Vernon Township

21 Church Street, Vernon, NJ 07462
Phone: 973.764.4055


Minutes: December 13, 2022

Vernon Township Environmental Commission

December 13, 2022 General Meeting Minutes (Online, 7 PM)

The meeting was called to order at 7:04 PM by Chair Diane Wexler.

Diane read the Statement of Compliance. She then led the Commissioners in the pledge of allegiance and salute to the flag.

Roll call was taken for attendance – present were:

  • CRAIG WILLIAMS, Vice Chair, Liaison to Land Use Board


Approval of Minutes, October 17, 2022 Meeting

Craig Williams made a motion to approve the October 17 minutes. Catherina Sawoszczyk seconded the motion. The commissioners agreed to approve the minutes via unanimous consent vote.


Diane Wexler opened the meeting to public comments on agenda items. There were no members of the public in attendance, so Diane closed the meeting to public participation at this time.


Land Use Board Liaison Craig Williams reported that there was one Land Use Board meeting between the last Environmental Commission meeting and this one, on November 9. Craig said that the only matter of significance the board discussed was a proposal by the Vernon PAL to build and locate an enclosed athletic field behind an existing PAL building. He indicated that the new athletic facility will only have a slightly larger environmental footprint than the current structure it is replacing, and noted with approval that the builders plan to direct the runoff from the building’s roof into a walled garden on the west-facing side of the property. Craig stated that the project would most certainly yield benefits for the community at large. He then said that the proposal was approved. Craig concluded his report by mentioning that the board will be looking at adjustments to the redevelopment and town center master plans at the next meeting, scheduled for December 14.

Diane Wexler asked Craig if the walled garden on the PAL property was going to be a vertical garden, and asked if the Environmental Commission could contribute to the project, perhaps by donating pollinator plants and flowers. Craig replied yes to Diane’s first question, and then offered to ask friends at the PAL if the VEC could be involved in the establishment of this garden in some way. Peg Distasi noted that there is a day care center located near this complex, suggesting that the Environmental Commission could support a gardening education program at the school using the PAL garden as a living laboratory. Craig offered to inquire about the possibility of doing something like this as well.

The commissioners wrapped up this portion of the proceedings by discussing details of a proposed variance sought from the New Jersey DEP for a lakefront property in Vernon Township.


EPA Grants:  Peg Distasi agreed to continue researching the possibility of securing EPA grants for township environmental projects. Diane Wexler said she will add this to next month’s meeting agenda and they can revisit the subject at that time.

Solar Panels & Grants: Craig Williams stated that he had contacted JCP&L to find out how they could work together to make proposed solar paneling efforts in the township happen, but received a less-than-satisfactory response. Diane Wexler suggested they contact GPU Energy to ascertain their interest and seek their advice. Craig agreed to do so, suggesting GPU might be more responsive to their needs than JCP&L. Catherina Sawoszczyk then offered to get contact information for the commercial solar company that recently outfitted her employer, Atlantic Health System, with solar panel installments at Chilton Medical Center.

Septic System Pumping/Maintenance Programs:  Diane Wexler began by mentioning that the township recently added a button to the front page of the municipal website as a reminder to homeowners to get their septic systems serviced regularly. She reminded the commissioners that the key to keeping the message front and center is to direct online traffic to that button as much as possible, and encouraged them to talk up the site to their local friends and neighbors. Peg Distasi remarked that the button has already been up for about two months – a positive sign going forward.

The commissioners next discussed the status of the township-wide septic pumping project involving the MUA. Craig Williams indicated that there was supposed to be a memorandum of understanding issued about the details and scope of the project, but so far nothing had come through. He suggested that the town council collectively appears to be of the mindset that the project should be dropped. Peg Distasi concurred, although she noted that the township might be waiting for action from some of the other key players and stakeholders in this initiative. Craig suggested that they work with the township’s chief financial officer to once again light a fire under the project, now that the township is past the election and some leadership changes are about to take place in the new year.

Diane Wexler inquired as to whether they could get started with some sort of neighborhood or district discounting program for septic servicing; Craig Williams replied that there does seem to be support for a pilot project of this sort, particularly in an area that’s already laid substantial groundwork for this type of effort (such as Lake Wallkill). He proposed they again reach out to local servicing companies to see if they would be willing to help facilitate the pilot program. Peg Distasi suggested that the lack of a transfer station, clear way to demarcate the waste, and discounting program from SCMUA itself may prove to be stumbling blocks in getting the test program off the ground.

Catherina Sawoszczyk reminded the group that a Vernon resident, Sean Clarkin, had managed to coordinate an informal septic servicing discount program with his neighbors a couple of months back. Peg Distasi remarked that town leadership may not view Mr. Clarkin’s efforts as something that can be replicated officially at this time, largely because the overall framework to make the program work on the township level is not in place. Craig Williams suggested they should attempt, in piecemeal fashion, to implement aspects of the proposed plan, starting with neighborhood discounts for group septic servicing. Peg stated her belief that, in order to make that happen, they would still have to find a way to push SCMUA on their end. She indicated that she and SCMUA board member Kristin Wheaton had already done a lot of preliminary work to get septic servicers on board, but Kristin was ultimately told not to pursue their efforts any further by someone higher up in the food chain at SCMUA. Diane Wexler replied that SCMUA can’t stop Vernon neighborhoods and districts from adopting Mr. Clarkin’s idea and banding together to secure group septic pumping discounts. Diane agreed to find out from Mr. Clarkin how he was able to put this informal program together; Peg then offered to look through previous email communications with Mr. Clarkin to see what details about his efforts she could uncover.


New Trails/County Grants: Craig Williams indicated that he had not yet had the chance to do sufficient research on this. Peg Distasi then took the opportunity to announce that a whole new grant program for recreational trails had just been unveiled. Craig promised to look further into this particular initiative and into grants for this purpose in general. Peg Distasi offered to help by synthesizing and disseminating information about the new program to the rest of the commissioners. Diane Wexler stated her intention to start working on this in January. Craig mentioned that the township’s intersection with the Appalachian Trail at Route 517 may prove to be a bit of a stumbling block in these efforts, but suggested that he may have identified an engineering approach that could effectively solve any potential problems. He offered to sketch out his ideas and share them with the group.


Diane Wexler once again opened the meeting to public comments. No-one came forward to discuss any of the agenda items at this time, so Diane closed the meeting to the public.


Peg Distasi said that she recently discussed the refuse dumping problem on Sand Hill Road with the mayor, who directed her to speak with someone in the zoning department. Peg indicated that the person with whom she spoke was already aware of the problem, and that the area was placed on a watch list for prohibited dumping. She said that the zoning department may opt to install a “No Dumping” sign there if a more extensive pattern of dumping emerges.

Craig Williams announced that he re-applied for another three-year term for the Land Use Board.

Catherina Sawoszczyk mentioned that she submitted her application to renew her position with the Environmental Commission, but hadn’t heard back yet. Diane Wexler said that Catherina would be notified on January 1. Diane then said that she previously put in a good word for both Catherina and Peg Distasi, whose term is also up at the end of December, with the mayor.


Craig Williams made a motion to adjourn the meeting. Peg Distasi seconded the motion. The commissioners then agreed to adjourn the meeting via unanimous consent.

The meeting was adjourned at 7:47 PM.

Respectfully submitted by Leslie Boen, Recording Secretary.


Vernon Township

21 Church Street
Vernon, NJ 07462

Phone: 973.764.4055 

Township Hours

Monday - Friday, 8:30 a.m. to 4:00 p.m.


Emergencies Dial 9-1-1
Non-Emergencies Dial 973-764-6155


Current Agendas

Township Council

Land Use Board