Plan Element does not sufficiently and comprehensively address the natural conditions of the municipality, nor their relationship to the statement of objectives and policies in the draft Master Plan. The commission believes that the draft Master Plan, as proposed, does not adequately describe the land use in relationship to natural features such as topography, soils, geology, groundwater recharge, streams, floodplains, wetlands, and woodlands.

The commission also believes the draft Master Plan does not provide accurate mapping of existing and proposed development in relation to current and proposed zoning ordinances, nor does it recommend adequate standards for development and densities. Designated zoning and accurate mapping are critical because all zoning ordinances must be consistent with the Master Plan. As proposed, the draft Master Plan contains numerous zoning errors and designates an inordinate number of parcels as commercial-recreation zoned. Some of these parcels are public lands that are preserved open space and should not be zoned commercial-recreation. Three examples of this are on the map on page 54:

(1) The preservation area atop Hamburg Mountain, which are state owned lands deed-restricted as public open space

Block 190, Lots 20, 5, 18.01
Block 240, Lot 1
Block 280, Lots 20.01, 21, 22 and 23
Block 280, Lot 1

(2) Maple Grange Park, which is township owned lands and is parklands and open space are parklands

Block 93, Lot 2.02

(3) State owned lands along Maple Grange Road that are part of Wawayanda State Park are designated open space lands and in part listed on the New Jersey and National Registers of Historic Places.

Black Creek Site—Block 93, Lot 2

The Master Plan represents the basis for the zoning ordinances and should, therefore, be well thought out and created as specific and as accurate as possible to offer as much protection as possible and to avoid any future liability to the township.

The Vernon Township Environmental Commission also makes the following recommendations for revision or incorporation into the Master Plan:

  1. The draft Master Plan, on page 44, suggests the creation of redevelopment zones in the Preservation Areas. The Environmental Commission is strongly opposed to that suggestion.
  2. The Master Plan should describe soil conditions, as suggested in 40:55D-28 (b) (2) (a) of the MLUL.
  3. Wherever properties have underlying limestone, there should be no development that compromises water resources.
  4. According to the draft Master Plan, the Town Center designation has not been lost. The Master Plan should detail the steps needed to maintain the center designation received, with emphasis on the advantages of maintaining this designation.
  5. Vernon Township’s Regional Town Center plans are inconsistent with the goals of the State Development and Redevelopment Plan. The existing plan is now inconsistent with the state plan because it includes all lands of the Black Creek marshes, habitats for state and federal threatened and endangered species, C1 category waters, and steep slopes.
  6. The Land Use Board should adopt the Open Space Plan with the adoption of the Land Use Plan Element.
  7. Vernon Township should undertake a new natural resource inventory with the Master Plan. The proposed draft Master Plan has a significant shortage of language in addressing the natural resources of Vernon Township. The Master Plan is disproportionately deficient in describing rich natural resources and topography that need to be protected and where development should be minimized.
  8. A policy statement should be added indicating that Vernon Township recognizes that it has the unique responsibility to adopt and implement land use and development regulations that will ensure the protection and enhancement of the New Jersey Highlands Region, including but not limited to the Pequannock Watershed; Wawayanda State Park; Hamburg Mountain Wildlife Management area; the Wallkill River National Wildlife Refuge; the Appalachian National Scenic Trail Corridor; the Four Seasons Greenway; and other similar natural areas such as the Black Creek Marshes and Pochuck Mountain, in conjunction with other planning and development regulatory agencies at county, regional, state, and federal levels.
  9. A goal statement should be added to “Protect and enhance the New Jersey Highlands Region in Vernon Township.”
  10. A goal statement should be added: “Vernon Township shall have a continuous network of passive trails in the Four Seasons Greenway. Vernon Township will acquire all the lands and easements necessary to effectively create the Four Seasons Greenway.”
  11. All references to the aquifer in the Master Plan should be labeled “Sole Source Aquifer,” as found in Section 4c on page 9.
  12. A goal statement should be added: “Protection and Maintenance of Potable Water Supplies,” followed by the policy “Vernon Township is entirely comprised of Sole Source Aquifers; the Highlands, Wallkill and Pochuck aquifer systems. The EPA defines a Sole Source Aquifer as one that is the only water supply for a community and for which no cost-efficient alternative water supply exists. The quality and quantity of ground water within Vernon Township’s aquifers should be monitored and protected from discharges of pollutants in order to maintain potability.”
  13. The Master Plan should provide more detail on how to prevent over-burdening of the aquifer. It should encourage water reuse plans that do not burden water supplies. This would include on-site grey water/wastewater beneficial reuse treatment technologies.
  14. Preserved farmlands, such as the Coster Gerard Farm on Meadowburn Road, are identified wrong on the proposed draft Master Plan and should be designated “Farmland Preservation.”
  15. Both sides of Route 94 that comprise former VanDokkenburg lands seem to be zoned incorrectly on the map on page 38. Also, certain parcels of former Rickey and Theobald lands should be designated Green Acres.
  16. According to page 18 of the draft Master Plan, Vernon Township has not made a decision to opt out or opt in to the Highlands Regional Master Plan. The document should be specific on the advantages and disadvantages of either choice.
  17. When will the NJDEP make a decision of the sewer areas? The township should continue to expand the UWR sewer area and should also pursue a water supply from UWR in order to help supply enough water to the Town Center.
  18. The NJDEP is slated to complete a water budget for WMA 2 (Wallkill Watershed) sometime in 2010. The water budget will determine if the township is in a water deficit or surplus area. The Leggete Brashears Graham study states lot sizes that should be considered in the Master Plan. The Master Plan also encourages development in the redevelopment areas while avoiding development in the environs. The Land Use Plan Element cannot avoid water supply issues because it has become increasingly difficult to obtain water allocation permits from the NJDEP.
  19. The final adoption of the Master Plan should not take place until the NJDEP completes its water budget to determine if the township is in a water deficit or surplus area.
  20. What is “form based code,” suggested in the Town Center? Its definition and impact on the township need to be better explained.
  21. Light industrial areas should allow for solar and wind producing businesses.
  22. The Master Plan seems to still focus on the development of two town centers.
  23. The township should avoid cluster development in the redevelopment zones.

Western Highlands Scenic Byway

The commission agreed to send a letter to Hardyston Township, asking for support for the Scenic Byway. Allison Petryk moved to send the letter; Michael Furrey seconded the motion.

Roll call vote: Jessica Beutel, yes; Daniel Boltz, yes; Michael Furrey, yes; Carol Kadish, yes; Allison Petryk, yes; Dennis Miranda, yes; unofficial intern vote, Ariana Miranda, yes.

Due to illness, Daniel Boltz left the meeting at 9:40 p.m.

Executive Session

Carol Kadish moved at 9:40 to go into executive session to discuss the purchase of open space lands. Michael Furrey seconded. All were in favor.

The commission came out of executive session at 9:45 p.m.


Letter from New Jersey Green Acres

Minimal loans and grants are available for municipalities that do not have open space taxes. Green Acres will lend 30-year loans at 2% interest or 25/75 matching grants (municipality would have to match 75%). Deadline for applying is July 30. The Land Conservancy can write the grants, but they can only be for new properties.

Extreme Energy Solution

They spoke of their participation in Earthfest; no commission action required.

Careaga Engineering

There is no concern or response from the commission.

The Land Conservancy

Dennis Miranda said TLC sent a letter to deputy manager Brian Palaia on May 12 but the deputy manager has not contacted or informed the Environmental Commission about it whatsoever. The commission should be kept in the loop on such correspondence immediately, Dennis said.

Approval of Meeting Minutes

May 3, 2010 Regular Meeting Minutes

Approval of the minutes was tabled to the June 7, 2010 meeting.

Land Use Board Liaison Report

There was no report.

Commission Discussion

Commission members felt presentations should not take place when there are important issues to discuss, such as the Master Plan.

There being no further business, Allison Petryk moved to adjourn the meeting. Carol Kadish seconded the motion. All were in favor.

The commission meeting adjourned at 9:55 p.m.

Jessica S. Paladini, Recording Secretary
Minutes approved: June 7, 2010