Minutes: September 7, 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 May 15, 2017. Notice is also posted on the bulletin board and filed with the office of the Township Clerk.

Roll Call

Nancy AdamP
Lisa AndersonP
Charles BatesP
Ron Dupont, Jr.A
Christopher HankeP
Dan Kadish (arrived at 7:39 after roll call vote)P
Laura PettinatoP

Public Participation

Laura Pettinato opened the meeting to the public. No one from the public came forward.

New Business

1. Resignation of Vice-Chairman

Chairwoman Laura Pettinato announced that Vice-Chairman Ted Laabs had resigned from the historic preservation commission (HPC). She said she was very sorry to see him go, as he was a very valuable member of the HPC for about six years.

2. Introduction of New HPC Member

The chairwoman also welcomed Lisa Anderson as a new member of the HPC and said she hopes Ms. Anderson stays for quite some time.

3. Approval of June 1, 2017 Minutes

Charles Bates moved to approve the June 1, 2017 meeting minutes.
Nancy Adam seconded the motion.

Discussion: After additions and corrections, the minutes were unanimously adopted. Laura Pettinato also said she wanted the heading “St. Thomas Church Campus Public Hearing” changed to “St. Thomas Church Campus Nomination.”

Roll Call Vote:
Ayes: Nancy Adam, Charles Bates, Chris Hanke, and Laura Pettinato
Nays: None
Abstain: Daniel Kadish

Old Business

1. St. Thomas Campus Nomination

Laura Pettinato asked if everyone read St. Thomas trustee John Garde’s response about adding the vicarage and the library to the landmark designation. She opened the floor for discussion on how to proceed. Lisa Anderson asked why those two structures were not initially added automatically when the chapel was designated a township landmark. Ms. Pettinato said when the original application was done and was added to the master plan they had focused on the chapel. The cemetery was added later. Ms. Pettinato said the State of New Jersey determined the additional structures are eligible for listing on the New Jersey Register of Historic Places.

Charles Bates asked what letter Ms. Pettinato was referring to. Mr. Bates had recused himself from the St. Thomas application in June stating a conflict based on his business association with an employer affiliated with the church leasing the property. Ms. Pettinato said she was referring to the letter she put into the packets she gave to each of the commissioners. She read the letter into the record. In the letter, Mr. Garde said on behalf of the diocese he objects to any further landmark designation of the St. Thomas Church campus to an extent that already exists. If the commission attempts to move forward, he requested appropriate notification so that he would do what is required for him to state his continued objection.

Daniel Kadish stated his opinion that the commission members would not be here unless they were interested in preserving history. He said the history of the commission seems to have always been to respect the wishes of the property owners, which he thinks is wrong. If that is the prevailing opinion they should not “ruffle anyone’s feathers,” he said, but added it is such a shame that so much of Vernon’s history is lost.

Charles Bates said there are pieces of the St. Thomas property that have already been memorialized as township landmarks. He specified the chapel and the cemetery.

Nancy Adam said she does not understand why the church would not be in agreement with the historic designation.

Charles Bates said it his opinion, but he can’t prove it, that there is a lack of education and a lack of feeling on the part of property owners to go forward with preservation because there is the fear that the HPC would tell them what to do with their properties.

Chris Hanke questioned whether Mr. Garde was acting as an attorney in the matter. Charles Bates said Mr. Garde is a land trustee.

Laura Pettinato surmised it might be profit driven. The current church has a large congregation, she said, and it probably does not want any encumbrances on anything such as parking lots and other structures.

Lisa Anderson asked what are the restrictions on landmark status. Commission members said there is not much the property owner cannot do other than possibly keep the structure looking the same by using like materials for such things as new roofs or siding.

Chris Hanke said this sometimes falls through the cracks and cited the Cedar Crest Farm, which was recently vinyl sided, as an example. The HPC never received notification that application had been made to replace the siding.

Charles Bates attributed the failure to the township building department and said there is a lack of education and awareness of the fact that a change in siding needs to come through the HPC first to make the commission aware of the property owner’s intent.

Laura Pettinato said she feels the St. Thomas nomination to the New Jersey Historic Preservation Office (HPO) was handled incorrectly. The nomination should have been sent as the HPC as the nominator, with the HPC’s address, and the state response from HPO should have come to the HPC. The HPC had voted unanimously on sending the nomination, so it should have been circulated to all of the commissioners, and moving forward such nominations need to be handled better, said Ms. Pettinato.

Charles Bates suggested the HPC put together a letter and send it all of the people at the Episcopal diocese, including other trustees, to review. He said the letter should cover the HPC’s reasons for wanting to move forward with the application on the St. Thomas property. He suggested making the letter specific, referencing the HPC’s reasons for making the application and also explaining the historic value of the property.

Daniel Kadish agreed they should write a letter and send it to all of the trustees.

Laura Pettinato suggested Ron Dupont write the letter, adding to it a copy of the letter from the state determining its eligibility for the New Jersey Register of Historic Places.

Charles Bates said the diocese appointed John Garde to take care of the property, and he feels the diocese does not exist in Mr. Garde’s mind because he is now the trustee to take care of this property. Mr. Bates said he stands on his suggestion to send a letter to all of the trustees.

The HPC will consider two suggestions.

1. Write a letter regarding the historic value of the church property.
2. Try to circumvent Mr. Garde and go directly to the other influencers in the diocese.

Dan Kadish said he knows a former St. Thomas parishioner whom he would like to contact for assistance. He would also like to inquire of him what is the culture of the diocese.

Charles Bates stressed they should not leave out anyone when sending the letter to go over Mr. Garde’s head, but he said Mr. Garde should also be notified of the letter so he could have appropriate input in the whole process since the HPC has been led to believe all this time that Mr. Garde is in charge.

Dan Kadish said they should at least put forth a strong case for why the property should be preserved, but he would also like to understand the role of the trustees and whether Mr. Garde is in charge.

After much discussion, Ms. Pettinato asked the commissioners to write down some key points regarding the church property to bring back next month, and they tabled the matter until the October meeting.

Nancy Adam moved to table the matter until the October meeting.
Dan Kadish seconded the motion.
All were in favor.

2. Vernon United Methodist Church Historic Marker

Laura Pettinato said she revised the wording of the historic marker, but it is not yet completed. She would like to work on it some more. She feels they should split the cost between the 2017 and the 2018 HPC budgets to have enough money to pay for it. Charles Bates said the marker would cost about $1200 with the wording he put together. He said the price of the sign is based on the number of letters and spaces. Recording secretary Jessi Paladini, who has ordered numerous historic markers from Sewah, said that is not the case regarding the pricing.

Ms. Pettinato said she would like the marker to have factual information on interments. She will rework the wording and bring it back to the October meeting for the commissioners to review.

3. Glenwood Presentation

Laura Pettinato said the presentation is ready to go and they just need to schedule a date to show it to the Glenwood community. She will speak with the pastor of the Glenwood Baptist Church to schedule a date and get back to the HPC at its next meeting.

4. Historic Farming District

Dan Kadish said he prepared an Excel document, and he wants to review the tax maps and see how much acreage goes with each farm as well as the total acreage of the entire farming area. He said he has more work to do before it is ready to present to the HPC.

5. VanDokkenburg House

Laura Pettinato said she does not think the project is feasible, and the HPC and the township have no funds for it. The structure lacks integrity and needs significant repair. The historical society had considered it as an option a number of years ago and brought in a historic architect as well as construction experts, but at the time the cost to restore the structure was in excess of $150,000. The main beam in the basement holding up the structure is rotted and needs to be replaced. Ms. Pettinato said it would make a great welcome center, but she does not see it as being feasible so the HPC is not pursuing the idea.

6. HPC Annual Report

Laura Pettinato said the recording secretary made some revisions and additions to the annual report the HPC needed to submit to the township for 2016. Charles Bates moved to adopt the report as written. He said it is appropriate for adoption, but Ms. Pettinato said she had not yet read it and would like time to go over it. The commission tabled approval of the report until the next meeting.

7. Alternate HPC Candidates

Laura Pettinato asked the commissioners if they knew anyone who would be willing to serve as alternate candidates so the HPC could have a full slate of members. Two alternates are needed. She asked everyone to speak with people to see if anyone is interested. Dan Kadish said he might possibly know a candidate. He said he had tried to get this person to serve on the environmental commission and also to run for township council, but that did not work.

Review Of Land Use Board Applications

LU# 7-17-3 A & B: Aqua New Jersey Inc.—Block 230.21, Lot 26 & Block 260, Lot 12.04—Preliminary and Final Site Plan with Variances to Construct Above Ground Water Storage Tanks to Replace Existing Underground Water Storage Tanks

After reviewing the dual applications, the HPC had no recommendations or cause for concerns regarding the project.

Commissioner Comments

Dan Kadish said in looking at the township website he saw that some boards or commissions have various documents linked on their pages and asked if the HPC could do the same thing. Laura Pettinato said it is possible to do, but whether they would get the cooperation of the township is another story. She feels many documents should be posted on their page, but she has gotten so much pushback on every matter she has brought up to the township administrator. She said just changing the quorum on the website from 5 to 4 members was not even possible. She said she has a great deal of email that would back up what she said, and it is impossible to get anything done. She said sometimes the email she sends to the township is even rejected and blocked.

The HPC’s approved minutes are forwarded to the township administration every month, but they are not posted to the website. The last minutes posted on the town website are from June 2, 2016.


Nancy Adam moved to adjourn the meeting at 9:06 p.m.
Dan Kadish seconded the motion.
All were in favor.
The HPC meeting adjourned at 9:06 p.m.

The next meeting of the Vernon Township Historic Preservation Commission will be on October 5, 2017 at 7:30 p.m.

Transcribed by Jessica Paladini
Recording Secretary