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

Minutes: March 13, 2019

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 14, 2019 by delivering to the press such notice and posting same at the municipal building and filed with the office of the Township Clerk.

Salute to the Flag

Chairman Theobald led the assemblage of the flag.

Roll Call  Also Present
Mayor Harry ShortwayNP Glenn Kienz, Board Attorney
Craig WilliamsP Jessica Caldwell, Board Planner
Councilmember AubergerP Kim Decker, Board Secretary
Martin TheobaldP  
Richard SpoerlP  
Willard McPeekP  
Andrea CoculaP  
Michael WhitakerP  
Kristi RapertoNP  
Kelly Mitchell (#1 Alt)P  
Angela Erichsen (#2 Alt)P  
Paul Mele (#3 Alt)P  
Mark Vizzini (#4 Alt)P  

Record reflects that Mayor Shortway and Ms. Raperto informed board of their absence.

Public Hearings

Sustainable Economic Development Plan

Chairman Theobald explained Ms. Caldwell will conduct the public hearing on the Sustainable Economic Development Plan and the board will be voting to have plan adopted into the master plan.

Board Planner Ms. Caldwell explained the Sustainable Economic Development Plan (Plan) was funded by a Highlands Council grant to explore ways to achieve the maximum potential of Vernon’s economic assets due to restrictions of the Highlands Act in Vernon Township. The plan describes how to promote economic development within the Vernon Town Center, the resort areas as well as the McAfee section. Ms. Caldwell stated information of Vernon’s strengths and weaknesses was gained from the Vernon Chamber of Commerce, focus groups, Vernon Economic Development Committee, Vernon Police Athletic League, Greenway Action Committee and Vernon Chamber. Ms. Caldwell noted the strengths of Vernon include natural resources, recreation opportunities, resorts, four-season community in a family atmosphere with a small-town family atmosphere with hidden gems. Ms. Caldwell explained Vernon has a good variety of small businesses, community events and suggested to increase promotion of these assets with addition of movies or concerts.

Weaknesses of Vernon include lack of water, sewer and infrastructure in the town center, lack of parking for the Appalachian Trail, and lack of transportation options. Ms. Caldwell added some threats existing in Vernon are the bankruptcy or future of Mountain Creek, the vacant status of Legends, the illegal dumping issue and nature of local politics creates difficulty to move forward from a planning perspective. Ms. Caldwell explained ways to create better economic development through infrastructure improvements but noted that small businesses found the process of getting established difficult. She added the plan shows how eco-tourism creates agriculture and recreational opportunities as a way to funnel visitors into Vernon and its local businesses but noted there exists a disconnect between the many villages within Vernon.

Ms. Caldwell stated that the EDAC survey found residents want breweries, bakeries, coffee shops, community events and possibly an amphitheater for outside concerts. Goals for Vernon include furthering the township identity, create commercial mixed-use zones through land use, and direct developers into areas with existing water/sewer infrastructure. Ms. Caldwell explained the economic development goals are to create a plan to promote a four-season community with more diverse industry such as indoor recreational facilities, add alternate energy production and create more recreational opportunities connecting people. The plan recommended to capitalize on more modes of transportation including rail service and creating a better pedestrian connectivity through bike and walking trails all while continuing protection of the existing natural resources through conservation as mandated by the Highlands Act.

Ms. Caldwell stated the plan includes a review of census data related to employment, housing, income and population which has been declining since 2010. Analysis determined by the 2018 ESRI Tapestry Segmentation found that Vernon exhibit characteristics of the following resident segments: Savvy Suburbanites, Pleasantville, Home Improvement, Green Acres, and Bright Young Professionals and noted each group’s ages, spending habits and employment status. Ms. Caldwell stated that 1600 residents live in Vernon and work in Vernon, and 2100 work in Vernon and live elsewhere and 10,000 residents live in Vernon and work elsewhere, often commutes from 25-50 miles. Ms. Caldwell detailed types of businesses in Vernon, pg. 27 of the plan, from information gathered by the Vernon Chamber of Commerce which included: services, financial, food/drink, and farms. Mr. Williams noted some farms and businesses were missing from list that he was aware of. She also noted the many community events such as Vernon Day, Earthfest, Taste of Vernon, Pumpkin Fest and Turkey Trot and recommended capitalizing to increase visitor experiences.

Ms. Caldwell stated the plan identified from a land use perspective, various districts looking to promote development areas as well as historic cultural resources. She explained the projected market demand for housing shows increased demand for apartments, rentals and smaller single-family homes. The plan stated that Vernon experiences “spillage” as residents must go elsewhere to meet their commercial and employment needs. Ms. Caldwell, referring to concept of “placemaking,” explained that with Vernon’s many unique recreational resources, there are opportunities to pair these activities with new food establishments, art & entertainment for visitors to enjoy. Needed also is additional signage or “wayfinding” to guide visitors to all Vernon has to offer.

Ms. Caldwell summarized the recommendations of the plan:

  • Prioritize infrastructure in the town center with development or redevelopment
  • Establish business concierge to assist with permitting process
  • Complete trail system or greenway and create brochures and maps for distribution
  • Event planning, wayfinding and increased signage throughout town to access businesses
  • Integrate scenic byway and greenway routes
  • Strengthen connection between various areas of the township such as Highland Lakes, McAfee, Glenwood and town center
  • Identify locations for electric vehicle charging stations
  • Promote Vernon’s uniqueness with existing recreational assets-placemaking strategies
  • Encourage redevelopment of underutilized areas
  • Increase flexibility in zoning requirements, reduce hindrances in town center
  • Promote agri and eco tourism

Ms. Caldwell explained the Sustainable Economic Development Plan is an element of the master plan which the planning board adopts. After adoption, the plan is then referred to the township council for their information.

Mr. Williams commented as a member of the Greenway Action Advisory Committee, he has been involved in the planning of the Vernon trail system for many years with the potential goal of connecting every area in town. Ms. Caldwell noted with the plan adopted and funded by the Highland Council, new grant opportunities are available to funding additional projects such as a trail plan.

Mr. McPeek questioned per the plan what is the largest age group in Vernon. Ms. Caldwell stated that 45-54-year-olds make up 20% of population and commented causes include fewer children, children off to college, and retirees moving away. Mr. Williams commented that the sewer/water utility areas are limited and questioned why other areas were not added to the system specifically the Vernon Inn. Ms. Caldwell explained the NJ DEP approval due to concern near environmentally sensitive areas. Attorney Kienz added that when the utility maps are drawn, Vernon may have done what was practical, feasible and approvable by DEP guidelines. Ms. Caldwell explained that the town center designation can be amended or expanded but may be time consuming.

Chairman Theobald opened the meeting to the public for comments.

John Stevens, Vernon Economic Development Advisory Committee (EDAC) noted his involvement working with the town planner on the plan and the committee’s intention to move forward with implantation. He added that outdoor facilities are a priority to attract new businesses for visitors and noted the cultural importance of art and entertainment. Mr. Stevens emphasized the goal of the committee is to recognize the opportunities with the plan and work with the township to build an amphitheater facility that ties into the trail system. Mr. Williams noted the Greenway Action Advisory Committee has envisioned three potential areas for an amphitheater: on PAL property, behind municipal building, and unique location near solar farm overlooking valley adjacent to existing trail.

Mr. Stevens stated considerations will be reviewed when determining best location such as location, power, water/sewer, ADA compliance. He restated the EDAC’s goal is to move forward with the plan, using placemaking and wayfinding for positive results and possibly connect with the trail system in future.

Motion: A motion was made to approve the Sustainable Economic Development Plan as presented by Ms. Caldwell by Ms. Cocula and seconded by Mr. Whitaker.

ROLL CALL: WILLIAMS: Y AUBERGER: Y; THEOBALD: Y; SPOERL: Y; MCPEEK: Y; COCULA:Y; WHITAKER: Y; MITCHELL: Y; MELE: Y.
Motion passed.

Public Participation

Chairman Theobald 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 Theobald closed the meeting to the public.

Minutes

January 23, 2019: Regular Meeting Minutes (Shortway, Auberger, Spoerl, McPeek, Cocula, Raperto, Whitaker, Mitchell, Erichsen)

Motion: A motion was made to approve minutes of January 23, 2019 by Ms. Cocula and seconded by Mr. Spoerl. All members were in favor. Mr. Theobald and Mr. Williams abstained from vote.
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: ($0)
    2. Board Planner: Jessica Caldwell, J. Caldwell & Associates
      1. Land Use Board Business: Services through 1/14/19 ($120.00)
      2. Lenartowicz: LU# 1-19-1 - Services through 2/7/19 ($690.00)
      3. Florea: LU# 2-19-2 - Services through 2/25/19 ($817.50)
    3. Board Engineer: Cory Stoner, Harold E. Pellow & Associates
      1. Land Use Board Business: ($0)
      2. NWAC: LU# 11-16-11 - Services through 12/20/18 ($493.51)
      3. NWAC: LU# 11-16-11 - Services through 1/25/19 ($852.20)
      4. NWAC: LU# 11-16-12 - Services through 1/23/19 ($329.40)
      5. NWAC: LU# 11-16-12 - Services through 12/20/18 ($123.38)
      6. Diamond Communications: LU# 10-18-7: Services through 1/25/19 ($359.70)
      7. The Land Conservancy of NJ: LU# 10-18-8 - Services through 12/6/18 ($62.50)
      8. Benning/DeAlto: LU# 11-18-9 - Services through 12/12/18 ($62.50)
      9. Waheguru Gas: LU# 7-16-5 - Services through 11/30/18 ($49.35)
      10. Waheguru Gas: LU# 7-16-5 - Services through 1/8/19 ($262.20)
      11. LGWS: LU# 7-16-7 - Services through 11/30/18 ($49.35)
      12. LGWS: LU# 7-16-7 - Services through 1/8/19 ($262.20)
    4. Board Recording Secretary: Irene Mills ($75.00)

Mr. Williams questioned difference in $/hr. charged by board engineer. Mr. Kienz noted the one invoice reflects the 2018 rate and the other reflects the 2019 rate.

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

  1. Request for Escrows to Be Closed
    1. LU# 6-15-6: NWAC - Block 192.02, Lot 19 & 25, - Final Site Plan ($955.90)
    2. LU# 3-18-3: NWAC - Block 192.01, Lot 13, - Variance for a Sign ($342.00)
    3. LU# 7-18-8: NWAC - Block 192.02, Lot 25 - Site Plan for a Starting Hut ($464.55)
    4. LU# 5-15-4: Melissa Obrotka - Block 103.25, Lot 40, - Front Yard Variance for a Porch ($636.50)

Motion: A motion was made to approve escrows to be closed as listed by Mr. Auberger 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. Whitaker. All members were in favor.

Meeting was adjourned at 7:59 p.m.

Respectfully Submitted
Irene Mills
Recording Secretary