Chairperson Beverly Budz called the meeting to order at 7 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 January 3, 2014 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
Jessi Paladini, Recording Secretary
Secretary Jessi Paladini announced that due to a new job Michael Cheski had to resign as a regular member of the environmental commission and wants to be an alternate. He will have to send his resignation in writing to the clerk and reapply for an alternate position for the mayor’s consideration.
Open Meeting to Public
The meeting was opened to the public.
Economic Development Advisory Commission Co-Chair Teresa Vihti came forward to commend Chairwoman Beverly Budz on her presentation of Camp Sussex to the township council. She thinks the prospect of purchasing Camp Sussex is wonderful and exciting, and the members of the EDAC will extend a helping hand in any way they can. Ms. Vihti said she sees a lot of economic possibilities at Camp Sussex as well.
Close Meeting to Public
Seeing no one else come forward, the meeting was closed to the public.
Land Use Board Liaison Report
There was no land use board liaison report. Mayor Victor Marotta, a member of the land use board, was present at the environmental commission meeting and said there had not been any applications before the land use board and the only pressing business for the board was the hiring of a new attorney.
Applications under Review
There were no applications for review. Chairwoman Budz read the correspondence. She read a letter from Mark Horberg of Sussex, who said he supports the purchase of Camp Sussex and the planting of the American chestnut tree and wishes to be kept informed of the prospect of purchasing the property with open space funds.
Chairwoman Budz also read a letter from the Pequannock River Coalition about upcoming events and news about a pipeline the group is opposing, along with the Sierra Club.
1. Three-Minute Idle Law
Chairwoman Beverly Budz reported the Three-Minute Idle Law resolution is ready to go forward to the governing body.
2. Hydraulic Fracturing Ban
The resolution opposing fracking in the township is also ready to be presented to the township council.
3. Camp Sussex
Chairwoman Budz discussed the commission’s recommendation to the township council to purchase Camp Sussex with the township’s open space fund. Commissioner Doreen Edwards said she was very impressed with the property and the benefits of it for the community. She said it is a shame to see it go to waste as it is now with so much vandalism. She thinks the property has great potential for the township. Chairwoman Budz asked the commissioners who would like to see the property that has not already seen it. Ms. Budz said she was inviting Rob Jennings from the New Jersey Herald to see the property. She said she has permission from the owner to be on the property. She said she would also like the township police to go with her as a courtesy. She has written permission for Mayor Marotta and her to be on the site. TMF Funds of New York City owns the property, the mayor said. Ms. Budz said commissioners who have not seen the property might go with her to the site on the first Saturday of the month, which is the regularly scheduled date for a site visit. If the commission goes on any other day and there is a quorum, they will have to advertise the meeting in advance. Ms. Budz reaffirmed the resolution to recommend the purchase of Camp Sussex with township open space funds.
Resolution 14-05: Recommendation to Purchase Camp Sussex with Open Space Funds
Motion to adopt the resolution to recommend the purchase of Camp Sussex with open space funds was made by Beverly Budz.
Doreen Edwards seconded the motion.
Roll Call Vote:
Ayes: Doreen Edwards, Cathy McCartney, Alyssa Portaro, and Beverly Budz
Ms. Budz discussed some of the concerns presented about Camp Sussex the night before at the township council meeting. Councilwoman Jean Murphy raised a concern about the filing of the deed. Ms. Budz said for some reason it had not yet been filed at the county. There are no fines or liens on the property, she said. Ms. Budz said she asked council members Dan Kadish and Jean Murphy to forward by email their concerns to her, but she has yet to receive anything from them. Ms. Budz provided to the township attorney some of the documents Mr. Kadish and Ms. Murphy requested.
Mayor Marotta said he received a copy of the deed from the sheriff’s sale on Camp Sussex, and the Camp Sussex owners will be filing it shortly. Mayor Marotta said due to the kind of sheriff’s sale there is a certain waiting time before the new owner, or prospective owners, can file the deed.
Beverly Budz said she asked the council members for their concerns so she could address them because it is important they have all the information they request.
The commissioners discussed Councilwoman Murphy’s suggestion that the township pay for environmental studies on the property before any negotiations or a contract are in place. The mayor said he would think someone in real estate would know that the first step to purchasing a property should be to sign an agreement, a contract of sale. All of the contingencies are then put into the contract of sale, subject to the environmental studies, the existence or non-existence of environmental concerns, presence of asbestos, and so on. All of that is put into the contract, the mayor said. At that point in time, if money is to be expended, the contract specifies who will pay for it. Those things should not be done unless there is a contract in place. The mayor said they become part of the negotiations - who is going to pay for them, the owner or the purchaser? He said taxpayers should not be strapped with paying for these things up front before even knowing what exists on the property. If any environmental concerns exist and remediation is necessary, those things could be deducted from the price of the property. The taxpayers should not be committed to paying for anything, if in fact concerns about the property or environmental issues turn up. He said a contract would have an “escape clause,” should the township decide against purchasing the property after the studies. The mayor said anyone working in real estate should know this process. He said he has done many land negotiations and sales in his lifetime, negotiating contracts for many millions of dollars, and he is very aware of what needs to be done and the process to be followed. He said he welcomes public comment and at the council meeting last night, there were many members of the public who said they were in favor of the Camp Sussex purchase, and they asked very legitimate questions that will be answered in time and before a final purchase occurs. He said everything the township does is subject to the Open Public Records Act. Doing anything without a contract in place could invite land speculators to request the records from the studies and come in and undermine the township with a better offer and buy the land out from underneath the township. Such studies as council members Kadish and Murphy asked for are just not done without a contract in place, the mayor said. It’s not good business and not good use of taxpayer funds. Everything will be done in the proper form and in the proper process he said and he will not do anything to endanger the community.
Commissioner Doreen Edwards said she thought the mayor made that very clear at the public meeting last night and commended him. The mayor said he was very proud of the environmental commission in taking the community to the Camp Sussex site to answer all of their questions. He said there would be other opportunities for the public to come to meetings and ask questions about the purchase of Camp Sussex.
Mayor Marotta also said that in 2011 when Sally Rinker was mayor, she supported the purchase of Camp Sussex as open space and it was on the open space roster that she voted for affirmatively and signed.
The commissioners discussed the opportunities for art and music at Camp Sussex and engaging the young people at the theater on the property. They said people of all ages, youngsters and seniors, could benefit from and appreciate the property and particularly the theater.
Commissioner Alyssa Portaro said band shells and theaters can generate income for the community as well and would attract many groups.
Commissioner Doreen Edwards said she took offense at a council member saying at the council meeting last night he/she did not want to invest in Vernon future. She said if the Pipeline Walkers or the environmental commission did not invest in the township, the town would not be receiving $365,000 in grants from the DEP for reforestation. Beverly Budz said it’s time to invest a portion of the open space money into Vernon. The commission is creating a legacy for the township, and she is very proud of that, she said.
Mayor Marotta said the state is recommending the township apply for Green Acres funding to offset the cost of the purchase price of Camp Sussex. The state could give the township as much as about $157,000 towards the purchase price, he said.
Mayor Marotta said if the buildings at Camp Sussex were taken down, they would be permitted to expand the parking at the site because those structures are considered existing impervious coverage so additional parking would be permitted.
Beverly Budz said she would also like to see solar lighting if the township purchases Camp Sussex. The commission briefly discussed the monarch butterfly project for the site.
Cathy McCartney said the Watchung Environmental Commission is giving a presentation about bees and beekeepers tomorrow night and said it is open to the public. She plans to attend. Doreen Edwards asked Cathy McCartney to take notes and bring it back to the commission next month.
Chairwoman Budz said on June 29 there would be an unveiling of the long-awaited black bear statue. The event is open to the public and coffee and cake will be served. The mayor said he would personally pay for the cake. There will be dignitaries invited to the meeting. The artist who created the statue is Lake Wanda resident Gary Adamkovich, who has done some incredible projects for a number of major organizations. The DPW will help assemble the sculpture in front of the municipal center. The B.E.A.R. group paid for and donated the sculpture to the township. It is representative of “Samantha,” the oldest bear in Vernon Township that died of natural causes a few years ago.
Mayor Marotta said he would be on vacation from June 15 to June 28 and said Business Administrator Bill Zuckerman will be in charge in the mayor’s absence. He will be back the day before the unveiling of the sculpture.
Approval of Minutes
May 13, 2014 Regular Meeting Minutes
Motion to approve the minutes was made by Beverly Budz.
Seconded by Alyssa Portaro
Roll Call Vote:
Ayes: Doreen Edwards, Cathy McCartney, Alyssa Portaro, and Beverly Budz
Motion to Adjourn
Beverly Budz moved to adjourn the meeting at 8:43 p.m. Doreen Edwards seconded the motion. All were in favor.
The next meeting of the Environmental Commission will be on July 8, 2014.
Transcribed by Jessica Paladini
Adopted August 12, 2014