Vernon Township

21 Church Street, Vernon, NJ 07462
Phone: 973.764.4055


Minutes June 28, 2023




June 28, 2023



Call to Order

Meeting was called to order by Chairman Theobald at 7:00 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 17, 2023, by delivering to the press such notice and posting same at the Municipal Building.

Salute to the Flag

Chairman Theobald led the assemblage of the Flag.


Roll Call

 Mayor’s Designee John Auberger  NP
 Craig Williams  NP
 Councilmember Joseph Tadrick  NP
 Martin Theobald  P
 Richard Spoerl  P
 Willard McPeek  P
 Andrea Cocula  P
 Michael Whitaker  P
 Jacqueline Haley  P
 Kelly Mitchell Alternate #1  P
 Mark Heftler   Alternate #2  P
 Paul Mele Alternate #3  P (arrived 7:06 pm)
 Mark Vizzini Alternate #4   P (arrived 7:16 pm)

 Also Present:

Glenn Kienz, Board Attorney

Cory Stoner, Board Engineer

Jessica Caldwell, Board Planner

Kimberley Decker, Board Secretary


Chairman Theobald stated that Mr. Auberger, Mr. Williams, and Mr. Tadrick notified the Board of their absence.

Public Hearings


LU# 2-23-4 – Sussex Cultivation, LLC – Block 153, Lot 43, & Block 168, Lots 2, 3 & 4 Preliminary & Final Major Site Plan for the construction of a Greenhouse, Eighteen (18) Cultivation/Support Pods, one Utility Shed, and related site improvements for a Cannabis Cultivation Facility

Chairman Theobald notified public that comments for application will not be until all testimony is complete which will most likely not occur tonight.

Mr. Frank Vitolo, Esq. from firm of Sills, Cummis, & Gross came forward on behalf of Sussex Cultivation for approval to construct Cultivation Facility on property located at Block 153 Lot 43 off Glenwood Road. The Facility is a permitted use in an R-2 zone and proposal is seeking one planning variance and few design waivers.

Mr. Stoner, per report dated 6-23-23, noted partial waivers requested by applicant including:

            #1- Sealed survey of entire tract

            #7- Bearing and distance information for all lot lines

            #19- Utility Plan showing all storm sewer inlets and pipes, mains, and lateral connections

            #23- Landscaping & Lighting Plan

            #24- Certification on Plan that no wetlands exist or NJDEP Letter of Interpretation

Mr. Stoner stated items noted can be waived for purpose of hearing application, but applicant must address all items during testimony. Board Members voted in favor to waive items temporarily for purpose of hearing application.

Ms. Caldwell noted the use is permitted in zone and hearing may proceed provided testimony is given for Board to determine if all proposed improvements are for one single use or if multiple principal structures trigger a use variance. Mr. Vitolo stated the greenhouse, pods, cleaning equipment and water storage are all accessory uses to the principal use of Cannabis Cultivation and cannot be used separately, therefore believes a D variance is not needed. Attorney Kienz added Board can address any storage uses for pods in any approval given. Board Members voted in affirmative to proceed with hearing,

Attorney Kienz noted Board Members Mele and Vizzini arrived at 7:06pm and 7:16pm respectively.

Mr. Vitolo stated usual questions for cultivation facilities are odor, control, lighting, and security and noted proposed application utilizes state of the art efforts in these areas. Four witnesses will provide testimony: David Clark, Professional Engineer; Steve Olympia, Security; Brian Dowling, President of Cultivation family business; and Kate Keller, Professional Planner.

Mr. Vitolo stated applicant is in receipt of Board Engineer’s report of 6/23/23, Board Planner’s report 6/25/23 and Highlands Council Letter of Determination dated 6/27/23. He added hearing notice was published in the NJ Herald and served upon all affected properties on June 16, 2023, with proofs provided to Land Use Board Secretary for file record. Ms. Decker confirmed receipt.

Mr. David Clark, Professional Engineer with Civil Engineering, Sparta NJ, with currently valid license was sworn in to testify. Board Members accepted Mr. Clark to proceed.

Mr. Clark presented Exhibit A-1, color rendering of site plan, dated 6/16/23, and noted property Block 153 Lot 43 is in the R2 zone, approximately 80 acres with no existing road frontage to Glenwood Road. The site, being leased by Sussex Cultivation, is in common ownership with adjacent farm on Block 168 Lot 2 where there is an existing barn and existing residence on adjacent Block 168 Lots 3&4. Mr. Clark stated there is an old farm road on both sides of the barn which crosses the tributary to gain access to site.  

Mr. Clark explained, per A-1, proposal includes improvements to farm road with 5.4 acres disturbance to minimize grading and stormwater concerns. Construction will include six (6) 36’ x 140’ greenhouses and two (2) 24’ x 140’ long greenhouses both totaling 37,000 sq. ft. Also, there will be eighteen (18) cultivation pods lined adjacent for better traffic flow totaling 5760 sq. ft. and one 14.5 x 15’ utility shed.  Mr. Clark added closest distances from adjacent residences are from NW-1195 sq. ft; SW – 1738 sq. ft; NE- 1179 sq. ft; and from E- 1538 sq ft. The proposed road off County Rt 565 will require approval by Sussex County for sight distance, slope, and construction requirements. The farm road is currently crushed shale, 12’- 18’ in sections and maintained by property owner which applicant will obtain an access agreement for future use. Mr. Clark explained the use of crushed shale is compacted for durability for 35’ trailer or 80,000 lb. trucks with no erosion after major storms. Mr. Stoner confirmed use of farm road will need for relief from section 35-36 per testimony. Mr. Clark added traffic circulation on site will allow adequate access for employees and deliveries.

Mr. Clark presented Exhibit A2, colored rendering of greenhouses comparable to proposed made with poly carbonate walls & roof panels with maximum height of 19’to gable midpoint. Board requested A2 be updated for accuracy of proposed.

Mr. Clark presented Exhibit A3 of four panels showing aerial from east; view of greenhouses from west; ground level view of greenhouses; and proposed pods and noted all construction will be built per Building Code. He added the pods are refrigerated shipping containers with size of 8’ x 40’x 9.5’h and have access through doors on ends. Per preconference meeting with Construction Official, Mr. Clark stated pods will comply to all construction standards and will be used for water storage, bathrooms, and security. The custom-made pods, although not joined, will all be covered by one large roof for stormwater management and temperature regulation. Mr. Clark agreed to provide real picture of pods with details of how each one will be used for the facility.

Mr. Clark stated the one proposed utility shed will house equipment needed to provide power from Sussex Rural Electric Cooperative for entire facility. The emergency generator, with level 2 sound enclosure, will be a 1000kw diesel that can run if needed for 24 hours and will be tested weekly for ongoing maintenance.

Mr. Clark explained the application will maintain the vegetation on site, removing only the minimum needed for construction to maintain the farm area. Ms. Haley asked if any aerial photos were taken from hillside looking onto to proposed site of pods. Mr. Clark stated not at this time but understands concerns of Board and noted plans will be updated to show supplemental planting done for screening purposes from adjacent residential viewpoints.     

Regarding lighting, Mr. Clark stated lighting for site purposes will include 7 LED high efficiency lights around facility on 20’ poles and on buildings at 15’ high which will only be on during operational hours for minimal adverse conditions to adjacent property owners. Security at facility will include site fully fenced and cameras per Cannabis Regulation Commission (CRC) requirements with access by security code only and not open to public.

Mr. Clark stated the proposal requires 64 parking spaces where 21 spaces of shale material with curb stops are proposed requiring C variance relief from Board. Maximum number of employees will be fifteen (15) and hours of operations will be determined based on production. Variance relief will also be required for specific loading area not designated because operation will need multiple areas and proposal has the needed planned open space. Mr. Clark added the garbage dumpster will be on north end of pods in full enclosure and pickups will be allowed in only by security during regular business hours. Anticipated deliveries will be once or twice a month for materials with frequency based on needs. Small box trucks may make more frequent deliveries based on cultivation cycles.

Mr. Clark stated applicant has received the Stormwater Management Report from Board Engineer and has provided calculations to meet criteria to water quantity reduction, water quality treatment and groundwater recharge. Mr. Stoner expressed need for updates to calculations for drainage design to meet requirements for Major Development. Board allowed applicant to work with Township Engineer on design updates and will provide report at next hearing date.

Mr. Clark stated the proposal requires installation of new well and septic system based on less than 2000 gallons a day. He added three (3) of the pods will be utilized for water storage, tempered, and used for irrigation through water reclamation or dehumidification. Per Highlands Council determination, water conservation was major aspect of approval which automated operation will be efficient and water use conscience.

Power will be secured to the site by Sussex Rural Electric by overhead access for internet, lighting, and security purposes. Mr. Clark explained an eight (8) foot fence will enclose entire cultivation facility for security purposes for which relief by C variance will be needed.   Mr. Clark stated no signage has been requested in submitted plans but will be provided for next hearing.

Mr. Clark stated proposed development will be broken down to two phases which will not begin until CRC approval is received. Phase one will start with construction of greenhouse and nine pods enclosed by temporary fencing and using temporary power and lighting through transformers. High end bathroom facilities will be rented for employee use. Phase 2 will head to operation with internal fencing removed and permanent outer fencing installed. Mr. Stoner requested detailed narrative and plan of all phases and timelines be submitted primarily for Board and Zoning Officer approvals. Mr. Stoner added prior approvals or permits needed include septic, road access, Highlands Council, and stormwater management plan per NJDEP as well as an updated grading plan for site. Mr. Clark explained the Master cultivator will provide testimony at next hearing on general operations of business.

Attorney Kienz stated the application will be carried to meeting of July 26, 2023 with no further notice required. Board agreed to start meeting at 6:00pm to allow time for remainder of hearing which will be legally noticed by Board Secretary.

Chairman Theobald stated Board will take a short recess at 8:59pm.

Chairman Theobald reopened meeting at 9:07 and stated he will be stepping down from

LU#5-23-6. Vice Chairman Spoerl chaired meeting.

LU# 5-23-6 – Route 94, LLC – 634, Lot 2 & 3 – Preliminary Site Plan for the construction of a Brewpub, Event Hall, Inn, and related site improvements

Michael Selvaggi, Esq, from firm of Lavery, Selvaggi & Cohen, came forward on behalf of application Route 94, LLC.

Mr. Stoner reviewed completeness of application and noted the following waivers requested can be granted temporarily for purpose of hearing the application but further testimony for each will need to be provided:

-          Designation of Environmentally Sensitive areas and delineation of calculations

-          Utility Plan

-          Environment Impact Statement (EIS)

-          Landscape & Lighting Plan

-          Access Road Plan per A.A.S.H.T.O standards

-          Additional information for Stormwater Management

-          CAD files for Site Plan

All Board Members voted in affirmative to waive items temporarily for purpose of hearing for preliminary site plan application.

Mr. Mario Iannelli, PE, with Dewberry Engineers, came forward and was sworn in to testify on behalf of applicant which Board accepted as qualified witness.

Mr. Iannelli stated plans submitted were specifically designed to avoid the Environmentally Sensitive Areas of the site and presented the following three Exhibits:

            A1- Aerial of existing site conditions

            A2- Color rendering of previously submitted Constraints map of site

            A3- Color Rendering of enlarged Landscape Plan


Over past two years, applicant has been working with state agencies to move forward with this project. Exhibit A1 shows the existing Black Creek running along the back side of the property, causing need for applicant to obtain Letter of Interpretation from NJDEP to establish location of wetlands and associated buffers. There is a pending application with NJDEP to verify the flood hazard area lines, which application proposes no improvements in this area. Mr. Iannelli explained that site is primarily existing flat farmland but noted slopes over 18% exist along the embankment off RT 94. Regarding the request for waiver of EIS, detailed testimony will be provided on water & sewer utilities.

Exhibit A2 shows delineation of wetlands and buffers that were avoided in proposed project to respect the topography. Exhibit A4 was presented which depicted an overlay of A1 and shows how project is affecting only a small portion of property, so not to overdevelop the site. Mr. Iannelli describes A3, showing proposed new driveway off RT 94 which loops around the three buildings for brewery/distillery/ restaurant, with drop off lane for shuttles and valet. There will be 10 cottages, resort units for wedding parties or guests for short term stays after events. He noted all uses operate as a single entity.

In order to minimize impervious coverage of site, plan was designed for 159 parking spaces on site which will be enough to take care of daily operations. During major events such as weddings or large parties, applicant has secured an agreement with Mountain Creek to utilize the adjacent South Lodge parking area for 169 spaces using shuttle service for guests. Sum total will be enough for all operations to happen simultaneously. Parking Agreement labeled A5 was distributed to Board Members and Professionals. Mr. Iannelli added all uses of site have constructive interaction to them and noted the proposed parking plan saved approximately 45,000 sq ft, similar to size of football field, of impervious coverage. He added per code that maximum building coverage is 10% where 1.19% is proposed and maximum lot coverage is 25% where 7.5% is proposed.

Mr. Iannelli stated application is proposing three ways for stormwater management as depicted on A3, including two retention basins, and utilizing coarse paving for water to infiltrate back into aquifer and meets stormwater management requirements. He explained the transition elevation changes are to avoid wetlands or flood plain areas and building elevations are at 415-422 level to be seen from RT 94. Also, to avoid wetlands, 6’ keystone walls are proposed with rubble look to maintain natural feel of site. Proposal requests a variance for parking spot size of 9’ x 18’ which is similar to industry standard for similar uses. Parking spaces will comply with handicap and EV laws to provide 14 EV make ready spaces and eight ADA handicap spaces, which will be further addressed at final site plan. The use of spaces at South Lodge will occur only during seasons when ski resort is closed, and lot is unused and available.

Mr. Iannelli explained the trash enclosure will be located in back of main building, seen on A3, with further details being given by Architect. Traffic major access permit will be subject to NJDOT standards. He added the site will be connected to the Township pump station main near South Lodge but to date has not met with VTMUA yet and due to small usage, wells will be drilled on site with location subject to testing. Regarding water retention, plan is shown to encourage planting using absorption, using wet tolerant native species to capture future water which percolates through soil for vegetation. Result is more natural look to keep scenic view.

Mr. Stoner stated plan and testimony regarding stormwater calculations meet requirements of water quantity, water quality and recharge for preliminary site plan. Mr. Iannelli stated further calculations will be provided to Board Engineer as required for final approval. Mr. Stoner explained a Stormwater Maintenance Plan Manual will need to be filed with the Township Clerk. Also required due green infrastructure use of coarse pavement, a deed restriction must be recorded for the site, so driveway is never paved which applicant agreed.

Parking agreement was discussed to ensure 159 spaces on site is adequate to manage daily operations and South Lodge will only be used for major events like weddings with shuttles. Board members expressed concern of pedestrians leaving site walking on State RT 94 that has no sidewalks. Mr. Iannelli explained major events will be planned well in advance with scheduled shuttles for guests. Mr. Stoner recommended applicant add bank parking to final plan for future use which Mr. Iannelli will discuss with applicant.

Ms. Caldwell notified applicant that there exists a cemetery on the property on other side of creek which was not known by applicant. Mr. Iannelli stated no disturbance will be in the area of cemetery but fencing around area could be added for marking.

Proposed lighting plan shows intent to meet minimum lighting requirements and applicant is working with architect and Township Planner for final styles and exact locations.

Mr. Justin Taylor, Traffic Engineer Lake Como, NJ, was sworn in to testify on application. Board voted affirmatively to accept professional. Mr. Taylor explained when wedding is planned for site, couples arrange with Barns at Sammis for parking and shuttle schedules, so all guests are made aware. Traffic study was done for access road but noted plan must meet NJDOT Major Access permit requirements for trip usage, trip generation and for sight distance. He explained restaurant, brewery, distillery, and large event space are all same ownership and worst-case scenario, maximum capacity may be 550.  

Mr. Charles Molnar, Architect, with valid license in NJ, was sworn in and presented Exhibit A7, colored rendering of access entry road with rumble wall, wayfinding signage and proposed retention area. He described A7 including brewery/distillery, central courtyard, restaurant, and major event building all uses working in unison. The tasting room has large crown doors that pivot open showing natural scenic views to courtyard. The restaurant has covered porch with entry vestibules shaped like round ‘farm silo’ structures. Mr. Molnar presented Exhibit A8 showing pedestrian walking lot with rumble wall screen, paved pathways with wayfinding signage. The dining restaurant with bar will serve to interior and exterior patio in courtyard. Kitchens and bathrooms will be constructed per building and plumbing codes. Within the restaurant will be two private rooms, one 10 person and one 20 person and culinary school for up to 20 people for educational purposes. A small retail shop is proposed for guests. Mr. Molnar described the outdoor kitchen to support events like pig roasts and a small retail shop is proposed for guests.

Mr. Molnar presented Exhibit A9 colored rendering showing the event party room with three barn style doors and interior courtyard creating a clean transition in venue. He noted if large event utilizes entire site, the website or signage can notify public of closure for the day. Exhibits A10 & A11 were displayed showing the outdoor chapel made from the existing barn with walls removed and added seating. Exhibit A12 depicts the proposed small cottages being 400 sq. ft. each housing 2-6 people with small kitchen and front porch. Exhibit A13 shows the outdoor venue for 30-50 people with view of fields and vegetable gardens. Exhibit A14 displays QR code of entire 3D rendering of proposed improvements with options of covered, interior, exterior, small, medium, or large parties. Mr. Molnar explained cottages will be short term stays open to guests of site, not open to public. The operation hours and menu have yet to be determined but will be included in final plan. Board suggested a covered area in adjacent parking lot during inclement weather. Mr. Molnar added that application is a positive improvement to area and is planning to open within two years.

Matthew Flynn, NJ Licensed Planner, was sworn in and stated C variance is needed for # of parking spaces proposed but noted agreement in place to accommodate overflow parking. The benefits of the parking deviation outweigh the detriments of increased pavement which would negate the scenic value. The proposed improvements will promote general welfare, create jobs, foster tourism, and bring benefits to other existing businesses. He noted the efficient use of the land while minimizing impervious coverage to protect the Environmentally Sensitive Areas. Mr. Flynn added the bulk requirements are compliant with zone uses.

Vice Chairman Spoerl opened the hearing to the Public. Seeing no one wishing to come forward, Vice Chairman Spoerl asked for motion to close the hearing to the Public.

Motion: Motion to Approve LU#5-23-6 Preliminary Site Plan per conditions as testified was made by Ms. Cocula and seconded by Mr. Mele.


Motion Passed.

Public Participation


Vice Chairman Spoerl opened the meeting to the Public. Seeing no one wishing to come forward, Vice Chairman Spoerl asked for motion to close the meeting to the Public.




LU# 3-21-3 – Snowshoe Homes, LLC, Block 526, Lot 12, - Rear Yard Variance for a Single-Family Dwelling and Variance for a Front Yard Deck

Eligible to vote: Auberger, Williams, Tadrick, McPeek, Cocula, Whitaker, Haley, Mitchell, Heftler


Motion: Motion to Approve Resolution LU# 3-21-3 was made by Ms. Cocula and seconded by Mr. Whitaker.


Motion Passed.



Ø  June 14, 2023 – Regular Meeting Minutes (Auberger, Williams, Tadrick, McPeek, Cocula, Whitaker, Haley, Mitchell, Heftler)


Motion: Motion to Approve Minutes for June 14, 2023 was made by Ms. Cocula and seconded by Mr. Whitaker.


Motion Passed.

Appendix A – escrows, board fees, bond reductions and escrow closure


   escrows, board fees and bond reductions


A.         Board Fees


1.           Board Attorney – Glenn Kienz, Weiner Law Group LLP

Ø  Land Use Board Business – Services Through 5/25/23 ($685.00)

Ø  FW Webb – LU# 2-23-2 – Services Through 5/22/23 ($68.00)

Ø  Sussex Cultivation, LLC – LU# 2-23-4 – Services Through 5/15/23 ($1,037.00)

Ø  Sean Mangan – LU# 4-23-5 – Services Through 5/24/23 ($107.50)

Ø  Route 94, LLC -LU# 5-23-6 – Services Through 5/15/23 ($79.00)

Ø  Restoration Agriculture – LU# 5-23-7 – Services Through 5/30/23 ($45.00)

Ø  Dean Anthony Properties – LU# 5-23-8 – Services Through 5/30/23 ($45.00)


2.      Board Planner – Jessica Caldwell, J. Caldwell & Associates

Ø  Land Use Board Business – Services Through ($0)

3.   Board Engineer – Cory Stoner, Harold E. Pellow & Associates

Ø Land Use Board Business – ($0)

Ø  Bright Horizons, LLC – LU# 1-22-1 – Services Through 4/10/23 ($737.00)

Ø  Mountain Creek – PB# 2-91-4 – Services Through 4/10/23 ($474.00)

4.      Board Recording Secretary – Irene Mills ($75.00)

Motion: Motion to Approve Fees was made by Mr. Whitaker and seconded by Mr. Spoerl. All Members were in Favor.

Motion Passed.


There being no further items of business to be conducted on the agenda, a motion was made by Ms. Cocula and was seconded by Mr. Mele to adjourn. All Members were in favor.

Meeting was adjourned at 10:43 pm.

Respectfully Submitted                        

Irene Mills, 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


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