All meeting minutes posted on the township website are unofficial minutes. Official copies of minutes may be obtained from the township clerk.

Minutes: May 10, 2016

Chairperson Beverly Budz called the meeting to order at 7 p.m.

Statement of Compliance

Pursuant to the Open Public Meetings Act, Chapter 231 PL 1975, adequate notice of this regular meeting has been provided to the public and the press on January 12, 2016 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

Roll Call

Beverly BudzP
Richard CarsonP
Dale DisneyP
Doreen EdwardsP
Angi Metler (Ms. Metler is ill and cannot attend.)A
Edward NitchP
Alyssa PortaroA
Diane Wexler (Ms. Wexler had a prior engagement but will try to come later.)A

Also Present

Jessi Paladini, Recording Secretary

The secretary reported she has not heard from Alyssa Portaro in more than four months. She does not respond to any emails or calls and has not notified the commission of her inability to attend the meetings. The recording secretary has also written to the township clerk and the council regarding Ms. Portaro and the Citizen Service Act, but the clerk and the council have not responded to the secretary’s correspondence or inquiries regarding this matter.

1. Open Meeting to the Public

Doreen Edwards moved to open the meeting to the public.
Dale Disney seconded the motion.
All were in favor.

2. Close Meeting to the Public

Seeing no one come forward, Beverly Budz moved to close the meeting to the public.
Dale Disney seconded the motion.
All were in favor.

3. Land Use Liaison Report

In Diane Wexler’s absence, recording secretary Jessi Paladini gave the land use board report. There has not been a meeting. A coffee cart application at the mall in McAfee was withdrawn. Andrew Borisuk will come in tomorrow night with a minor subdivision to subdivide his farm property. Robert Baldwin is seeking to put a canopy over his gas tanks on Omega Drive. She also reported the land use board has a new application process with new fees.

4. Applications Under Review

A. LU #4-16-3: Andrew Borisuk, Minor Subdivision

The applicant is seeking to subdivide his property and has requested a waiver from all required environmental studies. The commission discussed the wetlands on the subject property and recalled previously wetlands had been filled in. There were no concerns regarding the subdivision, but the environmental commission is recommending the waivers for the environmental studies not be granted. Due to the lateness of getting the application and the review being tomorrow night, the commission directed the recording secretary to forward the commission’s recommendation to the land use board for tomorrow night’s hearing.

Richard Carson moved to recommend the land use board not grant the waivers.
Edward Nitch seconded the motion.

Roll Call Vote:
Ayes: Dale Disney, Doreen Edwards, Angi Metler, Richard Carson, Edward Nitch, and Beverly Budz
Nays: None

B. LU #4-16-4: Robert Baldwin, Minor Site Plan with Use Variance

The applicant is requesting approval to place a canopy over the gas tanks on his property. The commission reviewed the application but had no concerns.

5. Old Business

A. Earthfest

Commissioner Doreen Edwards reported on Earthfest. She said she was the first one there and met with Jen Reuss. Jen Reuss advised her the commission would not have its own table and said there must have been some miscommunication. Ms. Reuss did not permit the environmental commission to put up its banner at the tree table. Doreen Edwards then spoke with Earthfest organizer Margaret Kranz, who set up a separate table for the commission. The commission displayed their handouts for children and adults. Doreen mentioned it was confusing as the commission was of the understanding they were going to give out the free saplings to the public, but that was not the case and that did not happen. The recording secretary said the Chamber of Commerce had sent the initial email to her requesting the EC man the tree table.

B. National Winter Activity Center

Beverly Budz reported that Schone Malliet had asked her to meet with him at the resort to discuss the land use board concerns regarding the environmental commission. Recording secretary Jessi Paladini and commissioner Doreen Edwards accompanied Beverly Budz to that meeting. She also reported there is still a great deal of silty runoff from the mountain into the stream. Mr. Malliet said he was getting the runoff under control and the DEP has given him until June 1 to do so. Mr. Malliet asked the commission to return after June 1 to inspect the property. Beverly Budz agreed to do so. Furthermore Mr. Malliet agreed to bear the cost of testing the stream after the project is completed. They are planting trees at the resort. Ms. Budz said she does not think they are planting as many as they cut down, however. Doreen Edwards also noted Mr. Malliet said there is no MSDS for the snowmaking operation because there are no chemicals in the snowmaking. The snow is made only with water. Beverly took photographs of the resort property before, during, and after heavy rains and recorded the runoff and siltation. The commissioners will do a site inspection at National Winter Activity Center during their July 2 scheduled site inspection.

6. New Business

A. Testing of Town Brook

The commissioners discussed testing Town Brook. They spoke about contacting Nathaniel Sajac, who worked for the county and used to test various bodies of water in the township free of charge. Doreen Edwards will contact him for information and report back at the next meeting.

B. Gypsy Moth Spraying

Spraying is expected to begin on May 16. The state will use BT to spray between 5 a.m. to 2 p.m. BT is not toxic, but they recommend anyone with concerns during the spraying to remain indoors.

C. Sewer Expansion Study

Edward Snook, chairman of the Vernon Township Municipal Utilities Authority, and Councilman Pat Rizzuto came forward to discuss a proposed sewer expansion study. Edward Snook stated he is not an engineer. Patrick Rizzuto wanted the record to reflect that he was not there representing the township council but rather his own position on the matter, which he has publicly stated on numerous occasions.

Edward Snook said the county sent a letter to the VTMUA clarifying the assertion that 50% of the septic systems in the proposed area for study have had problems. The county clarified that this number included septics that had already been rebuilt, repaired, had cracked tanks, and so on. He said there is no required reporting to the town that says people must inform the township when they have their septic systems pumped. He said properties that are half-acre or less do not have much room to put in new septics if one were to be required. He said it would also be very costly to put in a new septic in some areas.

It was going to cost Jerzees Diner $130,000 to redo the septic system, Mr. Snook said. He said the George Inn maintains its septic system is fine, but Mr. Snook said he believed it was at the end of its life and there are considerable wetlands in the area. There is a lot of limestone quarry in McAfee, he said, and the area faces wetlands problems. Large developments would not be able to have septic systems.

Richard Carson asked about the Legends Resort. Edward Snook said the resort has its own treatment plant but it would cost roughly about $2.5 million to rebuild it. If there are sewers in the area, they would hook up to them.

Mr. Snook said they are only looking to study expansion of the highway corridors along Route 94 where there is the possibility of commercial growth, not in areas such as lake communities. Picking up residential properties along the way would be a bonus to pay for the system, he said. Vernon Heights and Aspen Woods residences all contain small lots, he added.

Chairwoman Beverly Budz asked Patrick Rizzuto where the council stood on a study to expand the sewer area. Mr. Rizzuto said on December 14, 2015, the council had approved the VTMUA to proceed with a study to determine the feasibility of expansion. The study was to be brought back to the council for review and subsequent action. Following the installation of the new administration, the first thing the council did was to suspend the resolution that endorsed the plan allowing the VTMUA to go to the DEP. It does not deny the VTMUA from going forward to do the study. However the council would need to endorse the VTMUA going to the DEP.

Mr. Rizzuto said he and a fellow councilman feel that if the environmental commission is going to take a position on this it should keep in mind that the presence of an active sewer system is an advantage to the community. It provides protection to all of the surrounding areas and does not create an environmental issue. All effluent is going to the plant in Hardyston, is cleaned and treated there, brought back into Vernon, and returned to the ground to recharge the aquifer.

At this time, Mr. Rizzuto said, there are a number of large businesses that are willing to build but until they know the sewer infrastructure will be available they are not willing to make any type of commitment. By the endorsement of this plan, the environmental commission would be a strong proponent of qualified growth.

Doreen Edwards said she is going to “cut to the chase” and say she gives her wholehearted approval to go ahead with the study for expansion because this is the third or fourth time now it is being discussed. Commissioner Dale Disney confirmed the commission had previously endorsed it as well last year. Edward Snook said sewers are environmentally sound and economically more feasible than septic systems. Ms. Edwards agreed and said she feels the council is being penny wise and dollar foolish.

Richard Carson said the VTMUA is taking a proactive approach to avoid an environmental disaster, whether it is five or ten years from now, and he supports the study.

Dale Disney said even if the study were today it could be at least three years before the expansion even began. Edward Snook said it would take about a full year to get through the DEP. He said he hopes the expansion could be completed by about 2022.

Patrick Rizzuto questioned if it were fair to expect people to come into town and develop homes or businesses without sewers. If the infrastructure allows them to thrive and thus the township would thrive, isn’t that what government is supposed to do, he asked? He said the council is continually “kicking the can down the road.” When homeowners and businesses see they cannot sustain their cost of living they will move out. By not allowing sustainability in the community the governing body forces the people out, he said. He asked the commission to act in the best interest of the environment of the community.

Richard Carson said it could also affect the health of the community.

Doreen Edwards moved to write a letter to the mayor and council saying the environmental commission supports an expansion study and recommends the council move forward with it.

Beverly Budz said the motion should reaffirm the commission’s position that the expansion study is in the best interest of the township’s environment.

Richard Carson said it should be stated as an urgent matter that the VTMUA begin the expansion study.

Dale Disney seconded the motion.

Roll Call Vote:
Ayes: Doreen Edwards, Dale Disney, Richard Carson, Ed Nitch, and Beverly Budz
Nays: None

D. Resolution Opposing Logging on Public Lands in Vernon

The commission adopted a resolution to oppose logging on public lands in Vernon Township.

Richard Carson moved to adopt the resolution.
Dale Disney seconded the motion.

Further Discussion: Doreen Edwards said she wanted a clear definition of the term “logging.” Dale Disney said logging generally connotes commercial cutting for profit, with the exception of tree farms.

Roll Call Vote:
Ayes: Doreen Edwards, Dale Disney, Richard Carson, Ed Nitch, and Beverly Budz
Nays: None

E. Commissioners’ Terms

The commissioners again discussed the township website listing their terms inaccurately. Appointed terms are for three years each. The town website lists that all of their terms end on December 31, 2016, which is incorrect. Three of the commissioners were appointed in 2015, so their terms do not expire until 2018. The commission discussed options to make the council comply with their lawful terms. The recording secretary said she has already sent correspondence to the township clerk and the council, stating the environmental commission terms on the township website are incorrect, but she never received any response from them. She also stated the error at a public council meeting, but there was no response from the mayor, council, or township clerk. The MLUL, township code, and state statutes all specify what the commissioners’ terms shall be. The commission directed the recording secretary to again write a letter to the mayor and council, asking them to correct the terms.

7. Approval of Minutes

April 12, 2016 Regular Meeting Minutes

Richard Carson moved to approve the minutes of the April 12, 2016 meeting.
Beverly Budz seconded the motion.

Roll Call Vote:
Ayes: Dale Disney, Doreen Edwards, and Beverly Budz
Nays: None
Abstain: Richard Carson and Edward Nitch

8. Commissioners’ Comments

Richard Carson said he feels an expeditious resolution concerning the commissioners’ lawful terms needs to be researched. He also asked if certain items such as resolutions placed on the agenda could be sent to commissioners in advance for their review before the meetings. He questioned if they could see the land use applications prior to the meeting to be better informed. Beverly Budz said she only gets one copy of each application. They discussed ways they might be able to get copies in advance and asked the recording sec, so that would be difficult to do. The commission asked the secretary to look into options to improve the situation.

Ed Nitch said he feels the request for an expansion study and the governing body’s refusal to move it forward is troubling. From an environmental standpoint the proposed expansion of the sewer system only enhances the environment, advances property values, and promotes sales, he said. It removes doubt from prospective buyers and instills confidence in homeowners. Not moving the study forward is just pure politics, he said.

Dale Disney and the other commissioners agreed the sewer expansion study is very important and must be started immediately.

Beverly Budz said she was proud that the commission passed several important environmental resolutions, including the bear baiting and logging resolutions. She said they should read the resolutions at the next council meeting.

Adjournment

Richard Carson moved to adjourn the meeting at 9:55 p.m. Doreen Edwards seconded the motion. All were in favor.

The next meeting of the Environmental Commission is on June 14, 2016.

Transcribed by Jessica Paladini
Recording Secretary
Adopted July 26, 2016