Minutes: June 21, 2021

The meeting was called to order at 7:12 PM by Chair Diane Wexler.

Diane then read the Statement of Compliance and led the commission in the pledge of allegiance and salute to the flag.

Roll call was taken for attendance - present were:

Diane Wexler, Chair
Bonnie Tadrick
Catherina Sawoszczyk
Craig Williams, Vice Chair, Liaison to Land Use Board

Absent: Margaret Distasi

Approval of General Meeting Minutes, April 19, 2021 and May 17, 2021

Craig Williams asked for more time to review the minutes. Diane Wexler agreed to revisit their official approval later in the meeting.

Discussion of Transcriptionist Position

Diane Wexler opened the floor up to discussion and evaluation of the three candidates who submitted resumes for the position of recording secretary. Diane said that all three applicants-Leslie Boen, Samantha Murphy, and Michelle Van Strander-appeared equally qualified, but mentioned that only two of the three candidates (Leslie and Michelle) also filled out official applications for employment with the township. She said she felt that narrowed the field down to those two applicants.

Bonnie Tadrick said that she had reviewed the April and May minutes (which one of the candidates, Leslie Boen, compiled for the committee as a temporary hire); she felt that Leslie had done a good job with them and was inclined to let her continue in the role. Catherina Sawoszczyk and Diane Wexler concurred. Craig Williams said he was also predisposed to agree. Diane suggested that he finish his review of the minutes before making his final decision.

While waiting for Craig Williams to complete his review of the April and May minutes, Diane Wexler took the opportunity to address a few housekeeping items. She indicated that no members of the public were in attendance to participate, so there would not be any need for a public participation session on agenda items. She also mentioned several emails she previously forwarded to the rest of the commissioners-one containing a letter from the DEP, another containing information from Sustainable New Jersey (SNJ) about their programs and points system.

A brief discussion about the SNJ certification/recertification process, including the awarding of points, ensued.

Craig Williams made a motion to approve both sets of minutes. Bonnie Tadrick seconded the motion. Both sets of minutes were approved unanimously. The commission also voted to approve Leslie Boen as the new recording secretary, with advisement that the minutes should be shortened in the future. Diane indicated she would notify Leslie about the decision.

PUBLIC PARTICIPATION (Agenda Items Only)

No members of the public were in attendance to participate.

LAND USE BOARD LIAISON REPORT

Craig Williams, Land Use Board Liaison, reviewed the proceedings from the June 9, 2021 Land Use Board meeting. He reported that the Land Use Board heard an application for 515 Vernon Property LLC, which would involve conversion of an existing structure to a multi-use town-center building, with plans to house a convenience store, gas station, fast-food drive-thru establishment, and additional business and residential units. Craig said that there were some modifications to the original project design (having to do with widening the off-site entry point to the facility to accommodate large oil transport vehicles, as well as shortening and broadening the property’s signage), but there were no proposed changes that appeared to have actual environmental implications. He also mentioned that there are plans to install charging stations for electric vehicles at the new gas station. Despite an objection raised at the meeting by the attorney of another gas station owner in the township, the application was ultimately approved.

APPLICATIONS UNDER REVIEW

David and Devon Gieger

Craig Williams stated that the project involves the installation of a new garage. He said that he does not believe the project has any environmental impacts associated with it.

OLD BUSINESS

TENNESSEE GAS AND PETROLEUM (TGP) COMPRESSOR EXPANSION PROJECT

Diane Wexler said that Tennessee Gas will be holding a hearing and information-only session in conjunction with an upcoming Sussex County Commissioners meeting. She said the meeting will take place Wednesday, June 23 at 6 PM at Sussex County Community College. Diane mentioned that Tennessee Gas previously applied to the Federal Energy Regulation Commission (FERC) for an environmental assessment of the project, but their request was rejected; FERC required that they develop an environmental impact statement on every affected area first. She remarked that this would likely tack on an additional six months’ worth of work for the company, giving concerned citizens more time and opportunity to discuss and raise questions about the project.

HYBRID AND ELECTRIC CARS/CHARGING STATIONS

Craig Williams indicated that he reviewed a substantial amount of material on these two subjects that Peg DiStasi had forwarded to him earlier. He reported that New Jersey now has new and important rules for any gas station development project involving the installation of more than four gas pumps. He said the state now requires that developers of these larger-scale complexes include significant charging station capacity in their plans. Diane Wexler advised that Peg DiStasi will give an additional briefing on these two topics at next month’s meeting.

BLUE COMMUNITY

Diane Wexler said that Peg DiStasi will report back to the rest of the commissioners on the Blue Community initiative at the next monthly meeting.

NRI (Natural Resource Inventory)

Craig Williams mentioned that there is a lot of information in the town’s natural resource inventory (NRI) that could prove useful as documentation for environmental grant applications-and for certifications or recertifications with entities like Sustainable New Jersey. Craig noted, however, that the most recent NRI was completed a while ago. Diane Wexler asked how much of the information contained in the NRI is still correct. Craig replied that-despite the age of the report-most of the NRI’s contents remain accurate, as there have not been any drastic change to the inventory in the last 15 years.

SOLAR PANELS, PARKING LOTS AND CHARGING STATIONS

Craig Williams suggested that the township’s solar paneling initiative could be expanded beyond municipal parking lots and charging stations to the parking facilities of area businesses. He proposed that solar paneling applications could be broadened as well, with businesses establishing solar-powered electrical for their lighting, or installing solar arrays to offset energy costs in other areas of operation, such as refrigeration.

NEW BUSINESS

SUSTAINABLE NEW JERSEY (Grants, Points, Programs)

Diane Wexler said that many of Vernon’s current plans and activities already fit Sustainable New Jersey certification/recertification criteria-and, if articulated properly, should earn the township significant points with the organization. According to Diane, this - in turn - should help the town attract substantial grant money for environmental proposals. She said that the commissioners need to update the descriptions of ongoing and long-term projects (Vernon trails/walking paths, community garden, pollinator garden, environmental commission activities) for the SNJ recertification process. Diane also suggested that they add and incorporate information on food sustainability initiatives they hadn’t included in previous SNJ applications (the Vernon farmer’s market, township farm-to-table restaurants).

PUBLIC PARTICIPATION (Any Environmental Item Concerning Vernon)

No members of the public were in attendance to participate.

COMMISSIONER COMMENTS

Before moving on to individual comments, the commissioners revisited a point of business that hadn’t been addressed earlier. Catherina inquired about an attachment that Diane Wexler sent out as part of a previous email--an application from a local family for a freshwater permit from the DEP to re-do their septic. Diane said that the attachment was sent around for notification and informational purposes.

Diane Wexler promised to both clarify the mechanism and facilitate the process of notifying Leslie Boen about her selection as recording secretary for the commission.

Bonnie Tadrick asked if there were any events in town during the summer where the Environmental Commission should have a presence. Diane Wexler suggested Vernon Day, which occurs at the end of the summer, usually in August or early September. Craig Williams concurred, stating that the commissioners typically attend this event. Diane also mentioned the possibility of a town day, as well as a street fair sponsored by the Vernon Chamber of Commerce. She offered to find out more information.

Diane Wexler asked for a motion to adjourn the meeting. Catherina Sawoszczyk made the motion to adjourn. Craig Williams seconded the motion.

The meeting was adjourned at 8 PM.

Respectfully submitted by Leslie Boen, Recording Secretary