Minutes: March 19, 2018
1. CALL TO ORDER: 7:05 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) - Chair - P
Carol Kadish (CK) - P
Michael Cheski (MC) - P
Angela Erichsen (AE) - A
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 Mr. Williams and was seconded by Mrs. Kadish. All were in favor.
6. LAND USE BOARD (LUB) LIAISON REPORT
LUB liaison Mr. Williams attended the last LUB meeting on March 14.
a. LU# 2-18-2: Mott Drive Management LLC - Block 190.01, Lot 19 - Use Variance to Change a Commercial Building in the C-3 Zone to a Single Family Residence
The application was discussed at the last LUB meeting. He explained the property is a vacant, one-bedroom, single family house located on Route 94 on the corner of Mott and is currently zoned as commercial. With no demand for office space, it has been empty for two years. The applicant’s request for the zone to be changed to residential so it could be occupied was approved. The EC has no need to comment on this application.
b. LU# 12-17-6: Robert & Joanne Shuppon - Block 82, Lots 2 & 7.02, - Minor Subdivision
The resolution for a minor lot realignment was approved on March 14. The EC had no comment.
c. Chair Furrey’s Comments
He said he looked for these applications, and they were not in his mailbox. He said there were some applications dated from prior months that the LUB heard that were not in his mailbox. He will follow up about the issue of the EC not receiving the applications in a timely manner, which does not provide enough time for the EC to comment.
d. National Winter Activity Center (NWAC ) - Variance - Construction of Entranceway Sign
Mr. Williams said he has not looked at the application yet but that it is for an entrance sign of rustic design in excess of the ordinance’s allowed height. The EC had no need to comment on this application.
e. Town Center Redevelopment: Area in Need of Redevelopment Study for Parcels Located in the TC Zone and Surrounding Area
Mr. Williams said this was the second LUB discussion. The redevelopment study was presented by Jessica Caldwell, the township planner, to explain the township’s need for redevelopment. At the first presentation during the February 14 LUB meeting, Mr. Williams said a number of residents in the study area wanted to be excluded because they felt they did not fit into the study. The properties discussed are located off Mott Drive and Odell Road, which is behind Route 94. He said a letter was written regarding the Oaks’ properties, which has Route 94 frontage. Mr. Williams said the LUB decided to exclude from the study the ones in the back of Route 94 and include the ones with Route 94 frontage. He said a previously vacant property with Route 94 frontage, which always was used as a residential unit (i.e., a non-conforming use), had a new owner occupying the property. Mr. Williams said the new owner’s continuing non-conforming use did not disqualify the property from being included in the study and said the LUB elected to keep the property in the study because of the Route 94 frontage. He said Dairy Queen was excluded because the owner voiced opposition and requested exclusion. Mrs. Kadish said she thought that once an area was identified as a classified or qualified redevelopment that projects got streamlined, to which Mr. Furrey said yes, if the projects are consistent with the approved plan. Mr. Williams believed the LUB is modifying the zoning in the area to conform in making the Town Center more desirable for commercial development. He said there are funding sources available. He said it was moved at the LUB meeting that it should go back to the town council for review with recommendations that everything in the shaded area go forward with the exception of those residential lots (and Dairy Queen) to exclude. He explained that after the town council reviews the LUB recommendations and decides to either act upon them or ignore them, the town council then sends it back to the LUB for the final plan.
Mr. Williams answered Mrs. Kadish that it is too early to propose zoning changes for high density development areas or for discussion regarding any environmental concern but that environmental concerns will eventually have to be discussed. Mr. Williams said the stream running through it, Pond Eddy Road, the oil spill, and the environmental issue of water sourced between Vernon Crossing and the gas station at the corner of Route 515 cannot be ignored. Mr. Furrey explained that the Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) has a spill fund which polluters contribute to through fines and that the DEP provides ongoing testing and treatment. Members agreed that Legends would be an important part of the redevelopment and crucial to the Vernon Township Municipal Utilities Authority (VTMUA). Mr. Furrey said that Legends has a failing, nominal septic plant, which is discharged into the surface water. He said the current plant could not meet the capacity of additional people. He thought it would probably be more cost effective to run a pipe rather than rebuild. Mr. Furrey said back in 2012, Legends was not a part of the Sewer Service Area (SSA) and that he was involved with others in reintroducing the map to get Legends back into the SSA. He said subsequently, a different, expanded map was submitted to the DEP for approval.
f. Two Water Tanks
Mr. Williams said he was not in attendance when (Mayor LUB designee) John Auberger presented but said the tank that was on the property that the water company owned was approved but the tank that was on the property that had an easement was not approved. He said the owner not only did not want the tank located there but complained that the tank was buried and now would be vertical and visible.
g. LU# 2-18-1: Hotel Resort Condo - Counsel James Opfer (representing applicant) - Minor Site Plan
Mr. Williams stated that he has not seen this application yet. He read that the LED signs with scrolling capacity would be located at the Stonehill development guardhouses. The EC had no need to comment on this application.
7. OLD BUSINESS
a. LUB Application Review
Mr. Williams discussed application review during his liaison report.
b. Review of Railroad Issue - Vernon Crossing to Sand Hill - MF
There was no new information to report.
c. Open Space - The Land Conservancy and Greener By Design (GBD) Proposal
Mr. Furrey said GBD resubmitted a proposal with the requested changes of removing the Greenway Action Advisory Committee (GAAC) and the EC to directly address the town council and that the proposal might be presented at the next town council meeting. Mr. Furrey mentioned that one of the issues Bob Canace from GBD can help with is raising money to possibly start a dedicated trust fund for GAAC. Mr. Williams said he recalled discussion of the EC splitting the cost with GAAC to get a dedicated trust started. Mr. Furrey said he believes having GBD on board will help get some of the open space initiatives back on the agenda.
8. NEW BUSINESS
a. GAAC Trail Clearing
Mr. Furrey said the GAAC had a successful trail day on Sunday, March 18 with 15 to 20 enthusiastic participants. There were dogs there. People expressed an interest in helping with the next trail clearing, including involving Boy Scouts and younger children. One person talked about redoing the walkway with the Boy Scouts.
b. Natural Resource Inventory (NRI) - CW/MF
Mr. Williams said some of the NRI will be very simple, and some of it will be fairly complex. He said when the last update was done, geology was done twice because the county was updating their geologic definitions to conform with the state. He said before that, the EC was using the 1992 Connolly Environmental, Inc. NRI (https://rucore.libraries.rutgers.edu/rutgers-lib/31676/PDF/1/play/). The EC needs to verify that it currently has the same data as the county. He said there were two plates: one old, one new. Mr. Williams said the Connolly NRI provided more detailed explanations about how things became the way they are but those details were not included in the 2005 NRI.
Mr. Furrey said the aquifer is huge and comes down from Warwick, stretches down from the entire valley and goes into Hardyston where Suez’s wells are located. Mr. Williams questioned if the reason hydric soils are not used for any sort of recharge concept is because they cannot be measured. Mr. Furrey said that only a certain amount of flow that is sent for treatment is brought back and recharged; the rest is diverted into streams rather than recharging the aquifer. The CDM Smith study recommended bringing back as much flow as possible for recharge to reduce the deficit. Mr. Furrey said the deficit has gotten smaller. Mr. Furrey said the study is almost done and that comments were gathered from Corey Stoner, Jessica Caldwell, and himself. He said after revisions, then the finalized study is submitted to the Highlands Council. He said there are much larger deficits in other parts of the state, which can restrict development and make it difficult to get an allocation for a well. Mr. Furrey answered Mrs. Kadish that the direction of the flow of the aquifer goes in different directions. He said in higher elevations, it is harder to find water.
Mr. Williams answered Mrs. Kadish’s inquiry that the NRI can have two parts in which there is old information found in the Connolly NRI and then new data; he said the NRI can be done any way as long as the information is accurate. He envisions doing the NRI in the tax map sections so information can be called up based upon NRI sections to make it a clear, available, and useful document. Mr. Williams replied to Mr. Furrey that dumps or landfills were not included in the original NRI but that contaminated sites were listed in the 2005 NRI. A section could be added in the NRI called Unconsolidated Dumps, which could be landfill areas that are not necessarily contaminated. Mr. Williams confirmed that a description with a link would be the way to update the NRI. Mr. Furrey said he would check with the state DEP planner if there is a format to follow to update the NRI.
- Geology/Soils. Mr. Williams described geology as including different types of soils. Mr. Williams is assigned to update this section of the NRI.
- Hydrology, etc. Mr. Furrey is assigned to update this section of the NRI, which includes Watersheds, Drainage, Aquifers, Groundwater Recharge, Baseflow, Well Head Protection, Surface Water Quality, and Storm Water.
- Historical and Cultural Factors. Mrs. Kadish is assigned to update this section of the NRI.
- Geography/Topography, Climate, and Air Quality. Mr. Cheski is assigned to update this section of the NRI.
- Existing and Planned Infrastructure. Mr. Williams said that while the township is not building bridges or new roads, etc., the SSA , pump stations, and recharge areas could be included. Mr. Furrey is assigned to update this section. This section will include the subsection called Tower Review, which Mr. Furrey will also update.
- Land Use. Mr. Williams said the open space subsection could be a brief discussion of the township’s open space tax, general funding information, and some of the rationales for increasing the amount of open space in addition to updating to include the information the EC already has in hand. Mr. Williams is assigned to update this section of the NRI. This section, however, will include a subsection called Gas Station Review, which Mr. Furrey will update.
- Wildlife. Mr. Williams said this section includes the Natural Heritage Program, the Landscape Project, Endangered Species, the Black Creek Sanctuary, and the Bear Statistics, and the Evergreen Golf Course (Mountain Top). Ms. Erichsen is assigned to update this section of the NRI.
- Noise Factors. Mr. Williams said that this section will remain unassigned.
- Vegetation. This section has not yet been assigned.
- Wetlands. This section has not yet been assigned.
c. Vernon Gas Station Review and Other Identifiable Potentially Hazardous Sources
Mr. Williams was on the LUB at the time a proposal was approved for a gas station next to the McAfee (Dorothy Henry) Library. Mr. Williams said the engineering and geological studies indicated that there was a fairly significant amount of karst, which is a limestone feature where the hydrology created drain holes near the surface directly into the aquifer. He said to site a gas station right on top of that seemed like a tremendously bad idea because of what could happen in the event of a spill. Mr. Williams was concerned that the planning board at the time approved the proposal and was not environmentally sensitive. He said he thinks that because the LUB made the karst such a big issue, though, the site was not developed, and that it was on record that if there ever was a spill, there would be grounds for litigation. Mr. Williams agreed with Mrs. Kadish that one of the purposes of the NRI is to be able to look at an area and see, for example, that there is karst and that it is not a suitable location for this kind of business. This topic will be covered in the NRI under the land use section. Mr. Williams said he would like to know that gas stations are properly up to date in the following areas: existing tanks, inspections, and records maintenance. Mr. Furrey answered Mrs. Kadish that he believes gas stations do receive permits from the state, especially if there is an underground storage leak.
Mr. Furrey volunteered to update the Vernon Gas Station Review subsection of land use.
Tower Review. Mr. Williams brought up the satellite stations as another identifiable potentially hazardous source. Mrs. Kadish said this could be a serious issue that is not being discussed. She said “Microwave News” was a magazine that the EC tried to put in the library. Mr. Williams said time was spent measuring RFI and radio waves around the perimeter of these places. He gave an example of when an AT&T tower located on LBI (Long Beach Island) had been active, it sent out bursts that caused car alarms to go off in the area. Mr. Williams said this issue requires some sensitive instruments. He said the state—he thinks it might have been the DEP because it was a health issue—came in and did the measurements. Vernon has three or four active satellite stations. Mrs. Kadish said the EC should look at how many, what kind, and where dishes are located in the township and that the NRI should mention it.
Water Testing. Mr. Furrey was a part of a meeting with representatives from the Department of Health, the DEP, the county health department, and Mr. Gottheimer’s office. Mr. Furrey summarized: The state offered 100 homeowners in Vernon Township some testing for different types of radiological contamination, out of which 89 participated. Then statistics were presented on the findings. There was a particular interest in Vernon because Vernon has the highest levels of radiological contamination in the state. Mr. Furrey said with private well testing, the results are confidential because they obviously impact the sale of the home. He said the only requirement with buyer/seller disclosure is for the seller to disclose to the buyer and then to send the results to the county health department. Mr. Williams said the geology section of the NRI specifies where some of the hot spots are located. Mr. Furrey said the failure rates were pretty high. Testing included gross alpha, which is a group of radiological contaminants. Testing also included radium-226, radium-228, and uranium. He said there is a close relationship between uranium, radon, and gross alpha. He said radon in water is not regulated, so there is no maximum contaminant level. He said there is a limit for radon in the air, which is four picocuries per liter (pCi/L), and if test results showed a high level in the water then they also tested the air for radon. He said the reports given to the homeowners are very complicated. Mr. Furrey said one of the things that they requested from the state was to get the information condensed so the public can be educated what to do the about the issue. Mr. Furrey said one of the reasons this testing was done was because a lot of private wells were being missed since the law was passed requiring testing during a property sale. He said he was not physically at the meeting to see the map. Mr. Williams said the NRI could include this information in the geology section. Mr. Furrey said the main contaminant is uranium. He said he will get a copy of the PowerPoint presentation. He had provided the EC members information on radiological testing, private well testing, and funding sources for treatment. He said homeowners could borrow up to $10,000 with no interest to put the treatment system in and pay the loan over time. Mr. Furrey said if treatment is required, the average cost is between $4,000 and $6,000. Mr. Furrey explained that if radon levels are high in the water during a shower, the danger is lung cancer from inhalation. Ingestion of water containing radon can cause stomach cancer. He said one thing the EC can do is encourage homeowners to first do the gross alpha test, and if that number is over the limit then more testing can be done. Mr. Furrey said the goal is to education the public, which could include offering educational material listing water treatment companies that are available for homeowners with high contaminant levels to contact along with providing the loan information. Mr. Williams said he thinks it behooves the EC to not target communication too broadly. Mr. Williams agreed that getting the information out is important and that putting the specific information to Vernon on a website and finding ways to draw attention to it is a cheap, easy, and effective way. Mr. Williams suggested discussing the specific radioactive contamination in closed session, to which Mr. Furrey recognized the sensitive nature of the matter and agreed. He said County Health Officer James R. McDonald, III discussed the matter in Vernon and is looking into it and that Gottheimer’s office expressed an interest in providing funding.
d. Vernon Earth Fest
The EC is participating with GAAC. Mr. Cheski said he had gotten the game last year from ANJEC and would see if he could get a game from them again. Mr. Furrey said they could hand out brochures to the public regarding radioactivity, general private well testing, and the funding available. Mrs. Kadish clarified that she was asking about the CDM Smith Highlands Council study, and Mr. Furrey said he can get a summary of the study’s findings. He answered Mrs. Kadish that road salts used each winter do affect drinking water. Mrs. Kadish suggested talking to the public about it. Mr. Williams suggested offering information to the public about recycling and making information available about the Sussex County Municipal Utilities Authority (SCMUA) recycling events. Mrs. Kadish mentioned that SCMUA now takes Styrofoam.
e. Secaucus Resolution to Ban Polystyrene
Mr. Cheski said that the ban is focused on public places. He said Dunkin’ Donuts did do it but had a lot of complaints and so the company resumed using Styrofoam. Mr. Cheski said Maplewood, New Jersey banned Styrofoam from meats being stored on it. Mrs. Kadish asked whether Styrofoam is used in the senior center’s or the employees’ lunch program. Mr. Williams said he would like to go to a board of education meeting to ask about the recycling program. Mr. Cheski said the EC could also find out if the schools are composting, and Mr. Williams added that many schools have their own gardens. Mr. Furrey said he thinks these are good ideas and would like to hear the opinions in the schools. Mr. Furrey said he would contact the school district business administrator, Steven Kepnes. Mrs. Kadish suggested letting the public know about the EC’s initiatives.
9. LUB APPLICATIONS UNDER REVIEW
Refer to the LUB Liaison Report.
10. APPROVAL OF MINUTES
a. January 11, 2018 - Special Worksession (All)
Motion to approve the minutes was made by Mr. Furrey and was seconded by Mrs. Kadish. All were in favor.
b. February 22, 2018 - Regular Meeting Minutes
Motion to open the meeting to the public was made by Mrs. Kadish and was seconded by Mr.Cheski. Mr. Williams - abstained. Ayes - Mr. Furrey, Mrs. Kadish, Mr. Cheski.
11. COMMISSIONERS’ COMMENTS
Motion to adjourn was made by Mrs. Kadish and seconded by Mr. Williams. All were in favor. Meeting adjourned: 8:51 p.m.
Minutes submitted by Laura Lai-Minteer, Recording Secretary