Vernon Township

21 Church Street, Vernon, NJ 07462
Phone: 973.764.4055


Minutes: February 21, 2023

Vernon Township Environmental Commission

February 21, 2023 General Meeting Minutes

Vernon Municipal Building, 7 PM

The meeting was called to order at 7:00 PM by Chair Diane Wexler.

Diane read the Statement of Compliance. Diane 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, January 10, 2023 Meeting

Catherina Sawoszczyk made a motion to approve the minutes as presented; Jennifer Carlson seconded the motion. The January 10, 2023 minutes were then approved by unanimous consent.


Diane Wexler opened the meeting to public comments. No-one from the public came forward at this time to comment. She then closed the meeting to the public.


Land Use Board Liaison Craig Williams began by stating that the last Land Use Board meeting was on January 11, 2023. According to Craig, the Land Use Board granted Martin Theobald an extension on his pending project application at this time; they also discussed a previous partial realignment of Canistear Road, which resulted in some leftover land that remains unclaimed by adjacent property owners. Craig said that the Land Use Board will likely review the final drafts of the stormwater, open space, recreation and farmland preservation plans at its February 22 meeting, with the plans going to the town council for approval shortly thereafter. He added that the Highlands Preservation Council will reimburse the town for the costs of producing these plans and has also stated its willingness to underwrite the town’s natural resources inventory (NRI), which is long overdue.

Diane Wexler said it was her understanding that the Land Use Board will be taking up the master plan update on March 8, and asked Craig if something could be written into the master plan update about mega-warehouses, stating that there is no room for mega-warehouse development in the township. Craig replied that Vernon is not really a viable location for a mega-warehouse, with insufficient roadways and a lack of available space for this kind of installation. Diane countered that we should not overlook the possibility, as warehouse sprawl is becoming a real problem in rural areas and could become Vernon’s reality should a large piece of township property be sold. Craig stated his strong belief that a mega-warehouse in Vernon would not make sense from the developer’s perspective, but agreed that it wouldn’t hurt for the Environmental Commission to track the issue.


There were no applications officially under review to discuss.


EPA/GREEN Electrification Grants:

Diane Wexler indicated that, since the last meeting, Jennifer Carlson had obtained and circulated via email some information on EV grant programs.

Craig Williams mentioned that he had done some research into programs and grants from the BPU and found out that they will cover the entire cost of an energy audit of municipal facilities. Craig said that he inquired of Vernon Mayor Howard Burrell as to whether the BPU had ever underwritten the costs of such an audit in the township, but also looked on BPU’s website and saw no record of Vernon participating in this grant program. He suggested that he plans to encourage the mayor to apply. In addition, Craig advised that the BPU may also be able to help the township upgrade the energy grid at the town center, which would give Vernon sufficient carrying capacity for the kind of green infrastructure that the town is required to have in place by 2025. Craig suggested that they need to get members of the town council on board; Diane Wexler concurred, saying that they might be more receptive if they are able to get the upgrades for free.

Jennifer Carlson asked about JCP&L’s role in the operation and fee structure of charging stations in the township, since the charging stations were intended to serve the public. Craig Williams said that JCP&L would have to be involved — and the municipality would have to pay JCP&L for the electricity generated by the charging stations —  unless the town made some sort of arrangement by which they would be the source of the energy, which would necessitate an upgrade of their solar infrastructure. Jennifer inquired about the overall purpose of the project, asking if the goal is to establish public charging facilities specifically for Vernon residents with electric vehicles. Diane Wexler confirmed this, but added that there is a state requirement that by 2025 all employers – municipalities included – must provide sufficient charging station capacity to equal one charging station for every four employees at their work sites. Jennifer questioned whether the municipality was going to assume the costs or charge a fee for the usage of the charging stations; Craig reiterated that this depends on who ends up being the source of the energy.

Jennifer Carlson mentioned that there are private entities within the township that also need to install charging stations to serve their customers and may not know that there are grants available to business owners for this purpose. Craig Williams suggested that they place information on the Environmental Commission’s web page about these opportunities; Diane Wexler asked Jennifer to write and supply the copy for review at the next meeting and offered to submit it for inclusion on their site once the material is finalized.

Catherina Sawoszczyk inquired about a specific registration requirement of the State of New Jersey’s SAGE electronic grants portal, stating that an official representative of the town has to serve as a point person to gain access. Diane Wexler replied that former Environmental Commissioner and current town council member Peg Distasi promised to assume this role.

Catherina Sawoszczyk asked if they should seek a state EV grant for more than one municipal location. Craig Williams responded that they should request grant money for installations at two sites: the Vernon Township Police Department and the Department of Public Works.

Craig Williams offered to serve as a town representative for the SAGE portal system and said that he would check with Mayor Burrell to make sure he had the authority to do so.

The Commissioners concluded this part of the proceedings with a discussion on the process by which grant money is allocated and distributed.

New Trails/County Grants:  

Craig Williams indicated that he is still waiting for information on the county-sponsored grant program for new recreational trails that previously he agreed to investigate.

Septic Pumping:  

Diane Wexler said that she spoke to a representative in her lake community (Barry Lakes) about joining forces with the Environmental Commission to establish a group septic servicing program through which neighborhoods would get their septic systems pumped at the same time for a discounted rate. The representative said she would bring the idea to the lake community members for consideration. Diane agreed to follow up to see what came of the discussions. Jennifer Carlson said she would put together some relevant materials for the town website that the commissioners could review at the next meeting; Craig Williams offered to help her edit them.

Catherina Sawoszczyk asked if there is a plan to approach other individual lake communities with their neighborhood septic servicing idea. Diane Wexler proposed that they get Barry Lakes up and running first with the program —making sure that all aspects of the arrangement work properly and letting word-of-mouth about the discounts occur organically — before attempting to approach other Vernon lake communities. She added that neighboring Highland Lakes would likely be the next likely candidate for the program. Craig Williams mentioned that the idea of establishing a group septic pumping program was brought up at a meeting with the MUA last November and stated that there was already increasing acceptance around the idea at that point. He said that at this point he had suggested that they use Lake Wallkill, which previously wrote a neighborhood septic servicing agreement into their by-laws, as a beta site, and then start working their way around the other Vernon lake communities to get the associations on board. 

Catherina Sawoszczyk inquired as to whether the septic servicing providers had yet been contacted to secure their involvement in a potential program. Craig Williams replied that the township would first have to fully agree to the plan before reaching out to the septic pumping companies on a town-wide basis. Diane Wexler suggested they could start by doing this community by community, contacting three or four septic pumping providers at a time for bids until the program is ready to be scaled up to the township level; Catherina then asked if the lake communities would be responsible for contacting the septic servicing outfits in this more informal and incremental scheme; Diane replied that the Environmental Commission should facilitate this process.

Diane Wexler reiterated that she will follow up with Barry Lakes about the potential program; Craig Williams offered to reach out to Highland Lakes with the same idea. Diane and Craig then agreed to begin work on contacting the septic pumping outfits in the area. 


Website updates: 

Diane Wexler advised that the information and sections on the township website covering electric vehicles, chargers, and the financial benefits of EVs is outdated and needs to be updated.  

A discussion then ensued among the commissioners about the nuts and bolts of driving EVs, as well whether or not the pending state deadline for the electrification of municipal fleets would prompt the town to purchase electric vehicles for activities not requiring high-speed pursuits or heavy usage. 


Diane Wexler opened the meeting to public comments. No-one from the public came forward at this time to comment. She then closed the meeting to the public.


Catherina Sawoszczyk referenced the recent train wreck in Ohio and reminded the other commissioners that a train track runs through town. She asked whether or not the township has an emergency plan in place to deal with a similar situation should it occur. Craig Williams said he believes trains going through Vernon are required to operate at a reduced speed. Catherina then questioned if the municipality has any idea what types of materials are allowed on the trains that pass through the town. Diane Wexler mentioned that there is an emergency management officer for the town; Craig proposed they contact him to find out if these kinds of incidents are under his purview. He offered to pose these questions to the mayor.


Before adjourning, Diane Wexler reminded the commissioners that the next meeting will be held on Monday, March 20, 2023.

Craig Williams made a motion to adjourn the meeting. Jennifer Carlson seconded the motion. The meeting was adjourned at 8:03 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

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