Minutes: November 22, 2010

Notice was posted at the Vernon Township Municipal Building in regard to a change in the meeting date from November 15, 2010 to November 22, 2010.

Call Meeting to Order

Dennis Miranda called the meeting to order at 7:45 p.m.

Roll Call

Dan BoltzP
Michael FurreyA
David GornsteinA
Carol KadishA
Tim McCurryP
Allison PetrykP
Dennis Miranda, ChairP

Also Present

Aida Cahill, Recording Secretary

Pledge of Allegiance

Open Space Preservation—Update

Dennis Miranda stated that the Vernon Township Council has declined the passage of a resolution for a second appraisal and that this failure of the council to spend $2500.00 for the second appraisal stops everything. Mr. Miranda further stated that he feels the reason is all about politics. The main purpose of why the council obstructs the initiative to get open space done is to prevent the mayor from having any success in getting open space acquisition and preservation done under her watch. Mr. Miranda stated that he feels the council is not serving the public trust. Open space will be kept on the agenda for updates, but there is no for seeable progress.

Appalachian Trail Initiative—Update

Dennis Miranda stated he is working on a letter that will go out to the National Park Service in regard to the Appalachian Trail. Mr. Miranda reported having a conversation with Karen Lutz, Regional Director for the Appalachian Trail of the Mid-Atlantic Region telling her there are issues that need to be addressed. This conversation was not received well by Ms. Lutz and Dennis reported he is now being ostracized in an effort to discredit what he has to say about pointing out deficiencies and shortcomings of the current manager regime.

Allison Petryk reported speaking to someone about the situation and she was told the National Park Service usually doesn’t follow the rules.

Sustainable New Jersey—Update

Allison Petryk stated she will resend the resolution so the Environmental Commission can vote on it.

Western Highlands Scenic Byway—Update

Dennis Miranda reported that a bump in the road was encountered regarding the scenic byway application process. There is a requirement to create an overlay map and show the location of the intrinsic qualities along the byway and surrounding area. Dennis has asked the mayor to persuade the council to provide anywhere from $500.00 to $1000.00 to create this map. Application is no longer open because this work must be done first.

Applications for Review

LUI #11-10-10: Lot Line Adjustment and Use Variance
Robert E. Baldwin/Baldwin Farm, a Mining Area/Quarry

The commission members reviewed maps provided with the application. This area is being proposed for a lot line adjustment and use variance. The application seeks to move lot line east and west to gain 200 feet around the current property which would extend them over Route 94 onto wetlands, for a mining operation. The Vernon Township Environmental Commission opposes this lot line adjustment and use variance. According to the application submitted by Robert E. Baldwin, File #LUI 11-10-10, lot line classification and use variance, as proposed, will result in an inconsistent activity adjacent to the Appalachian Trail and loss of grasslands to mining activities will destroy breeding habitat for grasshopper sparrow, a New Jersey endangered bird. Such activity would mar the aesthetic view sheds of the Appalachian Trail. Both outcomes would appear to violate provisions of the National Organic Act, a federal law intended to protect the wild and scenic values of the Appalachian Trail.

Dan Boltz moved to approve the resolution as outlined. Allison Petryk seconded the motion. Dennis Miranda will e-mail the resolution to Recording Secretary, Aida Cahill.

Roll call vote: Dan Boltz, yes; Tim McCurry, yes; Allison Petryk, yes; Dennis Miranda, yes.


There was no correspondence.

Land Use Board Liaison Report

There was no report.

New Business

Environmental Commission Chair Dennis Miranda received a telephone call from a homeowner regarding well contamination of E. Coli and fecal coli form bacteria as a result of consultants for Tenneco Gas Pipeline Company conducting well pressure tests of homes adjacent to the right of way. When well testing was done, nothing was disinfected. Mr. Miranda discussed unconfirmed reports of five wells affected in the same neighborhood. Mr. Miranda reported homeowners are reluctant to come forward, publicly, with this information. Mr. Yardley, Director of the Sussex County Health Department was contacted by Mr. Miranda regarding these concerns. Mr. Yardley does not feel these few reports make a threat to wells, in general. The mayor and township attorney are also involved and do not feel this is a big issue. Environmental Commission discussion resulted in the decision to call a special meeting, solely for the purpose of discussing this issue. The special meeting will be scheduled after the holiday season when members of the public will be invited to discuss any concerns or reports of additional well contamination findings. Also invited to this meeting will be a third party to advise on proper well testing procedures, as well as representatives from Tenneco.

Swearing In of New Member

Dennis Miranda, Chair administered the oath of office to Michael Cheski.

Master Plan

Mr. Miranda stated that approximately 15 years ago Vernon Township adopted a Master Plan written by Donald Ross who was the planning board attorney, at that time. Mr. Ross created a conservation section of the Master Plan that called for very rigorous protections of our water resources including a stream protection ordinance that was even stricter than the state law. Mr. Miranda further stated that this past summer, individuals came before the Planning Board complaining the ordinance written was too strict on the property owner, and they wanted an ordinance created that would roll back the protections to state standards, thereby reducing the more rigorous one the local jurisdiction created. Mr. Miranda reported that the Township Council intends on passing such an ordinance on Monday, November 29th, thereby rolling back protections to the state standards. Mr. Miranda urged Environmental Commission members to attend the Town Council meeting on November 29, 2010 to express outrage at this repeal of an ordinance that has been on the books for 15 years. The Environmental Commission passed a resolution opposing the repeal of the stream buffer conservation overlay zone because it undermines Vernon’s Master Plan, undermines Vernon’s Open Space Plan, undermines protection of Vernon’s natural resources and it is a step back in protecting the natural heritage of Vernon Township.

Tim McCurry moved to approve the resolution as outlined. Dan Boltz seconded the motion. Dennis Miranda, Environmental Commission Chair will forward the resolution to Aida Cahill, Recording Secretary.

Roll call vote: Dan Boltz, yes; Tim McCurry, yes; Allison Petryk, yes; Dennis Miranda, yes.

Open Meeting to the Public

Jessi Paladini, Sunset Ridge, commented on the Master Plan discussion. Jessi stated that the ordinance was born by the township Economic Development Commission chairman coming before the Land Use Board, a couple of months ago, on behalf of a client of his who wanted to build an addition to his home. The current ordinance called for 75 feet and since he didn’t have 75 feet, he would like the ordinance rolled back to reflect 50 feet. Ms. Paladini reported that she was the lone voice on the Land Use Board saying that she found it highly unethical for the chairman of the township Economic Development Commission to make such a request on behalf of his client. Ms. Paladini reported finding this unethical as well as a conflict of interest. Ms. Paladini further reported that the Land Use Board made a motion to recommend to the Township Council that the ordinance be rescinded bringing it back to 50 feet. Ms. Paladini suggested to the Land Use Board that the Environmental Commission be consulted on this issue.

Jessi Paladini also addressed the Tenneco Pipeline in Vernon. Jessi questioned waiting until after the holiday season to hold a special meeting in regard to the well contamination issue. Jessi also expressed concern that Michael Furrey, Environmental Commission Vice Chairman is the person doing water testing for Tenneco Pipeline because Mr. Furrey also contracts with Vernon Township to do water testing. Jessi stated that she believes this to be a conflict of interest. Jessi advised that she came to the meeting tonight to ask Michael Furrey to resign his seat on the Environmental Commission so that charges would not have to be filed against him and ask the Township Council to remove him. However, Michael Furrey was not present at the meeting. Dennis Miranda stated the Environmental Commission could not remove Mr. Furrey, they can only recommend. Mr. Miranda wants proof of contracts between Mr. Furrey and the other parties involved before recommending anything. Tim McCurry agreed that the Environmental Commission must have contracts in hand before making a decision.

Motion to Close to the Public

Dan Boltz made a motion to close the meeting to the public. Allison Petryk seconded the motion, with all in favor. There being no further business, the commission adjourned at 9:45 p.m.

Respectfully submitted,
Aida Cahill, Recording Secretary
Minutes approved: January 3, 2011