Minutes: June 11, 2013
Chairperson Beverly Budz called the meeting to order at 7:15 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
Jessi Paladini, Recording Secretary
Meeting Opened to the Public
No one came forward.
Meeting Closed to the Public
Michael Jay from Sustainable Warwick came to do a presentation about fracking. Mr. Jay stated he is an environmental activist, not an expert. He prepared a PowerPoint presentation for the commission. He spoke about the need to protect the community from fracking because it is an environmental concern. The western portions of Vernon and Warwick contain shale that might be conducive to fracking, he said. He said a municipality cannot just ban fracking but must amend its zoning laws to prohibit or discourage it. He said language must be specific to prohibit it so that it is not open to legal challenge. He said it is important for the township planner to also be involved in the creation of the ordinance. He spoke of the dangers of fracking to the environment. The environmental commission will consider recommending to the land use board and to the township council an ordinance prohibiting fracking that models Warwick’s ordinance. They said they would begin with a letter to the township council with a packet of information before they suggest an ordinance. Chairwoman Beverly Budz said it is important to educate people on fracking.
Land Use Board Liaison Report
As Diane Wexler was absent, there was no report.
TGP Update and Corrective Action Plan
TGP promised to plant a lot more trees and will be diligent in watering them. Helena said they are not properly caring for the trees and most are dying, especially on Highland Lakes Road. Chairperson Budz suggested they go out on a site visit to check the plantings. They have before and after photographs they will review. Heloise Ruskin reminded the commissioners that TGP promised that they would maintain the trees for the first three growing seasons. This agreement was made with the state. This is now the second growing season, and she said they are not maintaining the trees. Beverly Budz will schedule the site visit and advertise it 48 hours in advance. Heloise Ruskin also said TGP was also supposed to document and record all spills, which they did not.
Three-Minute Idle Law
The commission tabled discussion on the Three-Minute Idle Law. All were in favor of tabling it.
Applications under Review
1. Block 141.02 Lots 4, 5, and 6—Senior Citizens Housing, Theta Drive
This is an application for 32 one-bedroom units and five studio apartments. Chairperson Beverly Budz said the building looked very nice. The commissioners complimented the architectural design and had no environmental concerns. The only suggestion they had was to recommend that the senior housing project and all new construction use permeable asphalt for better drainage and environmental protection. Heloise Ruskin is going to go to the land use board meeting on June 12 to make the commission’s recommendation known to the land use board.
Motion: Heloise Ruskin moved to recommend to the land use board and township council that all new commercial construction uses permeable asphalt wherever asphalt is called for.
Second: Motion seconded by Michael Cheski
Ayes: Michael Cheski, Helena Holmes, Heloise Ruskin, Beverly Budz
2. Block 134, Lot 11.06—Rear Yard Deck
The applicant lacks the rear-yard setback requirements. He is asking for a waiver from the required setback. The commission had no environmental concerns.
3. Block 73.04 Lots 9, 10, 11—Waiver from Wetlands Regulations
No environmental concerns.
Approval of Minutes
May 14, 2013 Regular Minutes
Motion to Approve: Heloise Ruskin
Second: Beverly Budz
Ayes: Helena Holmes, Heloise Ruskin, Beverly Budz
Abstention: Michael Cheski
Commission Concerns and Comments
Michael Cheski reminded the commission that last year he attended an all-day conference of environmental commissions and thought the commission would discuss the important things discussed at that conference. Heloise Ruskin suggested he highlight some of the important things discussed and bring them up at the next meeting for discussion by the commission.
Michael Cheski also said the commission should have a high school intern on the commission, as they have in prior years. The commission decided to ask the high school guidance counselor for a recommendation of a student. They will then give that recommendation to the mayor for consideration to appoint to the commission as a junior member.
Michael Cheski also questioned what was the status of the bike path and whether it was still feasible to pursue. Heloise Ruskin said they need to approach the town again to ask about the feasibility of proceeding with the bike path. Beverly Budz said funding is an issue. Michael Cheski reiterated that the township did not get a monetary commitment for proceeding with the bike path. Although the council has not officially rejected the bike path, the mayor did say he would support it with private funds and not taxpayer funds. Michael Cheski said there was a matching grant from ANJEC for a bike path that he would be willing to write.
Beverly Budz announced that the mayor had appointed her environmental commission chairperson at the council meeting the prior night at the township council meeting. She said at the next meeting the commission would nominate and vote on a vice-chairperson.
Beverly Budz gave an update on the Parks & Forestry grant the township is receiving. She said the grant application has been completed. Beverly completed the grant and forwarded it to Evan Diluvio of Parks & Forestry. The town will get approximately $30,600 from the grant for planting trees throughout the community.
Michael Cheski wanted to note that he invested a lot of time into the reforestation grant and does not understand why it had to be finished during the week that he was in California.
Motion to Adjourn
Heloise Ruskin moved to adjourn the meeting at 9:20 p.m. Helena Holmes seconded. All were in favor.
The next meeting of the Vernon Township Environmental Commission will be on July 9, 2013.
Transcribed by Jessica Paladini
Adopted by the commission on August 13, 2013