Minutes: February 2, 2017
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, had been forwarded to the New Jersey Herald on January 7, 2017. Notice is also posted on the bulletin board and filed with the office of the Township Clerk.
|Ron Dupont, Jr.||P|
1. Open the Meeting to the Public
Dan Kadish moved to open the meeting to the public.
Nancy Adam seconded the motion.
No one come forward.
Dan Kadish said they should close the meeting to the public. Ted Laabs asked if they were not going to keep the meeting open to the public for the duration of the meeting, as has always been past practice for several years with the HPC.
Dan Kadish moved to close the meeting to the public.
Jessi Paladini, one of two members of the public present, asked if the public could comment.
Chairwoman Laura Pettinato invited Ms. Paladini to comment. Ms. Paladini said typically for the past five years former historic preservation commission chairman Charles Bates has kept the meetings open to the public for the duration of the meetings. She asked if the HPC was now proposing to change that policy and close the public out of the meetings.
Dan Kadish said he wanted to close the meeting to the public, and he asked for a second to his motion. Charles Bates seconded Mr. Kadish’s motion to close the meeting to the public.
Chairwoman Laura Pettinato asked the commissioners if they wanted to take a vote and asked if the vote should be an open or closed vote. The members said it should be an open roll call vote.
Roll Call Vote for Motion to Close the Meeting to the Public
Ayes: Charles Bates, Chris Hanke, and Dan Kadish
Nays: Nancy Adam, Ron Dupont, Ted Laabs, and Laura Pettinato
The motion did not carry, and the meeting remained open to the public.
Laura Pettinato said they could consider a different motion on the matter. Chris Hanke then moved to open for public comment at the end of the meetings.
Jessi Paladini asked to speak again and said she felt it was inappropriate to make the public sit through a two-hour meeting to comment. She said no other board or commission in the township operates that way and has never operated that way. She feels it is disrespectful to suggest that the public wait through an entire meeting to comment. She said the commission took a vote and the majority voted to keep meetings open, and the matter was resolved in accordance with parliamentary procedure and should be closed.
Commission member Ted Laabs added there are times when the public offers valuable information about a subject that commission members might not know and need to know. Closing the meeting to the public would result in the loss of a valuable and helpful exchange of information. He said he does not see it as a question of opening or closing the meeting but rather how the chairperson conducts the meeting and how the public is able to speak on the issues they are addressing.
Laura Pettinato said she does not want to stifle ideas, suggestions, feedback, or criticism from the public. She said they are there to serve the community, and they need community input. She said it is not as though they have so many members of the public attending and creating disruptions that they have to be so tight-gripped. She suggested they table further discussion on the matter and revisit it at a later meeting.
2. New Business
A. Recording Secretary
Laura Pettinato announced that Charles Bates has resigned as recording secretary for the commission. She said the commission is without a secretary, and she asked for nominations for a recording secretary. A recording secretary is needed to take minutes, do the agendas, and keep the HPC administratively on course, she said. Ms. Pettinato nominated Jessi Paladini as recording secretary, saying she believes Ms. Paladini is “a trifecta of people” and comes with experience and qualifications beyond belief for the position. She has historical and administrative background, and she knows parliamentary procedure, Ms. Pettinato said. Ted Laabs seconded the nomination for Jessi Paladini.
Charles Bates nominated Irene Mills, Mayor Harry Shortway’s administrative assistant, for recording secretary. Dan Kadish seconded the nomination for Irene Mills.
Dan Kadish said he would like to raise an issue before a vote. He felt members of the HPC who are members of the historical society should not vote. Ted Laabs said he felt Dan Kadish, a council member, should not nominate a candidate for the secretarial position and should not be voting on it. Mr. Laabs said he questions Mr. Kadish’s ability to be a voting member of the HPC while he is a township council member. Mr. Kadish said it was not his suggestion to be a full voting member of the HPC. He said another member of the township council and Mayor Shortway suggested he sit on the HPC as a voting member.
Jessi Paladini told the HPC she questioned whether state statutes governing the commission permit Mr. Kadish to be a voting member. She also stated the Vernon Township code only permits a council member to serve as an ex-officio liaison member to the HPC. Mr. Kadish acknowledged the township code states he is to serve as a liaison. Ms. Paladini further stated Dan Kadish, a named defendant in an employment and board appointment lawsuit she filed as the plaintiff, is precluded from taking any action that concerns her, and he should recuse himself and step down from the table. She feels Mr. Kadish’s involvement is unlawful.
Laura Pettinato said strictly considering qualifications Jessi Paladini is far more qualified to be recording secretary for the HPC and brings historic knowledge and expertise to the HPC. Ms. Pettinato said in her business experience she hires the most qualified individuals for positions. Dan Kadish said the only qualification for recording secretary is to write down the minutes of the commission. Ms. Pettinato said it is counterintuitive not to select a person who would bring more value to the table.
Mr. Kadish discussed Ms. Paladini’s job performance. Ms. Paladini told Mr. Kadish his comments were defamatory and false, and he should not be discussing her performance in that manner at a public meeting, and particularly not when he is a named defendant in a lawsuit she has initiated.
Chairwoman Pettinato said she is tabling the appointment of a recording secretary to the next meeting. Mr. Kadish said there are motions and seconds, and the HPC should take a vote. Ted Laabs agreed tabling it until the next meeting would be best.
Laura Pettinato stated Ms. Paladini has offered to serve as secretary without compensation. She questioned whether Irene Mills would be willing to do the same. Dan Kadish stated that it was his understanding that from January 1, 2016, recording secretaries for the township boards and commissions were supposed to be members of those public bodies. Ms. Pettinato said she has corresponded back and forth with the township business administrator, and he has not given her that information. She said neither has she seen any documentation on that. Ms. Pettinato questioned whether Irene Mills would be HPC secretary for no charge and whether she would do the minutes on her own time or during her normal work hours as administrative assistant to the mayor. Mr. Kadish suggested Ms. Pettinato discuss that with the mayor, the business administrator, and with Ms. Mills herself.
Ted Laabs asked if there were any other nominations for recording secretary. No other nominations came forth. Laura Pettinato asked for a member of the commission to volunteer to transcribe the minutes of tonight’s meeting. No one volunteered. She said if they cannot get a commission member to transcribe minutes for one meeting they would not get someone to volunteer for a year.
Ted Laabs moved to table the motion for recording secretary.
Laura Pettinato seconded the motion.
All were in favor.
B. Approval of January 19, 2017 Minutes
Dan Kadish moved to adopt the January 19, 2017 meeting minutes.
Ron Dupont seconded the motion.
All were in favor.
Laura Pettinato said she would correct a typo in a word in the December minutes and would then submit both the December and January minutes to the township for posting on the website.
C. Resolution for Meeting Dates for 2017
Laura Pettinato said they needed to approve the meeting dates for 2017 because they had not done so at the January meeting.
Chris Hanke moved to approve the resolution.
Nancy Adam seconded the motion.
All were in favor.
3. Old Business
A. Public Hearing for Vernon United Methodist Church Cemetery
Ted Laabs questioned the status of the public hearing for the VUMC Cemetery. Laura Pettinato said they voted unanimously last month to schedule a public hearing at the March 2, 2017 HPC meeting. A public hearing held seven years ago was tabled and is no longer valid for the landmark designation. The land use board and township council approved the landmark designation in December 2016 without a public hearing. She said there was not enough time to advertise the public hearing and notify the property owner in time for the February 2 meeting, so it had to be rescheduled. She questioned whether a public hearing is necessary when the township council opens the landmark designation for public comment before a vote.
Charles Bates said a public hearing is necessary and said the HPC has notified property owners by certified mail and informed them of their scheduled public hearings in the past. This practice gives the property owners an opportunity to hear the HPC’s recommendations and to offer any comments they might have.
Chris Hanke noted they might contact the VUMC and tell them the nomination has already been approved, but they are having a public hearing as a formality and they need not attend.
Laura Pettinato moved to schedule a public hearing for the VUMC Cemetery at the HPC’s March 2 meeting. Charles Bates seconded the motion. All were in favor.
Ms. Pettinato said she would draft the letter to the property owner notifying of the public hearing. Charles Bates suggested she send a certified letter with return receipt requested and go through Irene Mills in the mayor’s office in doing so. Nancy Adam suggested sending the letter to VUMC trustee Dick Fitch.
B. HPC Budget
Laura Pettinato said Township Business Administrator Charles Voelker told her the HPC has a zero-based budget, but if the HPC has expenses he would consider them for approval. He asked her to give him a proposal for some of the things they would need funds for this year. She asked the commissioners to bring their thoughts to the next meeting.
C. Glenwood Presentation
Laura Pettinato has not been successful in reaching the pastor of the Glenwood Baptist Church for use of the facility for the presentation. Charles Bates said he had also not been successful until he made a personal visit to him on a Saturday. He suggested that a Saturday morning presentation for the Glenwood community at the municipal center might be another option.
D. Historic Farming Designation
Laura Pettinato spoke with Irene Mills about maps the township might have. She has also spoken with the Sussex County cartographer. Ms. Pettinato wants to get a map of the preserved farmlands in Vernon along Route 94. She said there are five preserved farms. She asked for someone to work with her to identify the owners and any missing farms from the list. Dan Kadish offered to work with her.
E. St. Thomas Church Campus Landmark Nomination
Laura Pettinato said the HPC would schedule a public hearing for the St. Thomas campus at the April meeting. She will work on advertising the pubic hearing and notifying the property owner. The HPC had not gone forward with the public hearing because the property owner asked for a 60-day delay on the landmark designation. Charles Bates said the Green Pond Bible Chapel is close to signing a contract with the Newark Episcopal Diocese for the lease or purchase of the church.
F. Document Review Subcommittee
Ron Dupont, Charles Bates, and Laura Pettinato are on the Document Review Subcommittee. Laura Pettinato said she would like to broaden the scope of the subcommittee’s responsibilities so that the subcommittee would review any document any commission member writes. She asked for thoughts on that suggestion. Charles Bates said he thinks everything should be directed to the chair, who can then pass it along to the other subcommittee members. She said people need to take ownership and divide some of the tasks of the commission.
G. Scope of HPC Responsibility
Laura Pettinato said she has not had the time to draft this letter, but she will write a letter to the business administrator requesting clarity on the scope of responsibilities of the HPC regarding land use board applications.
H. Land Use Board Applications
There were no new applications. Laura Pettinato asked if any of the commissioners had gone to see the balloon test for the Cellco/Verizon Wireless cell tower application. No one other than Ms. Pettinato had done a site visit. She said the balloon could not be seen from anywhere until she was practically on top of it. Coming from the area of the schools, she could not see the balloon at all until she almost got to Tall Timbers. She said the visibility is extremely limited. She did not think the proposed cell tower would interfere with any view sheds or historic sites. She said in one area the balloon is visible above the tree line, but because it will simulate the look of a tree it should not have much impact.
Laura Pettinato moved to report to the land use board that the HPC has no concerns or recommendations after reviewing the Cellco application. There was no second on the motion. All commissioners were in favor of sending the report to the land use board, with the exception of Dan Kadish who abstained because he is on the township council.
4. Commissioners’ Comments
Before adjourning the meeting, Laura Pettinato asked again if a commission member would volunteer to compose the night’s meeting minutes. No one volunteered.
Jessi Paladini asked for permission to comment, which the chair granted. She stated she only attended the meeting because members of the HPC had asked her to come. She said she agreed to offer her services as recording secretary for the HPC because people on the commission had asked her to consider it, not because she wanted to. She said she had no real interest in being HPC secretary but cares only about the history of the township and about the historic preservation commission itself. Ms. Paladini said she is pleased that Ms. Pettinato is chairperson because she will finally bring integrity to the HPC. She wanted the record to reflect that on January 3, former chairman Charles Bates called her by phone and told her to cancel the January 5, 2017 HPC meeting because Mayor Shortway told him to cancel the meeting so he could have time to put together new ordinances. Ms. Paladini did as Mr. Bates directed her and notified the commissioners by email that the January 5, 2017 meeting was canceled at the mayor’s request.
Ms. Paladini also said she again wants to put it on the record that she asked Dan Kadish to step down from taking any action on matters in which she is involved because he is in conflict.
Laura Pettinato said she had some last-minute matters to discuss. She asked all of the commissioners to print out the minutes when they get them, along with any other documents, and bring them to the meetings so that there is no duplication of copies. The commissioners agreed they would all bring their own.
Ms. Pettinato also discussed a repository for HPC documents such as minutes, agendas, presentations, and so on. She feels it should be somewhere at the municipal center. Chris Hanke said there is an existing file cabinet for the HPC at the municipal center, but Ms. Pettinato said she would like the documents in digital format and not on paper. She would also like a searchable database. Ted Laabs suggested contacting either the Hamburg or the Newton Historical Society to see how they handle their digital documents and databases.
Laura Pettinato also said she is very disappointed no one would step up to transcribe tonight’s meeting minutes. She said if there is allegedly a mandate for a commission member to be secretary she is going to ask someone to step down so that someone else who is willing to serve as recording secretary could be appointed to do the minutes. She said she would not serve as chairwoman of the committee and also do the minutes at the same time as she cannot do both. She said she does not understand why they are on the commission when they are unwilling to do anything.
Jessi Paladini offered on a one-time basis to transcribe the minutes for the commission at no charge if the commissioners all agreed. Ms. Pettinato asked the commissioners if they would be in agreement. Chris Hanke and Nancy Adam said they had no problem with it.
Charles Bates moved to accept Jessi Paladini’s offer to transcribe the minutes.
Laura Pettinato seconded it.
All were in favor.
Dan Kadish abstained, stating the reason being the comments that were made that he is in conflict.
Charles Bates moved to adjourn the meeting.
Laura Pettinato seconded the motion.
All were in favor.
The meeting was adjourned at 9:00 p.m.
The next meeting of the Vernon Township Historic Preservation Commission is on March 2, 2017 at 7 p.m.
Transcribed by Jessica Paladini
Recording Secretary Pro Tem