Minutes: October 15, 2018
1. CALL TO ORDER: 7:00 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) - A
ALSO PRESENT—Laura Lai-Minteer, Recording Secretary
5. PUBLIC PARTICIPATION
Motion to open the meeting to the public was made by Mr. Cheski and was seconded by Ms. Erichsen. All were in favor. Seeing no one from the public come forward, Chairman Furrey moved to close the meeting to the public, seconded by Mr. Cheski. All were in favor.
6. LAND USE BOARD (LUB) LIAISON REPORT
Mr. Williams was not present to provide a liaison report.
7. OLD BUSINESS
A. LUB Applications Review - All
Chairman Furrey said that while Mr. Williams is not present to report from or to the LUB, there was an application to introduce, received October 3.
B. Diamond Communications, LLC and T-Mobile, 13 Vanderhoof Court
Chairman Furrey provided a map to EC members of the proposed location - use and bulk variance with flooring and vinyl site plan to construct a 199-foot telecommunications lattice tower. The applicant is requesting a partial waiver due to a small footprint of area to be developed on a lot that already is developed with an electrical power substation. Applicant has been provided topography of area disturbance and requested waiver for providing topography for the entire lot and 200 feet past subject parcel property line; existing well, septic, water bodies on and within 200 feet of the subject parcel. The proposed communication facility needs neither potable water nor sewage disposal. Chairman Furrey said the proposed tower would be located behind the Mountain Creek parking lot next to the electrical substation, by the path. Mrs. Kadish wondered if the tower would be much taller than the existing substation and said it kind of goes with how the land is currently being used. Ms. Erichsen asked if it would be located near any residential homes. Chairman Furrey answered there are two homes near the funeral home by the cul-de-sac. Mr. Cheski asked if there was anything in the application regarding disguising the tower, and Chairman Furrey agreed that the ones made to appear like evergreens looked better than the proposed tower. Mrs. Kadish said applications should come to the EC first for input to be provided to the LUB as part of the LUB decision-making process. Chairman Furrey said the EC is trying to get its comments to the LUB in the form of minutes. Mrs. Kadish said the LUB takes the EC input and then decides if it is valid and should be acted upon. Mr. Cheski felt the tower was not a good idea because of the danger of the frequencies and that he would not want to live by it. He wondered if the applicant could share an existing tower. Mrs. Kadish pointed out existing high tension wires, repeater stations, and satellite dishes. Chairman Furrey said one of the things the applicant will have to do is a balloon survey. Mrs. Erichsen questioned the impact on wetlands near Black Creek Sanctuary.
EC concerns and comments included the tower being a large visual eyesore, impacting the viewshed of the valley, danger of frequencies, lighting impact on neighbors and low-flying planes, and potential environmental concern of wetlands near Black Creek Sanctuary with a recommendation for applicant to seek a Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) letter of interpretation (LOI).
C. National Resources Inventory (NRI) - CW/All
Chairman Furrey said he had not had a chance to update but plans to look it over more closely and make comments on various sections. He said if members have any questions about the sections to follow up with Mr. Williams. Mr. Cheski said he will transfer information to Mr. Williams to be inputted into the chart.
D. Association of New Jersey Environmental Commissions (ANJEC) Award - MF
Chairman Furrey said this past Friday they received an award from ANJEC for the Vernon Greenway project. Mayor Harry Shortway and Cherie Shortway of the Greenway Action Advisory Committee (GAAC) attended the event, received the award, and stayed for some of the presentations. Mayor Shortway had the opportunity to question the DEP commissioner’s representative regarding the 3 Silver Spruce Drive situation. He communicated what the township is faced with and explained that the township and the residents are concerned that they do not have the resources to address any testing, if needed. The mayor told the DEP representative that the town is looking for support from the DEP. The representative answered that DEP senior management is aware of the issue and that DEP will stay in contact with the township and provide possible funding sources. Chairman Furrey said the award itself was a very positive thing, and he thinks they will try to get the word out about it, perhaps in a press release with a photo of GAAC members. He said it was a credit to everyone on the EC along with GAAC, with a lot of time and effort being put into the Vernon Greenway.
E. 3 Silver Spruce Drive Soil Dumping - MF
Chairman Furrey was at the site earlier today with Congressman Gottheimer, Mayor Shortway, and Vernon Township Zoning Officer Alison Larocca to review the site again. He said United States Representative Josh Gottheimer wrote another letter to the DEP. Chairman Furrey said the DEP’s response to Congressman Gottheimer’s original letter was that there was not a lot of solid waste. The DEP asserted that there was not enough evidence of contamination. Chairman Furrey wondered how the DEP could come to that conclusion without testing it. He said he had taken water samples from water bubbling up to the surface that showed some wells containing lead, and Congressman Gottheimer mentioned those results in his letter responding to the DEP. Chairman Furrey said Spencer Dimock from DEP’s Northern Enforcement (not Solid Waste), contacted him to ask some questions about the lead test results. He said that, apparently, DEP’s Solid Waste was at the site about a week and a half ago along with Northern Enforcement, which enforces water related issues, such as wetlands, impact to water, etc. Chairman Furrey said it seemed like the results might have prompted the DEP to have an interest in doing something because now there is evidence of something occurring.
Mr. Cheski said one afternoon recently when he was coming home from work and behind a truck dragging up the hill with a big load on the back of it, he recorded what the driver took in and also the plate number. Because the sign read that no fill material is allowed, Mr. Cheski said he called the police, who took his information in case there was a need for the video in the future. Mr. Dan Kadish answered Chairman Furrey that the material looked like a heavy machinery platform used in swamps and thought the ties appeared to be landscape ties used to put up a wall, which he said are probably the same type of tree as railroad ties. Chairman Furrey said they may be natural and not pressure -treated wood. Ms. Erichsen thought they would be rotted if not treated, and Chairman Furrey believed a wall could not be erected without it being treated. Mrs. Kadish thought Mr. Wallace was turning around and selling the ties again. Ms. Erichsen said Mr. Wallace had said he had bought some ties online and that the ones he had he said did not have creosote. Chairman Furrey said they did not go to the top of Mr. Wallace’s property where ties might have been stored, so he was not certain but said that they did not see ties.
Chairman Furrey shared with members pictures of what he saw earlier that day during the site visit with Josh Gottheimer. Chairman Furrey said he was with (Freeholder) Herb Yardley, who said concrete could be buried underground because it does not break down. Tree stumps can cause sinkholes and cannot be buried. Chairman Furrey shared pictures of the site with members that showed rebar located where the water is bubbling out as well as pictures of the water bubbling up. He said the DEP has stated that things like brick and concrete do not break down and that asphalt and tree stumps cannot be dumped. He said he took samples of what is bubbling up and is making its way down to the wetlands.
Chairman Furrey said that when Superstorm Sandy hit, contractors had to move all types of material and there were moratoriums that allowed people to restore their property with what would be called clean fill. The question, he said, is what the difference is between what is considered clean fill and what is considered dirty fill, and how it is defined. He said how dirty fill is defined is by testing of the fill. Chairman Furrey said New York enacted laws that quickly ended the problem. Ms. Erichsen raised the question whether similar types of materials are supposed to be segregated because there appeared to be no separation of materials occurring. Chairman Furrey said that it is a good question and that Congressman Gottheimer wanted a more definitive answer as to the definition of what is a small amount versus a large amount, what could be mixed together, and what is and is not allowed in solid waste. Chairman Furrey said the letter requested core sampling of the dirt pile and potentially monitoring wells around the pile and the impact to groundwater. The DEP wrote that when DEP officials went to the site, what was seen was not considered solid waste. He said this past Sunday’s New Jersey Herald article has Congressman Gottheimer’s original letter and response from the DEP on its website. Chairman Furrey said the most recent letter references the water sample results, including the findings of lead, which is a cause to look deeper into its source. Ms. Erichsen asked what kind of sampling are they doing and said if it is taken from the top, it is not really getting what is on the bottom. Chairman Furrey answered that they did not do any sampling of the dirt. He said the man from Northern Enforcement said that there were a couple of trucks randomly stopped over the last couple of months that had the contents of what was inside the dump trucks tested. He said the man told him he does not have a copy of the test results but knows that they do exist.
Ms. Erichsen wondered if that private road is sanctioned to have that volume of trucks and asked if there are any regulations for separating piles. She questioned how trucks could come up and down a private road that is not that wide and thought there might be children on that road. She pointed out that it is not an industrial complex but that dump trucks with heavy loads go up and down that road constantly, sometimes at dangerously fast rates of speed. Chairman Furrey said it destroyed the road. He said there is a video online that shows Mr. Wallace with brick material that he dumped right into the road and flattened it out with a top loader to fill in holes in the road. Chairman Furrey said apparently there was a drainage pipe that Mr. Wallace crushed, causing water to go everywhere, including spilling over to 2 Silver Spruce. Chairman Furrey said he spoke today with the resident, Ms. Elizabeth McCoon, who was pretty unhappy. He replied to Mr. Cheski that some of Mr. Wallace’s neighbors have attorneys, including Mr. Gorovoy and Mr. and Mrs. Distasi. Chairman Furrey said he would send the letter to members where it addresses regulations. He said they are asking for more clarity from the DEP and that the DEP is looking into it.
Chairman Furrey said one of the things he heard back was that the DEP is afraid to do testing and setting a precedent that results in many others asking for the DEP to do soil testing all over the state. He said this has led them to say they don’t have the resources or the money, which he said is completely untrue. Chairman Furrey said the DEP may not have the staff in Solid Waste but said that the DEP does have the money to do the testing. Ms. Erichsen said it is about the health and safety of the residents of Vernon. Chairman Furrey agreed with Mr. Kadish that the quote to do the soil testing was about $3,200 and the engineering quote was between $3,000 to $3,500 for core sampling. He said monitoring wells are expensive and would be about $10,000 each to drill and test, which is something different. He said the way it works is a certain number of samples are taken in a certain area, drilled down, samples taken and tested, and he said he thinks that is the least they are asking. Chairman Furrey replied to Ms. Erichsen that the soil fill ordinance was in effect. Mr. Kadish answered Chairman Furrey that the ordinance was revised but that there are many different authorities that are supposed to be responsible for it, and one authority that seems to have the most clout is the Highlands Council. Chairman Furrey said the way he sees it, the DEP is the regulatory, state agency that sets laws and, through the County Environmental Health Act (CEHA), grants money to the county, which is the entity that is supposed to enforce the laws. He said some counties have DEP enforcement laws, and in Sussex County there is what is considered a CEHA agency, meaning it receives DEP funding to enforce the laws. Chairman Furrey explained that the Sussex County Soil Conservation District (SCSCD) regulates soil erosion and sedimentation plans but clearly expressed having no authority when it comes to testing. Ms. Erichsen said the owner is in violation of something because otherwise there would not be $75,000 in fines. Chairman Furrey agreed with Mr. Kadish that Mr. Wallace was probably in violation of residential zoning laws. Chairman Furrey said the owner received zoning violations for operating a commercial facility in a residential area. The SCSCD also issued Mr. Wallace a stop work order, which required a site plan and a soil erosion plan, which he violated by not providing the plans. Chairman Furrey agreed with Mr. Kadish that the problem is that the appeal was just denied and there are many delays in the court process because Mr. Wallace’s attorney is ill.
Chairman Furrey said he is taking another water sample tomorrow morning for the woman complaining about her water to see if it has fecal bacteria in it because she said the water that is bubbling up out of the roadway smelled like wastewater. Mrs. Kadish said it is getting lots of press and not being forgotten. Ms. Erichsen agreed and said that Patrick Curreri who lives in close proximity to Mr. Wallace had a big newspaper article. Chairman Furrey added that Dan Gannon is a neighbor of Mr. Wallace, and Mr. Gannon and others living near Mr. Wallace are not happy. EC members all agreed that they would be upset living there, too. Chairman Furrey said that town council and the mayor are working for a solution. He added that Josh Gottheimer was here again today, and mad. Chairman Furrey said from speaking to the man at Northern Enforcement, it seemed that Enforcement would pursue the situation and attempt to gain access to Mr. Wallace’s property. He said Northern Enforcement gave Mr. Wallace a choice: allow Enforcement to go onto the property to test or Enforcement will get a court order to enter, along with a $10,000 fine.
F. Open Space - Greener by Design (GBD)
The referendum is in November, but Chairman Furrey said there is nothing else to bring up at this time.
G. Secaucus Resolution to Ban Polystyrene, Plastic Bags, and Plastic Straws - MC
Chairman Furrey said Mr. Cheski emailed an article to members. Mr. Cheski emailed to EC members earlier tonight another article that was put together by the Bergen Record, NorthJersey.com, which he felt was important for the EC to review. “New Jersey is pushing one of the strictest plastic bans in the nation. But is it enough?” He thought that maybe the EC should read it and pull back and see what the governor is going to do. Chairman Furrey said the Lower Township in Cape May County passed a plastic ban in the ocean. Mr. Cheski added that plastic is killing the sea life. Mrs. Kadish said Long Beach Island passed a plastic bag ban. Members agreed that balloons should be included in the ban. Chairman Furrey read, “Balloons released into the environment became litter that affects marine wildlife. A couple dozen Jersey shore towns from Atlantic City to Ventnor recognized the potential damage by passing local ordinances. Some municipalities, such as Stone Harbor, have ordinances that ban both mass balloon releases and aerial luminaries.” Chairman Furrey wondered if the municipality should wait to see what the state does because there are many different types of ordinances. Mr. Cheski said the EC reviewed the ordinances of Rahway, Maplewood, and Secaucus, and that members have not been together at the last couple of meetings to discuss it as a group, which has been on the agenda. Mrs. Kadish suggested, perhaps, starting with passing an ordinance to ban balloons because of their possible use in schools and that some civic groups, such as the Veterans of Foreign Wars (VFW), may unknowingly have a ceremony that includes releasing balloons. Chairman Furrey agreed that a balloon ban could be the introduction as a single plastic. He said, obviously, there are other plastics: polystyrene (Styrofoam), plastic bags, and straws.
Mr. Cheski said the United Nations released a climate change report and that the issue is that they are running out of time before there is no turning back. Ms. Erichsen added that the report stated there were twelve years left to correct the problem. She said she lives in Great Gorge and that many people do not recycle. She said there used to be recycling available for the 1,340 condos and she does not know why it was taken away. Ms. Erichsen said she now brings it to the township recycling center. She said she keeps posting it on the website for people to know what the recycling center accepts but that people do not want to have to make the effort. She believes there is no reason why there should not be at least plastic and glass or plastic and cardboard recycling available in the condos in the spot that used to be designated for it. All EC members agreed that Mr. Kadish’s suggestion was an excellent one to include a letter from the mayor to the condo people in their sewer bill reminding them of the recycling center. Ms. Erichsen said (condo management) is saying the township took away the recycling. Mr. Kadish replied that is not the case and that it is the refuse vendor who charges more for recycling than picking up garbage and supposed that the maintenance manager cancelled the recycling pickup.
Chairman Furrey asked members if they should move forward with all four items: plastic bags, polystyrene (Styrofoam), plastic straws, and balloons. He said the Senate bill addresses mass release of balloons into the environment. Chairman Furrey will forward the information to Mr. Cheski, who will add it to the drafted resolution to be reviewed and finalized. Chairman Furrey said the plastic bag ban was passed and then went to the governor’s office. Governor Murphy vetoed it because he did not think it was strict enough, and most environmental groups agreed.
H. EC (Polystyrene) Presentation to Board of Education (BOE) - MC
Mr. Cheski said he discovered that some schools use trays made out of polystyrene, which are then just tossed out. He said schools are also using these nice, heavy duty utensils but that they are all one-time use. Mr. Kadish added that these products do not biodegrade in the ocean, and the molecules get into the fishes’ flesh. Chairman Furrey said a man in Cape May was explaining that these products chokes the turtles. Mrs. Kadish said the little beads, microplastics, which are used in Spandex and get into the flesh. Mr. Cheski said soaps with little beads should be included in the proposed ban. He said it takes education at a young age but there is none at the lower grade levels in New Jersey.
8. NEW BUSINESS
A. EC Letter to Jeff Tittel, et al. - MF
This agenda item was not discussed.
9. LUB APPLICATIONS UNDER REVIEW
10. APPROVAL OF MINUTES
A. September 17, 2018 - Regular Meeting Minutes
Motion to approve the minutes was made by Mrs. Kadish and Mr. Cheski. All were in favor.
11. COMMISSIONERS’ COMMENTS
Mr. Cheski is still waiting for the information regarding the laws and regulations put together by the DEP for enforcing garbage disposal and asked if it could be put on the agenda for next month. Chairman Furrey asked for Mr. Cheski to inform him and the recording secretary by the Friday before the next meeting so that it can be included as an agenda item.
Motion to adjourn was made by Ms. Erichsen and seconded by Mrs. Kadish. All were in favor. Meeting adjourned: 8:01 p.m.
Minutes submitted by Laura Lai-Minteer, Recording Secretary