Minutes: June 18, 2018
1. CALL TO ORDER: 7:02 p.m.
2. STATEMENT OF COMPLIANCE
Pursuant to the Open Public Meetings Act, Chapter 213, PL 1975, adequate notice as defined in Section 3D of Chapter 231, PL 1975 of this regular meeting has been provided to the public and the press on January 22, 2018 by delivering to the press such notice and posting same at the municipal building and filed with the office of the township clerk as well as posted on the township website.
3. SALUTE TO THE FLAG
4. ROLL CALL
Michael Furrey (MF) - Chairman - P
Carol Kadish (CK) - P
Michael Cheski (MC) - P
Angela Erichsen (AE) - P
Craig Williams (CW) - P
ALSO PRESENT—Laura Lai-Minteer, Recording Secretary
5. PUBLIC PARTICIPATION
Motion to open the meeting to the public was made by Mr. Williams and was seconded by Mrs. Kadish. All were in favor. Seeing no one from the public come forward, motion to close the meeting to the public was made by Mrs. Kadish and was seconded by Mr. Williams. All were in favor.
6. LAND USE BOARD (LUB) LIAISON REPORT
a. Mr. Williams said the only thing before the LUB was LUB #6-15-8, Wilson Facility Management Services, LLC, Block 232, Lot 17.01. He said an “as-built” that did not show the second building was provided along with an explanation as to why what was approved in 2015 was not actually built. He said the engineer’s letter with respect to getting a final site plan approval based upon what exists as opposed to what was proposed and approved initially was also addressed. Mr. Williams said the only modification or condition of approval was providing another as-built showing where the trees are located. Mr. Williams said the LUB then approved it with modifications.
b. Mr. Williams said Ordinance No. 18-15 (Soil Fill Placement) was discussed, and it was determined that the LUB had no comment on the ordinance itself or how it is being enforced with respect to the zoning officer being the first line of defense. He said with a major soil fill permit, which is for 500 cubic yards or more, the township engineer and zoning officer are involved, and the applicant needs to present a full plan to the LUB. A minor soil fill permit is issued for more than 100 cubic yards but less than 500 cubic yards of soil.
7. OLD BUSINESS
a. 3 Silver Spruce Drive Soil Dumping - MF
i. Regulatory Discussions
Chairman Furrey said he helped to organize and brought in two environmental consultants and an environmental attorney last Thursday to meet with the mayor, John Auberger (councilman), and Alison (Larocca, the township zoning officer). He said they discussed regulatory overview. Chairman Furrey said, as he understood it, there are site remediation regulations that govern environmental cleanup of contaminated sites, and then there is the other side of it, so-called “clean fill.” He said they discussed regulations that govern solid hazardous waste and how such waste is defined. Chairman Furrey said they shed light on what recourse the township has and how they will proceed. The way Ordinance No. 18-15 is currently written, it does not address testing. Chairman Furrey said, though, supposedly testing has accompanied the couple of applications that have been put forth. He pointed out that there is a correct way and an incorrect way to test. He said with a big pile of dirt, testing can be done by taking discrete samples, boring into the soil to get representative samples or all the samples can be composited and then tested. Chairman Furrey said that in New Jersey there are no distinct regulations about moving the material. He said the mayor had a conference call with the Department of Environmental Protection (DEP), Representative Gottheimer, and Senator Oroho, and they questioned the assistant commissioner at length about these regulations. He said the DEP is taking the position that they are not going to regulate the movement of dirt, but solid hazardous waste might be different. He said from a regulatory point of view, the State makes the regulations and then enforcement of the law can happen at the county level. Chairman Furrey said in this case, the enforcement was not being done at all.
Chairman Furrey said that, supposedly, there is a potential law being considered in front of the Senate committee, and Bob Smith is the chair of that environmental committee. Chairman Furrey thinks it would be worthwhile for the EC members to read the potential law that is on the books and then provide a letter to the legislators stating the EC’s position on it. Mr. Williams advised that if the EC chooses to do so in the name of Vernon Township, the EC would first need clearance from the township. Chairman Furrey said he would run it by administration to see if they, too, saw it as an opportunity, as a town affected by the issue, to have the EC comment and to support this potential law. Ms. Erichsen felt the EC would be remiss if it did not comment.
ii. NJDEP Warning Letter
There was a time when he (Joseph Wallace) was asked to test the soil, which he did. Chairman Furrey referred to the DEP’s warning letter to Mr. and Mrs. Wallace, which was previously emailed to EC members. He thought it was bizarre that it was not a non-compliance or violation letter. He said the DEP appears to allow for self regulation because the letter requested that site owner (Wallace) test the soil and provide the results. Chairman Furrey said the zoning officer, Alison Larocca, made an Open Public Records Act (OPRA) request, and they are awaiting the results. He said the DEP promised during the conference call to provide as much information as possible. Chairman Furrey said the DEP provided a compliance inspection report, which he received this past Friday and will share with EC members.
iii. Ordinance No. 18-15 - Soil Fill Placement
Chairman Furrey said the ordinance could possibly be rewritten to make it more specific regarding testing in terms of what to test for, how to test, and which regulations need to be followed. Mr. Williams said, supposedly, each load was to have a manifest of its source, where it was going, how much it weighed, and some sort of certification that it was deemed clean. Chairman Furrey said when contaminated stuff is moved during a gas station remediation plan, for example, all of it is regulated by the licensed site remediation professionals (LSRPs) who specialize in testing, evaluating, and characterizing. Mr. Williams asked how to address an issue after it has already occurred. Chairman Furrey said that anything that was done previous to the ordinance cannot be addressed. Mr. Williams wondered if the owner could be served for having a potential hazardous waste site and then be subjected to testing or any other means by which the town could officially go in. Ms. Erichsen said she thought that was the reason for the ordinance, but Mr. Williams said that the ordinance only addresses future issues. Ms. Erichsen asked if trucks that are now attempting to enter can be stopped. Mr. Williams said that Mr. Wallace has a stop-work order but does not know if there is a gatekeeper. Mr. Williams replied to Mrs. Kadish that there is no way to prove where the newest dirt is dumped because there is no knowledge as to what is going to happen.
Chairman Furrey said that is why people who understand how the regulations work are needed. Mrs. Kadish pointed out that it would be trespassing to go on the Wallace’s property. Mr. Williams added that the exception would be if there was a court order enabling it. Chairman Furrey said there is a statute being researched where the township could give the DEP a thirty-day notice to test the property and evaluate the results or the township would do it in the DEP’s place. Ms. Erichsen said she thought that the reason for trying to get the ordinance passed was so the township could pursue this situation. Mr. Williams said that is true only if it evolves from the point of the ordinance being passed. Chairman Furrey added that the zoning officer now has the regulatory authority. Mr. Williams agreed this is a step in the right direction but questioned how to monitor activity. Ms. Erichsen wondered if it was feasible to put up cameras outside. Mr. Williams said motion-activated cameras with time and date stamps, similar to cameras used for wildlife, could be focused on that driveway and he believes should be done. Mrs. Kadish asked if it is against the law for a landowner to continually dump clean dirt on his or her property. Chairman Furrey said this type of discussion occurred for two hours, including defining what is considered clean fill. Mr. Williams said the zoning officer could be informed of what is going on, explain there are a lot of unknowns, and ask if she would look into it. Ms. Erichsen said the pile is so high that it is falling into other yards, and Mr. Williams said that makes it a zoning issue. Ms. Erichsen wondered if there is anything that regulates having this activity a certain number of feet or yards away from wetlands or the Wallkill River. Mrs. Kadish said there are setbacks for buildings from a property line.
Mrs. Kadish asked if, rather than telling the owner to test, the township could do testing and then get reimbursement from the owner. Testing was done when the dump truck overturned. Chairman Furrey said one of the questions that needs addressing is the issue of where the funding comes from for the testing. He will distribute to EC members the newly introduced Senate bill for review. All EC members were in favor of providing comments regarding the legislation. Chairman Furrey said after the EC body drafts comments, it will seek township approval, and then with approval submit the comments to legislators.
b. Open Space - The Land Conservancy and Greener by Design (GBD) Proposal
Chairman Furrey said GBD has been actively working on several items, including various different properties and connectors and a digital mapping of all of the trails. He said he invited GBD along with Will Brown to the next Greenway Action Advisory Committee (GAAC) meeting. GBD and Mr. Williams will present an update at an upcoming town council meeting.
c. Water Testing - MF
Chairman Furrey is still working on the write-up for all of the state testing. He said he is getting closer to helping someone with remediating their house by hooking up to a public water supply rather than putting in a treatment system, which is more expensive. He plans to do a write-up about it and get it on the website. Mr. Williams said it is significant as an environmentally sourced cause. He agreed that the information should be shared on the website to provide information on remediation but thought it should not be too specific in terms of where remediation may be needed. Chairman Furrey said in August, state law will require gross alpha radiological testing on private wells during real estate transactions. He said the existing Private Well Testing Act was amended about a year ago to address gaps in testing. He said some areas were not being tested for certain contaminants because at the time the contaminants were not recognized as prevalent in North Jersey. He said the laws were changed to make it uniform so the entire state does all of the same type of testing.
d. Secaucus Resolution to Ban Polystyrene - MC
Chairman Furrey looked at the results of Mr. Cheski’s survey and said sixteen people filled out the survey at Vernon Day. There were two questions: 1) Do you support a township ban on plastic bags and straws? 2) Do you support a township ban on polystyrene packaging used for coffee cups and meat packaging and believe biodegradable packaging is the best alternative? The questions could be answered “yes,” “no” or “not sure.” On question one, thirteen people answered yes, two people answered no, and one person answered not sure. On question two, eleven people answered yes, one person answered no, and four people answered they were not sure. Mrs. Kadish pointed out that the survey at the EC table could have been biased. Mr. Cheski said that those that do not know about it do need to be educated about it. All members were in favor of pursuing this issue. Mr. Cheski said he would draft something by modifying the Secaucus resolution. Chairman Furrey said it would be discussed at the next meeting.
Mrs. Kadish passed out Sussex County Municipal Utilities Authority (SCMUA) booklets with recycling information, including the Styrofoam program and electronic waste days. Ms. Erichsen said this is the company paid for sewerage in Great Gorge Village and that the equivalent dwelling unit (EDU) is based on number of bedrooms and not by usage. She said it has gone up to $52 per bedroom per month and is supposed to double by 2020.
e. GAAC Trail Clearing - May 20, June 10, July 15, August 12 - Sundays @ 1:00 p.m. - MF
Chairman Furrey said this past Sunday was brutal with only three volunteers: Mr. Williams, Mr. Paul Kearney (GAAC member), and himself. Volunteers have removed tires and cleared what they could, but Chairman Furrey answered Ms. Erichsen that a machine that cuts brush is needed. He said they are trying to get help from the department of public works (DPW) to do some clearing and said they will need to get from the landscapers the heavy machinery used on Sand Hill Road along with Mr. Williams’ push cart. A bush hog was used to cut a swath by the PAL building. Mrs. Kadish said while doing research for the NRI on history, she came across a document called, “The Cultural Resource Inventory, Investigation of the Appalachian Trail Corridor Across Pochuck Creek by Vernon Township”...inaudible...“prompted this in ’96.” Mrs. Kadish said the newly created town trails will have maps and environmental information and asked if any historic information regarding former property owners could also be considered in the future. Chairman Furrey said he had no problem with including historical and cultural features on the trail. Mr. Williams said he could provide block and lot numbers to Mrs. Kadish for her research. Mr. Williams suggested signage. Chairman Furrey said during a meeting about the scenic byway, people from the Department of Transportation (DOT) showed great interest in landmarks, off-road trails, and signage.
f. NRI Review - CW
Chairman Furrey said he updated a little bit of the water section but has not yet shared it. Mr. Williams said it should be noted if reference points are the same as what is already in the NRI. Chairman Furrey answered Mr. Cheski that the data will be broken out in sections, updated, and compiled in a spreadsheet. Mr. Williams answered Mrs. Kadish that there is a historic section in a previous NRI but there is not much to it. Mrs. Kadish said she has notes going back to the 1990s, and she plans to include designated sites. Mr. Williams said there is a plate that has locations on it referencing many historic sites, which he believes came from the historic preservation commission (HPC). Chairman Furrey suggested Mrs. Kadish attend an HPC meeting to let HPC members know the EC is open to any information the HPC members can provide to help with the NRI. Mr. Williams said aside from the plates, there should be a narrative, to which Chairman Furrey agreed. Mrs. Kadish said she also would like to list some of the potential sites that have not yet been designated but have significance and perhaps should be considered for designation. Chairman Furrey asked for members to update their assigned sections of the NRI, highlight the changes, and share the changes with the EC body. He answered Mrs. Kadish that he would ideally like some changes made by the next meeting and a final document by the end of the year.
Chairman Furrey asked for a member to accept the responsibility of being the liaison to Alice (Brees). Mrs. Kadish said she would volunteer but is not familiar with geographic information system (GIS) mapping. Ms. Brees was very nice and very helpful at last month’s EC meeting. Chairman Furrey said Ms. Brees will supply Mrs. Kadish with the relevant materials. Chairman Furrey agreed with Mrs. Kadish to invite Ms. Brees back in two months. Chairman Furrey sent to EC members the county NRI from Ms. Brees, which he said was less detailed than Vernon Township’s NRI. Mr. Williams asked if the box of EC files could be accessed for researching and updating the NRI. Mr. Cheski stated he knows the location of the closet where these files are stored. Mr. Williams said he will review the Connolly NRI and will make time to work on his section. Mr. Williams said there will be quadrant lines on any map, GIS federal demarcation lines. He said if the EC could get a Vernon Township map broken down like the tax maps are into subsets, then the information would be more useful.
g. Vernon Day - June 3 - All
Chairman Furrey said they had displays, including the ones Ms. Erichsen made. Mr. Williams brought a nice tent, and Mishelle (Downtain) provided a Sustainable Jersey sign. They also had a sign for being a part of the Appalachian Trail community. Mr. Williams will send photos to members taken at Vernon Day. Chairman Furrey said he wants to send the photos to the New Jersey Herald. He said the newspaper contacted him today about doing a write-up in the Vernon section about the trails and asked him for a couple of comments.
8. NEW BUSINESS
a. Vernon Street Fair and Farmers’ Expo - Saturday, September 8, 2018, 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. - All
Chairman Furrey said he went last year, and the event was pretty well attended. Members agreed on participating this year. Mrs. Kadish was not certain she would be able to attend. Chairman Furrey asked the recording secretary to fill out and send in the application, and EC members will discuss what they will do for the event at the next EC meeting.
9. LUB APPLICATIONS UNDER REVIEW
Chairman Furrey and Mr. Williams said they had not received anything in their mailboxes.
10. APPROVAL OF MINUTES
a. May 21, 2018 - Regular Meeting Minutes
Motion to approve the minutes was made by Mr. Williams and was seconded by Mr. Cheski. Ayes-Chairman Furrey, Ms. Erichsen, Mr. Cheski, Mr. Williams. Abstention-Mrs. Kadish. Minutes were approved.
11. COMMISSIONERS’ COMMENTS
a. Black Bear
Mr. Cheski asked how EC members felt about the black bear hunt in the state. He said Governor Murphy had promised to stop the hunt but has not acted on it. Mr. Cheski said the Bear Education and Resource (BEAR) group, the Sierra Club, and other organizations are asking Murphy to keep his promise. The BEAR is placing ads in billboards around the state and wondered, if all of the members of the EC are opposed to the hunt, whether they could use the Vernon EC name only during the meeting with Murphy but not on the billboard. He said the woman at the EC meeting earlier this evening missed the open public portion of the meeting. Chairman Furrey said that obviously people have a strong opinion either way but the question is whether the EC should have an opinion and voice it. Chairman Furrey and Mrs. Kadish said they thought that Murphy had changed his mind. Mr. Cheski said he saw that in the Sussex Herald and that it was based on the DEP’s opinion. He said it is not a hunt for food; it is a bait to shoot and kill the mother and the cub. Mr. Cheski said he has been to the weighing stations when the bears are brought in, he has been involved in outreach for years, and he has learned a lot. He said the issue is that the DEP does not enforce the laws about garbage disposal. When people leave garbage exposed, bears become accustomed to feeding on it. Mother bears birth more cubs when they eat human food. Mr. Williams said we are the most productive state in the union in terms of annual bear litter size. Mr. Williams said awhile back, the EC had the A&P bear-proof its property outside.
Mrs. Kadish wondered: if bears are top predators and humans are the only predators above bears, what limits bear reproduction? Mr. Cheski replied: keeping them in their environment. Mr. Williams said the bears’ borders have expanded. Mrs. Kadish did not know if contraception was being utilized or there was a plan but that there cannot be unbridled reproduction without consequences. Mr. Cheski said Christie allowed the hunt and thousands of bears have been killed. Everyone agreed with Mr. Cheski that putting food on the ground, standing behind a tree, and blasting a cub and its mother is not a hunt. Mrs. Kadish said she has heard of people that hunt bear and eat the meat. EC members agreed that garbage disposal rules should be enforced, perhaps at a local level rather than by the DEP. Chairman Furrey said he, personally, does not want to offer an opinion on it either way. Mr. Williams said on the grounds that the bears are not threatened or endangered, the EC should not comment. He opined that birth control is the most humane way to limit reproduction and the idea that bears are allowed to proliferate is a problem. Chairman Furrey invited Mr. Cheski to gather facts to share with the EC. Mr. Cheski has data from scientists that have studied the black bear for many years. Chairman Furrey asked Mr. Cheski to share the information with members so it can be discussed as an agenda item at the next EC meeting. Mr. Cheski replied to Ms. Erichsen that he will ascertain what Murphy actually said and what he is doing.
b. Vernon Landfill Meeting
Chairman Furrey said he thought there was a meeting this week regarding the soil dumping, which was posted in the “Vernon NJ Residents Affected by the Landfill” Facebook page. Chairman Furrey said if he finds out anything further, he will let EC members know.
c. Meeting Time for Trail Days
Chairman Furrey said the day was moved to accommodate Sunday church schedules. Mr. Cheski said it could be cooler to meet earlier in the day, so the July 15 clearing might be changed.
Motion to adjourn was made by Mrs. Kadish and seconded by Mr. Williams. All were in favor. Meeting adjourned: 8:07 p.m.
Minutes submitted by Laura Lai-Minteer, Recording Secretary