Acting Chairperson Beverly Budz called the meeting to order at 7:06 p.m.

Statement of Compliance

Pursuant to the Open Public Meetings Act, adequate notice of this regular meeting has been provided to the public and the press on December 13, 2012 by delivering to the press such notice and posting same at the municipal building and filed with the office of the Township Clerk.

Salute to the Flag

Roll Call

Beverly Budz, Acting Chairperson P
Michael Cheski, Recording Secretary P
Traci Baldwin-Carter P
Helena Holmes A
Heloise Ruskin P
Diane Wexler, Land Use Board Liaison P

Also Present

Jessi Paladini

Meeting Opened to the Public

No members of the public came forward.

Meeting Closed to the Public

Land Use Board Liaison Report

Diane Wexler reported that the Land Use Board would be discussing the township solar ordinance at its meeting the following night, March 13. The Land Use Board expects to revise the ordinance to prohibit ground solar panels in any zones. That means anyone wishing to construct ground-mounted solar panels would have to seek a use variance and waiver to the ordinance.

Applications under Review

There were no applications for review.

Old Business

EC Budget

Beverly Budz announced that the EC’s budget for 2013 would be $1,400. That amount includes the fees for the recording secretary, which are not to exceed $1,000. Commission members discussed what they should do to get more money for various needs. Michael Cheski felt the commission was getting negative responses from the governing body. Heloise Ruskin pointed to the statutory obligations of the EC and stated the EC would need money to perform some of them. The responsibilities of the EC are defined in the state statutes and in the Municipal Land Use Laws (MLUL). New Jersey Statutes Annotated 40:56A-2, specify the following:

An environmental commission organized under this act shall have power to conduct research into the use and possible use of the open land areas of the municipality and may coordinate the activities of unofficial bodies organized for similar purposes, and may advertise, prepare, print and distribute books, maps, charts, plans and pamphlets which in its judgment it deems necessary for its purposes. It shall keep an index of all open areas, publicly or privately owned, including open marshland, swamps and other wetlands, in order to obtain information on the proper use of such areas, and may from time to time recommend to the planning board or, if none, to the mayor and governing body of the municipality plans and programs for inclusion in a municipal master plan and the development and use of such areas.

NJSA 40:56A-6 further specifies: An environmental commission shall have power to study and make recommendations concerning open space preservation, water resource management, air pollution control, solid waste management, noise control, soil and landscape protection, environmental appearance, marine resources and protection of flora and fauna.

ANJEC Membership

The commission needs to renew its ANJEC membership. It will cost $290 for 7 members. Commissioners said after the secretary’s salary and ANJEC membership, only $110 is left in the EC budget for the whole year, hardly enough for water testing or any other projects and requirements of the commission.

TGP Update

The commission got a response to its letter sent to TGP (Kinder Morgan) which was mailed in January, but essentially none of the commission’s questions were answered. The commission will send the same letter again. Michael Cheski said the pipeline was now going through Ringwood and Mahwah. Diane Wexler pointed out that local governments seem to have no say in the project because it is a federal one; the only thing they can do is negotiate to get more for their communities. She and Beverly Budz noted that Vernon Township’s government did not do anything in 2009 and 2010 to negotiate on behalf of the township, nor did they attend any of the meetings to discuss the project.

New Business

The commission discussed Earthfest involvement. Earthfest will be held at Heaven Hill farm on April 28. The commission will set up a table and produce a handout. They discussed various items to possibly give to the children and adults, such as saplings, bear literature, recycling information. They talked about doing something in honor of Samantha, the 34-year-old bear who lived and died a natural life in the community. Other options were to have children make pine cone bird feeders and discuss “What do birds mean to us, how they transport seed, and eat insects.”

Beverly Budz discussed the $30,000 grant to the community from the SEP for the purpose of planting trees. Trees could be planted at township schools, the Black Creek Site, the township park, the town center, the municipal center, and other areas. This project can include the scouts, environmental clubs in township schools, and the community. This will be discussed more fully once the grant is written. Michael Cheski is writing the grant.

Recording secretary Jessi Paladini, also the president of the Vernon Township Historical Society, discussed the $25,000 grant the society got from the New Jersey Historic Trust. The grant is for the purpose of writing an interpretive plan for the Black Creek Site and its future use and maintenance. She hopes the EC will get involved in creating a list of indigenous plants and trees at the site and write a plan to replant some of them. This has to be completed by May 31.

Beverly Budz discussed Warwick’s current plight with fracking in their state. She feels the EC should join with Warwick in opposing it since Warwick supported and joined Vernon’s cause when it fought radium-contaminated soil in the Vernon valley during the 1980s. She said the commission needs to learn everything it can about fracking and its potential detriments to a community. She suggested the commission adopt a resolution at its next meeting to oppose it.

On a motion to adjourn by Diane Wexler and seconded by Beverly Budz with all in favor, the commission adjourned its meeting adjourned at 8:37 p.m.

The next meeting of the Vernon Township Environmental Commission will be on April 9, 2013.

Transcribed by Jessica Paladini
Recording Secretary
Adopted by the commission on April 9, 2013