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

Minutes: May 25, 2011

Mr. Theobald called the meeting to order at 7:06 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 20, 2011 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

Roll Call

Roll Call    Also Present
Andrew Borisuk (7:15 p.m.)P Michael Garofalo, Esq., Board Attorney
Andrea CoculaP Corey Stoner, Board Engineer
David GornsteinP Dennis Kirwan, Land Use Administrator
Jessi PaladiniP Cynthia Davis, Recording Secretary
Mayor RinkerP  
Councilmember SeufertNP  
Jean MurphyP  
Martin TheobaldP  
Joseph TadrickP  
Chris Hack (#1 Alt)P  
Ed Rolando (#2 Alt) (8:10 p.m.)P  
Joseph Ferrer (#3 Alt)NP  
Edward Seger (#4 Alt)P  

Public Hearings

LU# 2-11-3: Mountain Gate LLC, Block 240, Lot 4 - Use Variance

(Note: Mayor Sally Rinker stepped down from this hearing)

Ira Weiner, Esq. came forward on behalf of the applicant. He explained that the applicant is here tonight for a bifurcated use variance for an outdoor family recreation area. The parcel is in the Highlands Preservation Area located on Route 515 across the street from Thornlot Road. The only development allowed on this property would be a one-family house which the applicant feels would be impractical for a 100+ acre parcel. Mr. Weiner explained that the applicant has all ready met with the DEP who suggested that he go before the Town first for a use variance. If the applicant receives the use variance, he will then go to the DEP for a permit and then come back before the LUB with the site plan. In this way the LUB still retains control over the site and still has the power to reject the application.

Mr. Weiner explained that the applicant feels the nature of this development makes sense for this particular parcel and is non-intrusive in terms of land disturbance.

Mr. Garofalo explained that a bifurcated application means that the applicant is asking for variance relief only, tonight. The applicant is not asking for site plan approval. Mr. Garofalo said that the MLUL permits this but during the course of the application you may ask yourself how can we decide variances if we aren’t presented with enough information about the site. You have the right to ask that question of the applicant and the applicant has the burden to convince you that they have provided you with enough information about the site so that you can grant bifurcated relief.

Ken Dykstra
Ken Dykstra, the engineer for the project came forward and was sworn in and accepted as a professional. Mr. Dykstra described the property and the proposed project. He explained that the proposed 18 foot wide driveway that leads to a parking area with 171 parking spots and 6,000 square foot commercial building and caretakers’ home will be the only physical disturbance to the property which will be less than 3% of impervious coverage. The recreational facility will have paintball fields and bike trails. There are 5 acres proposed for solar panels or a solar array. The entire property is vegetated and there are wetlands on the property which have been delineated. The plan respects a 300 foot Highland’s buffer. Other than traffic coming in and out, the development will be invisible to the surrounding area.

Corey Stoner
Mr. Stoner commented that the disturbance of the upland areas is a concern as the proposal would include 8 acres of total clearing. Mr. Weiner assured him that any part of this proposal can be changed or modified. Mr. Stoner said the proposed access to the site is the best choice for this property. However, the driveway is steep and he would prefer the width to be widened to a minimum of 20 feet. The Fire Official recommends 24 feet. Also, the amount of parking spaces is 60-70 spaces more than what would be required.

Mr. Borisuk asked about the 50 x 80 residential building and commented that it seems excessively large. Mr. Weiner said it could be changed but the applicant wanted something in the plan, conceptually, for the caretaker.

Mr. Weiner commented that if the applicant was proposing a private club with the same proposed facilities, ALL would be permitted, other than the solar array.

Mr. Stoner continued with his review by saying that the storm water management seems adequate. Mr. Weiner added that the septic system will be at the State level which is one system per 88 acres. Mr. Stoner commented that overall, this project’s success will be determined by the DEP and Highland’s approvals.

Mr. Peter G. Steck, Planner
Mr. Peter G. Steck, the project planner, came forward and was sworn in and accepted as a professional. He described the property as big—115 acres, wooded, with areas of steep slopes, vacant, and is on a county highway. He said the applicant is proposing a commercial recreation as the principal use which is basically an open space use with the proposed buildings (assembly area, parking area, caretakers unit) supporting that principal use. A second use on the property is a solar array which is sized to use more power than the facility needs. The solar array will feed back into the system and would also be considered a principal use. Mr. Steck reported that by State law, solar panels are an inherently beneficial use. He said the permitted uses in the R-1 Zone are agricultural and farm uses, bed & breakfasts, clubhouse, cluster development, single-family use, nature preserve and outdoor personal and private recreation. Mr. Steck read the definitions of the commercial recreation and personal and private recreation. He opined that the only difference between private recreational facility and a commercial one is who owns it. It appears to him that the exact same activities can occur, but if there is a profit motive, then the use is not permitted. He said that the applicant needs a D-1 use variance for a commercial recreational use. Mr. Steck’s interpretation of this project is one of a commercial recreational use with the principal use being the outdoor activities and the other buildings as accessory buildings. He said there are 2 ways the LUB can use to support the approval of the commercial recreation use: 1. extreme hardship, and; 2. Encouraging the most appropriate use of land. This is isolated property and not suited for 30 homes. In Mr. Steck’s opinion this land is peculiarly suited to an open space use because of its placement on a busy county highway and because it is surrounded by quasi-governmental lands it can’t be integrated with any neighborhood.

Mr. Garofalo
Mr. Garofalo said that “extreme hardship” means that it can’t be reasonably adapted to a conforming use. He asked Mr. Steck how it could be an extreme hardship when he said his client could put 30 houses there if they received approval. Mr. Steck said that if the property was flat and didn’t have the steep slope issues, then 30 homes could be built. His argument of “extreme hardship” has to do with the marriage of the two sets of regulations—the Highlands Act and Vernon’s zoning ordinance. Mr. Garofalo stated that if these sets of regulations are married then this site would permit a one-family home due to the fact that there has to be 88 acres per septic system which is a permitted use. In Mr. Steck’s opinion, this would constitute a hardship because of the size of the property building one home is too impotent a use for 115 acres. Mr. Weiner added that the inability to use that large a piece of land except for such a small use is the hardship.

Mr. Steck discussed the negative criteria. Except for the solar panels, this would be a private recreational use which is a low intensity use with less than 3% impervious coverage located on a street that can handle the volume of traffic. It is an open space use which is consistent with the surrounding watershed lands and it is a seasonal use. He added that this project will be subject to DEP approval.

Mr. Borisuk asked if the Highlands Act considers solar panels impervious coverage. Mr. Steck said that the State law says they cannot be considered impervious coverage. Mr. Gornstein commented, and Mr. Garofalo confirmed, that the bases of the panels are considered impervious coverage.

Mr. Steck summed up his testimony by saying if the Vernon LUB thinks the projects meets the use criteria and approves the variance and then the applicant will go before the Highlands. If the project is approved there, the applicant will come back before the LUB for site plan approval to meet the negative criteria.

Mr. Tadrick asked if there would be a restaurant. Mr. Steck replied that there would be some sort of food concession.

Meeting was opened to the public

Mr. Fred Amerspek, a Vernon resident who lives across the street from the proposed recreational facility came forward and said that his concerns were noise and pollution with the commercial operation. Mr. Garofalo asked Mr. Amerspek to listen to the upcoming testimony to see if his concerns would be answered.

Meeting was closed to the public

Michael Stengart
Michael Stengart, the applicant, came forward and was sworn in by the Board attorney. Mr. Stengart said that the land had been used for hunting for the past 25 years. The loudest noise that his proposal will bring is the sound of the paint ball dispensers. He also confirmed that there are no plans for amplified music or concerts. He said they will use walkie-talkies, but no loud speakers. The closing hours for the winter season will be 4:30-5 pm and in the summer, the facility will close at dark. Mr. Stengart advised that snow making for the x-country skiing on the property will be made by water trucks not snow making machines.

Mr. Stengart described the project as a family outdoor recreational facility with mountain bikes (pedal), x-country skiing, paintball, basketball or volleyball, picnic areas and a fishing area. Mr. Stengart said he has owned the property for 6 years and the DEP commented to him that this is the best use for this property. He also said that there will not be a restaurant on the property but there will be some type of small snack stand. The summer hours will be 8 a.m. to 9 p.m. and the winter closing will be at dark. Mr. Stengart expects to have 10-12 employees who will supervise the facility. Mr. Stengart said the paintball operation consists of several supervised, defined fields and the paint used in the paintball guns is biodegradable. The fishing activity will be from a small natural body of water on the property. He said that typically there will be 20-50 cars and 1 or 2 buses on the property for the paintball operation. Mr. Stengart said that he would agree to lessen the parking spaces, if requested. The company, Mountain Gate, LLC, will oversee the operations and the caretaker will be an employee not an owner. Mr. Stengart said that the DEP favors the solar farm on a Highlands Preservation property.

Open meeting to the public for items other than those listed on the agenda

No one came forward.

Closed meeting to the public

Motion: Ms. Cocula made a motion to carry this application to the June 8, 2011, meeting. No further legal notice is required. Mr. Tadrick seconded the motion. All were in favor.

Discussion

Mr. Tadrick asked that the minutes of 5/18/11, be revised to include his question on the number of wells that were contaminated in the study done by N.J. Water.

Mr. Theobald called for a 5-minute break in the meeting. Mr. Tadrick left the meeting at this time.

LU# 5-11-9: Alan and Nancy E. Saccente, Block 190.09, Lot 8 - Use Variance, Minor Site Plan

Note: Mayor Rinker stepped down from this hearing.

Mr. and Mrs. Saccente came forward. Mrs. Saccente explained that she is that attorney and applicant. She explained that they own the Dairy Queen and miniature golf business. They are proposing a commercial outdoor recreation facility that will require a use variance. In place of the existing miniature golf facility, which is a non-conforming use, they are proposing to install a batting cage facility within the same footprint. The batting cages will be computerized and adjustable. The lights will be changed out and will only light the back of the lot.

Corey Stoner
Mr. Stoner said the main issue with regard to the applicant having to request a use variance is because a miniature golf course is not a permitted use in the TC zone. Mrs. Saccente confirmed that the concrete pad underneath the existing holes will be removed and the new pad will be sloped and fencing will be replaced. The hours of operation will be the same as the Dairy Queen. Mr. Stoner feels the parking proposed is adequate. Mr. Stoner commented, and Mrs. Saccente confirmed, that the ambulance facility uses their driveway and no easements have been documented for this use.

Meeting was opened to the public

Michael Emmerich, Chief of the Vernon Twp. Ambulance Squad came forward and said that the previous owners granted permission for them to use the driveway. He asked if that agreement would continue. Mrs. Saccente said that she understands that the ambulance squad provides a good service to the town but they will not agree to any type of stipulation. Mr. Garofalo suggested that the parties hammer out an agreement somewhere else as it has nothing to do with the Land Use Board.

Dan Kadish came forward and asked if the computers were tested to make sure that the ambulance antennas will not interfere with their operation. Mr. Saccente said the computers were not wireless.

Mr. Kadish asked if the facility will be using metal bats. Mrs. Saccente said both wood and aluminum bats will be used and feels that the fencing and trees will offer a sufficient buffer to the noise.

Meeting was closed to the public

Ms. Paladini asked what the building will house. Mrs. Saccente said the building will house the computer facilities and equipment rentals and an office on the second floor.

Mr. Theobald said his concern would be the hours of operation and the disturbance to neighbors with noise. He suggested that the hours cannot exceed 11:00 p.m. The applicant agreed.

Motion: Mr. Gornstein made a motion to approve a use variance for batting cages on the subject site to operate between the hours of 8 a.m. and 11 p.m. Mr. Seger seconded the motion. ROLL CALL: BORISUK - Y, COCULA - Y, GORNSTEIN - Y, MURPHY - Y, PALADINI - Y, THEOBALD - Y, HACK - Y, SEGER - Y. Passed.

Open meeting to the public for items other than those listed on the agenda

No one came forward.

Closed meeting to the public

Land Use Board Discussion Items

Zoning Board Annual Report

Dennis Kirwan came forward and explained that this report is required by law on an annual basis and is a report on the variances that the LUB introduces and hears. Mr. Garofalo added that one of the purposes of this report is to see the variances that have been granted over the course of the year and if many of the same kind of variances have been granted then the governing body may take action.

Motion: Mr. Gornstein made a motion to approve of the report. Ms. Cocula seconded the motion. All were in favor.

Ordinance Review

Ordinance 11-14: Repeal Article XIX sections 330-239, Stream Buffer conservation overlay zone

Mr. Garofalo advised that this ordinance does not need to be reviewed again. Ms. Paladini commented that when the Master Plan was created by Donald Ross, there were specific reasons why they created a 75 foot buffer for streams and she doesn’t feel that any of this was taken into account. She said that this had not gone to the Environmental Commission for review.

Mr. Stoner said that the buffers have nothing to do with the DEP regulations which have caused a lot of problems with the building department due to the conflicting requirements.

Mayor Rinker said that she put this back on the agenda. As a council person she was on the fence about this matter. She feels that the 75 foot buffer has created a hardship for many people. She said that no one can sell their homes to increase their use of space in this economy. She said that the 25 additional feet may help a family to add a deck or patio.

Ordinance 11-15: Solar Energy Facilities

Mr. Garofalo advised that this didn’t need to be reviewed again by the LUB.

Resolutions

Recommending to the Vernon Township Governing Body the inclusion of certain cemeteries within the Township of Vernon for Historic Landmark Designation

Motion: Mr. Gornstein made a motion to approve this resolution. Ms. Cocula seconded the motion. All were in favor.

Acknowledging the filing of a community plan by the Highland Lakes Country Club and Community Association

Motion: Mr. Gornstein made a motion to approve this resolution. Ms. Cocula seconded the motion. All were in favor.

Minutes

May 11, 2011: Regular Meeting Minutes

Motion: Ms. Cocula made a motion to approve of the 5/11/11 Regular Meeting Minutes with Mr. Tadrick’s earlier request for revision. Mr. Gornstein seconded the motion. ROLL CALL: COCULA - Y, GORNSTEIN - Y, PALADINI - Y, RINKER - Y, MURPHY - Y, THEOBALD - Y, ROLANDO - Y.

Escrows, Board Fees and Bond Reductions

  1. Board Fees
    1. Board Attorney: Michael Garofalo, Laddey, Clark & Ryan, LLP
      1. Land Use Board Business: Services through 4/1/11 to 4/30/11 - ($570.00)
      2. Jeffrey Pellet: LU# 3-11-5 - Services through 4/20/11 - ($300.00)
      3. James & Carol Giroux: LU# 6-10-4 - Services through 4/20/11 - ($30.00)
      4. Kyungkon Choi: LU# 11-10-11 - Services through 4/20/11 - ($300.00)
      5. Jesse Moore: LU# 2-11-1 - Services through 4/20/11 - ($300.00)
    2. Board Engineer: Cory Stoner, Harold E. Pellow & Associates
      1. Land Use Board Business - ($0)
    3. Board Planner: Jessica Caldwell AICP, Harold E. Pellow & Associates
      1. Land Use Board Business - ($0)
    4. Board Recording Secretary: Cynthia Davis
      1. Services through 5/19/11 - ($135.00)
  2. Request for Escrows to be Closed
    1. None

Adjournment

Motion: A motion was made by Ms. Paladini to approve of the above listed Board Fees. Mayor Rinker seconded the motion. All were in favor.

Pending Applications

  1. LU# 4-11-6: Market Square Management
    1. Use Variance, Site Plan - Solar Farm (pending for June 8th)
  2. LU# 5-11-8: Elizabeth Colfax Tuner
    1. Bulk Variance - Deck (pending for June 8th)
  3. LU# 5-11-10: Chris & Carol Kass
    1. Deck (pending for June 8th)
  4. LU# 5-11-12: David & Darlene Kleeschulte
    1. Screened Patio (pending for June 22nd)

Adjournment

Mr. Gornstein motioned and Mr. Borisuk seconded the motion to adjourn the meeting at 10:15 p.m. All were in favor.

These minutes were transcribed by Cynthia Davis on June 3, 2011.