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Minutes: October 2, 2012*

Special Meeting

Call Meeting to Order

Beverly Budz, Environmental Commission (EC) Vice Chairman called the meeting to order at 7:10 p.m.

Statement of Compliance

Pursuant to the Open Public Meetings Act, Chapter 231, P.L. 1975 adequate notice as defined in Section 3D of Chapter 231, P.L. 1975 has been facsimiled and mailed from the Vernon Municipal Center to the New Jersey Herald on June 21, 2012. Notice was also posted on the bulletin board and filed with the office of the Township Clerk.

Salute to Flag

The Pledge of Allegiance was led by Beverly Budz.

Roll Call

Beverly BudzP
Traci Baldwin-CarterP
Michael CheskiP
Helena HolmesA
Heloise Ruskin (7:15 p.m.)P
Diane WexlerP
Craig Williams, Chairman (7:15 p.m.)P

Also Present

Aida Cahill, Recording Secretary

Items For Discussion

Tennessee Gas Pipeline (TGP)

Ms. Budz stated that the mayor spoke with Mike Lennon of TGP regarding the test results taken by Diane Wexler and Beverly Budz. Ms. Budz reported that the results were being sent to Texas for review and then a decision would be made as to whether independent soil testing would be done by a lab acceptable to both parties. Ms. Budz further reported that Senator Menendez and the Highlands Coalition would be coming the following week to walk the pipeline. It was noted that certification for walking the pipeline in Vernon was not necessary, at this time, because there was no longer any construction.

Camp Sussex

Mr. Williams reported that he was still waiting to hear from the Land Conservancy regarding questions about Camp Sussex. Mr. Williams stated that he spoke to Hans Gross, a realtor who had information that the people holding the tax certificates would not let the property go for less than $1.2M. Mr. Williams suggested limiting the use of open space funds for acquisition of Camp Sussex to a certain dollar amount so that there would still be money left over for other open space projects, such as the bike path.

Mr. Cheski questioned why the council didn’t have to give a cost benefit analysis for the project. Mr. Williams stated that such questions should be taken up at a council meeting.

Ms. Wexler stated that from a realtor’s point of view there were many questions that needed to be asked before purchase of the camp.

Mr. Williams stated that open space funds were meant to be used for acquisition and soft costs only.

Ms. Wexler and Ms. Budz distributed pictures that they took while walking Camp Sussex. The pictures and associated questions were reviewed in detail by the EC. The poor condition of many of the buildings and the need for major renovation of the camp was noted. Structural soundness, the possibility of underground oil tanks and lead paint were some of the concerns needing clarification before the EC would be able to make a recommendation in favor of acquisition of Camp Sussex. EC concerns also included demolition and renovation being done in an environmentally responsible way.

Public Comments

Sally Rinker, Vernon, spoke regarding Camp Sussex and her feeling that it was unfair to request that the EC lend their recommendation to a project with so many unknowns, and in such a short amount of time. Ms. Rinker spoke of the Highlands core preservation, Highlands planning area requirements and restrictions, costs of the property as is, as well as costs of refurbishment and development. Ms. Rinker commented that it would be a gamble to use the open space funds for a project of this magnitude. Ms. Rinker raised the question of whether there would be enough money left in the fund for the bike path project after acquisition of Camp Sussex, when bike path costs were still unknown. Ms. Rinker commented that a private entity should take over the camp so that it would stay as a ratable for the town.

Doreen Edwards, Highland Lakes, questioned the timeframe of the decision. Ms. Edwards agreed that having questions answered regarding structural integrity was crucial before committing any money to this project.

Ms. Baldwin-Carter suggested estimating costs for the bike path to determine whether there would be enough money left over. Ms. Baldwin-Carter commented that if the township owned the camp, then the township would always have a say in what was done with the property.

Ms. Budz stated that a projection and business plan was needed. Ms. Budz further stated that not enough was known about the project and therefore a decision to recommend acquisition of Camp Sussex should wait for answers.

Ms. Ruskin commented that the EC cannot move forward unless the town commits to spending money to investigate the necessary repairs and also commits the money to fix them.

Ms. Rinker questioned what has actually been accomplished with the bike path project. Mr. Williams stated that the Land Conservancy needs to be asked to contact appropriate land owners regarding conservation easements.

Jessie Paladini, Vernon, stated that she was neither for or against the acquisition of Camp Sussex, however wanted to make the following comments. Ms. Paladini stated that three years ago there was interest to make Camp Sussex into a camp for underprivileged children. Ms. Paladini further stated that this didn’t happen because the township pulled the nonprofit status of the camp so that the township could acquire it instead. Jessie reported that she called the tax assessor to find out why the nonprofit status was pulled, but was given no answer.

Mr. Williams stated that he heard the nonprofit status was pulled because of fire code issues.

The EC agreed to gather together questions to be given to the mayor and also to get on the agenda for the next council meeting to pose these questions, as a commission.

Doreen Edwards, Highland Lakes, questioned the status of TGP issues. The current status was explained.

The meeting was closed to the public.

Adjournment

The meeting was adjourned at 9:00 p.m.

Respectfully submitted,
Aida Cahill, EC Secretary
Minutes approved: November 13, 2012