Minutes: February 22, 2021

YouTube video of the February 22, 2021 council meeting »

The regular meeting of the Township Council of the Township of Vernon was convened at 7:00 p.m. on February 22, 2021 via Zoom Webinar in the Vernon Municipal Center, 21 Church Street, Vernon, New Jersey with Council President Harry Shortway presiding.

Statement of Compliance

Adequate notice of this meeting has been provided to the public and the press on January 6, 2021 and on January 7, 2021 and was posted on the bulletin board in the Municipal Building in accordance with the Open Public Meetings Act, N.J.S.A. 10:4-7.

Roll Call

Present were Council Members Toni Cilli, Andrew Pitsker, Kelly Weller and Council President Shortway. Also present were Mayor Howard Burrell, Business Administrator Charles Voelker and Township Attorney Josh Zielinski. Council Member Auberger was not present.

Salute to the Flag

Council President Shortway led the assemblage in the salute to the flag.

Public Comments (For Current Agenda Items Only, Limited to 3 minutes per person)

Council President Shortway asked for a motion to open the meeting to public comments.
Moved: Andrew Pitsker
Second: Kelly Weller
All members present voted in favor.

Mike Furry - Vernon Township, spoke as resident in reference to the purchase of the Baldwin property. He said the property is currently not in the sewer service area or the proposed sewer service area. It is an environmentally sensitive area by the NJ DEP because of bobcats and other things that occur on the property. Mr. Furry feels that because it is an environmentally sensitive area you could not run sewer lines and it is highly unlikely to get a permit for a septic of a well. He feels the township is doing the right thing by purchasing this property for open space and including it into the town center trail is a great idea and a great amenity for the town. He encourages everyone on the Council to vote yes for the purchase of the property to continue the vision of the town center trail.

Ed DeYoung - Vernon Township, a member of the Economic Development Advisory Committee. He told Council President Shortway that his comments on Facebook were both unprofessional and demeaning to the members of the Economic Development Advisory Committee. He does not understand at this point in time and 5 or 6 months after we sent a letter to the Mayor, you put something on public Facebook without contacting any member of the EDAC or attending a meeting. We sent a letter to the Mayor in September and we stated our opinion of the Baldwin Property and the renaming of Main Street. We are an advisory committee only and we sent an advisory opinion to the Mayor. Mr. DeYoung said if Council President Shortway disagreed with that he should of in a professional manner responded to the Committee or attended one of their meetings to tell us why you disagreed with that. Mr. DeYoung asked to stop with the Facebook post and stop arguing with people. Mr. DeYoung is offended as a member of EDAC.

Sean Clarkin - Vernon Township, feels that Mr. Furry is degrading the property from the best use of the property. Based on the bobcats and the environmentally sensitive area none of this was mentioned in the appraisal. The appraisal appraised the property at $289,000 which is $40,000 an acre and it was not mentioned that you could not run sewer. Mr. Clarkin feels that because of the environmental issues, the bobcats and not being able to connect to the sewer, that this property is useless. He does not understand why we are paying top dollar for this property that the Baldwin Family cannot get rid of. Mr. Clarkin feels that based on what Mr. Furry says we are overpaying on this property.

Jessica Paladini - Vernon Township, said the issue of the bobcats is ridiculous and she wants to see that in writing by an expert. She said the pump station is right next to this property so how can it not be commercially zoned. Ms. Paladini cannot believe that this property cannot be hooked up to the sewer system. She said that if it is true that this property is not developable then what we are willing to pay for this property is outrageous. Ms. Paladini said the EDAC reported information that was in the appraisal for this property.

Dylan Thompson owner of H& H Plaza, Vernon, chatted a message saying that a trail right behind my plaza is not the best use of land. I pay $44,000 in real estate taxes and $16,000 in MUA. I need help as a business owner in Vernon for taxes and MUA fees. We need that land developed to help us.

Sean Mazar - Vernon sent an email: The purpose of resolution 21-64 should not be limited to just updating the master plan in regards to only the open space and recreation aspect in order to apply for the Conformance Grant Program. But rather it should certainly include reinstating the Historic Preservation Commission. The HPC has long been a part of Vernon’s Master plan. For those council members whom are not aware of this... It’s on the top of page 14 of the 2016 update to the Master Plan which was also prepared by Jessica C. Caldwell PP. Since this council clearly lacks a qualified design professional in its ranks. I offer this important fact. The Conformance Grant Program is intended for innovative proposals that will implement the goals, policies and objectives of the Highlands Regional Master Plan known as the RMP. The RMP program provides planning grants designed to protect and enhance resources including but not limited to environmental, historic, cultural, farmland, open space, shade tree, green building/energy, and/or pedestrian trail resources. Grants can also apply to sustainable economic development (including downtown revitalization), tourism planning, Highlands environmental education, agricultural business retention/enhancement, and any other RMP-compatible initiatives. Please go forth knowing that the Highlands Regional Master Plan is not just about recreation and open space as Resolution 21-64 is misleading Vernon citizens to believe. In addition, I see no sense in even paying Jessica Caldwell’s professional fee to update Vernon’s Master Plan when we have a council that has a history of ignoring all the sections of the master plan that are not consistent with their personal agendas such as Mr. Shortway and his trails to nowhere.

Diane Thompson, Family owns H&H Plaza, is concerned about what is going to be behind her building. Explained she pays high taxes and MUA fees. She feels the Council needs to slow down with this derision. Ms. Thompson said she would love to make improvements to her building but her taxes are too high for that, and the town does nothing to help. She is concerned about traffic and people trying to park in her back parking lot.

Ann Larson - Vernon Township, is confused about conflicting information about the Baldwin Property. She said some are saying this property is unbuildable and cannot hook up to the sewers and others are saying it is. Ms. Larson also feels that if the property is unbuildable, that is too expensive a price to pay. Ms. Larson thought that when Mr. Mulvahill gave us an easement the purchase of other property would not be necessary for the trail.

Seeing no other members of the public wishing to speak, Council President Shortway asked for a motion to close the meeting for public comments.
Motion: Kelly Weller
Second: Andrew Pitsker
All members were in favor.

Minutes

February 8, 2021 - Executive Session
February 8, 2021 - Regular Meeting

Council President Shortway asked for a motion to approve the above minutes.
Moved: Andrew Pitsker
Second: Toni Cilli

A roll call vote was taken:
Ayes: Cilli, Pitsker, Weller, Shortway
Nays:
Abstain:
Absent: Auberger

Resolutions

Resolution #21-63: Resolution Authorizing an Agreement with J. Caldwell & Associates, LLC’s Proposal for an Open Space and Recreation Plan Update

No Vote for resolution #21-63

Resolution #21-64: Resolution Authorizing an Agreement with The Land Conservancy of New Jersey’s Proposal for an Open Space and Recreation Plan Update

Council President Shortway read the title of Resolution #21-64

Council President Shortway asked for a motion to approve resolution #21-64.
Moved: Toni Cilli
Second: Kelly Weller

A roll call vote was taken:
Ayes: Cilli, Pitsker, Weller, Shortway
Nays:
Abstain:
Absent: Auberger
Motion passed to approve Resolution #21-64.

Resolution #21-64: Resolution Authorizing an Agreement with The Land Conservancy of New Jersey’s Proposal for an Open Space and Recreation Plan Update

WHEREAS, the Highlands Act created the Highlands Protection Fund and authorized the Highlands Council to develop a grant program to provide municipalities with funding for the reasonable expenses incurred in revising local master plans, development regulations, or other regulations as needed to conform to the Highlands Regional Master Plan; and

WHEREAS, the Highlands Council has established a Plan Conformance Grant Program for Highlands Municipalities to fund municipal Plan Conformance activities for lands within the Preservation Area where conformance is mandatory, as well as in the Planning Area were conformance is voluntary; and

WHEREAS, the Township of Vernon (“Township”) has a need to update its Open Space and Recreation Plan in order to apply for the Plan Conformance Grant Program; and

WHEREAS, The Land Conservancy of New Jersey has submitted a proposal to conduct the Open Space and Recreation Plan update; and

WHEREAS, The Land Conservancy of New Jersey has been deemed qualified to provide these services; and

WHEREAS, a determination has been made that it is in the best interest of the Township of Vernon to accept the proposal and enter into a contract The Land Conservancy of New Jersey.

NOW, THEREFORE, BE IT RESOLVED, that the Township Council of the Township of Vernon hereby accepts the attached proposal from The Land Conservancy of New Jersey and authorizes the Mayor to execute an agreement with The Land Conservancy of New Jersey in accordance with the proposal. The Township Attorney may make modifications deemed in the best interest of the Township.

Resolution #21-71: Resolution Authorizing the Execution of a Shared Services Agreement between the Township of Vernon and the Borough of Franklin for Animal Control Services

Council Member Cilli asked if the Vernon Animal Control has the manpower for this.

Administrator Voelker explained that this would have no impact on them. This is a renewal for a three-year contract. Mr. Voelker also explained that the contract for Montague will be a trial period for one year.

Council President Shortway read the title of Resolution #21-71

Council President Shortway asked for a motion to approve resolution #21-71.
Moved: Kelly Weller
Second: Toni Cilli

A roll call vote was taken:
Ayes: Cilli, Pitsker, Weller, Shortway
Nays:
Abstain:
Absent: Auberger
Motion passed to approve Resolution #21-71.

Resolution #21-71: Resolution Authorizing the Execution of a Shared Services Agreement between the Township of Vernon and the Borough of Franklin for Animal Control Services

WHEREAS, the Borough of Franklin has requested that the Township of Vernon (“Township”) provide animal control services whenever there is a need for an animal control officer in the Borough of Franklin; and

WHEREAS, the request has been reviewed and approved by the appropriate Township officials; and

WHEREAS, the Township is willing to provide animal control services to the Borough of Franklin and this is deemed in the best interest of the Township; and

WHEREAS, such agreements are authorized pursuant to the Uniform Shared Services Consolidation Act, N.J.S.A. 40A:65-1 et. seq.; and

WHEREAS, a shared services agreement has been negotiated by and between the parties and that establishes the terms and conditions thereof.

NOW, THEREFORE, BE IT RESOLVED by the Council of the Township of Vernon as follows:

1. The Mayor and Township Clerk are authorized to execute the attached shared services agreement between the Township of Vernon and the Borough of Franklin for animal control services.

2. A copy of said agreement will be attached to this resolution and held on file in the Office of the Township Clerk.

3. A certified copy this resolution shall be forwarded to the Mayor and Clerk of the Borough of Franklin.

Resolution #21-76: Resolution Authorizing the Execution of a Shared Services Agreement between the Township of Vernon and the Township of Montague for Animal Control Services

Council President Shortway read the title of Resolution #21-76.

Council President Shortway asked for a motion to approve resolution #21-76.
Moved: Andrew Pitsker
Second: Kelly Weller

A roll call vote was taken:
Ayes: Cilli, Pitsker, Weller, Shortway
Nays:
Abstain:
Absent: Auberger
Motion passed to approve Resolution #21-76.

Resolution #21-76: Resolution Authorizing the Execution of a Shared Services Agreement between the Township of Vernon and the Township of Montague for Animal Control Services

WHEREAS, the Township of Montague has requested that the Township of Vernon (“Township”) provide animal control services whenever there is a need for an animal control officer in the Township of Montague; and

WHEREAS, the request has been reviewed and approved by the appropriate Township officials; and

WHEREAS, the Township is willing to provide animal control services to the Township of Montague and this is deemed in the best interest of the Township; and

WHEREAS, such agreements are authorized pursuant to the Uniform Shared Services Consolidation Act, N.J.S.A. 40A:65-1 et. seq.; and

WHEREAS, a shared services agreement has been negotiated by and between the parties and that establishes the terms and conditions thereof.

NOW, THEREFORE, BE IT RESOLVED by the Council of the Township of Vernon as follows:

1. The Mayor and Township Clerk are authorized to execute the attached shared services agreement between the Township of Vernon and the Township of Montague for animal control services.

2. A copy of said agreement will be attached to this resolution and held on file in the Office of the Township Clerk.

3. A certified copy this resolution shall be forwarded to the Mayor and Clerk of the Township of Montague.

Resolution #21-77: Resolution Accepting the Completion of Road Improvement Project to Lake Pochung Road-Phase II

Council President Shortway read the title of Resolution #21-77

Council President Shortway asked for a motion to approve resolution #21-77.
Moved: Kelly Weller
Second: Andrew Pitsker

A roll call vote was taken:
Ayes: Cilli, Pitsker, Weller, Shortway
Nays:
Abstain:
Absent: Auberger
Motion passed to approve Resolution #21-77.

Resolution #21-77: Resolution Accepting the Completion of Road Improvement Project to Lake Pochung Road-Phase II

WHEREAS, the Township awarded contracts for the Lake Pochung Road Phase II Improvement Project to Tilcon New York, Inc., Denville Line Painting, Road Safety Systems, LLC, and General Foundries, awarded by Resolution #20-187 on September 14, 2020, and

WHEREAS, the Lake Pochung Road Phase II Improvement Project has been completed, and inspected as per the plans and specifications; and

WHEREAS, the Township Engineer has submitted a letter dated January 27, 2021 which states that the said contracts have been completed in full and that it is recommended that the Lake Pochung Road Phase II Road Project be accepted by the Township Council.

NOW, THEREFORE BE IT RESOLVED, that the Vernon Township Council accept this project identified as Lake Pochung Road Phase II Road Improvement Project as final and complete; and

BE IT FURTHUR RESOLVED, that this Resolution shall take effect immediately upon adoption according to law.

Resolution #21-78: Authorizing Change Order #1 of Contract for Milling & Paving Breakneck Road Phase II with Tilcon New York, Inc.

Council President Shortway read the title of Resolution #21-78

Council President Shortway asked for a motion to approve resolution #21-78.
Moved: Kelly Weller
Second: Toni Cilli

A roll call vote was taken:
Ayes: Cilli, Pitsker, Weller, Shortway
Nays:
Abstain:
Absent: Auberger
Motion passed to approve Resolution #21-78.

Resolution #21-78: Authorizing Change Order #1 of Contract for Milling & Paving Breakneck Road Phase II with Tilcon New York, Inc.

WHEREAS, on September 14, 2020, by way of adoption of Resolutions #20-188 and #20-261, the Council of the Township of Vernon awarded a contract to Tilcon New York, Inc. for Milling & Paving for Breakneck Road Phase II which contract provided for an expenditure of $204,070.80; and

WHEREAS, the Township Engineer states that the contract requires a Change Order #1 for one (1) supplemental item in amount of $8,576.64; and by the reduction of three (3) items in amount of $28,837.87 resulting in an adjusted total contract amount of $183,809.57; and

WHEREAS, the Township Engineer, in concurrence with the Mayor, recommends approving Change Order No. 1 which will decrease the total contract amount by $20,261.23 to an adjusted total contract amount of $183,809.57.

NOW THEREFORE BE IT RESOLVED, by the Council of the Township of Vernon that it hereby approves the Township Engineer’s recommendations and authorizes the Mayor to execute said Change Order No. 1 for said project decreasing the total contract amount with Tilcon New York, Inc. to $183,809.57; and

BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED that certified copies of this Resolution be forwarded to Tilcon New York, Inc. and the Township Engineer.

Resolution #21-79: Authorizing Change Order #1 of Contract for Milling & Paving Lake Pochung Road Phase II with Tilcon New York, Inc.

Council President Shortway read the title of Resolution #21-79

Council President Shortway asked for a motion to approve resolution #21-79.
Moved: Toni Cilli
Second: Kelly Weller

A roll call vote was taken:
Ayes: Cilli, Pitsker, Weller, Shortway
Nays:
Abstain:
Absent: Auberger
Motion passed to approve Resolution #21-79.

Resolution #21-79: Authorizing Change Order #1 of Contract for Milling & Paving Lake Pochung Road Phase II with Tilcon New York, Inc.

WHEREAS, on September 14, 2020, by way of adoption of Resolution #20-187, the Council of the Township of Vernon awarded a contract to Tilcon New York, Inc. for Milling & Paving for Lake Pochung Road - Phase II which contract provided for an expenditure of $262,868.30; and

WHEREAS, the Township Engineer states that the contract requires a Change Order #1 for one (1) supplemental item in amount of $9,112.68 and by the reduction of four (4) items in amount of $45,037.84 resulting in an adjusted total contract amount of $226,943.14; and

WHEREAS, the Township Engineer, in concurrence with the Mayor, recommends approving Change Order No. 1 which will decrease the total contract amount by $45,037.84 to an adjusted total contract amount of $226,943.14.

NOW THEREFORE BE IT RESOLVED, by the Council of the Township of Vernon that it hereby approves the Township Engineer’s recommendations and authorizes the Mayor to execute said Change Order No. 1 for said project decreasing the total contract amount with Tilcon New York, Inc. to $226,943.14; and

BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED that certified copies of this Resolution be forwarded to Tilcon New York, Inc. and the Township Engineer.

Resolution #21-80: Authorizing Change Order #1 of Contract for Milling & Paving Pleasant Valley Drive with Tilcon New York, Inc.

Council President Shortway read the title of Resolution #21-80

Council President Shortway asked for a motion to approve resolution #21-80.
Moved: Toni Cilli
Second: Kelly Weller

A roll call vote was taken:
Ayes: Cilli, Pitsker, Weller, Shortway
Nays:
Abstain:
Absent: Auberger
Motion passed to approve Resolution #21-80.

Resolution #21-80: Authorizing Change Order #1 of Contract for Milling & Paving Pleasant Valley Drive with Tilcon New York, Inc.

WHEREAS, on September 14, 2020, by way of adoption of Resolution #20-186, the Council of the Township of Vernon awarded a contract to Tilcon New York, Inc. for Milling & Paving for Pleasant Valley Drive which contract provided for an expenditure of $56,653.65; and

WHEREAS, the Township Engineer states that the contract requires a Change Order #1 for one (1) supplemental item in amount of $3,216.24; one (1) extra item in the amount of $$1,842.72 and by the reduction of four (4) items in amount of $9,710.54 resulting in an adjusted total contract amount of $52,002.07; and

WHEREAS, the Township Engineer, in concurrence with the Mayor, recommends approving Change Order No. 1 which will decrease the total contract amount by $4,651.58 to an adjusted total contract amount of $52,002.07.

NOW THEREFORE BE IT RESOLVED, by the Council of the Township of Vernon that it hereby approves the Township Engineer’s recommendations and authorizes the Mayor to execute said Change Order No. 1 for said project decreasing the total contract amount with Tilcon New York, Inc. to $52,002.07; and

BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED that certified copies of this Resolution be forwarded to Tilcon New York, Inc. and the Township Engineer.

Resolution #21-81: Authorizing an Agreement with the County of Sussex, Department of Human Services, Division of Social Services, for Transportation Services for Senior Citizens and People with Disabilities who Reside in Vernon Township for the Year 2021 in the Amount of $50,000 Per Year

Council President Shortway read the title of Resolution #21-81

Council President Shortway asked for a motion to approve resolution #21-81.
Moved: Toni Cilli
Second: Kelly Weller

A roll call vote was taken:
Ayes: Cilli, Pitsker, Weller, Shortway
Nays:
Abstain:
Absent: Auberger
Motion passed to approve Resolution #21-81.

Resolution #21-81: Authorizing an Agreement with the County of Sussex, Department of Human Services, Division of Social Services, for Transportation Services for Senior Citizens and People with Disabilities who Reside in Vernon Township for the Year 2021 in the Amount of $50,000 Per Year

WHEREAS, the County of Sussex (hereinafter the County) operates a coordinated, countrywide transportation system and desires to improve paratransit service coverage to the outlying areas of its geographic boundaries; and

WHEREAS, the Township of Vernon (hereinafter the Township) desires transportation for its senior citizens and people with disabilities as per the service agreement; and

WHEREAS, the term of the agreement will be in effect beginning January 1, 2021 and terminating on December 31, 2021; and

WHEREAS, the cost of these services will not exceed $50,000.00 per year; and

WHEREAS, the Chief Financial Officer has certified the funds for 2021 subject to the adoption of the 2021 Municipal Budget.

NOW THEREFORE BE IT RESOLVED, the 22nd day of February, 2021 by the Township Council of the Township of Vernon, County of Sussex and State of New Jersey as follows:

1. The Township of Vernon is authorized to engage the County of Sussex for the purpose of Transportation for Senior Citizens and People with Disabilities in accordance with the attached agreement; and

2. The Mayor and Township Clerk are hereby authorized and directed to execute an Agreement with the County of Sussex, State of New Jersey.

Resolution #21-82: Authorizing the Release of a Restoration Bond for Crystal Springs Builders, LLC PB#6-06-8 for 12 Old Rudetown Road, Block 607 Lot 43 (Former Block 270 Lots 11 & 26)

Council Member Pitsker made a motion to postpone resolution #21-82. Seconded by Council Member Cilli.
Moved: Andrew Pitsker
Second: Toni Cilli

A roll call vote was taken:
Ayes: Cilli, Pitsker, Weller, Shortway
Nays:
Abstain:
Absent: Auberger
Motion passed to postpone resolution #21-82.

Resolution #21-82: Authorizing the Release of a Restoration Bond for Crystal Springs Builders, LLC PB#6-06-8 for 12 Old Rudetown Road, Block 607 Lot 43 (Former Block 270 Lots 11 & 26)

WHEREAS, Crystal Springs Builders, LLC. was approved for a 9 Hole Golf Course on Block 607 Lot 43 (former Block 270 Lots 11 and 26) in the Township of Vernon, pursuant to the Planning Board File PB#6-06-8; and

WHEREAS, Chrystal Springs Builders, LLC has made a request for a restoration bond to be released in full; and

WHEREAS, the Vernon Township Engineer has reviewed said request and based on reviews of as-built plans and available documentation, recommends to approve the release of the $10,000 restoration bond.

NOW THEREFORE BE IT RESOLVED, the Township Council of the Township of Vernon, County of Sussex, hereby approves and authorizes that the restoration bond in the amount of $10,000 is to be released in its entirety.

Public Hearing/2nd Reading of Ordinances

Ordinance #21-05: An Ordinance Amending the Vernon Township Administrative Code Chapter 250, Article II Fees and Escrows Enumerated in Section 250-15 Relating to Animal Control

Council President Shortway read by title Ordinance #21-05.

Council President Shortway asked for a motion to open public hearing for Ordinance #21-05.
Moved: Kelly Weller
Second: Andrew Pitsker
All members were in favor.

Seeing no one wishing to come forward, Council President Shortway asked for a motion to close public hearing for Ordinance #21-05.
Moved: Kelly Weller
Second: Toni Cilli
All members were in favor.

Council President Shortway asked for a motion to adopt Ordinance #21-05.
Moved: Andrew Pitsker
Second: Kelly Weller

A roll call vote was taken:
Ayes: Cilli, Pitsker, Weller, Shortway
Nays:
Abstain:
Absent: Auberger
Motion passed to adopt Ordinance #21-05

Ordinance #21-06: An Ordinance of the Township of Vernon, County of Sussex, State of New Jersey, Authorizing Purchase of Real Property Commonly Known as 8-20 Black Creek Drive and Identified as Lot 12, Block 391 on the Tax Map of the Township of Vernon

Council President Shortway read by title Ordinance #21-06.

Council President Shortway asked for a motion to open public hearing for Ordinance #21-06.
Moved: Andrew Pitsker
Second: Kelly Weller
All members were in favor.

Ed Brown - Vernon Township, emailed I believe that the Baldwin Property purchase will be a great asset for the town to pick up on in terms of expanding our recreational activities. The town needs more options to help move forward in a good way, this would be one of them.

Peg Distasi - Vernon Township, emailed as you are aware, in support of the long-term economic development efforts for our town, it’s our collective belief that the best place to locate this amenity is in the Town Center area, off of Black Creek Drive, where the existence of sewer service lines and capabilities greatly enhances the potential for this amenity to be an attraction for additional needed businesses and services for the residents of our town. On May 28, 2020, Councilwoman Murphy made this statement: Council Member Murphy explained that Mayor Burrell has been in touch with Andy Mulahill to inquire a sewer easement. Council Member Murphy questioned why we would be taking a ten-acre piece of property out of the sewer service area when we are trying to get people to buy property in the sewer service area to develop. If Vernon buys this property for a trail there will be no development on the property. Council Member Murphy said a couple of years ago the voters did agree to have 30% come out of Open Space Fund to use for trails. Council President states, in various places, that Open Space Funds will be used to purchase the Baldwin property. It is clear to me that there is misinformation about the use of the Open Space Fund, as there are different opinions being stated. It is my understanding that money from our Open Space Fund can only be used for passive recreation and can never be developed, never have structures, never be paved, can only be used for green reasons. See original ordinance. The statement is made that tax payers will not pay for the purchase! Are you forgetting that, WE, the taxpayers, paid into that fund for 10 years. So, in my opinion, that is our money that is paying for this! And we will pay again, because by removing this acreage from the sewer service area this property will be removed from the tax rolls, greatly increasing taxes in the future. In addition, by removing this piece from the sewer service area, it will reduce the potential for development which could increase the costs for existing sewer users. It is time to stop this wasteful spending of taxpayer’s monies. The Open Space Fund is not a personal slush fund to be wasted! It was paid into by taxpayers over a ten-year period. To say that it will not cost the taxpayers is erroneous. It is our money, our tax dollars, and we should have a say in how it is spent. I oppose the purchase of the Baldwin Property with Open Space Funds for the reasons stated above, and it is not the best utilization of the lot.

Eric Gorovoy Residing 5 Halls Hill, Village of Lake Glenwood, & 1 Silver Spruce Drive, both in the Township of Vernon. Emailed the Council. My Questions for Township Council and Mayor H. Burrell are as follows; Please Clarify why this proposed current ordinance 21-06 authorizing the purchase of Block 391 Lot 12 on the Tax Map of Vernon Township is still necessary, and how the Council intends on using this parcel when it is CLEARLY no Longer required to complete the proposed trail system envisioned by Council President Shortway and our sitting council members? Town Council has already approved ordinance 20-17 and 20-18 which accepted and adopted the granting of easements by the owner of the 2 separate Parcels A.K.A Block 395 Lot 4, and Block 395 Lot 5, both recorded on the Tax Map of Vernon Township, with the intended purpose and use of/for the proposed trail system. With these previously granted easements in mind, what purpose will the purchase of vacant land referred in proposed ordinance 21-06 serve, and how will it impact Vernons’ Citizens, your constituents & SCMUA? How does ordinance 21-06 aid the taxpayer’s impact with gaining ratables in line with town council goals/visions of growing “town Center,” obtaining desperately needed EDUs for the reduction of operating costs associated with VTSCMUA and decrease of our taxes? Would it be prudent to NOT follow thru with Ordinance 21-06 intended to purchase parcel A.K.A. 8-20 Black Creek Drive, Block 391 Lot 12 and leave it open and available for private purchase which must eventually hook into the SCMUA system?? Leaving this Parcel open for private sale would not only generate Real Estate Tax revenue, MUA income, and EDUs for offsetting tax rates in the township when acquired in the future. Please explain at length the answers for transparency & further understanding for us, your constituents!!

Sean Clarkin - Vernon Township, feels that when Mr. Furry speaks it would be interesting we indicate how many town contracts Mr. Furry holds. He does extensive business with the school district and many other aspects of the town. He said having Mr. Furry come on and speak as an expert, it needs to be disclosed that he may be looking for a contract.

Jessica Paladini - Vernon Township, said in an appraisal dated August 21, 2018 Joshua Mackoff, LLC said the Baldwin Property is zoned Town Center. Town Center use is basically commercial which limits its potential to varied commercial development. The appraisal states that the best use for the property is commercial development and it is in close proximity to the entire commercial area. He also wrote it is able to hook up to the public sewerage system. Ms. Paladini feels that the Chair of the MUA gave out false and erroneous information.

Seeing no one else wishing to come forward, Council President Shortway asked for a motion to close public hearing for Ordinance #21-06.
Moved: Toni Cilli
Second: Andrew Pitsker
All members were in favor.

Council Member Pitsker did some investigation on comps and some in town are rather high. He said you have to go outside of town to find the same size property. He said the price for the property is a little high but based on the plan the Mayor has put out and what this trail and pump track will do, Council Member Pitsker is looking to support this. He knows we have moneys from Open Space that we are going to be applying for grants.

Mayor Burrell said that this property is not in the sewer service area. He said in fact some of the sewer service area that has been approved, the DEP asked us to take a look at the property because of “bobcat crossings.” This property is farmland assessed and we get about $28.00 a year in taxes. He feels that anybody who tries to use this property for commercial purposes would have to apply to the DEP and he does not feel that would be approved. Mayor Burrell explained that this property is eligible to be purchased from the Open Space Fund. The town has applied for an Open Space Grant from the Sussex County Open Space Fund and they have granted us a $75,000 grant. We are also pursuing other Open Space funds which we feel we have a good chance of getting. Mayor Burrell feels we have done a lot of research on this and we need to move forward. The town must do three things to purchase this property starting with, getting a clear phase 1 environmental assessment, receiving a title report reflecting the current owners clear title report to the property and to secure Open Space Funds to cover the cost of the purchase.

Council Member Pitsker said if anyone wants to validate the bob cat issue, they can contact Paul Demuro of the NJ DEP.

Mayor Burrell said that Mr. Demuro met with them and they spoke about expanding the sewer service area. Mr. Demuro said there are a couple bob cat crossings that he would like to take out of the sewer service area.

Council President Shortway asked for a motion to adopt Ordinance #21-06.
Moved: Toni Cilli
Second: Kelly Weller

A roll call vote was taken:
Ayes: Cilli, Pitsker, Weller, Shortway
Nays:
Abstain:
Absent: Auberger
Motion passed to adopt Ordinance #21-06

Ordinance #21-07: An Ordinance Amending Article XII Stormwater Management of the Township of Vernon Code

Council President Shortway read by title Ordinance #21-07.

Council President Shortway asked for a motion to open public hearing for Ordinance #21-07.
Moved: Kelly Weller
Second: Andrew Pitsker
All members were in favor.

Seeing no one wishing to come forward, Council President Shortway asked for a motion to close public hearing for Ordinance #21-07.
Moved: Toni Cilli
Second: Kelly Weller
All members were in favor.

Council President Shortway asked for a motion to adopt Ordinance #21-07.
Moved: Andrew Pitsker
Second: Kelly Weller

A roll call vote was taken:
Ayes: Cilli, Pitsker, Weller, Shortway
Nays:
Abstain:
Absent: Auberger
Motion passed to adopt Ordinance #21-07

Ordinance #21-08: Ordinance of the Township of Vernon, County of Sussex, State of New Jersey, Amending Chapter 330 Entitled “Land Development” to Regulate Multi-Generational Family Accommodations

Council President Shortway read by title Ordinance #21-08.

Council President Shortway asked for a motion to open public hearing for Ordinance #21-08.
Moved: Andrew Pitsker
Second: Kelly Weller
All members were in favor.

Seeing no one wishing to come forward, Council President Shortway asked for a motion to close public hearing for Ordinance #21-08.
Moved: Toni Cilli
Second: Andrew Pitsker
All members were in favor.

Council President Shortway asked for a motion to adopt Ordinance #21-08.
Moved: Andrew Pitsker
Second: Toni Cilli

A roll call vote was taken:
Ayes: Cilli, Pitsker, Weller, Shortway
Nays:
Abstain:
Absent: Auberger
Motion passed to adopt Ordinance #21-08

Public Comments (Limited to 3 Minutes On Any Topic)

Council President Shortway asked for a motion to open the meeting for public comments.
Motion: Andrew Pitsker
Second: Kelly Weller
All members were in favor.

Peg Distasi - Vernon Township, spoke about the purchase of the Baldwin property and ordinance #21-06 saying the people of Vernon are against this. She made the Council aware that a petition will be circulating to oppose and repeal this ordinance and will be available for signatures in the next 48 hours.

Jessica Paladini - Vernon Township. quoted Mayor Burrell’s comments at a September 2020 Township Council meeting “I invite those who have seemly made it their mission to delay or stifle our community’s efforts to build our town’s Bicycle Pump Track in the area that’s parallel to State Route 94, where the Town Center Bike and Walking Trail is planned, and where the town already has sewer service lines and capability. which will be a positive factor that will attract more paying MUA customers.” Ms. Paladini said now you changed have this and made it open space.

Ms. Paladini announced the notification by our Federal Government that Vernon Township is now the Western Highlands National Scenic Byway. We are one of thirty-four municipalities across the country to get this designation. Ms. Paladini thanked the Vernon Historical Society and Shawn Mazar for making this happen.

Sean Clarkin - Vernon Township, said that Vernon has a large number of real estate professionals that vary from residential to commercial. Having a Town Council Member going to Zillow looking at active comps that have been on the market for years and comparing those properties that are listed for sale at exorbitant prices compared to those properties that have sold is totally not the way to do it. If you have an appraisal it has the comps in it.

Mr. Clarkin expressed concern that the abandoned house policy is being applied to individual citizens when Council President Shortway said it was intended for corporations. Mr. Clarkin questioned why are we going after taxpayers when it was meant to go after banks, when he asked why previously, the attorney responded that we haven’t been sued so why not keep doing it. This not an attorney he would want to work for him. He is hired and paid for with tax dollars.

Mr. Clarkin feels that there are other citizens who would like to be on committees and doesn’t understand why certain people should be on multiple committees.

Mr. Clarkin also feels that the meetings should be published earlier to increase citizen’s participation in public meetings. He said the Zoom link should be up before Friday night.

Eric Gorovoy, Vernon Township, said the Council did not address his questions regarding the ordinance to purchase the vacant land. One of his questions was is it necessary to purchase this parcel when it is no longer needed to complete the potential trail system, especially since the Council has already been granted easements in accordance with the previously approved ordinances 20-17 and 20-18.

Harris Salomon - Vernon Township, sent an emailed. I am a 30-year second home owner in Vernon Township and a television and motion picture producer in Manhattan. I would like to suggest that Vernon explore getting an electric vehicle charging station installed somewhere in the township. Either as a public or public/private partnership.

I own an EV and there is no charging station in Vernon. There are three in Warwick including one owned by the village placed in the village parking lot. They charge a small fee for its use.

There are two types of chargers. Level two regular charge and level three fast charge. Although a level three fast dc charger might be expensive for the town to install, a level two charger can cost as little as a few hundred dollars. There are also many tax incentives on a state and federal level that reduce the cost considerably. A level two charger runs off 240 volts like a washing machine.

Perhaps it could be a requirement of the new Circle K to install a high-speed charger when they open across from the Acme?

By the way, there was a level two charger at Smokey’s Pizza, but I understand it has not worked in over a year? Perhaps, they could get it working again? I am sure they get a tax credit when they built it?

For a green community as Vernon having an EV charger makes clear where we stand. It also is important for visitors who come to our town who might need a quick charge. As I mentioned, right now the nearest charger is 10 miles away.

I have asked Comet Management at Great Gorge Village about installing a charger. There seemed to be little interest from Alan Ajamian one of the administrators. There was no response to emails sent to Joe Heshian at Mountain Creek.

I would be willing to devote my time to work without community to see if we can move this forward.

Ann Larson - Vernon Township, said the last thing she wants to pay for is Mr. Salomon’s charging station. Ms. Larson asked if Council Member Pitsker found the sale of the vacant land in the township that sold to a local businessman fronting on State Highway 94. She does not think it is inline with the purchase price of the Baldwin property. She hopes there is some soil testing and environmental testing and we are just not signing a blank check.

Seeing no other members of the public wishing to speak, Council President Shortway asked for a motion to close the meeting for public comments.
Motion: Kelly Weller
Second: Toni Cilli
All members were in favor.

Mayor’s Comments

Mr. Council President and other Council Members, as part of the team approach that the Mayor and Council takes in our collective efforts to Move Vernon Forward, and to do so in the most cost effective and efficient manner, my direction to the municipal staff is that we should always actively look for, and take maximum advantage of, all discovered opportunities to apply for the type of grants and other state and federal support, that will enable the Mayor and Council to secure the funds, the services, the equipment, and/or the supplies that will benefit our town, without us having to spend local taxpayers’ dollars.

On tonight, I use my comments to inform you and our constituents, the residents of Vernon Township, of just two of the most recent successes that we have had in obtaining these types of resources for our town.

SUCCESSFUL EFFORT # 1: As part of the Mayor and Council’s joint efforts to ensure that Vernon Township remains an environmentally beautiful and safe town, Business Administrator Voelker applied to the New Jersey DEP to have Vernon Township selected to be one of the 11 municipalities that would be included in the initial launch of the New Jersey DEP’s new and creative initiative to support municipalities in combatting illegal dumping.

Thanks to the superior application prepared by Business Administrator Voelker, I am proud and pleased to report that Vernon Township, along with the municipalities of Fairfield, Newark, Salem, Camden, Vineland, Jersey City, Secaucus, Trenton, Linden, and Paterson were selected for inclusion in the initial launch of this new, creative initiative.

And I am also proud to say that Vernon Township, was the only municipality honored with this selection in Sussex County and in Northwest New Jersey.

This new initiative will be fully financed and facilitated by the DEP, with assistance from the Attorney General’s office.

The DEP and the Attorney General’s office will:

1. Procure and provide our town special equipment, such as a state-of-the-art Q-Star Technology FlashCam deterrent camera system;

2. Provide special training for our Zoning and Code Enforcement Officials on the operation of this state-of-the-art equipment, and on the specifics of the implementation of a creative, local level illegal dumping program; and ...

3. Provide additional guidance and training on pathways for both, civil and criminal enforcement, of our local and state illegal dumping laws.

Our participation in this new initiative from the DEP and the Attorney General’s office will be an important complement to our current local anti- dumping efforts.

As the Council knows, illegal dumping not only harms the beauty and safety of our town’s environment, it can also drive down property values and hinder the attraction of commercial organizations that might want to investment dollars and services in our community.

We never want this to happened, and especially not at this time when the Mayor and Council are uniquely focused on trying to enhance economic development in our town.

Getting selected to be one of the 11 municipalities to participate in this new and creative DEP initiative is a positive for our own and for our taxpayers.

SUCCESSFUL EFFORT # 2: As a result of the close corporative work between our Chief Financial Officer, Ms. Donelle Bright, and our Chief of Police, Mr. Dan Young, they discovered a way that our town could be eligible to receive an electrical Message Center Board for our municipal building, through the federal CARES Act.

Chief Financial Officer Bright completed the extensive paperwork required to apply for this Message Center Board; and Ms. Michelle Downtain, our Director of Community Development, is managing the planning, organizing, and coordinating functions that are essential to getting this Message Center Board installed in the front of the Municipal Center in the very near future.

I end my comments by informing those who may not know, that I consider myself to be very fortunate to have a municipal staff that has embraced the challenge that I have given them. And that challenge is that we, as a municipal team, never forget that we work for the people of Vernon Township.

And in that regard, we should continuously look for opportunities where we may be able to obtain resources that will benefit our town, at limited or no expense to local taxpayers.

These two successful efforts are but just two of the recent successes that have resulted from their embrace of my challenge, and that have contributed to the Mayor and Council’s joint efforts to Move Vernon Forward!

Council Comments

Council Member Weller thanked the DPW for once again being out in anther snowstorm, they keep our roads safe. Council Member Weller said she appreciates everyone concerns about commercial development however we have many properties that are vacant and have been vacant for years. She said she would love to see a restaurant or a shop or any type of retail. Unfortunately, we do not see those businesses coming to us. We have to take what we can get. Circle K is not the ideal situation but it is a place to start and it will be better then to allow that area to just decrease in value.

Council Member Pitsker thanked Mr. Clarkin for his comments and explained that we did get professional appraisals done, he was fact checking around and doing his homework. He is not a professional real estate agent and he thought the numbers were a bit inflated but looking around there is quite a broad array. Council Member Pitsker said he volunteered for the MUA before he was appointed then elected to the Council, and he urges any resident to join us. There are plenty of seats for citizens to not only voice their opinion but to bring solutions. Council Member Pitsker said we are going to try to have the backup for resolutions and ordinances on the township website. He said the notice of Council meetings and the agenda were posted on Thursday and if anyone is having problems getting this information to let us know.

Council Member Cilli asked Mayor Burrell if any restaurant or any other business come forward with interest in going where the Circle K is proposing?

Mayor Burrell said Circle K went to the property owner. Mayor Burrell explained that most business have difficulty when they going into a town usually and this is usually because of political difficulty. Vernon is an economic development friendly town. Mayor Burrell wants to leave as Mayor knowing that Vernon is better off economically because he and wife are going to live here and are not going anywhere else in the future.

Council Member Cilli said it is either Circle K or nothing.

Mayor Burrell said that is correct. Circle K made an offer to the owner of the property.

Council Member Cilli said she read the redevelopment plan and there are 40 lots in the center of town that have been vacant for over 10 years. She said we are not turning anything down. It is the Circle K or nothing.

Council Member Cilli spoke about liquor licenses saying no one is holding 10 liquor licenses and not giving them out.

Mayor Burrell explained that liquor licenses are due to population cap restrictions, most towns and cities cannot create and bid any “new” retail consumption or retail distribution licenses. This means that the only way for a potential buyer to obtain a licensee is through a person-to-person transfer.

Council Member Cilli commented on Mike Furrey saying he owns a business in town, he is an expert and we are lucky to have him. He has his hand in things to help. He has given out free water samples when people were having trouble with their water. Council Member Cilli said you should not talk about people you do not know. Mike Furrey is a good man and he does good things for our town that he lives in.

Mayor Burrell said because of Mike Furrey the MUA fees did not go up for the first time in years and that is because he cut costs.

Council President Comments

Let’s remember who really broke Silver Spruce, Mike Furrey tested the soils at his cost and found the carcinogenic materials and that risked his business because he deals with the DEP all the time. He has volunteered free tests in this town. He has given 25 years of volunteer services to Vernon.

False information has been put fourth either out of ignorance or malice regarding elective officials’ initiatives to provide incentives to develop the Town Center. The Baldwin property is not in the Sewer Service Area or the SSA expansion application. Also, it is not the last developable property in the Town Center as claimed by opponents of the economic plan approved by the Governing Body and Mayor.

Much of the false information is contrary to reports and plans provided by our professionals particularly our re-development study.

REDEVELOPMENT Study Report

Before a study area can be deemed an area in need of redevelopment, each parcel must be reviewed against the statutory criteria to determine if at least one criterion is met pursuant to N.J.S.A 40A:12A-5.

We conducted the study between 2017 and 2018. The Study Area is comprised of 172 parcels covering 306.18 acres. The parcels are located in the Town Center area of the municipality along NJSH Route 94, County Route 515, Church Street and Main Street. The map(s) in the study shows the boundaries of the study area. A complete list of the parcels in the study area by tax lot is provided at the end of the report.

Many parcels in the study were identified as stagnant and unproductive although potentially useful and valuable for contributing to and serving the public health, safety and welfare.

There are a total of 172 parcels in the study area, out of which about, 47 parcels (27.17%) are vacant. This totals approximately 101.22 acres (30.5%) of vacant land in the economic center of the Township.

Out of the 47 parcels that are vacant, many parcels although privately-owned, have been vacant for more than 10 years. The fact that the largest portion of the study area that is currently in the Town Center Zone still remains vacant, points predominantly to the fact that the while the area is zoned for commercial and mixed-use development at relatively high densities and in many cases has access to public water and sewer, parcels are not being developed and redeveloped through private capital. Furthermore, incentives to redevelop parcels and assemble parcels is clearly needed in order to support investment by private capital in the study area.

The Baldwin parcel is not in the sewer service area and it is not in the proposed expansion of the sewer service because the NJDEP deems it sensitive to protect wildlife. Only Open Space amenities such as a trail can be developed on the property.

The WESTERN HIGHLANDS SCENIC BYWAY Corridor Plan is a Route for (another) Disaster.

The WESTERN HIGHLANDS SCENIC BYWAY’s present route jeopardizes the wellbeing of potentially hundreds of unsuspecting motorists and their passengers who desire to travel a scenic byway to their planned destination, as well as our residents.

I agree with the concept of the WESTERN HIGHLANDS SCENIC BYWAY Corridor Management Plan including arguments supporting walking and biking paths, however, Route 515 is too dangerous of a roadway to be incorporated into the Byway.

Without consultation with the current Vernon Governing Body the WESTERN HIGHLANDS SCENIC BYWAY received National Scenic Byway designation. As mayor, I refused to provide a letter of support for the project until the county conducted a traffic study and addressed safety concerns.

The risks associated with County Route 515 and parts of State Route 94 are acceptable to the Vernon Township Historical Society, Western Scenic Byway Committee, NJDOT, and the National Scenic Byway Foundation.

Wayne King wrote the following in a NY Times article in July 1992, Fatal New Jersey Crash: Growth and Old Roads. “The three-mile roller-coaster stretch of Route 515 that cascades into this green hamlet in eastern Sussex County has become notorious in recent weeks as the site of two spectacular accidents. But its mean history stretches back well over a decade, and the road is symptomatic of a broader and more pervasive problem in this high corner of New Jersey. A runaway tanker truck careered out of control on Route 515 near aptly named Breakneck Road on July 16, killing its driver, spilling 9,000 gallons of gasoline into a creek and forcing the evacuation of nearby families. Ten days later, a tour bus from Brooklyn hurtled down the same treacherous slope and crashed and burned, killing six more people and injuring more than 50 others.” In 2018, there were two major accidents where trucks careened into other vehicles and a dump truck tipped over.

The WESTERN HIGHLANDS SCENIC BYWAY Corridor Management Plan recognizes the dangers of Route 515 as it descends into the Vernon Town Center and other problems with the Byway route.

. The southern portion of the byway on CR 515 is a narrow, winding, high-speed road that serves as a commuter route. These conditions, and the lack of places to stop, create a challenging environment for visitors attempting to appreciate their surroundings during the drive.

. Due to the relatively high speeds and limited separation between cyclists and vehicles, all segments of the byway were assessed at LTS 4, a level suitable only for the most experienced riders.

. There are limited pedestrian facilities on the byway itself, apart from sidewalks in portions of Vernon Center.

. The Appalachian Trail crosses the byway at NJ 94 (milepost 43.9). An estimated 1,900 through-hikers cross at this spot each year, along with thousands of day hikers. Currently there are no markings or signs to indicate this crossing to motorists.

The Corridor Management Plan study team conducted a high-level safety assessment of byway roads based on crash data for 2014-2016. The data was obtained from the NJDOT Safety Voyager system. CR 515 from MP 8.32-8.55 (in Vernon Center, between Main Street and the NJ 94 intersection); had crash rates exceeding the corresponding statewide rates. Based on this data, several other locations were identified for further investigation these locations include CR 515 in Hardyston, CR 515 just south of Vernon Center, the intersection of NJ 94 and CR 517, and the intersection of CR 644 and CR 517. All of these locations had clusters of night-time and fixed object crashes.

I do not support the current Western Scenic Byway route due to traffic patterns and roadway conditions. Some of the most horrific deadly motor vehicle accidents in Vernon’s history have occurred on this route. This designation should have never resulted without addressing safety concerns through dialogue with current Vernon Township elected officials.

Regarding the Township’s wastewater system. I have addressed these matters previously including;

Resolution 13-202 Amending the 2005 Agreement.

The Township’s minimum daily flow was increased from 265,000 gallons per day to 461,000 gallons per day even though only an estimated 204,000 gpd was being utilized. The sewer users pay for approximately 250,000 gpd that is not used and all taxpayers are responsible for approximately $6.2 M for the purchase and operations of the sewer system due to the actions of the Vernon Municipal Government between 2011 and 2013.

Review ordinance 11-22 and 11-23.

The Township in concert with the VTMUA sent a letter to SCMUA this previous weekend advising their practices in its dealings with the Township violates the uniformity requirements of the MUA Act. SCMUA has charged the Township in excess of $3,000,000 in inappropriate and unlawful fees.

Hopefully, SCMUA, the VTMUA and the Township can settle this matter without litigation.

This Governing Body and Administration will move forward to protect the wellbeing and safety of Vernon residents and guests. We will also move forward and overcome challenges to develop the Town Center guided by completed plans, studies, surveys, and Smart Growth Principles.

We will not be distracted by political obstructionist and vendettas. The council majority was lawfully elected and we will follow the direction approved by the majority of Vernon voters who put us here to fulfill our responsibilities to our community.

Adjournment

There being no further items of business to be conducted on the agenda, a motion for adjournment was made by Council Member Pitsker, seconded by Council Member Weller with all members voting in favor.

The Meeting of the Township Council of the Township of Vernon was adjourned at 8:51 p.m.

Respectfully submitted,
Marcy Gianattasio, RMC, CMR
Municipal Clerk

Minutes approved: March 22, 2021