Minutes: March 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 12, 2017. Notice is also posted on the bulletin board and filed with the office of the Township Clerk.

Roll Call

Nancy AdamP
Charles BatesP
Ron Dupont, Jr.P
Christopher HankeA
Dan KadishP
Ted LaabsP
Laura PettinatoP

Public Participation

Laura Pettinato opened the meeting to the public.

No one come forward.

New Business

1. Approval of February 2, 2017 Minutes

Dan Kadish objected to the statement in the minutes that said, “Dan Kadish discussed Ms. Paladini’s job performance.” He said he did no such thing and wants that sentence deleted from the minutes.

Jessi Paladini, who transcribed the minutes, said she wrote the minutes directly from the recording of the February 2, 2017 meeting. She said among Mr. Kadish’s comments about her, he stated that as recording secretary for the historic preservation commission (HPC) she used to run the meetings as though she were the chair. She believes that is a false statement, and it constitutes discussing her job performance.

Laura Pettinato asked Dan Kadish what change he wants in the sentence. Mr. Kadish said he does not want it changed; he just wants it deleted.

Ms. Pettinato asked Mr. Kadish for a compromise on the wording that would be satisfactory. She asked if Mr. Kadish wanted to change the wording with a replacement sentence. He said he would not, and he just wants the sentence deleted.

Commission member Ronald Dupont suggested a notation in the minutes stating Mr. Kadish disputed the statement. Commissioner Ted Laabs agreed with Mr. Dupont’s suggestion and asked Mr. Dupont how to word it. Mr. Dupont suggested adding in brackets to the minutes “Mr. Kadish disputed the statement and requested its removal.”

Nancy Adam said she would be willing to approve the minutes with Ron Dupont’s suggested statement in brackets.

Laura Pettinato moved to add in brackets the statement Ron Dupont suggested.
Ted Laabs seconded the motion.

Roll Call Vote:
Ayes: Nancy Adam, Charles Bates, Ron Dupont, Ted Laabs, and Laura Pettinato
Nays: None
Abstentions: Dan Kadish

Laura Pettinato said she believed the date of publication of meeting dates in the minutes might be incorrect and suggested researching it and changing the date in the minutes if necessary.

Laura Pettinato moved to adopt the February 2, 2017 minutes.
Charles Bates seconded the motion.

Roll Call Vote:
Ayes: Nancy Adam, Charles Bates, Ron Dupont, Ted Laabs, Laura Pettinato, and Dan Kadish
Nays: None
Abstentions: None

2. Code Of Conduct

Laura Pettinato said she is trying to establish a code of conduct of professionalism for the meetings so that the commission could try to make some improvements to the meetings for the benefit of the community.

3. HPC Ordinance

Laura Pettinato said attempting to set up the public hearing for the Vernon United Methodist Church Cemetery opened up a whole discussion on the role and responsibilities of the historic preservation commission. She said she spent a lot of time researching the HPC code dating back to 1997, particularly the responsibilities of the HPC regarding recommendation of landmark designation as well as state laws for conducting open public meetings, public hearings, public notices, and notification of property owners by certified mail. She said discussing these issues with township business administrator Charles Voelker led to a long discussion about the HPC code. Ms. Pettinato said it appears, based on notations in the code on the township website, somewhere along the line from 1997 the code was amended, but the township website does not have documentation of the amended ordinances because the website does not contain anything that far back. She would have to consult the township clerk to get those documents, she said. She printed the current HPC code from the township website and gave a copy to the commission members and asked them to take it home and read it. Ms. Pettinato said the HPC code seems to have been gutted from the original version. Ms. Pettinato said the current code does not meet any of the best practices she has researched throughout historic preservation commissions in other municipalities or for certified local governments. There is no longer a provision for holding public hearings in the town code, she said.

Jessi Paladini said she has often requested and obtained ordinances pertaining to the HPC, and there is no documentation of any amendments. She said the HPC code was gutted in 2011 when the new form of government took office and Dan Kadish was on the subcommittee to review the township code and adopt a new code. She said the 2011 township council created and adopted the current HPC code. She stated she doubts the 2011 township council even knew this happened when they approved the new township code. She is going to discuss this with the township clerk and get documentation to confirm her assertion.

Laura Pettinato said the township website indicates there were amendments to the HPC code from 1997 to 2010. Ms. Pettinato said according to the current code the role and responsibilities of the HPC have been significantly reduced. She said both Charles Voelker and the township attorney said the HPC must operate under the current code that is on the town website. She feels the commission should build a case to the township council to return to the prior code or revise the code so that they operate under best practices that are generally accepted for municipal historic preservation commissions. She is reaching out to other municipalities that have good HPCs for advice and comparison before approaching the Vernon Township Council.

Ms. Pettinato questioned the requirement for pubic notification and public hearings on landmark designation and discussed what the commission needs to do regarding future recommendations for designation such as the pending St. Thomas Church nomination.

Dan Kadish said the process for historic landmark designation already has two public hearings before the land use board (LUB) and the township council (TC) and has always been the case with all landmark designations, and if the HPC is now asking for a third public hearing it would be expensive for public notices. Laura Pettinato stated a public notice costs only about eight dollars and is not costly at all. Jessi Paladini said the public notice should cost about $6.95, as she has published several public notices recently for the township environmental commission.

Jessi Paladini said Dan Kadish’s statements are not accurate and said neither the LUB nor the TC has ever held public hearings on landmark designations, nor has either ever done public notices. She said she has been on the LUB for six years and that has never been done, and she is certain the TC has never done it either. She also said written certified notices were not sent to property owners either, as is required for public hearings.

Ms. Pettinato said she has a written directive from the township attorney that the HPC is not to conduct public hearings and they have only an advisory role to the TC and the LUB.

Charles Bates stated when he was chairperson and scheduled meetings for landmark recommendations he always went to Land Use Administrator Kim Decker to inform her about the applications, the most recent one being the Vernon United Methodist Church (VUMC). He said he believes the community at large was notified that the HPC would be presenting the VUMC to the land use board and to the township council.

Jessi Paladini stated that was inaccurate as there was no public notice or public hearing for VUMC, despite both the land use board and the township council approving the landmark designation.

Charles Bates said before the HPC forwarded the Cedar Crest Farm recommendation to the LUB and the TC for landmark designation, he sent a certified letter with return receipt requested to Marlene Ford, the owner of the property, and the HPC held a public hearing. Ms. Ford appeared before the HPC during that public hearing. Charles Bates then went to Kim Decker to schedule the landmark designation with the LUB.

Dan Kadish said Ms. Pettinato has a fight on her hands because he does not know what reception she will get from the TC and suggests the HPC should first focus on getting certified local government (CLG) status. He does not know if the TC will approve it though, he said. He said when he was on the governing body in 1997 he advocated for a very strong historic preservation commission but claimed other governing bodies that took over subsequently “watered down” the ordinance. He said the attorneys set up the ordinances.

Jessi Paladini said the attorneys do not create the ordinances but rather are guided by the governing bodies, which approve them. She added the HPC does not need CLG status in order to recommend historic landmark designation or operate under the state statutes as they are required. The HPC is a statutory body created by state law, and as such it still needs to comply with its statutory role. She said the HPC should be conducting its own public hearings for landmark designation. Ron Dupont agreed, saying there is a misconception about CLG status, and being a CLG gives the HPC no more authority than it currently has. He said the HPC is an advisory body and the only decision-making authority rests with the township council.

Laura Pettinato said without the public notices and public hearings the legal process has not been followed for the landmark designations. She said based on current township code, the HPC has been relieved of that duty, so when they make recommendations for landmark status they need to convince the LUB and the township council they need to follow the legal process for public hearings by sending certified letters to the property owners and publishing legal notices. She said she has expressed these concerns in writing to the business administrator.

Charles Bates said regardless of the route they take, he feels they still need to bring the property owners before the HPC to present their applications and recommendations and to allow the property owners question-and-answer periods. He also said the public needs to be invited as well for information and for comment, but he suggests two separate meetings, referring to the bad experience with the VUMC seven years ago. He feels the first meeting should be with the property owner only.

Dan Kadish said he sees no reason to have two separate meetings, and the meetings should be open to the public at the same time. Ted Laabs agreed they should meet with the owner and the community at the same time for public outreach before they bring the nominations to the LUB or the TC. He said it should be an open meeting with everyone to discuss the pros and cons together. He said an educational discussion with everyone at the same time is beneficial, even if the HPC does not take action at the same meeting. Dan Kadish suggested a work session meeting might be the best course of action.

Laura Pettinato asked the commission members to read the current code and continue to think about this subject for discussion at the next meeting. She will continue to collect data and build a case for the HPC to hold public hearings.

4. Vernon United Methodist Church Cemetery

Laura Pettinato said she would contact VUMC Trustee Dick Fitch to retract the notice for the public hearing and tell him it was canceled. She said she would let him know if it is rescheduled in the future because she does not know if they should have a public hearing at this point because the LUB and the TC already approved it and listed it in the master plan. Charles Bates said there were people present at those meetings and heard his presentation. Laura Pettinato said, however, she is concerned about whether the landmark designation would be protected in the future if the town did not follow the proper legal process.

New Business

1. Recording Secretary

Laura Pettinato said the commission is still without a recording secretary and they need to nominate someone. At the February meeting motions had been made for Jessi Paladini and Irene Mills, but Ms. Pettinato said since then she had contacted Ms. Mills, who declined the position due to other commitments. Ms. Pettinato said they need to secure a recording secretary.

Charles Bates said because the mayor suggested one of the commission members should serve as secretary, he suggests the HPC members rotate the position among themselves each month. Charles Bates did the minutes for January. He said the members could do the minutes on a rotation basis for every month of the year.

Laura Pettinato said they could not even get a commission member to volunteer to do the February minutes and does not think anyone will commit to doing them now either. She does not see that as an effective solution. She said the recording secretary does more than just transcribe minutes. She said the recording secretary does the agenda, takes roll, knows and keeps the codes, knows parliamentary procedure, and more. She said if Jessi Paladini is still willing to take on the role of recording secretary, she moves to nominate Ms. Paladini.

Ted Laabs seconded the nomination.

Discussion: Ms. Paladini agreed to take the role of recording secretary to help the HPC. Laura Pettinato said she would like to add to her motion an hourly rate of $15 for Ms. Paladini. Dan Kadish said he does not think the commission will get it. Ms. Pettinato said she has a problem with that because of the resolutions that were adopted to pay Irene Mills $5,000 for secretarial services for two town boards. She said there has been a town precedent for years for paying recording secretaries. Dan Kadish suggested Charles Bates move on his suggestion to rotate the positions among the members, and he would second the motion.

Charles Bates moved to rotate the position of recording secretary each month among the commission members, excluding the chairperson. Charles Bates said he needs a second to his motion.

Dan Kadish seconded the motion.

Charles Bates called for discussion on the second motion.

Discussion: Ron Dupont said that in any organization there needs to be consistency in how the minutes are transcribed. He said he sees no consistency with having the responsibility passed around. He questioned whether the secretary of the month would have to listen to the recordings and said that would be time consuming. Laura Pettinato said it would be difficult to take notes during the meeting and suggested the rotating secretary would have to listen to the recordings of the meetings for accuracy. Ron Dupont said to have that level of professionalism they need to pay someone to do the minutes. If one person does it, especially someone with a background in it, there will be consistency, he said. Ted Laabs agreed and said consistency in the minutes is crucial.

Dan Kadish said he would be willing to do the minutes. He said Nancy Adam and Ron Dupont could do the minutes as well.

Ron Dupont said he feels $1500 is a minimal amount to pay a recording secretary for a year. He said the value of the nomination he wrote for the St. Thomas Church would be worth much more than $1500 if it was contracted out to a professional, while he did it for free. He said he would not be willing to be a recording secretary for the commission. Nancy Adam said she does not have the time to transcribe minutes for the commission, and she would not do it either. Charles Bates said it took him 24 hours to do the January meeting minutes for the commission.

Charles Bates withdrew his motion; Dan Kadish withdrew his second.

Laura Pettinato took a roll call vote on the nomination for Jessi Paladini as recording secretary.
Ayes: Nancy Adam, Charles Bates, Ron Dupont, Ted Laabs, and Laura Pettinato
Nays: None
Abstention: Dan Kadish said he abstained because he might have to take a vote on it.

Charles Bates said he wants to say on his behalf to Jessi Paladini and to the commission that he does not want Ms. Paladini to walk away with the concept that she is going to actually get a salary for her work. Charles Bates said he was told there is no money for recording secretaries.

Laura Pettinato made a second motion to inform the business administrator about the $15 an hour salary for the recording secretary. She said it is inaccurate to say there is no money for recording secretaries, referring to two resolutions approved for Irene Mills to be paid $5,000 as recording secretary for other boards.

Dan Kadish disagreed, saying Laura Pettinato’s statements were not accurate. He said the council did not approve the hiring of a recording secretary. He said the township clerk is the council’s recording secretary. Ms. Pettinato then read aloud from Vernon Township Council Resolution 17-22 and Resolution 17-23 authorizing the payment of $5,000 for Irene Mills, both resolutions that Mr. Kadish approved with affirmative votes at the January 2, 2017 Vernon Township Council meeting.

[1:45:25 on recording]

Laura Pettinato called for a vote on the motion to pay Jessi Paladini $15 an hour for services as recording secretary.

In response to Ms. Pettinato’s motion, Dan Kadish said, “Do you understand the political brouhaha that you are placing on this commission with your hiring someone who has a lawsuit against this town?” He further stated, “I’m asking this commission how embarrassing it’s going to be to come asking for money.”

Jessi Paladini spoke out in response and said Dan Kadish should not be discussing her in that manner at a public meeting and also said he is required to step down from the discussion and should not be participating in it at all because he is a named defendant in the lawsuit.

Ted Laabs said he does not think it would be embarrassing at all because they are fulfilling the function they are required to do according to state statutes. He said he does not think the issue Dan Kadish raised should have even come up.

Charles Bates suggested the commission not take a vote for the salary for the recording secretary. He said the commission should first find out if they have a budget; otherwise they cannot commit to giving the recording secretary a salary. Charles Bates said currently there was no allocation for a budget for the HPC nor a salary for the recording secretary. In all the previous years he was chairman the HPC did have a budget and always paid a recording secretary.

Laura Pettinato said she could not in good conscience expect anyone to do the job of recording secretary for free. She said it is a job, and it should be compensated.

Laura Pettinato reiterated her motion to go to the business administrator to request a salary for the recording secretary not to exceed $1,000 for the year 2017.
Charles Bates seconded the motion.

Roll Call Vote:
Ayes: Nancy Adam, Charles Bates, Ron Dupont, Ted Laabs, and Laura Pettinato
Nays: None
Abstention: Dan Kadish

2. Reapproval of Cellco Communication Tower Recommendation

Laura Pettinato stated there was no second on her motion to report to the land use board that the HPC had no concerns or recommendations regarding the Cellco application. She said as a formality they should take another vote.

Laura Pettinato moved to correct the prior motion and to inform the LUB they had no concerns about this application. Nancy Adam seconded the motion.

Roll Call Vote:
Ayes: Nancy Adam, Charles Bates, Ron Dupont, Ted Laabs, and Laura Pettinato
Nays: None
Abstention: Dan Kadish

3. Glenwood Presentation

Laura Pettinato said she was in personal contact with Rev. Jean of the Glenwood Baptist Church. She discussed with him a Saturday meeting for the presentation of the Glenwood project. Rev. Jean will check his schedule and get back to Ms. Pettinato. She will have some prospective dates at the next HPC meeting.

4. St. Thomas Church

Action was postponed pending direction on a public hearing and how to proceed with the nomination. Charles Bates said they should contact the owners of the church for an update on when they will again discuss the nomination. Laura Pettinato said she would contact them to ask them to come to the April meeting to informally discuss the nomination.

5. Vandokkenburg/State Property

Ron Dupont put together a report on the property and the Rutherford cottage. Laura Pettinato said the mayor had suggested a structure that is on the property would make a good visitor center. Dan Kadish said it needed extensive repair and would be very costly but suggested fundraising efforts might be possible. Ms. Pettinato said state funds would only be available for properties that are on the NJ Register of Historic Places, which this structure is not.

Land Use Board Applications

LU# 1-17-1: HM GG LLC—Block 231, Lot 1 & 12.01, Preliminary and Final Site Plan for an Aerial Adventures Ropes Course

The commission reviewed this application by Mountain Creek.

Laura Pettinato moved to report to the land use board that the commission has no concerns or recommendations referencing anything historical in nature.
Nancy Adam seconded the motion.

Roll Call Vote:
Ayes: Nancy Adam, Charles Bates, Ron Dupont, Dan Kadish, Ted Laabs, and Laura Pettinato
Nays: None

Historic Farming Designation

Laura Pettinato said she attended a historical society meeting where historic farming designation was discussed. The society will go forward with obtaining the designation on the state level and said they would be willing to work with the HPC on the local level. She asked the commissioners their thoughts on the matter. She said the farms on Route 94 are along the scenic byway designation route. Charles Bates said the HPC should work with the historical society, but he thinks the society should pursue the designation as part of the scenic byway.

Laura Pettinato asked Jessi Paladini to give more information to the HPC. Ms. Paladini said in conjunction with nominating the area for a historic farming district, the society is also going to pitch it as the historic Revolutionary War highway. She said while the society is going to seek state designation, the HPC should still be seeking municipal landmark designation because the historical society has no authority to do that on the local level.

Commissioners’ Comments

There were no commissioner comments.


Charles Bates moved to adjourn the meeting.
Ted Laabs seconded the motion.
All were in favor.

The meeting was adjourned at 9:40 p.m.

The next meeting of the Vernon Township Historic Preservation Commission is on April 6, 2017 at 7 p.m.

Transcribed by Jessica Paladini
Recording Secretary