Minutes: January 18, 2022

The meeting was called to order at 7:06 PM by Chair Diane Wexler.

Diane read the Statement of Compliance. Craig Williams noted a discrepancy between the statement that Diane read and the statement with which he was provided, stating that the date of compliance with the Open Public Meetings Act was listed on his copy as 2021. Diane explained that his copy was emailed before changes were made to the agenda, which necessitated a subsequent change in date.

Diane then led the Commissioners in the pledge of allegiance and salute to the flag.

Roll call was taken for attendance - present were:

* DIANE WEXLER, Chair
* BONNIE TADRICK
* CRAIG WILLIAMS, Vice Chair, Liaison to Land Use Board
* MARGARET DISTASI

Absent was CATHERINA SAWOSZCZYK.

REORGANIZATION

Nominations for Vice Chair

Diane Wexler nominated Craig Williams for re-election as Vice Chair. Peg Distasi seconded the nomination. Diane then asked for any additional nominations. None were offered. A roll call was taken, and the nomination was approved unanimously.

Resolution 22-01: Meeting Dates and Meeting Date Amendments

Diane Wexler proposed that the Commissioners move their February meeting date from Monday, February 21 to Tuesday, February 22 because of President's Day. The Commissioners agreed to move the date to February 22 to accommodate the three-day weekend and to hold the meeting on Zoom. Diane mentioned that that the day prior to the Monday, June 20th meeting will be Juneteenth, and asked if there was any interest in moving that meeting date. The Commissioners resolved to keep the Monday, June 20th date intact. Finally, Diane suggested Tuesday, January 10, 2023 as the date for the next reorganization meeting. The Commissioners agreed. Diane said she would certify these dates as of this date and forward them to Irene Mills, Vernon Township Administrative Clerk, for placement in the newspaper.

Resolution 22-02: Newspaper: The New Jersey Herald

The Commissioners agreed to publish the meeting dates in the New Jersey Herald.

Approval of Recording Secretary: Leslie Boen

The Commissioners resolved to reappoint current Recording Secretary Leslie Boen for another term.

GENERAL MEETING

Approval of Minutes, November 15, 2021 Meeting

The November 15, 2021 minutes were accepted and approved by unanimous consent.

PUBLIC PARTICIPATION SESSION (Agenda Items Only)

Diane Wexler opened the meeting to public comments. No-one from the public came forward at this time to comment. She then closed the meeting to the public.

LAND USE BOARD - LIAISON REPORT

Land Use Board Liaison Craig Williams said that the previous meeting was chiefly for reorganization and there was nothing else to report.

APPLICATIONS UNDER REVIEW

There were no applications officially under review to discuss. Craig Williams mentioned that an earlier application to install a swimming pool had been withdrawn, due to issues the applicant's neighbors had with the swimming pool specifications and what the project would entail.

OLD BUSINESS

Diane Wexler opened up the floor to old business.

Silver Spruce: Peg Distasi said that there was nothing new to report back about the Silver Spruce situation, but mentioned that she had been alerted to a potential new issue with dumping, this time on Jenny Lane.

Peg reported that she contacted the Zoning Department and was informed that what appeared to be dumping is actually a legitimate house construction project that involves the delivery of multiple truckloads of fill. She said that the fill was inspected and approved, and all the necessary permits were acquired. Peg did mention, however, that the builders have made quite a mess and are currently dumping in the street because of the inaccessibility of the lot due to ice and snow. She added that two piles need to be removed because the contents are not of acceptable quality. Peg promised to follow up on the situation with the Zoning Department and report back.

At this point, a side discussion ensued about work that the Land Use Board is doing to plan for climate change resiliency in the township, and how the construction of storm vents to counteract the effects of more intense storms might unduly and unfairly impact one group of town residents over another. Craig Williams said that the last NRI in which the township was directly involved - in 2004-2005 - was not mentioned or being used in this process, only the NRI that was solely conducted in 2012-2013 by the Highlands Commission. Craig advised that the Highland Commission's report was almost exclusively focused on water resources, whereas the earlier assessment undertaken by the township had a broader scope, covering a wider number of environmental topics (wildlife, history, recreation, etc.).

Septic System Repository: In an earlier meeting, Craig Williams had proposed that the township establish its own repository for septic system waste. Diane Wexler questioned how that idea might best be presented and worked out. Craig replied that he might find some people receptive to the idea on the board that handles water and waste, but cautioned that others might object to the possibility of new rules and regulations mandating the regular pumping of septic systems, which would be one way to go about getting the septic waste for the collection point. He suggested that they try another approach, enlisting the Vernon Township Municipal Utilities Authority (MUA) to help them get residents on board with such an effort. The other Commissioners concurred.

Peg Distasi mentioned that when she was working with the MUA and the town council on this issue several years earlier, they had entered into discussions with the local septic maintenance contractor, EarthCare, for a similar initiative, in which they would agree to establish a special price for a pumping out the septic waste and delivering it to Vernon's pump station-for the sole benefit of township residents. She said that the discussions went nowhere and were ultimately abandoned, but suggested they revisit the idea. Craig Williams proposed that they open up the possibility of such an agreement to other area contractors, helping them bring the price down through competition.

Plastic Straw/Plastic Ban: Peg Distasi reported that the plastic straw and single use plastic ban will go into effect May 4, 2022. She mentioned that she sent a letter to the Chamber of Commerce asking to speak to their members about the ban and its potential impact on their businesses. The Chamber responded to Peg's request by saying they would discuss the possibility at their next board meeting. Peg stated that she had also approached the town council to speak to council members about the ban; she said that they agreed to let the Commissioners periodically speak about this issue at their meetings. She concluded her remarks by reporting that most of the businesses in town affected by the ban had already started educating and informing their customers about what to expect beginning May 4th. She nonetheless suggested that an advisory on this topic for the website might be a welcome idea. Craig Williams concurred, saying that the plastic ban would make an excellent first entry for the Environmental Helpful Hints section of the newly revamped site. Peg and Diane Wexler agreed to collaborate the next day on the language for the website while carefully following recommendations on wording from ANJEC.

Pollinator & Butterfly Garden: See below, under the "Spotted Lanternfly" section.

Spotted Lanternfly: With the warmer months rapidly approaching, Diane Wexler suggested that a relative of hers in the pest control business could come and speak to the Commissioners next month, focusing on best methods and practices in spotted lanternfly egg removal. Peg Distasi agreed, proposing that they publicize this to the general public on the township website and in the newspaper, at the same time that they publish their meeting dates. Diane agreed to spearhead this effort.

Diane Wexler then returned to the topic of the Pollinator & Butterfly Garden. Peg Distasi advised the other Commissioners that the New Jersey Legislature passed legislation in both houses outlawing the use of neonicotinoids-a major threat to pollinators-but could not find anything that indicated whether or not the Governor had signed the bill into law. She said she thought the legislation would be vacated if the Governor had not signed it by the 17th, but promised to continue looking for news on this front.

Environmental Helpful Hints for Homeowners: Diane Wexler reiterated that she and Peg Distasi would be working up the first installment of this column, on the plastic ban, the next day.

NEW BUSINESS

No new business was discussed at this time.

Diane Wexler took the opportunity to mention that she and Catherina Sawoszczyk also need to take the next month to work on a draft of the water resources resolution that the Commissioners hope to bring forward.

PUBLIC PARTICIPATION-ANY VERNON ENVIRONMENT ITEM

Diane Wexler opened the meeting to public comments. No-one from the public came forward at this time to comment. She then closed the meeting to the public.

COMMISSIONERS' COMMENTS

No comments were offered at this time.

ADJOURNMENT

Before adjourning, Diane Wexler reminded the Commissioners in attendance that the next meeting will be held on Tuesday, February 22, 2022 on Zoom.

Craig Williams made a motion to adjourn the meeting. Bonnie Tadrick seconded the motion. The meeting was adjourned at 7:50 PM.

Respectfully submitted by Leslie Boen, Recording Secretary