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

Minutes: January 10, 2018

Call to Order

Meeting was called to order by Chairman Theobald at 7:10 p.m.

Statement of Compliance

Pursuant to the Open Public Meetings Act, adequate notice of this meeting has been provided to the public and the press on January 16, 2017 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
Mayor’s Designee John AubergerP Glenn Kienz, Board Attorney
Craig WilliamsP Steve Tombalakia, Board Attorney
Councilmember KadishP Cory Stoner, Board Engineer
Martin TheobaldP Jessica Caldwell, Board Planner
Richard SpoerlP Kim Decker, Board Secretary
Willard McPeekP  
Andrea CoculaP  
Ed RolandoP  
Kristi RapertoP  
Michael Whitaker (#1 Alt)P  
Angela Erichsen (#3 Alt)P  

Public Hearings

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

Chairman Theobald stated that Mr. Auberger and Mr. Kadish stepped down from hearing this application.

Frank Regan, attorney for Aqua NJ Inc., a public utility responsible for the water supply system, came forward to describe a brief overview of hearings previously held on said applications. The system includes two underground tanks in use for over 50 years, one on lot owned by Aqua and one within easement on private residential lot.

Mr. Regan added the engineer, after hearing concerns of the board and public, revised the plans to propose an 18' vertical tank at Station 3 and a 14' horizontal tank at Station 4 and submitted additional information to plans as requested by the board. On November 1, 2017, applicant met with NJDEP, per board’s request, and provided a letter stating that the applicant’s intention to construct above ground tanks is for ease of maintenance and while not prohibited, the NJDEP strongly discourages underground tanks.

Michael Vreeland, engineer, described revised plans of Station 3 and testified the tank would hold 20,000 gallons water and would be 18 1/2' from grade to top of safety cage and 10' to sidewall. A retaining wall to accommodate grading and evergreen and plantings will be added to minimize visual impact. The property is owned by Aqua and will require a site plan approval but no variances due to pre-existing non-confirming condition per township code #330-166.

Mr. Stoner questioned is lighting proposed and if applicant has certification to maintain noise standards. Mr. Vreeland stated no lighting is proposed and the generator does meet state statute for noise levels. Mr. Stoner notes that the driveway should be paved, debris on property must be cleaned and questioned if a height variance is required if deemed accessory structure. Mr. Vreeland stated applicant will pave if required and noted in pre-application meeting, structure was principal with no variance needed.

Ms. Caldwell stated only a site plan approval is needed due to the lot being created prior to adoption of zoning code and added color of tank is at the board’s discretion. Mr. Stoner suggested the board can consider if location of safety ladder can be moved to the back of the tank. Mr. Vreeland stated applicant will work with the board on types and sizes of trees or shrubs to minimize visual impact. Board questioned if grade where tank is located can be lowered possibly one-foot, which applicant stated had to be examined.

Mr. Regan testified to the board that Aqua had tanks inspected prior to 2011 purchase. Mr. Vreeland stated during NJDEP meeting of 11/1/17, the storage requirement of tanks, per N.J.A.C. 7:19-6.7, determined existing volume is sufficient for number of customers. Also noted that NJDEP stated it was not feasible to consolidate the tanks but should continue using pump stations rather than pressure maintained by gravity type. Mr. Vreeland read concluding paragraph of NJDEP letter summarizing concerns noting the bureau and current industry standards discourages buried water storage tanks and reiterates landscaping is proposed to minimize visual impact to the 200 customers on the system.

Mr. Regan explains the Station 4 property contains a single-family house, underground water tank, existing pump station, fuel tank and generator. Applicant is proposing a 20,000-gallon horizontal water storage tank resting on two piers and moving the generator behind station and proposing additional landscaping and plantings. Mr. Vreeland details the plans noting the profile of tank, pump station, topography, landscaping. He explains the applicant considered housing the tank in a structure but would not fit within the setbacks and may create more negative visual impact on residents. The plans showed the tank would be on 3' piers with 6" saddle, tank would be 10 1/2' high and safety cage on top would be 3 1/2'. Mr. Vreeland explained if the tank were to be lowered, issues with valve location would need to be reworked.

Mr. Stoner questioned if the tanks will be abandoned in place and what is proposed color. Mr. Vreeland explained the tank would be abandoned in place with local fill and color can be chosen by the board. Ms. Caldwell explained three variances are needed: D-1 Use Variance for tank; Conditional Use Variance; and variance for front yard setback.

Chairman Theobald opened the meeting to the public.

Tom Lane, 57 Cedar Ridge Drive, owner of property where Station 4 is located, expressed concern over resale value and is troubled by the negative visual impact of the above ground tank. He added that Aqua has not been a good neighbor as maintenance of property has not been upkept and feels the tank in ground will not get contaminated and urges Aqua to replace with an existing underground tank.

Barbara Hunter, 56 Cedar Ridge Drive, commented Mr. Regan testified it is the best interest of Aqua to install the tanks aboveground to ease maintenance, sustainability and less cost. Ms. Hunter presented two photos to the board of her property taken today, marked Hunter 1 showing building and Hunter 2 showing generator and commented the tank would be an eyesore and is worried for her safety should a catastrophic event occur. Ms. Hunter repeated previous testimony which stated industry is moving away from underground tanks, but example was in primarily flat area not wooded like Vernon where trees consistently fall during storms.

Eric (last name ?), commented that Aqua does not understand the rural area of Vernon and is concerned about potential buyers will turn away and asked Aqua what is the proposed maintenance plan and emergency procedures. Mr. Theobald stated applicant has provided testimony and will readdress.

Frank Chamberliss, 61 Cedar Ridge Drive, was sworn in to testify that underground tanks are not prohibited, and stated Middlesex does install them in residential neighborhoods. He added that Aqua has not provided testimony or compelling reason or hardship needed to be granted a variance. Mr. Chamberliss strongly objects to the application and urged Aqua to replace the tank in-kind.

Kelly Mitchell, licensed NJ Realtor, opined that above ground tanks would significantly affect property values and added, per a conversation with DEP personnel Joe McNally and Joe Motley, if application was in their neighborhood, they would want it underground, and although strongly discouraged, there is nothing to prohibit it. She opined that Aqua is concerned about saving money and not about the neighborhood.

Nancy Rush, Cedar Ridge, stated although not within sight from her home, she passes the lot daily and is concerned about decreasing property values. She urged Aqua to take consideration of the neighborhood as well as the quality of water provided.

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

Mr. Vreeland responded to public concerns and stated he knows of no tanks that have been damaged by fallen trees. He added size of horizontal tank is equal to Recreational vehicles which are permitted in this zone and noted nothing in the ordinance prohibits installation of aboveground storage tanks. Mr. Vreeland stated no proof was presented to substantiate the effect on property values and added it is common occurrence that aboveground tanks are currently installed in residential neighborhoods such as in West Milford, Hamburg, Sparta, Sussex and Franklin.

Mr. Regan explained there is no opportunity to cross examine public testimony and proposal is to replace underground water storage tank with an above ground tank per company policy and industry standard and has agreed to adjust specifications of tank type, height, and added landscaping to mitigate negative visual impact. He added that as a public utility, a response plan has been filed with the NJDEP. Mr. Vreeland added there is no difference in monitoring above or below ground tanks.

Ms. Cocula commented it is not unusual to see large tanks as part of landscapes such as in Hardyston, Franklin Garfield, and Lodi.

Chairman Theobald announced board will take a 5 (five) minute recess at 8:50 p.m.

Applicant requested break in public hearing to review board’s request to lower grade of tank at Station 4.


Chairman Theobald announced resolution for LU# 7-16-5 - Waheguru Gas, LLC was not received, therefore no action will be taken.


December 13, 2017: Regular Meeting Minutes (Theobald, Spoerl, Cocula, Rolando, McPeek, Whitaker)

Motion: A motion was made to approve the above minutes by Mr. Spoerl and seconded by Ms. Cocula. All members were in favor. Motion passed.

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

  1. Board Fees
    1. Board Attorney: Glenn Kienz, Weiner Lesniak LLP
      1. Land Use Board Business: Services through 11/13/17 ($32.00)
      2. Land Use Board Business: Services through 11/30/17 ($48.00)
      3. Paul Dinger: LU# 9-17-5 - Services through 11/1/17 ($32.00)
    2. Board Planner: Jessica Caldwell, J. Caldwell & Associates
      1. Land Use Board Business: ($0)
    3. Board Engineer: Cory Stoner, Harold E. Pellow & Associates
      1. Land Use Board Business: ($0)
      2. NWAC: LU# 11-16-11 - Services through 11/15/17 ($240.75)
      3. NWAC: LU# 11-16-12 - Services through 11/10/17 ($375.00)
    4. Board Recording Secretary: Irene Mills ($60.00)

A motion was made by Ms. Cocula to approve all bills and was seconded by Mr. Whitaker. All members voted in favor. Motion passed.

Chairman Theobald reminded all members to return their signed oaths to the board secretary. Ms. Cocula added improvements to Waheguru Gas, LLC have not been completed and Mr. Stoner added they have until June 1, 2018 to complete.

Continuation of Public Hearing

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

Mr. Vreeland, after conferring with applicant, stated it is possible to reduce height of piers at Station 4 from 3 1/2' to 1 1/2' making proposed maximum height to top of tank 12 1/2' and also refers to photo where grading can be dropped down by 1'. Mr. Regan restated that board engineer determined since Station 3 has an existing principal structure, the tank would be treated as an accessory structure which is permitted and excluding ladder, meets height per zoning guidelines.

Ms. Caldwell added the application for Station 4 requires a D-1 Use Variance but notes there is specific case law for public utilities as it is a use that is inherently beneficial to public and the board must decide using the Sica Balancing Test:

  1. Board must determine public Interest served by the inherently beneficial use
  2. Board must identify negative impact as result of any granted variances
  3. Board must identify conditions applied to mitigate any negative impacts
  4. Board must balance the positive with negative and determine if any substantial detriment to the public good if variance granted and no impairment to master plan

Ms. Caldwell summarized applicant does not need to prove hardship, only testify using the Sica Balancing Test.

Ms. Cocula commented other towns allow above ground water tanks, and applicant has been very cooperative with board’s conditions and expressed concern about real estate values. Ms. Caldwell added there is no evidence how in other towns, comparable tanks affect property values and noted the tanks will blend in as there are many in residential neighborhoods. Board members discussed similarity to cell tower applications, safety of tanks, and fact that it is a public utility.

Mr. Regan summarized that Aqua is proposing to replace the below ground water storage tanks with aboveground tanks based on company policy and industry standard. He added the applicant recognizes concerns brought forward and has provided testimony to mitigate visual impacts for best interest of company as well as the customers it serves.

Board members discussed continued maintenance of property which after certificate of occupancy is granted, maintenance will be enforced by township zoning officer. M. Tombalakian explained the applications should be voted upon separately because one requires a conditional use variance granted and other application is variance free.

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

A motion to approve LU#7-17-3-A was made by Ms. Cocula and seconded by Mr. Spoerl with conditions determined by board based on testimony provided and accepted by applicant. Specific requirements will be decided by board.

Motion passed.

LU# 7-17-3 - B: Aqua New Jersey Inc. - 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 (Station 4)

Mr. Tombalakian explained due to D variance needed for application, law requires five affirmative votes for approval.

A motion to approve LU#7-17-3-B was made by Mr. Spoerl and seconded by Mr. Williams with conditions determined by board based on testimony provided and accepted by applicant. Specific requirements will be decided by board after vote.

Motion denied.

Board members determined requirements for LU#7-17-3-A (Station 3):

  • Applicant must provide Certification of Noise Level of Generator Noise Barrier
  • Landscaping plan to mitigate impacts must be approved by board engineer and planner
  • Driveway to be paved
  • Property to be cleaned up and maintained
  • Final grading plan submitted
  • Color of tank approved by board to be forest green from palate provided
  • Access stairs to be moved to back of tank

Board took a five-minute recess and will resume meeting at 9:34 p.m.

Land Use Board Discussion Items

Redevelopment—Jessica Caldwell

Ms. Caldwell explained the governing body approved a resolution in 2017 to have land use board study if specific parcels are areas in need of redevelopment. The land use board, after public notice requirements are completed, will hold a public hearing on February 14, 2018 to act on referral to council for future action.

Ms. Caldwell distributed 2 documents explaining process and map of area studied including 172 parcels over 306 acres. Areas in need of redevelopment are sites not going to be redeveloped by private entity alone and need incentives like long term tax abatement, PILOT programs and allows townships to enter into developer’s agreements. The township is looking at Town Center area which is struggling to redevelop.

The governing body chose non-condemnation redevelopment to provide incentives to developers and not to take property by condemnation and Ms. Caldwell stated study will be presented at February 14, 2018 hearing for public to comment. Land use board must recommend back to the governing body all, some or none of the parcels which meet the criteria of area in need of redevelopment. Governing body will then act on referral and forward to NJ Department of Community Affairs for approval, then Vernon must adopt a redevelopment plan to set zoning for sites.

Mr. Stoner and Ms. Caldwell explained importance of redevelopment in mixed commercial/residential areas as a valuable tool for incentives to add value to property. Mr. Kadish questioned affect the PILOTs have if any school children are in redevelopment area since developer no longer pays school taxes but pays 95% to town. Ms. Caldwell stated township is looking for mixed use commercial ratables and average cost of schooling typically will not rise. She added the area in need of redevelopment does not include the entire sewer service area, but it may create possibilities to work together and may provide potential for future connections. Ms. Caldwell added that this study cannot be expanded at this time but another study in future can be done.

Chairman Theobald read two letters to be mailed to previous board members, Joseph Tadrick and Jessica Paladini thanking them for their dedication to public service as members of the land use board. All members were in favor.


Seeing no more board business, a motion was made by Mr. Williams and was seconded by Ms. Cocula. All members were in favor.

Meeting was adjourned at 9:51 p.m.

Respectfully Submitted
Irene Mills
Recording Secretary