All meeting minutes posted on the township website are unofficial minutes. Official copies of minutes may be obtained from the Planning/Zoning Department.

Minutes: August 22, 2018

Call to Order

Meeting was called to order by Chairman Theobald at 7:00 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 16, 2018 by delivering to the press such notice and posting same at the municipal building.

Salute to the Flag

Chairman Theobald led the assemblage of the flag.

Roll Call  Also Present
John Auberger, Mayor’s DesigneeP Glenn Kienz, Board Attorney
Craig WilliamsP Cory Stoner, Board Engineer
Councilmember KadishP Jessica Caldwell, Board Planner
Martin TheobaldP Kimberley Decker, Board Secretary
Richard SpoerlP  
Willard McPeekP  
Andrea CoculaP  
Ed RolandoP  
Kristi RapertoP  
Michael Whitaker (#1 Alt)P  
Kelly Mitchell (#2 Alt)P  
Angela Erichsen (#3 Alt)P  

Chairman Theobald announced the order of the agenda will be changed starting with items for discussion.

Land Use Board Discussion Items (action may or may not be taken)

Ordinance #18-25: An Ordinance Amending Chapter 330 of the Code of the Township of Vernon Entitled “Land Development” to Permit Fowl on Certain Properties

Chairman Theobald explained Ordinance #18-25 was introduced by the township council and being a change in the land use code is being referred to the land use board for recommendations. He opined that the ordinance contains too many rules and should be simplified to allow up to 12 chickens but no roosters on all properties.

Council Member Kadish explained that chickens are social animals and allowing 6-12 is reasonable. He recommended no zoning permit needed if premanufactured coop is used and that animals should be allowed in larger fenced in area to decrease flea and tick presence. Chairman Theobald stated regulations of fowl must be incorporated in lake communities by-laws and therefore enforced by the association in those areas.

Ms. Caldwell stated that the ordinance does not override association rules and noted that #4 is confusing to understand the allowable rear and side yard setbacks for the accessory structure. Mr. Williams recommended to remove policing of manure placement because of lack of available enforcement. Ms. Caldwell added the ordinance should be more simplified to allow fowl providing no nuisance to neighbors.

Chairman Theobald summarized the board’s comments to recommend simplifying the ordinance to allow fowl in backyard only, as to not cause nuisance, no permits required.

Mr. Kienz added that the planner, Ms. Caldwell should review other ordinances statewide and present a simplified ordinance per comments from board.

A motion was made by Chairman Theobald to approve recommendation as stated by Mr. Kienz and was seconded by Mr. Spoerl.

All members present except Ms. Cocula voted in favor of motion. Ms. Cocula opposed the motion.

Vernon Township Historic Preservation Commission Recommendation to the Land Use Board Regarding the Application of Demolition for Block 144.01, Lot 7, Also Known as the Board of Education Building

Members stepping down from hearing the discussion Item are: Martin Theobald, Ed Rolando, Kristi Raperto, John Auberger and Kelly Mitchell. Mr. Spoerl will now chair meeting.

Mr. Thomas Molica, Esq. on behalf of Main Street Associates, came forward to explain applicant is seeking approval for a demolition permit of 539 RT 515, old board of education building. Applicant went before the historic preservation commission since property was locally designated in July of 2018 but who was unable to grant approval. Pursuant to Ordinance 330-150, appeal of a historic preservation commission decision must be granted by land use board.

Mr. Molica stated three witnesses are available to testify for the board as needed: Mr. David Troast, licensed planner expert witness; and two principals for the corporate entity Mr. Bruce Zaretsky and Mr. John Bosma as fact witnesses. Mr. Molica stated the planner’s report, labeled Exhibit A-1, by Mr. Troast was filed with land use board secretary prior and copies were distributed at meeting to all board members and professionals.

Mr. Kienz stated members who recused themselves from hearing the discussion item were determined due to having association with businesses/organizations within 200 ft. of property. Mr. David Troast, qualified as licensed professional planner & architect specializing in redevelopment in various municipalities, was accepted and sworn in as an expert witness.

Mr. Troast explained there are six (6) criteria which must be answered to satisfy approval for a permit for a locally landmark demolition of the building at 539 RT 515.

  1. Its historic, architectural, cultural, or scenic significance.
  2. Its potential for use for those purposes currently permitted by the ordinance.
  3. Its structural condition and economic feasibility of alternatives to the proposal.
  4. Its importance to the community and the extent to which its historical or architectural value is such that its removal would be detrimental to the public interest.
  5. The extent to which it is such old, unusual, or uncommon design, craftsmanship, texture or material that could be reproduced only with great difficulty and expense or other hardship to the property owner.
  6. The extent to which its retention would promote the general welfare by maintaining and increasing real estate values, generating business, attracting tourists, attracting new residents, stimulating interest and study in architecture, design or making the municipality an attractive and desirable place in which to live.

Mr. Troast stated that in his professional opinion as a redevelopment planner, through field observation and review of the Vernon master plan, town center ordinance, historic preservation commission minutes of January 18, 2018 and the redevelopment town center study, the applicant does satisfy the criteria for the demolition permit.

Mr. Troast described photos in his report:

Page 2 shows aerial of site located near Main Street intersection.

Page 3 photos showing Vernon historical site marker and front image of original old yellow school house with additions and handicap ramp allowing for public accessibility but negatively impacts site.

Page 4 photos showing concrete block foundation connecting to addition with mansard roof. Mr. Troast noted that gaps exist along roof lines allowing birds to nest, foundation shows structural issues and that materials used were different from the original structure.

Page 5 photo shows entrance to building with compromised foundation with holes into basement.

Page 6 photos shows cracked foundation with vegetation, rotting plate and fascia and possibility of asbestos siding. Interior photo shows multiple levels on first floor not meeting the barrier free code.

Page 7 photo of parking lot with excessive slope beyond standards and safety concerns from County RT 515.

Regarding the Vernon master plan update of 2016, Mr. Troast testified the site is in center of the town center and approval of demolition will provide opportunity to direct the future growth in the redevelopment area. Historic preservation goal is to preserve the rich and varied historical heritage of Vernon Township. Lastly, per the historic preservation element, Mr. Troast stated the site was listed for its continuous public use as a school, municipal building and board of education offices however the site was never listed on the state of federal register nor the county list.

Regarding the Vernon zoning ordinance, specifically in the town center, Mr. Troast explained the purpose is to create a two-story mixed-use site including commercial on the lower level with residential on the second level. He added that the future plans after demolition and site plan approval will comply with town center design standards with a mixed-use building with architecture similar to Appalachian Hotel. Mr. Kienz explained the applicant is present not to obtain site plan approval but only to get a recommendation to be allowed to demolish an existing building. Mr. Kienz stated two errors in report need to be corrected, the correct Block is 144.01 Lot 7 and on photo #8 roadway should be RT 515.

Mr. Troast stated that through the January 2018 designation of area in need of redevelopment study done by the township which included said property, testimony will be presented to support the criteria in the study per N.J.S.A. 40A:12A-5.

Criteria A: Mr. Troast stated deterioration of the building is substandard, unsafe, unsanitary, dilapidated or obsolescent due to open foundation, multiple additions or levels, odor or vermin in basement. He added the building must be abated by pest control before demolition.

Criteria B: Mr. Troast stated deterioration of the building due to discontinued use and disrepair.

Criteria H: Mr. Troast, referring to smart growth consistency, stated the Vernon Town Center is consistent with smart growth policies of the state but the property does not meet the standard.

Mr. Troast read township ordinance Article 10, Historic Preservation, Section 300-148A: Criteria to consider designating a building, structure, objects and sites:

  1. Historical significance reflecting cultural, political, economic and social history.
  2. Associated with historic personages import to local history.

Mr. Troast explained per the Vernon Township historic preservation meeting minutes of January 17, 2018, the members thoroughly discussed the history, meaning and original educational purpose of the site which dated back to the 1900s. Also discussed were the many changes in materials used for additions causing the building to lose its historical significance but maintained that the site is still important.

Mr. Troast explained the criteria per township Ordinance #300-151 - Demolition of a Landmark Designation and issues that must be addressed.

  1. Its historic, architectural cultural or scenic significance. Mr. Troast stated that the location has historic significance but the structure itself has been renovated on the exterior and interior as shown by the photos submitted that the original school house is not recognizable and has no architectural significance based on the additions and modifications.
  2. Its potential for use for the purposes of currently permitted in the zone. Mr. Troast stated the placement of the building on the site and building configuration as a single-story structure does not meet the policies, goals and objectives of the master plan, town center ordinances or the area in need of redevelopment study.
  3. Its structural condition and economic feasibility of alternatives to the proposal. Mr. Troast testified that the photos submitted show a deteriorating building particularly the stone foundation with vegetation growing out of the original structure and the wall on the large addition leaning outward and opined that there are no reasonable or feasible alternatives for an adaptive reuse of the building.
  4. Its importance to the community and the extent to which its historical or architectural value is such that its removal would be detrimental to the public interest. Mr. Troast stated that the site has significance but not the structure. He added that the property owners have indicated that in their future redevelopment plans, the landmark sign will be placed in public view. He further opined that if the structure remains in its current condition, the town center plan will be negatively impacted, and it will not be in the public’s best interest.
  5. The extent to which it is such old, unusual or uncommon design, craftsmanship, texture or materials that could be reproduced only with great difficulty and expensed or other hardship to the property owner. Mr. Troast testified that the original structure has been added on several times over the years with different materials, roof lines etc. He added the workmanship and design were completed with limited funds and there would be a hardship to reconstruct the building to code.
  6. The extent to which its retention would promote the general welfare by maintaining and increasing real estate values, generating business, attracting tourists, attracting new residents, stimulating interest and study in architecture and design or making the municipality an attractive and desirable place to live. Mr. Troast stated that leaving the building in its current condition is not in the best interest of the general welfare of the township and public health and safety could be issue in future.

Mr. Troast stated in his professional opinion that the land use board recommend the approval of demolition of this structure based on the testimony consistent with the criteria of the land use ordinance, historic ordinance, master plan and redevelopment study. Mr. Molica asked if board members had any questions for Mr. Troast.

Ms. Cocula stated the report was very extensive and thorough. Mr. Kadish, as the historic preservation liaison, questioned if the criteria named are still operable in the future and will any original materials be used in the new construction as visual reminders which was a contingency of the HPC decision. Mr. Molica stated the applicant does want to commemorate the site by having a prominent marker on site but added it is premature to discuss if original features will be utilized. He restated the applicant was denied a zoning permit from the zoning officer and is before the land use board on appeal. Mr. Kienz explained that regardless of what the historic preservation commission recommended, the ordinance is clear that the applicant must come before the land use board for permission.

Chairman Spoerl opened the meeting to public comments on the discussion item.

Joe Tadrick, Vernon resident for 40 years, was sworn in and as a former board member expressed support for Mr. Zaretsky’s application as he opined that the property has been modified too much and does not have historical significance. Mr. Tadrick testified he works with historic properties and understands how difficult it is to gain approval to modify. He added the applicant bought the property at a fair and open auction, and opined it is his right to develop his property within the law and urges no further harassment to move forward.

Mr. Tadrick asked the board to consider in their decision:

  1. If the building was historic, why did the board of education make all of the modifications?
  2. When the board of education was selling the property why was it not sold as a historic site?
  3. At the time of sale when the title was rendered why did it have no mention of being a historic site?

Mr. Tadrick restated that if the three things were not done by the board of education, he opined the land use board cannot reverse the decision.

Jamie Commerato, Vernon resident entire life, stated she was unaware that the board of education building was a historic site and in its current condition is not encouraging new business to the Vernon Town Center.

Seeing no more members of the public coming forward, Chairman Spoerl closed the meeting to the public.

Mr. Kienz stated the historic preservation commission report received was a draw 2-2 and the board can render their determination based on the testimony received and the public comments. Ms. Caldwell opined the testimony presented was very thorough per the ordinance requirements. Mr. Molica restated per township ordinance Section #330-150A, applicant is seeking a demolition permit as supported by the testimony of Mr. Troast.

Motion: A motion was made by Ms. Cocula to approve demolition of the site Block 144.01 Lot 7 also known as the Board of Education Building and was seconded by Mr. Williams

ROLL CALL: WILLIAMS: Y; KADISH: Y; SPOERL: Y; MCPEEK: Y; COCULA: Y; WHITAKER: Y; ERICHSEN: Y.
Motion carried.

Mr. Molica requested a waiver of receipt of letter for applicant to move forward at own risk based on board’s approval. Board members agreed to grant waiver.

Mr. Kienz stated he will prepare a letter stating the board’s decision which will be forwarded to the zoning officer.

Public Hearings

LU# 5-18-4: Vernon Rest. 12267 LLC - Block 145, Lot 4, - Minor Site Plan to Remodel the Burger King Restaurant

Mr. Auberger and Ms. Raperto returned to the meeting. Mr. Rolando and Mr. Theobald have stepped down from hearing said application.

Lauren McGee, architect for applicant, Mr. Patel, came forward to testify for the minor site plan application. Mr. Kienz explained that the applicant must be represented by attorney due to being a corporation. Mr. Justin Ryder, Esq. stepped forward as applicant’s corporate counsel.

Ms. McGee was sworn in to testify for application and distributed additional landscape plans to all board members per the recommendation of Ms. Caldwell to visualize site from aerial view with list of plantings to be used. Ms. McGee explained application is a minor site plan to replace existing signage, add mulch beds and plantings with no change to parking or driveway.

Ms. McGee explained application is for new vinyl siding adding three taller elements to facade to give appearance of two-story building with Adirondack truce per town center guidelines. She added the existing brick will be changed to neutral color stone with red accent tile added to vestibule.

Mr. Stoner explained that applicant revised original plans submitted and now with changes in facade and landscaping does meet with the town center guidelines.

Ms. McGee testified that applicant will be refreshing the interior, lowering seat number from 76 to 62 and renovating bathrooms for compliance. Two signs of facade on front and side of building will be replaced with updated graphics in same location but smaller in area. She added the preferred option #1 in application is recommended per ordinance and is more aesthetically pleasing to the town center area. Ms. Caldwell stated the ordinance allows sign on front and existing sign on side of building is preexisting with no variance needed. Mr. Kienz explained the existing signs were vetted previously by prior land use board approval, therefore no variance is needed.

Mr. Stoner explained no major issues with proposed changes but questioned what the previous interior playground area will now be utilized for. Ms. McGee explained the intent is to provide screening to block visibility from public and area to be used for storage. Applicant, Samjay Patel, was sworn in and testified he would like to keep option open to use storage area in future for additional seating. Mr. Spoerl confirmed with applicant that only main door and side doors are used to access the interior; play area door is always locked from outside.

Mr. Kadish questioned if there is possibility of another franchise to share building in future. Mr. Patel answered that does not exist in his franchise agreement. Mr. Stoner commented applicant has excess of parking space requirements now, but if additional seating is created in future can issue be addressed in this application. Mr. Kienz queried board to amend application to allow additional seating in the noted storage area if site continues as restaurant use. Board members voted verbally in favor of amendment.

Mr. Williams questioned area of dining room as plans show only one smoke detector. Ms. McGee and Mr. Patel noted requirements of construction or fire codes will be satisfied if required. Ms. Caldwell testified she reviewed the landscaping plans and found no issues. Mr. Kadish requested clarity on A1.4 drawing #1, noting a mansard roof. Ms. McGee explained the photo shows the new peaked roof detail and existing mansard roof will be hidden by new facade.

Motion: A motion was made to approve the application LU#5-18-4 Vernon Rest. 12267, LLC by Mr. Williams and seconded by Ms. Cocula as presented.

Ms. Cocula questioned if application meets all town center guidelines. Ms. Caldwell explained application does meet guidelines with neutral color siding, two-story appearance and Adirondack style. Mr. Stoner explained lighting is not being changed but noted it has been 20 years since being approved and recommended light test. Mr. Stoner explained his review that application did not include a signed and sealed survey but because only a minor site plan with no building changes, a copy of the existing survey by licensed surveyor John Lehman is acceptable.

Mr. Kienz reviewed testimony as presented: Facade will be materials as testified per plans submitted; board engineer will perform lighting test; board members agreed that storage area is approved up to an additional 30 seats in future; additional signage will need further approval and

Complete application must be sent to the Sussex County Planning Board for informational purposes due to site located on county roadway.

ROLL CALL: AUBERGER: Y; WILLIAMS: Y; KADISH: Y; SPOERL: Y; MCPEEK: Y; COCULA: Y; RAPERTO: Y; WHITAKER: Y; ERICHSEN: Y.
Motion passed.

Waiver of receipt of resolution to proceed with improvements at risk requested by applicant and accepted by board.

Public Participation

Chairman Spoerl opened the meeting to the public for items other than those listed on the agenda.

Seeing no members of the public wishing to come forward, Chairman Spoerl closed the meeting to the public.

Resolutions

PB# 2-91-4: Mountain Creek Resort, Inc - 2018 Master Plan Update

Mr. Stoner noted a revision was made in the resolution after it was distributed to members on page 3 paragraph about engineer’s report was changed to “...regardless board agreed to such improvements would require further details and site plan application to cover these activities.” Mr. Stoner explained it references the fact that changes may happen with the rental facility during construction.

Mr. Williams questioned if Item #5 on page 5, stipulation of certification of taxes paid at date of approval, can be amended to include other contractual obligations to the Township. Mr. Spoerl stated that the land use board is not an enforcing agency and Mr. Kadish added it is an important point, but the township has made an effort to allow the leases to move on with their operation.

Mr. Kadish added that 7 large truckloads of concrete block connected by cable were delivered to the Mountain Creek Site recently and questioned what it is for as it is a cause of capitalization. Ms. Caldwell stated she did not recall an improvement of that magnitude was approved. Mr. Stoner suggested asking the zoning officer to inspect as the township’s enforcement official and report back to the board to see if material is being used for the new rental area.

Motion: A motion was made to approve resolution for LU#2-91-4 by Ms. Cocula and seconded by Mr. Williams.

ROLL CALL: AUBERGER: Y; WILLIAMS: Y; KADISH: Y; COCULA: Y; RAPERTO: Y; WHITAKER: Y.
Motion passed.

Minutes

July 25, 2018: Regular Meeting Minutes (Auberger, Williams, Kadish, Theobald, Cocula, Rolando, Raperto, Whitaker)

Motion: A motion was made to approve minutes of June 25, 2018 as corrected by Mr. Williams and seconded by Mr. Auberger.

All members voted in favor.
Motion passed.

Appendix A: Escrows, Board Fees, Bond Reductions and Escrow Closures

  1. Board Fees
    1. Board Attorney: Glenn Kienz, Weiner Law Group LLP
      1. Land Use Board Business: Services through 7/27//18 ($416.00)
      2. NWAC: LU# 7-18-5 - Services through 7/24/18 ($45.00)
    2. Board Planner: Jessica Caldwell, J. Caldwell & Associates
      1. Land Use Board Business: Services through 7/27/18 ($360.00)
      2. Vernon Rest. 12267 LLC: LU# 5-18-4 - Services through 7/20/18 ($480.00)
      3. Mountain Creek Master Plan: PB# 2-91-4 - Services through 7/16/18 ($460.00)
    3. Board Engineer: Cory Stoner, Harold E. Pellow & Associates
      1. Land Use Board Business: Services through 6/13/18 ($1,174.50)
      2. NWAC: LU# 11-16-11 - Services through 6/18/18 ($197.40)
      3. NWAC: LU# 11-16-12 - Services through 6/18/18 ($493.50)
      4. LGWS: LU# 7-16-7 - Services through 6/13/18 ($62.50)
    4. Board Recording Secretary: Irene Mills ($30.00)

Motion: A motion was made to approve the Fees as listed by Ms. Cocula and seconded by Mr. Williams. All members were in favor. Motion passed.

Ms. Decker announced future applications before the board are NWAC on September 12, 2018 and planning variance application for Mr. Little in October 2018.

  1. Request for Escrows to Be Closed
    1. LU# 7-17-4: Kevin White - Block 102.16, Lot 7, - Variance for a Front Yard Porch ($414.00)
    2. LU# 5-14-4: First Hartford Realty - Block 144.01, Lot 4, - Subdivision & Site Plan for CVS ($1,646.72)

Motion: A motion was made to approve the escrows be closed by Mr. Spoerl and seconded by Mr. Williams. All members were in favor. Motion passed.

Adjournment

There being no further items of business to be conducted on the agenda, a motion was made by Mr. Williams and was seconded by Mr. Auberger. All members were in favor.

Meeting was adjourned at 8:49 p.m.

Respectfully Submitted
Irene Mills
Recording Secretary