Vernon Township

21 Church Street, Vernon, NJ 07462
Phone: 973.764.4055


Minutes: October 17, 2022

Vernon Township Environmental Commission

October 17, 2022 General Meeting Minutes

Vernon Township 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:

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



Approval of Minutes, September 19, 2022 Meeting

Craig Williams made a motion to approve the September 19 minutes. Peg Distasi 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 were two Land Use Board meetings between the last Environmental Commission meeting and this one. He mentioned that the first, held on September 28, focused on a major site plan with a use and bulk variance from Veolia Water New Jersey. Craig said that the proposal centered around using leased land from the Highland Lakes community, located near the intersection of Breakneck Road and Route 515 (Block 463, Lot 127), to situate an underground filtration and treatment chamber for PFAS chemicals and an above-ground, enclosed emergency power generator. He stated that the project was approved.

Craig then turned his attention to deliberations that took place at the next meeting, which occurred on October 12. He said that the Land Use Board reviewed an extensive plan by Waheguru Gas, LLC to convert an existing gas station building on its property (Block 411, Lot 11) into a convenience store and to pave a back lot for the purpose of adding parking facilities and accommodating parking overflow. Craig mentioned there was some discussion among the Land Use Board members about potential traffic circulation, congestion, and safety issues. He then said he articulated concerns that the plans, as rendered, will almost certainly lead to increased runoff onto Route 515 and/or Main Street.

According to Craig, the engineer for the project tried to assure the LUB the current lot was already pretty compacted and not terribly permeable — so paving it would not cause much additional runoff —but said that a substantial vegetative buffer would be installed to help increase filtration. Craig expressed skepticism to his fellow commissioners that this would actually be sufficient, especially in the case of heavy rains. Peg Distasi concurred and then asked whether or not the Land Use Board engineer was inclined to go forward, given this distinct likelihood of increased runoff. Craig replied that his concerns were not fully explored at this time.


September Transfer Station Meeting/Septic System Maintenance Program:  Peg Distasi and Craig Williams attended the meeting as permanent representatives from the Environmental Commission. Peg said that the Vernon Township MUA appears to be waiting for some new housing and commercial developments, as well as some property adjustments, to be completed in the area before fully proceeding. She said the hope is that the new installations will bring roughly 100,000 additional gallons of sewage into the sewer system –generating about half the amount they would need. Peg then indicated that there are proposals for one of the building developments to build its own transfer station and pump house, so the Vernon MUA is also exploring the distinct possibility that the town and the developers of this property could dovetail their efforts. She stated that she and MUA board member Kristin Wheaton have been contacting septic haulers to ascertain their interest in a town-wide septic discounting program, given these new possibilities. Peg reported that one of the septic hauling services she contacted wanted assurances of at least 12 septics at a time before agreeing to discount.

Peg next mentioned that the proposed town ordinance to require regular septic system servicing and maintenance is on hold until a foundational survey and report (“Princeton Report”) is issued, thereby providing a weightier rationale for the mandate and potentially generating more buy-in from the public. Craig suggested that the town start with the Lake Wallkill community, which has already incorporated regular septic servicing into their residential by-laws,  as a beta testing site for the town’s planned septic maintenance requirements.

Peg concluded her remarks on this topic by reporting that the Sussex County MUA, which was widely seen as a stumbling block to getting the transfer station and town-wide septic upkeep program off the ground,  is surprisingly not opposed to these types of efforts. She said that she is generally pleased with the progress the town is making on this project.

Septic System Educational Program & Materials:  Peg Distasi stated that she brought up the public education aspect of the septic maintenance mandates at the transfer station meeting. She said that, while everyone at the meeting was generally in agreement that a public education plan is necessary, they also suggested that everybody wait for the release of the Princeton Report, which could serve as the foundation for the educational piece as well. Diane Wexler suggested they wouldn’t necessarily have to wait for the Princeton study to jump start their educational efforts, reminding the commissioners that she had already found and circulated via email a two-page brochure that covers the basics of septic maintenance. Diane noted that there is a longer-form educational booklet available for printing as well, but cautioned that the cost to print it in large enough quantities would run about $400. Craig Williams proposed that they bulk-print the document to reduce the unit cost.

Solar Panels & Grants: Craig Williams stated that he had contacted JCP&L by email to establish a dialogue between the utility and the township about future municipal solar paneling efforts. He said he described what the commissioners want to do—limiting the proposal to a few essential items—and inquired as to how they could work together to make it happen. Craig indicated that he has not yet heard back from them. Diane Wexler suggested JCP&L might be able to point them in the right direction with regard to potential grants for solar installations as well.

Chemical Free ParksDiane Wexler called the commissioners’ attention to a website ( ) of a Chicago-based company that does environmentally friendly and sustainable lawn care and landscape design. She said that the company has great ideas on how to maintain lawns without the harmful chemicals that can cause major pollution and enrichment problems with lakes and other bodies of water. Diane recommended that they find an online space where they could post this information. Peg Distasi then proposed that the commissioners seek permission to establish their own Facebook page strictly for the purpose of posting educational materials. Bonnie Tadrick stated her belief that they should stick closely to public information and education—and shouldn’t post anything that would require constant monitoring of the comments section. Peg agreed but said that they could still find a way to make allowances for people who want to post questions or request additional information. Diane suggested that they establish their own facebook page for these purposes, separate from the Vernon Township municipal page. The other commissioners agreed. Peg then offered to monitor the Facebook once it goes live.

EPA Grants:  Peg Distasi agreed to continue researching the possibility of securing EPA grants for township environmental projects.

NEW BUSINESS — There was no new business at this time to discuss.

At this point, the commissioners engaged in a side discussion of how they might go about establishing a series of interconnected trails throughout the township and obtaining funding for such a project.


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.


The commissioners agreed to move the November 21 meeting to December 13th and hold it on Zoom.

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

The meeting was adjourned at 8:12 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