All meeting minutes posted on the township website are unofficial minutes. Official copies of minutes may be obtained from the township clerk.

Minutes: April 12, 2016

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

Statement of Compliance

Pursuant to the Open Public Meetings Act, Chapter 231 PL 1975, adequate notice of this regular meeting has been provided to the public and the press on January 12, 2016 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 BudzP
Richard CarsonA
Dale DisneyP
Doreen EdwardsP
Angi MetlerP
Edward NitchP
Alyssa PortaroA
Diane WexlerP

Also Present

Jessi Paladini, Recording Secretary

After taking the roll call vote, the recording secretary said she has not heard from commission member Alyssa Portaro regarding meeting attendance in more than three months. Ms. Portaro has not responded to the recording secretary’s emails concerning meeting attendance.

Ed Nitch said he had to leave the meeting at 7:30 and asked if there would still be a quorum if he left. The secretary said there would be.

1. Open Meeting to the Public

Motion to open the meeting to the public was made by Doreen Edwards.
Seconded by Diane Wexler
All were in favor.

2. Close Meeting to the Public

Seeing no one come forward, Diane Wexler moved to close the meeting to the public.
Dale Disney seconded the motion.
All were in favor.

3. Land Use Liaison Report

Diane Wexler reported there have been no applications scheduled and the recent land use board meeting was canceled.

4. Applications Under Review

LU2-16-2 Lot 270, Block 6.03, Colonial Plaza, Route 94—Use Variance & Minor Site Plan for a Coffee Cart at Colonial Plaza in McAfee

This application has been withdrawn by the applicant.

5. Old Business

A. Tennessee Gas Pipeline

Commissioner Diane Wexler read into the record a letter sent to the commission by the pipeline company. The commission is concerned about the pipeline company’s assertion that there has been “metal loss” in the pipeline. The commission asked for clarification of the metal loss. Metal has been removed from the pipe’s surface, usually due to naturally occurring corrosion, the company stated in the letter, resulting in reduction of the nominal wall thickness. Chairwoman Beverly Budz said when she was on site she observed workers extracting a pipe. The commissioners also had concern about the temperature of the pipeline as they have observed snow melt in areas. According to TGP, the average temperature flowing through the pipe is 86 degrees and at points drops to 64 degrees. The maximum allowable operating temperature is 125 degrees. One pipeline site in Vernon Township needed repair and was done in December 2015. Remaining two sites that might be in need of repair will be done in the summer of 2016, according to TGP officials. The commission will draft a follow up letter to the company and review it at the May meeting. They will also do site visits to the pipeline at the next scheduled site inspection date.

B. National Winter Activity Center

Beverly Budz said Schone Malliet of the resort responded to the commission regarding the commission’s request for them to attend a meeting of the environmental commission. Mr. Malliet said that based on the January 13, 2016 land use board meeting it is important that he and Beverly Budz first meet at the resort for an inspection tour. Highlands determination that the existing ski slope and activities approved by the township land use board in connection with site plan approval were all exempt from the Highlands regulations, Mr. Malliet said. As such, the Highlands Council did not have a continuing role in the restoration project at the resort and the approved construction. He said there was no requirement for a 1-1 tree replacement. Mr. Malliet said the utility company removed the trees along Breakneck Road, and the resort would replace more trees than the power company removed. He would like to meet with Beverly Budz to discuss further tree planting. Beverly Budz said she would see when Mr. Malliet is available for a site visit. The commission also discussed a list of violations and corrections the resort must make as outlined in a letter by township engineer Cory Stoner. The commissioners will schedule a site inspection at the resort.

C. Bear Baiting

Commissioner Angi Metler prepared a resolution to prohibit bear baiting on public lands in Vernon Township, which she read into the record.

Commissioner Diane Wexler moved to adopt the resolution.
Dale Disney seconded it.

Roll Call Vote:
Ayes: Dale Disney, Doreen Edwards, Angi Metler, Diane Wexler, and Beverly Budz
Nays: None

Resolution 16-04: Opposing Bear Baiting on Public Property and State Preserved Lands

WHEREAS, the New Jersey Division of Fish and Wildlife allows the practice of baiting for the purpose of bear hunting.

WHEREAS, baiting has significant negative impact to a wide range of non-target wildlife species feeding at bait sites, leading to behavioral changes, distribution, survival rate; spread of disease; and

WHEREAS, baiting causes predation of ground nesting birds due to a higher density of predators being attracted to bait sites; and

WHEREAS, baiting causes a higher density of a wide range of wildlife in a given area leading to the understory being decreased, changes in tree species composition, less ground cover for sensitive species, and forest regeneration hampered, all leading to forest degeneration; and

WHEREAS, baiting contributes to the spread of invasive plants; and

WHEREAS, baiting changes the natural foraging habits of bears, leads to human food conditioning and habituation to the area; and

WHEREAS, baiting can impact reproduction, survival, nuisance occurrences, population size, distribution of bears; and

WHEREAS, baiting attracts wildlife near developed or residential areas leading to conflicts among residents often leads to hunters fighting over bait piles; and

WHEREAS, baiting contributes to increased illegal hunting activity; and

WHEREAS, baiting is considered by the public to be unsporting; and

WHEREAS, ending the practice of bear baiting in Vernon Township keeps bears away from unnatural food sources, restores natural foraging behavior of bears, eliminates the negative impacts to other species and prevents forest degeneration.

NOW, THEREFORE, BE IT RESOLVED the Vernon Township Environmental Commission opposes bear baiting on public property and state preserved lands.

PASSED, APPROVED, AND EFFECTIVE on this 12th DAY of April 2016.

6. New Business

A. National Winter Activity Center—Condition of Runoff from the Mountain Going into the FW2 Trout Maintenance Stream

The commissioners reviewed videos and photographs of the runoff from the ski resort coming down the mountain in multiple areas and going into the FW2 trout maintenance stream across Breakneck Road. The environmental commission has notified Sussex County Soil Conservation and the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection and both agencies did inspections at the resort.

B. Earthfest

The commission discussed participation in Earthfest. They will not be participating this year because the Earthfest organizers, the Chamber Charities, insist on payment from the environmental commission for its participation. When the same subject came up last year, then Mayor Victor Marotta told Margaret Kranz of Chamber Charities and the Earthfest committee that it was inappropriate and unlawful for a statutory government appointed commission to pay a fee to the non-profit organization to participate. This year when the subject of payment came up again, recording secretary Jessi Paladini called Elke Yetter, township CFO, and Ms. Yetter reiterated the same thing Mayor Marotta had said. The recording secretary wrote to the Earthfest organizers and said the EC could not pay. In response the Earthfest committee wrote back and was adamant that the EC must pay or it cannot participate. The recording secretary also noted that the Earthfest committee said in its unsigned email response that vendors who provide activities for the children do not have to pay a fee to participate but are rather paid for their services to Earthfest. Commission members noted that each year at Earthfest they have provided numerous activities and services for children, in addition to giving them such things as trees, stickers, and other items. There seems to be a double standard of the Chamber Charities with regard to Earthfest participants. The commission wonders what the difference is. In light of these disappointing facts and the apparent commercialization of Earthfest and the Chamber Charities’ refusal to allow the environmental commission to participate without paying a fee and the commission’s inability to pay a fee as stated by township CFO Elke Yetter, the environmental commission will not be participating in Earthfest this year.

Commissioner Doreen Edwards said she could not understand why the Chamber Charities refuses to recognize that it is unlawful for the commission to pay to participate, yet they insist the commission must pay.

Chairwoman Beverly Budz noted they have done so much good for the children over the years they have participated in Earthfest and they did it all of the activities and giveaways to the children at their own expense. She said Earthfest in Vernon has become very commercialized and it no longer represents what the Earth Day celebration is intended to be.

The commissioners directed the recording secretary to write a letter to the Chamber Charities stating the commission’s disappointment in the Chamber Charities’ actions.

Diane Wexler moved to send the letter to Chamber Charities stating the commission’s disapproval and documenting the reasons for non-participation. Doreen Edwards seconded the motion.

Roll Call Vote:
Ayes: Dale Disney, Doreen Edwards, Angi Metler, Diane Wexler, and Beverly Budz
Nays: None

D. Stream Testing

The commission discussed contacting the county to see if they still do water testing of streams in the county municipalities. Nathaniel Sajac used to do the testing for municipalities for free. Doreen Edwards said she does not think the county does it for free anymore. She suggested that National Winter Activity Center pay for testing Trout Brook since all of the runoff from the resort is going straight into that stream. Beverly Budz said they should officially find out if the county still does the testing and then could then ask NWAC to do it f the county des not. She will discuss this with Schone Malliet.

Diane Wexler said on May 21 from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. in Flemington, the Raritan Headwaters Association is doing a free workshop on how to test stream waters. She suggested commissioners might want to attend the seminar.

7. Approval of Minutes

March 8, 2016 Regular Meeting Minutes

Motion to approve the minutes was made by Dale Disney.
Diane Wexler seconded the motion.

Roll Call Vote:
Ayes: Dale Disney, Doreen Edwards, Angi Metler, Diane Wexler, and Beverly Budz
Nays: None

8. Commissioners’ Comments

Doreen Edwards discussed the terms of the environmental commissioners. She said the township website has incorrect terms for the commissioners, posting that they all end in December 2016. She said she brought it up at the last township council meeting and asked the mayor and governing body to correct the error but did not get any response and the website has not been corrected. The commission needs to ensure the terms are corrected, she said, as it is a legal issue. The recording secretary said the municipal land use laws state environmental commission terms are three years. At the onset of the creation of a municipal environmental commission in a municipality, some terms are two years for the purpose of staggering terms but that is not now the case. Commission terms are three-year terms. Dale Disney, Angi Metler, Richard Carson, and Ed Nitch were appointed in 2015. Their terms expire in December 2018. Doreen Edwards said it is frustrating that the governing body does not seem to be acting within the law and is ignoring the commission on this.

The recording secretary said she has already notified the township clerk and the council about the incorrect terms on the town website and asked to correct them, but she never received a response to her email, nor has she received a response when she informed the council at a public meeting. She said at the beginning of the year she informed the mayor and council that the terms posted for both the environmental commission and the historic preservation commission were incorrect. She said the governing body corrected most of the historic preservation commission terms but did not respond regarding environmental commission terms. She also said the council still has an inaccurate appointment in the Historic Preservation Commission term for Ronald Dupont Jr., who was appointed to fill the unexpired term of Michael Furrey. Mr. Dupont was given an extra year beyond when Mr. Furrey’s term is set to expire, and the classification of his term was changed from what Michael Furrey’s classification was. Appointments to unexpired terms must remain the same length as the person who previously held the appointment.

Chairwoman Beverly Budz asked the recording secretary to send another letter to the mayor and council asking for the corrections.

Doreen Edwards said she does not want the township to expend any more expenses than necessary on matters such as this. The governing body has an attorney and should be asking the attorney what the law states regarding appointments and just make the correction.

Dale Disney asked what is happening with commission member Alyssa Portaro, who has not attended meetings in several months. The recording secretary said she has not heard from Ms. Portaro in more than three months. She sends email to all of the members each month before the meetings and asks who will be in attendance, but Ms. Portaro has not responded in more than three months. Chairwoman Budz will contact Ms. Portaro.

Beverly Budz said she is pleased the commission passed the bear baiting resolution. The resolution will now be forwarded to the Vernon Township Council for its consideration. Angi Metler said the township is permitted to pass a law against bear baiting that is even more restrictive than the Fish and Wildlife laws. Ms. Budz said Vernon Township is a tourist town and the last thing it needs is a bait pile near places such as the Appalachian Trail, which is a big tourist attraction. The town must do all it can to prevent bear/person encounters at such tourist sites. She believes adopting the resolution is a public safety issue.

Adjournment

Doreen Edwards moved to adjourn the meeting at 8:45 p.m. Dale Disney seconded the motion. All were in favor.

The next meeting of the environmental commission is on May 10, 2016.

Transcribed by Jessica Paladini
Recording Secretary
Adopted May 10, 2016