Minutes: April 5, 2018

Call to Order

7:36 p.m.

Statement of Compliance

Pursuant to the Open Public Meetings Act, adequate notice of this regular meeting has been provided to the public and the press on January 14, 2018 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

Lisa Anderson - Corresponding SecretaryP
Mark CilliP
Ronald J. Dupont Jr. - Vice ChairmanA
Dan Kadish - ChairmanP
Paul G. MeleP
Kristi Baldwin Raperto - liaison to the land use boardP
Kirk StephensP

Also Present—Laura Lai-Minteer, Recording Secretary

1. Open Meeting to the Public

Motion to open the meeting to the public was made by Mr. Cilli and was seconded by Mrs. Raperto. All were in favor.

Jessi Paladini introduced herself and called it a shame when elected or appointed officials thumb their noses at conflicts of interest and public trust. She said many people don’t realize that the New Jersey state conflict laws, local government ethics laws, say that even when there is the perception of a conflict in the public’s eye, that elected or appointed official should recuse himself or herself from the matter. She opined that individuals on the HPC and the township council don’t care about conflicts of interest. She said she feels that way because she was at the last HPC meeting telling Kristi Raperto that she had an absolute conflict of interest, not a perceived one, and Ms. Raperto did not step down from discussion on the board of education building. Ms. Paladini referred to case Richard Grabowsky vs. Township of Montclair, A-53, argued on December 3, 2014 and decided on June 15, 2015. She said the court held the statutory standards set forth in Municipal Land Use Law (MLUL), N.J.S.A. 40:55D-1 to -163—MLUL and the Local Government Ethics Law (LGEL), N.J.S.A. 40A:90-22—and established that when an organization owns property within two hundred feet of a site that is the subject of a zoning issue, public officials who serve in positions in the organization or whose immediate families do, are disqualified from voting on the application. Ms. Paladini said local government ethics law precludes government officials and employees from acting in any manner where he or she, a member of his immediate family or a business organization in which he has an interest, has a direct or indirect financial or personal involvement that might reasonably be expected to impair his objectivity or independence of judgment. The longstanding conflict of interest rule reiterated in the court’s decision is that when public responsibilities and volunteer commitments conflict in land use matters, the public official should refrain from involvement in the matter and recuse himself. She directed her following comment at Ms. Raperto: “I guess what we now have to do is we need to bring it up with the state. So I’m again asking you to do the right thing and recuse yourself because you are in violation of the law.”

She then directed her attention to Mr. Mele, who answered in the affirmative that he does do work for Mr. Bruce Zaretsky. She said Mr. Mele has a financial interest with Bruce Zaretsky, to which Mr. Mele replied that was incorrect. Ms. Paladini said the intent is what matters and that she is talking about the law. Chairman Kadish interrupted to remind everyone that this is not a time for discussion but a time for Ms. Paladini’s statements. She called it an outrage that Mr. Mele admitted on the record that he does do work for Bruce Zaretsky and that he had discussed the demolition or the revocation of the historic landmark status. Ms. Paladini told Mr. Mele that he, too, will get a call from the state.

Ms. Paladini said to Chairman Kadish that the law does not allow for him to chair or be a voting member of the HPC. She said that he will have to answer to all of these things. Chairman Kadish responded that the council, mayor, and all of the attorneys that were consulted approved it and that there was no conflict and that there is nothing in the law that states that a council member cannot be appointed to the HPC. Ms. Paladini disagreed and said the MLUL (Vernon Township’s code) says that there can be a council liaison, not a voting member. Chairman Kadish suggested Ms. Paladini bring up the issue with the township attorneys, to which Ms. Paladini said that was a ridiculous suggestion and she would bring it up with the state prosecutor.

Chairman Kadish asked the record to reflect that Ms. Raperto recused herself (along with council member John Auberger) and sat in the back of the room during the LUB hearing.

Ms. Paladini said she told the HPC body at the HPC meeting that there was no provision in the law for the HPC, LUB or the town council to do the revocation ordinance of the BOE building. She said after she told the HPC this information, in February, the LUB attorney told the LUB the same thing.

2. Close Meeting to the Public

Motion to close the meeting to the public was made by Mr. Mele and was seconded by Mr. Cilli. All were in favor.

Review of the Minutes

1. March 1, 2108—Regular Meeting. Motion to approve the minutes was made by Ms. Raperto and seconded by Ms. Anderson.

Roll Call Vote:
Ayes: Ms. Anderson, Chairman Kadish, Ms. Raperto
Abstentions: Mr. Cilli, Mr. Mele, Mr. Stephens
Motion carried.

New Business

1. Mission Statement

Chairman Kadish asked members to review the mission statement and asked if members had any suggestions for changes. He said he felt it has proven to be an appropriate statement for decades.

*Continued discussion. Mr. Cilli said “community” is the key word. He was not at the last meeting but did review the mission statement. He scripted a bullet and asked for HPC members’ input: “Work as a community to ensure balanced and efficient growth within our town while respecting our heritage.” Mr. Cilli said he thinks the HPC needs to acknowledge the need to grow as a town. He said he feels the HPC needs to be realistic and that the HPC will probably face debates like the one over the BOE building again. Ms. Raperto said she liked it. Mr. Cilli also suggested simplifying bullet C to read, “Educate the public on our heritage.” He believes there is an opportunity to more fully embrace the Vernon school system and reach the children in the community sooner and perhaps in greater volume. Mr. Cilli thinks the way bullet C currently reads is confining the HPC to historic landmarks. Mr. Cilli said he would put his suggestions into writing and send them to the HPC members so that it can be reviewed at the next HPC meeting (May 3).

2. Ordinance 18-11 (not on agenda)

Chairman Kadish interjected that he went to the business administrator today to find out why Ordinance 18-11 (ordinance to refer the revocation of the historic designation granted to the property known as Block 144.01, Lot 7, formerly known as Block 144, Lot 3, and the amendment of the master plan to the Vernon Township LUB) was not on the town council agenda for the coming week and was told it is not on the agenda because it was an unnecessary and potentially expensive matter.

3. Rickey Homestead

Chairman Kadish said there is an offer by the future owner of the Rickey Farm, who does not want to have anything to do with the house because it requires many improvements. Chairman Kadish opined the matter was perhaps more than the HPC could take on. He thinks it would be a great challenge for it to be an office for the HPC, a museum for history, and an information center for the town and does not believe that the HPC can own property. He believes if there was a non-profit “friends of” the HPC organization, it could accept donations and contributions. Chairman Kadish said the house was built over a clear water spring. He said with food kept at the site that fed the Revolutionary Army, it seemed appropriate to have a museum there. Chairman Kadish thought an architect and an engineer would be needed to preserve the stonework and isolate the house from contamination of the water. He thinks the front cement porch should be replaced with a wooden porch running around the front of the house. Mr. Mele said the porch is not part of the original design but that it is a great old house. Chairman Kadish believes that the surrounding land is owned by the state, to which Mr. Mele said the back is all state and federal land. Chairman Kadish said Jamie (Rickey) gave some interesting facts, such as how Washington addressed the troops from the stone next to the barn. Chairman Kadish said he thinks Mr. Rickey’s family stories should be recorded. He said it would be an important adjunct to the byway that would underscore the need for history in Vernon. He asked members to start thinking about how this could occur. Chairman Kadish gave examples of how some churches raise money and suggested that perhaps once an organization is formed, it could pursue these types of fundraisers and the HPC would be the beneficiary.

Mr. Rickey arrived at the meeting. Mr. Rickey said he heard that the Rickey Farm was on the HPC agenda and that he would be glad to provide all of the information possible. Chairman Kadish said Mr. Rickey stated that the house was built in 1850 and prior to that time, presumably it was the Hinchman house. Mr. Rickey replied to Chairman Kadish that the Rickeys have been in Vernon for six generations and answered questions about what parts of the house are in their original form. Mr. Rickey opined that the debate should not be about the cost of the house because there is historical significance, including Revolutionary War history, which would undoubtedly qualify it as a national registered site and, therefore, make it eligible for grant money. Mr. Mele said having it registered as a national site and getting grant money would be an easy way to pay for it but that fundraising is a great idea. Chairman Kadish said he anticipates it needing new electrical and, “stars in the sky,” an elevator at some point to make it ADA-compliant. Mr. Rickey answered that the south side parking lot belongs to the farm and said the property is five acres. He said the septic is on the north side of the house and has had repairs. He said the well is right next to the driveway. Mr. Rickey said the water system is mostly upgraded but minimally inside the house. Mr. Rickey said he also has a family collection containing pieces from 1850 to circa 1950.

General Discussion

Chairman Kadish asked for a motion to open the floor to the public for general discussion of this matter. Mr. Mele made a motion seconded by Mr. Stephens. All were in favor.

Chairman Kadish answered Ms. Paladini that the gentleman he referred to earlier is Will Brown but stated that he does not know who owns it right now. Mr. Rickey said his understanding is that a bank trust entity owns it. He said he was evicted on February 7. He said the belongings are protected by the preservationist, and everything was moved out. He said it is listed on the market for $199,000.

Ms. Doreen Edwards asked for clarification who, if not the town, wants to put together a non-profit organization to raise funds. Chairman Kadish answered that he does not believe it could be the HPC. Ms. Paladini said it is a great idea and that the Vernon Historical Society could apply for grants. Chairman Kadish answered Mr. Rickey that he already checked and that open space funds are not applicable. He said there is a possibility which he has not yet raised that the hotel tax is a dedicated tax, with history being one of those dedications. Ms. Anderson asked if the HPC could pursue getting the house designated as historic. Chairman Kadish said the first step is figuring out who is going to own it. Ms. Paladini said that there is an element in the master plan that lists the Rickey house as a historic site, but the council has to designate it officially by ordinance by landmark, and that has not been done. Ms. Paladini said there is nothing in the ordinance that says the owner has to be the one to approve it and she thought Ms. Anderson’s idea of pursuing a historic designation is excellent. She said the HPC does not need to know who the owner is and that would be like being prejudiced because HPC landmark nominations are supposed to be based on merit and not based on who owns it. She said the HPC can absolutely do it and that while it is probably worthless because it can just be demolished, it is a responsibility of the HPC.

Landmark Designation

Ms. Anderson asked what the steps would be to get landmark designation. Chairman Kadish said HPC members could refer to the municipal application information passed out previously for those steps. Mr. Mele asked if, regardless of the owner, the HPC advised the LUB on the property becoming a historic landmark designation, and then the owner protests, is the HPC then wasting its time. There was discussion about whether to start the landmark designation process on a municipal, state or national level. Mr. Rickey said municipal level designation is separate and totally different from state or national designation. National designation cannot precede state designation, according to Chairman Kadish to which Ms. Paladini agreed. Ms. Anderson thought HPC could pursue state and national designation so that the HPC could apply for grants. Mr. Mele said he thought the HPC would start at the municipal level so that it showed the state that the local people wanted the designation. Ms. Paladini interjected that the HPC could never get grants unless the HPC is a Certified Local Government (CLG). Ms. Anderson asked if the house could get grants and if the HPC could do the application for the state or national historic land, and then the designated property would get the grant. Ms. Paladini said it has to be a non-profit applying for the designation. The HPC is not a non-profit organization and therefore could not apply for the designation but could support it.

Mr. Rickey said it would be a nice turnaround to see a Vernon governmental organization support the Vernon Historical Society at this point with what has transpired recently. He felt it would help rebuild faith in the community and perhaps bring people back together. Chairman Kadish answered Mr. Cilli that there is nothing to prevent them from pursuing both the municipal level and the state level designation simultaneously. The CLG process takes years and there might not be support for the HPC to pursue it but to ask would be a starting point.

Construction

Mr. Rickey answered Chairman Kadish that the rear porch has some leaks but that the main roof has no leaks. He said most old homes have a lean-to roof, separate from the main structure of the house, traditionally used as a summer kitchen or outkitchen. Chairman Kadish said the roof is made from embossed tin that has spots in need of replacement on the southern edge. Mr. Rickey said restoration would probably involve pulling up vinyl and clapboard, getting a full inspection of the beam structure to address issues, then applying new clapboard and bringing it back to original. Chairman Kadish said the roof on the western side has no overhang, so water is coming straight down on an outside wall and out from behind the vinyl. Mr. Mele agreed that there is rot. Chairman Kadish said he thinks the back porch would have to be totally rebuilt. Mr. Cilli said that these points are down the road and that the first step is to get the designation. Mr. Mele said that the construction can be done, but the questions are at what cost, how much construction, etc.

Chairman Kadish said the HPC needs to create a plan on how this issue should be approached, and he thinks this should be an agenda item for the next meeting. Ms. Raperto said she thinks the only thing the HPC can do is apply for it to be designated and then from there the HPC supports the chosen non-profit organization. Ms. Paladini said the Vernon Historical Society had a builder go into the house a few months ago and it was estimated that it needs a minimum of $200,000 for restoration.

Continued General Discussion

Mr. Rickey said there is a golden opportunity for the HPC to work with the Vernon Historical Society. He opined that even before Ms. Paladini was involved, the Vernon Historical Society has done a good job in a community without resources. Mr. Rickey opined that Ms. Paladini (Vernon Historical Society’s president) is effective in getting grants. He believes the scenic byway will be positive for the community and for the township. He thinks we are finally near reaching the recreational community that has been envisioned for decades. He mentioned that there are many small farms producing in Vernon.

Mr. Cilli said Mr. Rickey brought up a point that he wants to circle back on regarding the mission statement.

Ms. Paladini invited the public and the HPC members to the scenic byway public hearing in the senior center of the municipal building on Sunday, May 6 at 2 p.m.

A motion to close the meeting to the public was made by Ms. Raperto and seconded by Mr. Cilli. All were in favor.

Discussion continued regarding the mission statement* (referenced above).

Old Business

1. Glenwood Presentation

A compatible machine was not available to play the presentation. Chairman Kadish’s understanding is that there is WiFi in the municipal building. The recording secretary responded to Chairman Kadish’s request for an update on the possible Eagle Scout project that there is a Boy Scout troop meeting tonight, and the app and the sign will be discussed. Ms. Lai-Minteer was awaiting confirmation from the HPC that her position as the HPC recording secretary would not result in a conflict of interest problem with the project because her son is one of the Boy Scouts who would lead the project.

2. Farmland Historic Area

This agenda item was not discussed but Chairman Kadish will follow up about it.

3. Methodist/St. Thomas Signs

Chairman Kadish said one of the people he wants to contact is Nancy (Adam) because he believes she still has a relationship with the church. He wants to find out where the sign can be placed once it is ordered. He said the mayor and the business administrator are looking into less expensive vendors. Chairman Kadish told them the HPC wants a sign that is consistent and similar to what the HPC already has. The cost of the sign was nearly $1,700, and the concern is that it would use up most of the HPC’s budget. Mr. Kadish said he requested $3,000 for the HPC budget and was granted $2,500, which is an improvement from the original $1,500 given. He said he told them he was concerned about payment of the recording secretary for the amount of work being done in addition to other reasons needed for an increased budget.

Review of Land Use Board (LUB) Applications

1. LU #3-18-3: National Winter Activity Center (NWAC) Block 192.01, Lot 13-Variance to Construct an Entranceway Sign

Chairman Kadish did not find any historical elements but asked for the HPC members to review the application. The commission reviewed this application. Mr. Cilli moved to report to the LUB that the commission has found no historical element within this application, and Ms. Anderson seconded the motion.

Roll Call Vote:
Ayes: Ms. Anderson, Mr. Cilli, Chairman Kadish, Mr. Stephens
Abstentions: Ms. Raperto, Mr. Mele
Motion carried.

Commissioners’ Comments

Public Comments

Ms. Raperto said she wanted to again bring up a matter she mentioned at the last HPC meeting. She again requested that HPC meetings have a bit more structure with public participation to be fair to everyone. Ms. Raperto said it is not personal but that people calling out is hard for purposes of the record. Chairman Kadish agreed with the statement that it is difficult when more than one person is speaking at a time but added that he opened it up for a fruitful conversation. Ms. Raperto thanked the public for being at the meeting. She said if something like that comes up where there is a need to have open discussion, she is fine with reopening to the public. Ms. Raperto also mentioned that people might know each other and refer to one another by first names; however, she said she does not always know those same people. She requested that during the public participation period for people to come up and formally introduce themselves.

Adjournment

Motion to adjourn was made by Mr. Mele and seconded by Ms. Raperto. All were in favor. Meeting adjourned: 8:43 p.m.

Minutes submitted by Laura Lai-Minteer, Recording Secretary