21 Church Street, Vernon, NJ 07462
July 18, 2022 General Meeting Minutes
Via Zoom, 7 PM
The meeting was called to order at 7:02 PM by Chair Diane Wexler.
Diane read the Statement of Compliance. She then led the Commissioners in the pledge of allegiance and salute to the flag.
Roll call was taken for attendance – present were:
Approval of Minutes, June 20, 2022 Meeting
Craig Williams made a correction to the Land Use Board Liaison Report section of the June 20 minutes. He stated that construction on the Theta Drive is slated to start soon but likely not in July. Peg Distasi made a motion to approve the minutes with Craig’s amendment; Craig seconded the motion. The corrected minutes were approved via unanimous vote.
PUBLIC PARTICIPATION SESSION (Agenda Items Only)
Diane Wexler opened the meeting to public comments. No-one came forward to discuss any of the agenda items at this time, so Diane closed the meeting to the public.
LAND USE BOARD – LIAISON REPORT
Land Use Board Liaison Craig Williams reported back from the Land Use Board’s July 13th meeting, stating they discussed an application from Joseph Grieco and John Kelly requesting a front-yard variance for a proposed single-family dwelling in the Glenwood section of Vernon, within the Highlands Preservation District. He said that, because they plan to develop less than half an acre of a three-acre parcel, they should receive a Highlands Preservation Area Approval from the NJDEP without too much difficulty. Craig mentioned that the overall area itself would be hard to develop, as it has greater than a 25% slope and contains significant amounts of bedrock, but the proposed dwelling is slated to be situated on the flattest part of the property. According to Craig, the application was accepted and the variance was passed. Craig then concluded his report by announcing that Theta 456 Associates, LLC and Martin Theobald were granted further extensions of time on their respective project applications.
APPLICATIONS UNDER REVIEW – There were no applications under review for discussion at this time.
Before going on to matters of old business, Diane Wexler took the opportunity to ask Craig Williams when the F.W. Webb Company’s expansion project – which recently had been presented to the Town Council -- will be going in front of the Land Use Board. Craig replied that the matter is pending. He said that he reviewed the presentation that was given at the Town Council meeting, which indicated that F.W. Webb merely wishes to make upgrades to the property they already have and, in the process, to dedicate approximately 300 feet of pavement on Black Creek Drive to the township. Craig stated that the company wants to do some repaving, make improvements to their yard, resolve some drainage issues, and replace some existing fencing.
Diane Wexler then inquired whether or not F.W. Webb would be increasing the amount of impervious ground on their property. Craig Williams responded that he didn’t think so, but Peg Distasi countered with her impression that the company was planning to double its impervious cover. Craig quickly reviewed the proposal and reported that the project involves adding some vegetation and converting an area towards the front of their warehouse from gravel to pavement. Peg asked Craig what the company is proposing they will do to handle the potential stormwater and drainage management issues that may result, considering that the property is at a 40 degree incline going downhill. Craig mentioned that the plan calls for discharging stormwater into a nearby trench, but Peg argued that this ditch will be wholly inadequate to accommodate the resulting runoff. She warned it will wash out onto the Baldwin property, with potential environmental ramifications and consequences for the land’s remediation and development. Craig suggested that the project would be violating township code if it were allowed to proceed as proposed; he said that the ditch in question is off-site and runoff is supposed to be collected entirely on the property in question, not diverted elsewhere. Peg asked whether they should intervene now or wait until the project goes in front of the Land Use Board. Craig replied that he thought they should wait until the Land Use Board and Board Engineer review the proposal, but agreed to bring up this issue up should they not take it into sufficient account.
Septic Systems: Craig Williams reported that he contacted ANJEC (the Association of New Jersey Environmental Commissions) about writing an ordinance that requires township homeowners to have their septic systems serviced on a regular, specified basis. He said he found out that other municipalities – many of them nearby towns in Sussex County and in neighboring Passaic County – have crafted similar pieces of legislation. Craig suggested that any ordinance they create should not have grandfathering provisions for properties that were developed before the passage of the mandate, since there would be too many exemptions to give the policy enough teeth to work. He proposed West Milford’s ordinance as a guide for their own legislation, given that the two towns in question are most similar.
Diane Wexler asked if there would be any additional costs – other than the pump-outs – involved in crafting and instituting the ordinance. Craig Williams replied that there shouldn’t be anything substantial, other than perhaps some fees associated with bookkeeping, maintaining the septic registry, and compliance activities. He did stress, however, that they would need to lay considerable groundwork with the Town Council – and with township property owners – prior to presenting the ordinance, as it is not the type of thing you can just spring on the people of the town without a considerable amount of lobbying and educational outreach. Peg Distasi suggested that they would not exactly be starting from square one, as already two council members – Michael Furrey and Harry Shortway – have announced they are in favor of such an ordinance and have been working with the MUA’s Kristin Wheaton to make a septic service metered disposal program happen. Craig mantained that they need to get the other council members on board as well, and offered to send materials he received from ANJEC on writing these types of ordinances to both the mayor and the Town Council. Diane concurred, agreeing that this would be a good and logical first step in the process.
Solar Panels: Craig Williams stated that he needs additional time to come up with Plan B for getting township solar panel installations placed, given YSG Solar’s lack of willingness to work with the town –as well as JCP&L’s alleged 40% solar carrying capacity regulation. He then offered to call JCP&L to get their direct input, confirm the veracity of the rule, and move forward from there. Diane Wexler agreed to put this topic back on the agenda for next month’s agenda, giving Craig more time to work this out.
Craig then took the opportunity to follow up on another topic that was covered at the previous Environmental Commission meeting, the low-hanging wires on Route 515 at the Vernon/Hardyston border. Diane said that she called Vernon Township Business Administrator Charles Voelker about this matter, who in turn contacted the Department of Public Works about getting the appropriate authorities to take care of the problem. Craig mentioned that a telephone pole was installed and the power and cable TV wires were then situated correctly, but the telephone wires still need to be fixed.
Ordinance 22-159: Diane Wexler inquired as to whether or not anything had yet come of Ordinance 22-159, which authorized the Land Use Board to undertake a study of the Route 94 property planned by Ryan Homes for a housing development. Craig replied that the matter had not yet shown up on the Land Use Board’s agenda. Peg Distasi suggested they bring the matter up at the next Town Council meeting, since they were the ones who ordered the study.
NEW BUSINESS – There was no new business to discuss at this time.
PUBLIC PARTICIPATION—ANY VERNON ENVIRONMENTAL ITEM
Diane Wexler once again opened the meeting to public comments.
Jessi Palladini mentioned that some time ago her environmental group, the Vernon Eagles, had attempted to work with the manager of the ACME plaza to help remediate the trout stream by the complex, but ultimately failed. She said that the project was doomed to failure because the manager had not followed up with them appropriately and was clearly not operating in good faith. Peg Distasi, who was present at one of the meetings between the Eagles and the manager in question, concurred.
Mrs. Palladini concluded her remarks by reiterating her long-standing concerns about the construction on Black Creek Drive, and then thanked the Commissioners for their efforts, encouraging them to keep up the good work.
COMMISSIONER COMMENTS -- There were no commissioner comments at this time.
Diane Wexler reminded the other commissioners that the next meeting will be held on August 15, 2022. Craig Williams then made a motion to adjourn the meeting. Catherina Sawoszczyk seconded the motion. The Commissioners then agreed to adjourn the meeting via unanimous consent.
The meeting was adjourned at 7:52 PM.
Respectfully submitted by Leslie Boen, Recording Secretary.