Chairperson Beverly Budz called the meeting to order at 7 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, 2015 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
Jessi Paladini, Recording Secretary
1. Open Meeting to Public
Motion to open the meeting to the public was made by Diane Wexler.
Seconded by Dale Disney
All were in favor.
Bob Reffelt, chairman of the Highland Lakes Ecology Committee, came forward to discuss concerns about the gypsy moth infestation and destruction of trees in Highland Lakes. Mr. Reffelt said there has been extensive localized damage. He said this year’s gypsy moth devastation on top of the mountain in the Highland and Barry Lakes sections is among the worst years he has ever seen. He said the N.J. Department of Agriculture needs to do an egg mass survey and recommend that the township do aerial spraying to prevent such an infestation next year.
Katherine McGlynn, also of Highland Lakes, reiterated Mr. Reffelt’s concerns about doing the egg mass survey and spraying for the gypsy moth infestation. She said she has three completely defoliated trees on her property. She said she has not been able to use her deck at all this season because of the gypsy moths.
Commissioner Diane Wexler said the trees could not withstand more than two years of successive deforestation.
Mr. Reffelt and Ms. McGlynn were also advised to contact Irene Mills at the municipal center to report and document their situations.
Beverly Budz said she will speak with the department of agriculture to find out when the egg mass surveys will be conducted and what kinds of insecticides or pesticides would be used if an aerial spraying is done.
Commissioner Doreen Edwards said the devastation of the trees on the mountain can clearly be seen from the valley.
2. Close Meeting to the Public
Motion to close the meeting to the public was made by Doreen Edwards.
Seconded by Dale Disney
All were in favor.
3. Land Use Board Liaison Report
Diane Wexler reported on Land Use Board applications. She discussed LU4-15-3, the application by Daniel Kadish for a Minor Subdivision with a Bulk Variance. She said the adoption of the resolution for the application was tabled at the last LUB meeting because of the lateness of the hour and also because the Land Use Board had additional questions about the Kadish application. Ms. Wexler said there were a number of problems with the resolution. She said Mr. Kadish has to provide a survey that depicts the locations of his septic and well. She also said the minimum acreage for the township bulk requirement for the R1 zone at the time was three acres, but Kadish only excluded one acre from the farmland preservation parcel.
4. Applications Under Review
A. LU4-15-3: Daniel Kadish, Minor Subdivision with a Bulk Variance
This farm property, the subject of Application LU4-15-3, was placed into the Farmland Preservation Program in 2002. At that time, one acre of the subject property, the acre on which the house sits, was excluded from the farmland preservation parcel. Prior to the property being placed into the Farmland Preservation Program, the Vernon Township bulk requirements for the R-1 zone were three acres. Therefore, the one acre on which the property sits was in non-conformance to the bulk requirement. This one-acre excluded property has five accessory structures on it, which are also in non-conformance. The commission decided to send a recommendation to the land use board, stating its objection to the approval of the application without certain deed restrictions being put into the resolution of approval. The commission’s recommendation is as follows.
It is the recommendation of the Vernon Township Environmental Commission that a condition be placed in both the resolution of approval of this application by the Vernon Township Land Use Board and also in the subsequent subdivision deed that will be recorded that if sold the subdivided one acre shall not be sold without the remaining farmland preservation parcel and shall be deed restricted as such.
The motion to approve the recommendation was made by Beverly Budz and seconded by Alyssa Portaro.
Roll Call Vote:
Ayes: Dale Disney, Doreen Edwards, Alyssa Portaro, Diane Wexler, Beverly Budz
B. LU4-15-4: John and Melissa Obrotka, Variance for Front Porch Setback
The commission reviewed the application and had no environmental concerns or recommendations.
C. LU4-15-6: National Winter Activity Center
The commission discussed the applicant’s removal of trees to expand the slope. The commission member said the applicant should plant trees elsewhere on the property to replace the ones taken down. The resort will be for inner-city children to learn and experience skiing and it will not be open to the public. The resort will only be open for about 3-4 months out of the year. After extensive review of the traffic flow of school buses on the property, parking, septic, building facades, retaining walls, and the overall layout and renovation of the resort, the commission had no specific environmental concerns or recommendations for the project, except for the replanting of trees and proper draining and screening of trees to prevent icing of Breakneck Road as has occurred in the past.
D. LU4-15-5: Taco Bell
The commission discussed the parking for the restaurant and discussed the joint entrance and sharing of parking for the Taco Bell and the Dunkin Donuts to relieve the parking situation and the back up of cars currently existing at the Dunkin Donuts. Commissioner Doreen Edwards also expressed concern about the slope of the Dunkin Donuts property and the side of the Taco Bell property. Diane Wexler said the applicant and the LUB engineer have addressed the slopes. The environmental commission had no environmental concerns or recommendations at this time.
5. Old Business
A. Three-Minute Idle Law Signs
Beverly Budz reported that signs would be going up in Maple Grange Park and possibly at Action Park and the ski areas. She showed the commission the sign. She said the DPW is making the signs, and about ten of them will go up in Maple Grange Park.
B. Oath of Office
Although newly appointed commission member Dale Disney had already been sworn in, Township Clerk Lauren Kirkman came in to the meeting to again administer the oath of office to him to put it on the commission record. Mr. Disney was appointed to fill an unexpired term that ends on December 31, 2016.
C. Deer Resistant Tree Species for Forestry Grant
Chairwoman Beverly Budz said although many have expressed concerns about arborvitae being very susceptible for deer, the grant would still include a large majority of a deer resistant variety of arborvitae for several locations, including 240 of them at the dog park. The arborvitae will require a long-range maintenance plan and will need to be sprayed regularly with compounds, including pepper sprays, to detract deer. The dog park will also get 25 varieties of dogwoods. The community garden will get 140 arborvitaes. The township recycling center will get 180 arborvitae. The municipal center, Wawayanda State Park, and a few other locations will also get some trees. Overall, the township will get about 1200 trees over the next three years. She is working on the grant and will be submitting it to the Dept. of Forestry within a few weeks. Planting will begin in September. Beverly Budz will email the commission members a copy of the grant.
6. New Business
A. Pochuck Mine
The commission was informed about the historic Pochuck Mine in Pleasant Valley Lake and the house that will be developed in the area. The house is possibly being built over the abandoned mine. The Vernon Township Historic Preservation Commission is concerned about the historic value of the mine. The environmental commission will discuss it at its next meeting.
B. Water Usage
Commissioner Doreen Edwards brought up a fact sheet created by United Water about common water usage. The fact sheet, distributed at Earthfest, discusses the amounts of water used for such routine things as brushing teeth, doing laundry, taking a shower, flushing a toilet, washing hands, and so on. She said leaky faucets are a concern because on average they waste about 25 gallons of water per day. The fact sheet was discussed to bring awareness for conserving water and to understand how much water is actually used for these routine household things. Beverly Budz said it might be a good idea to send the information to township schools. She said a website for the environmental commission would also be a good idea for making the public aware of certain issues. Doreen Edwards will think of ways to educate township children about water usage.
C. Bat Houses
Beverly Budz discussed a project for making bat houses and involving school children. She would like to get something to the schools in September. The commission will put together a community or school project.
Beverly Budz said the commission received a letter from the Tennessee Gas Pipeline Company saying they are having a problem with invasive plant species. The company has been using herbicides and pesticides in uplands and in wetlands without standing water to control them instead of using natural ways, she said. The application of the herbicides and pesticides is in accordance with the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection, the pipeline company said. The application began in June and will also resume in the fall. Ms. Budz said she asked the pipeline company for the MSDS breakdown of chemicals used and received a list. She asked commission vice-chairwoman Diane Wexler to research what the components are. She said some of the agents being used are cancer causing and also deplete oxygen in waterways, killing aquatic life. They would like the company to consider safer, alternative methods to eliminate the invasives. The commission will research further before making a recommendation.
8. Approval of Minutes
May 12, 2015 Regular Meeting Minutes
Motion to approve the minutes was made by Beverly Budz and seconded by Diane Wexler.
Roll Call Vote:
Ayes: Doreen Edwards, Diane Wexler, and Beverly Budz
Abstentions: Dale Disney and Alyssa Portaro (they were not present for the meeting)
9. Commissioner Comments
Commissioner Doreen Edwards asked what was the status of commission member Cathy McCartney. Beverly Budz said she never heard from Ms. McCartney about her failure to attend more than four months of meetings. Ms. McCartney did not respond to Ms. Budz or to the recording secretary about her intent to attend meetings and remain on the commission. As of the May 12, 2015 meeting Ms. McCartney is no longer on the Vernon Township Environmental Commission, per the Citizens Services Act. Dale Disney has been appointed to her unexpired term. Ms. McCartney had stated she preferred to be an alternate member of the commission, but she never contacted the township clerk or the mayor asking for the appointment to the alternate position and is now no longer on the commission. Ms. Budz thanked Ms. McCartney for her service while she was on the commission.
Alyssa Portaro said she looks forward to finding alternative methods for the gypsy moth population and also for the invasive plant species.
Dale Disney said he had no comment other than he is happy to be on the commission and looks forward to working with the commissioners.
Beverly Budz welcomed Dale Disney to the commission and said they are happy to have him. She said the commission is doing great things and looks forward to Mr. Disney working to that end with the rest of the commission.
Beverly Budz also applauded the commission and the mayor and council for supporting the Three-Minute Idle Law awareness campaign.
Doreen Edwards moved to adjourn the meeting at 9:16 p.m. Dale Disney seconded the motion. All were in favor.
The next meeting of the environmental commission will be on August 11, 2015.
Transcribed by Jessica Paladini
Adopted August 11, 2015