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

Minutes: September 23, 2020

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 13, 2020 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 Diane WexlerP Glenn Kienz, Board Attorney
Craig WilliamsP Cory Stoner, Board Engineer
Councilmember AubergerNP Jessica Caldwell, Board Planner
Martin TheobaldP Kimberley Decker, Board Secretary
Richard Spoerl (Arrived at 7:16 p.m.)P  
Willard McPeekNP  
Andrea CoculaP  
Michael WhitakerP  
Kristi RapertoNP  
Kelly Mitchell Alternate #1P  
Joseph Tadrick Alternate #2P  
Paul Mele Alternate #3P  
Mark Vizzini Alternate #4NP  

Record reflects that Mr. Auberger, Mr. McPeek, Ms. Raperto and Mr. Vizzini notified the board of their absence.

Public Hearings

LU# 8-20-5 - Fred Turner - Block 39, Lot 12, - Amended Site Plan to Construct a Single-Family Dwelling

Mr. Fred Turner was sworn in and testified that application is a request to build a single-family home on said property and noted awareness of restrictions of property needing variances. He added a prior resolution was approved in 2005 by the Vernon Land Use Board and later extended to 2007 but due to it being expired and numerous differences in the applications, new approvals are required. Mr. Turner explained he has received prior approvals from Soil Conservation and for septic design.

Mr. Stoner explained application is to build a 2456 sq. ft dwelling on a pre-existing non-conforming lot in the R-1 zone which requires variances for minimum lot size, minimum lot width and rear yard setback. Since 2005 approvals have since expired, a planning variance is required per municipal land use law to permit development on an unimproved road. Ms. Caldwell added that variances do not expire but site plan approvals do expire. Attorney Kienz questioned if roadway is adequate for fire fighting and other emergency vehicles to access which Mr. Turner answered in the affirmative. Mr. Turner stated the roadway currently is hard packed gravel and that he will enter into an agreement with other property owners about entire road maintenance. Attorney Kienz told Mr. Turner that it is his responsibility to guarantee no matter what, that there is access to your house and that emergency services have access should the board grant you relief.

Mr. Stoner noted extensive grading is needed to meet maximum slope and questioned if any material will be removed from site. Mr. Turner explained he is planning on improving the front edge of the lot by lining swales with rip rap stone, installing a 12" pipe across the roadway to improve drainage and pave driveway out to Glenwood Mountain Road.

Mr. Turner stated the proposed dwelling would be a brick stucco exterior with large porch entrance with overhang. Mr. Stoner explained applicant must comply with maximum height of 35' and no more than 2 1/2 stories. Mr. Turner agreed. Mr. Stoner added that no lot development plan is needed because of being a board application and stated application will meet the requirements of Highlands Exemption #2 as a single-family home on land less than one acre. Mr. Stoner added that approvals have been received by the Sussex County Health Department and Sussex County Soil Conservation District but approval by Vernon Township Construction Department will be required.

Mr. Williams questioned if roadway could handle the addition of further development. Mr. Turner stated Capricorn Engineering provided details of all impervious coverage and drainage details on plans to help mitigate any additional runoff.

Chairman Theobald opened the meeting to the public.

Petra Kraus, 2 Blanchard Lane, was sworn in and stated 2005 approval provided variance for only a 1352 sq. ft dwelling on proposed lot and commented that proposed home is three times the size of area homes and provided examples 1040 sq. ft on 1.3 acres; 1196 sq. ft on 1.6 acres; and 2300 on 1.9 acres. She added her windows face the site resulting in her scenic views being blocked and quality of life decreased. If approved, it will be a gross exaggeration of intent of the expired variance from 2005. Ms. Kraus noted septic records from 2005-2007 denying a septic on proposed site and expressed her concern of how new septic application will affect her property. Ms. Kraus provided photos as evidence of view and elevation, labeled P-1 View of Front; P-2 Measurements; P-3 Side Yard; P-4 Side Yard P-5 Lawn with Pumpkin. Ms. Kraus opined a hardship will be placed on other neighbors and her by decreased views and decreased property value. She added legal notice of hearing was provided to her on Monday October 15 but took a few days to receive the requested documents of the application from the township.

John Currey, 5 Currey Lane, was sworn in and commented that plans by Fred Turner are great improvements to the area with improvements to the road and the overgrown site. He added that the 2005 application was probably not built because proposed septic location did not perk.

Josephine Currey, 5 Currey Lane, was sworn in and commented, as a prior real estate agent and resident since 1986, the house proposed by Fred Turner will improve the area and increase property value.

Eric Decker was sworn in and commented he resides at 10 Glenwood Mountain Road in a 3000+ sq ft home on three acres for over 15 years. He expressed his concern that he owns a portion of the roadway that the applicant is proposing to locate his driveway and road improvements. Mr. Decker added that the spring fed Wallkill Valley Tributary is located on Currey Lane and has tremendous water flow and is concerned that new development will alter the course of water causing damage to wells or wetlands. Mr. Decker presented photos which were added to file and provided brief description - P-6: red circle; P-7 back deck with red line; P-8 water bleeds from hill; P-9 red line driveway seepage without foliage. Mr. Decker stated that although his driveway is on Glenwood Mountain Road, Currey Lane wraps around the top of property and he is concerned that if the drainage is not taken care of it would have a negative impact on the area.

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

Mr. Stoner stated the storm water runoff from the site does not change the patterns along Currey Lane and will be inspected by the engineering office should the application be approved. He explained the driveway will require a design waiver due to slope % and plans need to be updated to show pipe location, paved location, a turnaround in driveaway and if there is movement of the house. Mr. Turner stated that should his proposed driveway be located on the neighbor’s property; it will be moved.

Motion: A motion was made to approve application with conditions set per testimony by Ms. Cocula and seconded by Mr. Mele.

ROLL CALL: WEXLER: Y; WILLIAMS: Y; COCULA: Y; WHITAKER: Y; MITCHELL: Y; TADRICK: Y; MELE: Y; THEOBALD: Y.
Motion passed.

Attorney Kienz stated all revisions must to be submitted to the township engineer for review and there is no need to come back before the board.

LU# 5-20-2 - For Love of Mud - Block: 376, Lot: 3, - Interpretation, or Alternatively, Use Variance and Minor Site Plan to Conduct Pottery Classes at a Residential Home

Attorney Todd Hooker, from firm of Askin & Hooker Associates is present remotely on behalf of applicant For Love of Mud, LLC, Deborah Goletz and Mark Anderson seeking an interpretation of the Vernon Township zoning ordinance if pottery studio business on said site is considered a home occupation or a home professional office or if minor site plan and use approval is needed.

Attorney Kienz stated that in accordance with the municipal land use law, a combination meeting of some attendees being virtual, and some present is allowable under executive order by New Jersey Governor. He explained because Vernon Township has a combined board, presently there are nine voting members but two, Class 1 and Class 3 are non-voting should variance be needed.

Attorney Hooker stated the application included a submittal of Ms. Goletz’s background, education and accomplishments which include a bachelor’s degree from Northwestern, masters in fine art, professor at Montclair State College teaching ceramics to art teachers and had total charge over kiln for ten years at Parsons School of Design. Attorney Kienz noted the decades of experience of Ms. Goletz with ceramics and kilns and Attorney Hooker qualified Ms. Goletz as a qualified expert in ceramics and familiar with operations using kilns. The land use board as a whole accepted Ms. Goletz’s expertise. No members of the public disputed Ms. Goletz’s expertise.

Attorney Hooker explained Ms. Goletz started her business at her 7289 Macopin Rd. West Milford home in 2000. Three-hour classes were held twice a week and with a few weekend parties held for scouting groups to teach them about ceramics, and the importance of environmental care. The business was operated as a home occupation with requirement of permit to build the wood kiln.

Attorney Hooker stated Ms. Goletz then moved to Vernon Township in 2018, created her pottery studio and offered classes in her basement as a home occupation with similar hours as in West Milford. She was then told by Vernon Township she needs to come to the land use board for approval. Ms. Goletz added the studio is in the basement with students entering only through downstairs entrance and she is the only employee for the business. Class procedures include education of natural resources used, how to work safely and clean up clay while creating ceramics and offered two exhibits for the application labeled A-1 Green Bowl and A-2 Gray Clay. Ms. Goletz explained the clay used is non-toxic, pre-moistened, easy to use and comes in 25 lb. blocks. Regarding health and safety, she added area has HEPA air filters and is only vacuumed never swept and any excess clay or glaze is saved to be reused for environmental safety. Ms. Goletz stated a double sink is used by students to wash hands on one side as well as cleaning out clay buckets with residual clay caught in trap. Ms. Goletz stated Dr. Anderson and herself live upstairs with business solely located in basement. She added there is a fee to attend her classes which have not been held though since January 2020.

Robert Oestreich, PE, LSRP, was sworn in and stated he has NJIT degree in mechanical engineering with career of over 30 years in site development and redevelopment regarding wetlands, underground tanks, and environmental engineering. Board accepted Mr. Oestreich as expert to testify on behalf of applicant.

Mr. Oestreich stated he submitted his report to the board with details of site in question and procedures of storing and using the clay as well as the closed glazing system and the forced venting system of the kiln. He opined the entire operation is well thought out by Ms. Goletz with emphasis on safety of students as well as the environment. Mr. Oestreich explained the analytical report of contents of the glaze which found trace amounts of arsenic, cadmium, lead, and mercury similar to amounts found in clean soil based on NJ standards. Attorney Hooker questioned Mr. Oestreich within reasonable scientific certainty, are the safety procedures protective of human health and the environment which Mr. Oestreich answered in the affirmative and estimated the operation would pass PEOSHA.

Dr. Mark Anderson was sworn in and stated he is a doctor of analytical chemistry with masters from St. John’s University in pharmacology and toxicology. Attorney Hooker explained Dr. Anderson is present to testify on his involvement in providing samples of glaze from said business to laboratory for analysis on toxicology data. The board accepts Dr. Anderson as expert.

Sally Rinker, public, questioned why Mr. Oestreich’s background in mechanical engineering can allow him to testify to chemical engineering questions. She also expressed concern about conflict of interest from Dr. Anderson and potential safety of these substances when chain of command is going through an applicant as he resides at same residence of Ms. Goletz.

Attorney Hooker stated the applicant is For Love of Mud, LLC and Dr. Anderson will testify on samples collected but noted the analysis was performed by an independent laboratory. Attorney Kienz directed the board to hear all testimony and decide what weight it will have for application.

Dr. Anderson stated he took samples of glaze from buckets in the studio in separate clean containers and sent to independent laboratory via Federal Express to Element One in North Carolina. He commented the same sampling procedure was performed as in his personal business of dietary supplements which is over 200 times a month and is the accepted standard in industry. Dr. Anderson offered an example of results to put amounts in perspective. He explained 25 grams of glaze is used in each mug, 50 mugs per kiln load equaling 1250 grams glaze. The heavy metal in a load equals 10 milligrams and amount of cadmium is 771 micrograms but in comparison, a candy bar contains 93 micrograms. Dr. Anderson stated the importance of limited presence of heavy metals and confirms the process by the applicant is rated as clean. He added that in comparison with a campfire, less heavy metals come from the kiln.

Mr. Ken Dykstra, Dykstra Walker Design Group, was sworn in and testified the site at 16 Palomino Trail is a 2.3 acre lot, in the High Ridge subdivision built in the 1990s and is a pre-existing non-conforming lot for size and lot width. The home is a ranch style set back from roadway, circular driveway, two car garage and a 1200 sq. ft full basement with separate entrance. Mr. Dykstra added the property has frontage on Sand Hill Road and has an existing sign for the High Ridge subdivision.

Mr. Dykstra explained the proposed business is a ten hour a week operation, with ample parking on site to accommodate class size and does not change the residential character of the site. Regarding bulk requirements, he confirmed that the property is non-conforming pre-existing for lot size and width per the 1990s subdivision.

Attorney Hooker responded to the letter from the environmental commission questioning mitigation processes. He explained the Princeton University Health and Safety Report for Ceramics details how to work safely with materials and then convey those on to those who will teach to others. Based on the inspection of the site by professional engineers and the analytical results from the laboratory, adequate safety measures are being used to be protective of human health.

Board members asked various questions of operations being used. Ms. Goletz explained how the site is cleaned of glaze materials with a sponge or HEPA vacuum and never swept. She added the gas-powered kiln does not produce smoke with little smell released. Due to COVID, class size can be reduced with plastic sheeting between students if required. Ms. Goletz stated she does not offer alcohol or sip and paint classes inside studio, but there have been adults outside who have brought their own beverages to drink outside.

Attorney Hooker stated the applicant has requested an interpretation that this is a home office and any activity for gain would be an accessory use or alternatively a home professional office with supplemental regulations. Board member Mitchell stated there was a similar application in the Summit section of Vernon and were told by the township they were not allowed to do it.

Ms. Caldwell added the Home Professional Office is a conditional use, requiring application before the land use board, if all conditions are not met the application will become a use variance. Board discussed that there were no other examples to compare that are similar to this neighborhood.

Chairman Theobald opened the meeting to the public.

Tim Seger, Palomino Trail, commented that as a police officer for 12 years is concerned that driveway of applicant will not be sufficient for student vehicles and the increased traffic and cars parked in neighborhood near bus stop will pose danger for children and negatively impact the community.

Mr. Mele commented that the proposed ceramics classes are no different than Longaberger parties for example held at houses where over 30 individuals attend.

Pat Seger, 22 Palomino Trail, is concerned new neighbor will be allowed to change the neighborhood character in just a short time. She read the definition of home occupation being “any activity carried out for gain by a resident and conducted as a reasonable customary, incidental accessory use in the resident’s dwelling unit.” Ms. Seger stated she has worked in Township government for over 20 years and feels application should be a Home Professional Office based on the testimony as a business is not incidental. Ms. Seger commented that the previous location of business in West Milford was located on a major roadway, not in a development and with no neighbors nearby.

Pat Distasi, member of the Vernon Environmental Commission but speaking as a resident for 35 years opined that it is a conflict of interest that the applicant took samples without a witness present even though testimony detailed the procedures. Ms. Distasi commented the board should consider that a decision made will set a precedent for future home businesses. She added that residents bought a home in a development with anticipation of the township ordinances to protect them and to allow those protections to be eroded will hurt Vernon in a big way. Ms. Distasi commented that a home office should not have people coming and going with increased traffic flow impacting a development.

Sally Rinker, Vernon, commented as a local builder of the High Ridge subdivision, that testimony provided about total sq. footage of house and part where business will be held is conflicting, yet board is using as criteria for judgment. Ms. Rinker read the definition of home occupation and opined that the complexity of request to operate this business makes it far from reasonable, customary, and incidental which all should be included to approval. She added that business would not be customary or incidental with request to use two outside signs on the property nor an outside kiln at end of driveway.

Judy Diparto, Franklin Lakes, commented she has known Ms. Goletz for 15 years and that her level of professionalism and methodology in the classroom is impeccable. She opined that the hearing feels like a petty attack from her neighbors. Ms. Diparto suggested Vernon should invest more in the arts like woodworking, sculpting, dance, cooking, and ceramics. She added that there is nothing dangerous about the ceramics studio and that it is a richness added to the community.

Debbie Sikowsky, in the housing industry for 20 years, stated she sold the house to Ms. Goletz and Mr. Anderson and is familiar with the site. She explained that 11 vehicles can fit in the driveway, classes will be held at night when bus stops are not being used and basement is large open area suitable for a workshop.

Ed Seger, resident for 27 years at 22 Palomino Trail, commented the business is a great idea but should be located in the town center area per the township ordinance and not in a residential neighborhood. He added the neighbors are not attacking the business just the location. Mr. Seger commented that 10 students in and out of the neighborhood 3 times a week will be thousands of increased vehicles per year in the residential neighborhood. Mr. Seger stated he has a petition signed by 48 of the 76 homeowners that do not want a business in the neighborhood which will increase traffic flow causing concern.

Laura Savora, West Milford, as a past student of Ms. Goletz, commented that the students recognize classes are held in residential area and are considerate of the neighbors. She added that Ms. Goletz is very safety conscience of the materials used and her processes.

Dr. Mark Anderson stated Ms. Goletz and himself have done their due diligence and everything required to have this application interpreted as a home occupation.

Sally Rinker, read the definition of home professional office in the township code, “Partial office use of a single-family detached dwelling by a practitioner of a recognized profession, including but not limited to attorneys, engineers, architects, medical practitioners, planning consultants, insurance agents, accountants and similar professionals offering a service for a fee.” She commented a home professional office has limited number of individuals, not a regular schedule, no materials to be disposed, no impact to neighbors, which all are not applicable for this application.

Beth Right, North Haledon, commented that Ms. Goletz holds classes in a safe and clean manner to protect the environment and others. She added that Ms. Goletz has provided professional testimony that her business is running safely per industry standards. Ms. Right opined that we live in an everchanging world and that human nature is typically not comfortable with change. She commented that should the public have concerns over increase is traffic than possibly other extracurricular activities such as sports should also be shut down. Ms. Right opined that this home occupation enhances lives emotionally, mentally, and physically within the community. Ms. Right commented the creative outlet of ceramics has been a great form of therapy personally and sees the importance of this opportunity for children and adults.

Pedro, 18 Palomino Trail, commented the applicants are great neighbors, and he was unaware this business was occurring next door and does not see a problem with the increase in traffic.

Laura Bosmith, Macopin Road, commented that Ms. Goletz lived next to her in West Milford and was always environmentally conscience and concerned for her neighbor’s welfare when running the wood kiln. She added Ms. Goletz is a talented wonderful person and opened her mind about the benefits of pottery.

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

Attorney Hooker summarized the application as a home occupation qualifies per the township ordinance.

Ms. Caldwell read definition of home occupation in township ordinance and stated board would need to interpret based on testimony heard, whether application is reasonable, customary, incidental, and accessory use in the resident’s dwelling unit. Board discussed maintaining the integrity of the neighborhood and history of similar board applications denied. Ms. Mitchell stated her support and belief of fine arts as emotional therapy but explains the location is not suitable to run a business. Mr. Williams commented that application is a limited exposure of activity and the title of home occupation is more appropriate.

Motion: A motion to interpret LU#5-20-2 as a home occupation as defined in the township ordinance was made by Mr. Tadrick and was seconded by Mr. Williams. Attorney Kienz explained to board not to consider precedent in decision as approval will contain narrow, specific requirements.

ROLL CALL: WEXLER: Y; WILLIAMS: Y; SPOERL: Y; COCULA: N; WHITAKER: N; MITCHELL: N; TADRICK: Y; MELE: Y; THEOBALD: N.
Motion passed.

Attorney Kienz stated final resolution for approval will contain restrictions as presented with no approval for signs.

Public Participation

Chairman Theobald opened the meeting to the public. Seeing no one wishing to come forward, Chairman Theobald closed the meeting to the public.

Resolutions

LU# 10-19-8 -SUEZ Water New Jersey Inc. - Block: 78, Lot: 1, - Minor Site Plan and Bulk Variance for a Proposed Storage Container

Eligible to vote: Williams, Auberger, Cocula, Whitaker, Mitchell, Theobald

Motion: Motion was made by Ms. Cocula to approve Resolution for LU#10-19-8 and was seconded by Mr. Whitaker.

ROLL CALL: WILLIAMS: Y; COCULA: Y; WHITAKER: Y; MITCHELL: Y; THEOBALD: Y.

Minutes

July 22, 2020 - Regular Meeting Minutes (Williams, Auberger, Cocula, Whitaker, Mitchell, Theobald)

Motion: Motion was made by Ms. Cocula to approve Regular Minutes of July 22, 2020 and was seconded by Mr. Williams.

ROLL CALL: WILLIAMS: Y; COCULA: Y; WHITAKER: Y; MITCHELL: Y; THEOBALD: Y.

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 7/22/20 ($742.00)
      2. Land Use Board Business - Services through 8/24/20 ($32.00)
      3. Suez Water - LU# 10-19-18 - Services through 7/30/20 ($816.00)
      4. Suez Water - LU# 10-19-18 - Services through 8/17/20 ($48.00)
      5. For Love of Mud - LU# 5-20-2 - Services through 7/7/20 ($32.00)
      6. For Love of Mud - LU# 5-20-2 - Services through 8/24/20 ($480.00)
      7. CGP Acquisitions & Development LLC - LU# 7-20-3 - Services through 7/24/20 ($294.50)
      8. Frederick Turner - LU# 8-20-5 - Services through 8/17/20 ($45.00)
    2. Board Planner: Jessica Caldwell, J. Caldwell & Associates
      1. Land Use Board Business - Services through 7/20/20 ($375.00)
      2. CGP Acquisitions & Development LLC - LU# 7-20-3 - Services through 7/24/20 ($125.00)
      3. 515 Vernon Property LLC - LU# 7-20-4 - Services through 7/27/20 ($3,000.00)
      4. 515 Vernon Property LLC - LU# 7-20-4 - Services through 8/7/20 ($312.50)
    3. Board Engineer: Cory Stoner, Harold E. Pellow & Associates
      1. Land Use Board Business - Services through 7/22/20 ($130.00)
      2. For Love of Mud - LU# 5-20-2 - Services through 6/22/20 ($433.60)
      3. Suez Water NJ LU# 10-19-8 - Services through 7/22/20 ($130.00)
      4. CGP Acquisitions & Development LLC - LU# 7-20-3 - Services through 7/14/20 ($130.00)
    4. Board Recording Secretary: Irene Mills ($75.00)
    5. Board Conflict Attorney: Ursula Leo, Laddey, Clark & Ryan LLP
      1. Land Use Board Business - Services through 6/8/20 ($37.44)

Motion: Motion was made by Mr. Mele to approve board fees and was seconded by Mr. Spoerl. All members were in favor. Motion passed.

Mr. Williams wanted to make board aware that Tennessee Gas Pipeline has submitted a proposal to create a pump station compressor in Wantage. The plan has the potential to change the thickness size of the piping which is 65 years old and located in many residential areas.

Adjournment

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

Meeting was adjourned at 10:55 p.m.

Respectfully Submitted
Irene Mills, Recording Secretary