21 Church Street, Vernon, NJ 07462
May 19, 2022 General Meeting Minutes
Municipal Building, 7 PM
The meeting was called to order at 7:05 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:
Absent was MARGARET DISTASI.
Approval of Minutes, April 26, 2022 Meeting
Catherina Sawoszczyk made a motion to accept the minutes from the previous meeting as written. Bonnie Tadrick seconded the motion. The minutes from the meeting on April 26, 2022 were then approved by a unanimous consent vote.
PUBLIC PARTICIPATION SESSION (Agenda Items Only)
Diane Wexler opened the meeting to public comments. No members of the public were present or came forward to speak, so Diane immediately closed this portion of the meeting.
LAND USE BOARD – LIAISON REPORT
Land Use Board Liaison Craig Williams reported on developments from the Land Use Board meeting on May 11, 2022. Agenda items from this meeting included the Raymond Little variance (LU#3-22-3), a petition for an exemption from town home frontage requirements; a request from the owner of the Dunkin’ Donuts to make some improvements and adjustments to their property, including upgrades to signage, fencing, and parking facilities; and discussion of Ordinance #22-11, an update to the township's legal cannabis regulations. According to Craig, with regard to this last item, the town council made updates to the ordinances on legal cannabis passed last year, permitting no more than three cannabis-related uses and activities— including cannabis cultivation, delivery, manufacturing, and distribution—in the town’s light industrial zone. He also said that no more than two cannabis cultivators will be allowed to operate in the McAfee Mixed Use Zone, as well as in specified areas in the R1 and R2 zones. Craig indicated that the Land Use Board was generally displeased with this development and would take the issue up further at its next meeting, prior to the June 13 public hearing on the ordinance. He concluded by stating that, although the Raymond Little and Dunkin’ Donuts resolutions were reviewed at this meeting, they were in effect done deals.
APPLICATIONS UNDER REVIEW – There were no applications under review for discussion at this time.
Septic Service Metered Disposal:
Craig Williams said that he had continued his conversations with Kristin Wheaton, a Vernon MUA board member who spoke about the possibility of a metered disposal program in the township at an Environmental Commission meeting earlier this spring. He said that there are not any imminent plans to implement this proposal, but there does appear to be some approval of the concept, at the very least, among MUA officials. Craig stressed his belief that the township should lay more preliminary groundwork before the idea can be realized more fully – particularly with regards to how the waste will be stored, handled, demarcated as Vernon product, and transported – and must initiate a complex set of negotiations with the county to reach an agreement that is mutually acceptable to both.
Diane Wexler inquired as to whether or not the Environmental Commission could get the ball rolling – while the metered disposal system is being worked out -- by approaching service providers about offering discounted group rates to neighborhoods or communities of Vernon homeowners who agree to regular septic servicing. She said that this part could be already up and running and feed right into whatever system is put into place. Diane stressed her belief that they would be largely unable to mandate regular septic service through town ordinance, but suggested they could make it both more attractive and affordable for homeowners to participate in such an arrangement.
Craig replied this is a bit of a “chicken and egg” situation, proposing that they might want to firm up a few logistical details first before approaching the service providers with this type of agreement. He maintained that they can’t automatically assume the businesses in question will agree to this without some major guarantees and incentives. Craig suggested they would likely want to know up front how much of a coordinated client base that they could count on, and if Vernon would provide them with a place to dump the waste rather than forcing them to transport the septic service product to the county MUA – saving them money, time, and a very unpleasant trip to the SCMUA on the back end.
Craig stated his belief that the best way to attract the service providers is to perhaps put the best possible alternative to current practices in place first. He said that by first installing the infrastructure – establishing a township septic waste repository with dedicated tanks and reservoirs across from the Vernon DPW – it would also help facilitate a formal metered disposal program that itself reduces residential septic servicing costs, while offering real enticements to the service providers, who incur considerable costs with the present system. Diane maintained that it still might be a good idea to approach the service providers before the new system is established, with the understanding that certain measures and procedures will necessarily have to be in place before proceeding. Craig then suggested that they could enlist the assistance of lake and other neighborhood associations to help gauge interest and consolidate a client base within their organizations while the Environmental Commission irons out practical infrastructure plans. He also mentioned that there are 18 potential providers that technically service the greater Vernon area, but wasn’t certain how much business each of these providers actually does in the township. Craig concluded that there are some compelling ways make this enticing to both homeowners and service providers – thereby making it workable without requiring a township ordinance. The other Commissioners concurred.
Diane Wexler began by reminding the group that representatives from YSG Solar were supposed to come out and survey the township for land parcels that could be dedicated to solar installations and the establishment of solar zones. Craig Williams acknowledged that a report from YSG Solar was due by May 5, but said this was contingent upon the township providing the companies access to a year’s worth of energy bills to assess prior to that date, which had yet to happen. He mentioned that the solar representatives had already submitted a 10-page PowerPoint presentation and proposal, which included information on how the financial aspects of things might be worked out. Craig said that he also contributed some ideas about where within the township the solar installations would make the most sense. A discussion about specific possible locations for Vernon solar zones – as well as about progress with the group’s efforts to facilitate the widespread development of solar carports and electrical vehicle infrastructure in the township – ensued among the Commissioners.
Diane Wexler said that she had recently gone out to scout locations for the new pollinator garden – as well as for a series of satellite gardens that could possibly be established as part of the overall project -- and identified a spot in Veterans Memorial Park that might be suitable for these purposes. She said there is already a garden bed at this location but it will require some care and rehabilitation before healthy plants and flowers can be introduced there. Diane then suggested they might contact the Recreation Department to see if they have any plans to spruce up the area.
Catherina Sawoszczyk voiced her concern that Vernon residents will complain that this project has been on the agenda for so long, with no publicly visible progress. She suggested that they get the primary pollinator garden established and publicized first and then perhaps unveil future satellite locations later on. Diane Wexler agreed, stating that the potential secondary site at Veterans Memorial Park does not appear to be earmarked for anything else in the imminent future, so they can safely backburner that location for the time being. She offered to get the ball rolling again on the first location and contact other responsible parties to coordinate. Diane then noted that she had tried to follow up with the leader of the local Girl Scout Troop on their previous discussions, during which she had solicited the Girl Scouts’ help with both the pollinator garden project and bee watering stations, but had not yet heard back. She said she would email her again.
The Commissioners discussed the possibility of establishing a series of anti-litter signs throughout the township in strategic, high-traffic locations.
NEW BUSINESS - There was no new business to discuss at this time.
PUBLIC PARTICIPATION—ANY VERNON ENVIRONMENTAL ITEM
No members of the public were present or came forward to speak.
Craig Williams made a motion to adjourn the meeting. Catherina Sawoszczyk seconded the motion. Diane Wexler reminded the other Commissioners that the next meeting will be held on June 20. The Commissioners then agreed to adjourn the meeting via unanimous consent. The meeting was adjourned at 7:57 PM.
Respectfully submitted by Leslie Boen, Recording Secretary