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

Minutes: November 13, 2019

Call to Order

Meeting was called to order by Mr. Williams at 7:05 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

Mr. Williams led the assemblage of the flag.

Roll Call  Also Present
Mayor Harry ShortwayP Glenn Kienz, Board Attorney
Craig WilliamsP Cory Stoner, Board Engineer
Councilmember AubergerP Kim Decker, Board Secretary
Martin TheobaldNP  
Richard SpoerlNP  
Willard McPeekP  
Andrea CoculaP  
Michael WhitakerP  
Kristi RapertoNP  
Kelly Mitchell (#1 Alt)P  
Joseph Tadrick (#2 Alt)P  
Paul Mele (#3 Alt)P  
Mark Vizzini (#4 Alt)NP  

Board members voted Mr. Williams to chair meeting due to absence of Mr. Theobald and Mr. Spoerl. Acting Chairman Williams stated that Mr. Theobald, Mr. Spoerl, informed the board of their absence.

Public Participation

Acting Chairman Williams opened the meeting to the public for items not on the agenda. Seeing no one from the public wishing to come forward, Acting Chairman Williams closed the meeting to the public.

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

An Ordinance Amending and Supplementing Chapter 330, Article XI of the Code of Township of Vernon Entitled “Zoning”

Acting Chairman Williams stated the board members received a copy of a draft ordinance from the township council who requested input from the land use board. Attorney Kienz explained the ordinance proposes adopting a section in the zoning ordinance to prohibit the sale in all zoning districts in the Township of Vernon of all vaping products. Mayor Shortway explained that vaping is a dangerous problem which is unregulated and favors Vernon taking a stand against this problem but warns about potential litigation. Mr. McPeek questioned why vaping product laws are not enforced like tobacco products as there are current state regulations. Ms. Mitchell questioned if existing businesses would be grandfathered should proposal be adopted which attorney Kienz stated they would be based on condition in the proposal.

Mayor Shortway explained the council recently adopted an ordinance prohibiting vaping at any township parks but added that enforcement of age requirement at establishments is the major issue. Mr. Mele added that proposal which limits business may result in litigation. Mr. Tadrick agreed that the state law is not being enforced, but the township does not have the right as a body to say that one cannot operate this business. Mayor Shortway commented that the coalition asked the council to adopt this ordinance, but valid points have been made and we must do what is best for the township. Board members suggested to recommend that council approve a strong resolution, not the proposed ordinance, that Vernon is not in favor of vaping products and is concerned about the health, safety and welfare of residents especially the children and teenagers.

Motion: A motion was made to recommend that the council approve a resolution against vaping products by Ms. Cocula and seconded by Mayor Shortway. All members voted in favor.

An Ordinance of the Township of Vernon, County of Sussex, State of New Jersey, Creating Chapter 476 of the Municipal Code of the Township of Vernon Entitled “Short-Term Rentals”

Mayor Shortway explained that for the last 20 months he has researched about regulations for short term rentals and proposed an ordinance to the township council which is still under review. He added that based on internet platforms, there are over 230 in Vernon which are not inspected nor required to pay the 3% hotel tax, a potential township revenue of up to $150,000, since there is no ordinance adopted. Mayor Shortway is in favor of this ordinance to level the playing field of rentals with existing hotels and motels in Vernon. AIRBNB has given their support of this regulation to be good neighbors, increase safety and allow municipalities to collect state tax revenue.

Mayor Shortway explained, that as Vernon is a four-season tourist community, the proposal would allow collection of the 3% tax, require registration fee of $250.00 to create data base of properties and visitors, and require fire safety inspections. He added that discussion with a software company could research the more than 30 internet platforms and manage the registration process for $15,000-$30,000. He commented that private lake communities could further address this issue through their by-laws if wanted.

Mr. McPeek questioned if there are any regulations or inspections performed currently on weekly rentals in Vernon similar to shore towns.

Ms. Mitchell questioned if any water tests are required in this ordinance as rental properties are required to perform every five years.

Mayor Shortway added that there are rules to follow when renting through AIRBNB including obtaining insurance. Ms. Mitchell noted that houses are being bought in Vernon to be used for the sole purpose of renting out through AIRBNB sites. Mayor Shortway commented that the township passed an ordinance for registration of vacant properties which is forcing banks to sell foreclosures; some of which are converted to rentals.

Mr. Tadrick questioned if there is any way owners can go around the rules of the ordinance by using other platforms or be grandfathered. Attorney Kienz commented that as Vernon wants to promote tourism, the proposed ordinance is written adequately to protect the health, safety and welfare of its residents, he is unsure how what recommendations can be added from the land use board. Mr. Tadrick questioned if the town can be liable for not regulating occupancy capacity. Attorney Kienz explained that any litigation is always possible in event of a catastrophe and from a land use standpoint, the only section to discuss would be where the short term rentals could take place. Council member Auberger expressed his concern about the safety of occupants as well as neighbors and noted the idea to add a water test may be reasonable. Ms. Mitchell opined that property values may decrease with increase of rental properties and questioned how enforcement of Megan’s Law is done with short term rentals. Mayor Shortway commented that based on research, property values actually increased because less vacant properties were available.

Acting Chairman Williams opened the meeting to the public.

Jack McLaughlin, manager of Highland Lakes Community Association but speaking only for himself, expressed his disappointment that the proposed ordinance was unable to be released to the public prior to this meeting. He spoke to township officials who stated the draft proposal is a working document subject to revisions. Based on the board’s discussion, Mr. McLaughlin is puzzled by the limitations of rentals only done through internet sites as township’s goal is to have the properties comply with safety laws. He added the township should be concerned with investors who are running businesses in residential zones and not committed to the Vernon community. The Landlord Regulation Law of NJ already exists which he stated requires all landlords to appoint an agent to manage the property, register their tenants, identify utilities on a form submitted to the township.

Mr. McLaughlin commented that since there are only three council meetings left in 2019, there is a remote chance this ordinance will be able to be adopted this year particularly because of review by new council members or revisions needed. Acting Chairman Williams stated since discussion item was on agenda, the draft proposal should be made public. Attorney Kienz explained a lot of time went into the proposal and should be allowed to be made public. Mayor Shortway added he drafted this ordinance to initiate council discussion and recommendations and was then referred it to the land use board for further review before introduction.

Mike Tuloolly, Highland Lakes, commented that Philadelphia requires a free registration for owners having short term rentals which are designated as businesses. He agreed with reasoning that it levels the playing field with other hotels or bed & breakfasts who are required to collect and pay state tax. Mr. Tuloolly commented there are at least 30 internet platforms, with more popping up daily and explained that ongoing examination will be very time-consuming.

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

Mr. Mele suggested that all short term rentals be included in the required registration but noted enforcement may be hard to regulate.

Motion: A motion was made to express support of proposed short term rental ordinance with regulations as stated by Mr. Mele and seconded by Ms. Cocula. All members voted in favor.

An Ordinance of the Township of Vernon, County of Sussex, State of New Jersey, Amending Chapter 484 of the Municipal Code of the Township of Vernon Entitled “Soil Fill Placement”

Acting Chairman Williams explained township officials worked very hard in creating the existing soil fill ordinance but has determined revisions are needed to address issues that have arose.

Mr. Stoner explained the ordinance needs certain clarification in section regarding exceptions and exemptions section “C” to add applicants of lot development permits shall not be required to obtain a separate soil permit, however, any soil fill used must be in conformance with the requirements of the existing ordinance.

Mr. Stoner explained the addition of verbiage in Chapter 484 Section 6, that action on an application for minor soil fill permit shall be taken within 20 business days of receipt of required items. Major soil fill application will remain at up to 45 days.

Mr. Stoner explained the third revision is addition of section detailing proof that the soil fill materials to be used must have been tested and found to be in conformance with the soil ranking criteria form in NJ state statutes which shows all parameters for residential and commercial properties.

Mr. Stoner explained that the soil fill ordinance is a growing document and is adequate for Vernon’s needs. Mr. Tadrick commented that ordinance requires NJ state statutes to be adhered to but questioned what happens with out of state soil deliveries. Mr. Stoner explained that the ordinance requires proofs of tracking records, and testing records based on NJ statutes. Ms. Cocula added it is important because the soil fill could affect neighboring wells.

Motion: A motion was made to recommend council to introduce soil fill ordinance amendment as presented by Ms. Cocula and seconded by Mr. Shortway. All members voted in favor.

Minutes

October 23, 2019: Regular Meeting Minutes (Auberger, Whitaker, Raperto, Mele, Theobald)

Motion: A motion was made to approve Minutes of October 23, 2019 by Mr. Mele and seconded by Mr. Whitaker.

ROLL CALL: AUBERGER: Y; WHITAKER: Y; MELE: Y.
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: ($0)
    3. Board Engineer: Cory Stoner, Harold E. Pellow & Associates
      1. Land Use Board Business: Services through 9/11/19 ($130.00)
      2. NWAC: LU# 11-16-11 - Services through 9/17/19 ($49.85)
      3. C. Newsome: LU# 6-19-6 - Services through 9/9/19 ($65.00)
    4. Board Recording Secretary: Irene Mills ($75.00)

Motion: A motion was made to approve the board fees by Ms. Cocula and seconded by Mr. Auberger. All members voted in favor. Motion passed.

Adjournment

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

Meeting was adjourned at 8:14 p.m.

Respectfully Submitted
Irene Mills
Recording Secretary