21 Church Street, Vernon, NJ 07462
This Special Meeting of the Township Council of the Township of Vernon was convened at 7:00 p.m. on February 6, 2023 via Zoom Webinar and in the Vernon Municipal Center, 21 Church Street, Vernon, New Jersey with Council Vice President Buccieri presiding.
STATEMENT OF COMPLIANCE
Adequate Notice of this Special Meeting was provided to the public and the press on February 1, 2023 and was posted at the Municipal Building in accordance with the Open Public Meetings Act, N.J.S.A.10:4-7.
SALUTE TO THE FLAG
Council Vice President Buccieri led the assemblage in the salute to the flag.
Present were Council Members Natalie Buccieri, Patrick Rizzuto, Bradley Sparta and Joseph Tadrick. Also present were Mayor Howard Burrell, Acting Co-Business Administrator Dan Young, Municipal Clerk Marcy Gianattasio and Township Attorney Josh Zielinski.
PUBLIC COMMENT (Limited to 5 Minutes On Any Topic)
Vice President Buccieri asked for a motion to open the meeting to Public Comments.
All members were in favor.
Chris Dowling – Sussex Cultivation, asked for support of resolution #23-55 which is on the agenda tonight. This would give Sussex Cultivation the Council’s support for a Conditional Class 2 Cannabis Manufacturers License.
Bill Higgins – had concerns about how a vote for an open seat took place two years ago. He feels that this vote broke policy and procedure.
Ann Larson – expressed concerns for resolution #22-55 because of the location of the cannabis factory. Ms. Larson feels that the annual reassessment is done improperly and the numbers do not make sense.
Mark Annunziato, Rose Mark Realty - supports resolution #23-55.
Rich Carson - voiced concerned about the smell of cannabis. He feels that cannabis is nothing more than a trend.
Jessica Paladini – agrees with Ann Larson’s comments. Ms. Paladini is concerned that the cannabis manufacturer will be within 2000 feet of school or park. Ms. Paladini explained to the Council that several groups on Facebook are outraged about the reassessment program and she wants the program stopped.
Christine Dunn – Glenwood, expressed concern about her property assessment.
Thomas McClachrie – Vernon Township, feels that there are a lot of discrepancies in his property taxes.
Seeing no one else from the public wishing to come forward, Vice President Buccieri asked for a motion to close the meeting to Public Comments.
All members were in favor.
APPLICANTS FOR VACANT COUNCIL SEAT
a. Peg Distasi
b. Mark J. Heftler
c. George Nikanorov
d. Edward DeYoung
e. Peter Knipe
f. Steve Dunlop
Council Member Tadrick recused himself from this selection.
All of the applicants interested in filling the Council seat vacated by Brian Lynch had 3 minutes to speak to the Council.
Township Attorney explained the procedure to this vacancy if they so chose to. There is no requirement to fill the vacancy. The vacancy guidelines do not have any guidelines as to how the Council may want the vacancy to filled.
Attorney Zielinski also explained that the rules for abstentions is in our township code:
(1) The vote of the Council upon every ordinance and resolution shall be taken by the Clerk by roll call, and the Clerk shall record in the minutes the yes and no votes and abstentions, as the case may be, for each question put to vote.
(2) The effect of an abstention is as follows:
(a) Where a statute or the common law requires a specific, fixed number of actual affirmative votes for a majority, an abstention is considered a negative vote.
(b) Where a Council person is disqualified due to conflict of interest or a personal involvement with the subject to be considered, the abstention is not counted as either a yes or no vote, and the person is not counted for purposes of establishing the quorum for the vote.
Council Member Sparta asked to have resolution #23-59 amended to read serve the term until the results of the November 7, 2023 General Election are certified.
APPOINTMENT TO THE VERNON TOWNSHIP COUNCIL
Resolution #23-59: Resolution Appointing to the Vernon Township Council for a Term Ending November 7, 2023 (Until the General Election results are certified)
Vice President Buccieri asked if there were any nominations to the appointment of the Vernon Township Council.
Council Member Sparta nominated Peg Distasi. Seconded by Vice President Buccieri.
Council Member Rizzuto nominated Mr. Higgins. There was no second.
Council Member Rizzuto nominated Mr. DeYoung. There was no second.
Council Member Rizzuto nominated Mr. Dunlop. There was no second.
There were no more nominations. Vice President Buccieri closed the floor for nominations.
Vice President Buccieri asked for a roll call vote for the nomination of Peg Distasi.
A roll call vote was taken:
AYES: Buccieri, Rizzuto, Sparta
Motion carries to appoint Peg Distasi to the Vernon Township Council.
RESOLUTION APPOINTING TO THE VERNON TOWNSHIP COUNCIL
WHEREAS, Councilman Brian Lynch was elected to the Council of the Township of Vernon and sworn into office on January 1, 2022 for a four-year term; and
WHEREAS, on January 23, 2023 Councilman Lynch resigned from the Council of the Township of Vernon; and
WHEREAS, the resignation of Councilman Lynch has created a vacancy on the Council of the Township of Vernon (“Vacancy”); and
WHEREAS, Margaret Distasi has been determined to be qualified to hold the office of Township Council Member; and
WHEREAS, pursuant to N.J.S.A. 40A:16-5(a) and N.J.S.A. 40A:16-7, a vacancy in the office of Council Member is filled by a majority vote of the remaining members of the Council.
NOW, THEREFORE, BE IT RESOLVED by the Council of the Township of Vernon that:
1. Margaret Distasi is hereby appointed as a Council Member to fill the vacancy on the Council of the Township of Vernon created by the resignation of Councilman Lynch and shall serve until the results of the November 7, 2023 General Election are certified.
2. This Resolution shall take effect immediately upon adoption according to law.
Attorney Zielinski administered the Oath of Office to Peg Distasi.
COUNCIL PRESIDENT NOMINATIONS & SELECTIONS
Municipal Clerk Gianattasio asked for nominations for Council President.
Council Member Tadrick nominated Council Member Rizzuto. Seconded by Council Member Rizzuto.
Council Member Sparta nominated Council Member Buccieri. Seconded by Council Member Distasi.
There were no more nominations.
A roll call vote was taken to nominate Council Member Rizzuto as Council President.
AYES: Rizzuto, Tadrick
NAYES: Buccieri, Sparta, Distasi
Motion does not carry.
A roll call vote was taken to nominate Council Member Buccieri as Council President.
AYES: Buccieri, Sparta, Distasi
NAYES: Rizzuto, Tadrick
Motion carries to nominate Council Member Buccieri as Council President.
COUNCIL VICE PRESIDENT NOMINATIONS & SELECTION
Council President Buccieri asked for nominations for Council Vice President.
Council Member Sparta nominated Council Member Rizzuto.
Council Member Rizzuto withdrew the nomination.
There were no other nominations for Council Vice President.
Council Member Rizzuto asked to be nominated as Vice President again.
Council Member Sparta nominated Council Member Rizzuto. Seconded by Council President Buccieri.
A roll call vote was taken:
A roll call vote was taken to nominate Council Member Rizzuto as Council Vice President.
AYES: Buccieri, Rizzuto, Sparta, Tadrick, Distasi
Motion carries to nominate Council Member Rizzuto as Council Vice President.
Resolution #23-55: Resolution of the Council of the Township of Vernon in Support of the Location and Operation of an Adult-Use Cannabis Manufacturing Site by Sussex Cultivation LLC Within Township of Vernon
Council President Buccieri asked for a motion to approve resolution #23-55.
A roll call vote was taken:
AYES: Sparta, Distasi
NAYES: Buccieri, Rizzuto
Township Attorney Zielinski explained that because there is not statute, law requires a fixed number of votes and because she has not stated any reasons that would disqualify her from voting, her abstention is considered and affirmative vote.
Motion carries to approve resolution #23-55.
RESOLUTION OF THE COUNCIL OF THE TOWNSHIP OF VERNON IN SUPPORT OF THE LOCATION AND OPERATION OF AN ADULT-USE CANNABIS MANUFACTURING SITE BY SUSSEX CULTIVATION LLC WITHIN TOWNSHIP OF VERNON
WHEREAS, the New Jersey Cannabis Regulatory, Enforcement Assistance, and Marketplace Modernization Act, N.J.S.A. 24:6I-31 through -59 and N.J.A.C. 17:30 et seq. (collectively, “CREAMMA”) legalizes the adult use of marijuana by adults 21 years of age or older and establishes a comprehensive regulatory and licensing scheme for commercial adult-use cannabis operations, use, and possession; and
WHEREAS, the Cannabis Regulatory Commission (“CRC”) is charged with accepting, reviewing and making determinations on applications for personal use cannabis business licenses; and
WHEREAS, the CRC previously issued a Notice of Application Acceptance for Personal Use Cannabis Licenses indicating that the CRC shall accept new personal use cannabis business licenses; and
WHEREAS, the CRC awarded a Class 2 cannabis manufacturing conditional license to Sussex Cultivation LLC; and
WHEREAS, Sussex Cultivation LLC has indicated its intent to submit a conversion application to the CRC for a Class 2 cannabis manufacturing license for the property identified as 92 Maple Grange Rd, Vernon (the “Township”); and
WHEREAS, CREAMMA and the CRC’s Notice of Application Acceptance requires that conversion applications demonstrate proof of local support, as evidenced by a resolution adopted by a municipality’s governing body indicating that the intended location is appropriately located or otherwise suitable for activities related to the operations of the proposed cannabis business; and
WHEREAS, CREAMMA and the CRC’s Notice of Application Acceptance also requires that conversion applications submit zoning approval in the form of a letter or affidavit from the appropriate officials of the municipality entrusted with zoning or the regulation of land use stating that the proposed location will conform to municipal zoning requirements allowing for activities related to the operations of the proposed cannabis business to be conducted at the location; and
WHEREAS, in connection with its conversion application, Sussex Cultivation LLC has requested proof of local support from the Township in accordance with CREAMMA and the CRC’s Notice of Application Acceptance; and
WHEREAS, the Township has authorized the operation of certain personal use cannabis class uses; and
WHEREAS, Sussex Cultivation LLC’s proposed location is a LI zoned property; and
WHEREAS, cannabis cultivation is permitted use at the proposed location; and
WHEREAS, the issuance of a Class 2 cannabis manufacturing license to Sussex Cultivation LLC would not exceed any limitation on the number of such licenses set forth by the Township; and
WHEREAS, in light of the foregoing, the Mayor and Council recognizes that the location proposed by Sussex Cultivation LLC is appropriately located or otherwise suitable for the activities related to the operations of a Class 2 cannabis manufacturing; and
WHEREAS, the Mayor and Council further recognizes the benefits to the Township and its residents associated with permitting a Class 2 cannabis manufacturing to be located within the Township, including, but not limited to, job creation and use of local vendors for operational needs as well as anticipated dedicated tax revenues; and
WHEREAS, this Resolution may be used by Sussex Cultivation LLC as proof of local support as required by CREAMMA and the CRC’s Notice of Application Acceptance in connection with Sussex Cultivation LLC’s conversion application to the CRC.
NOW, THEREFORE, BE IT RESOLVED, by the Mayor and Council of the Township of Vernon, in the County of Sussex, State of New Jersey, as follows:
Resolution #23-60: Resolution Requesting Authorization to Hire Certain Police Officers
Council President Buccieri asked for a motion to approve resolution #23-60.
A roll call vote was taken:
AYES: Buccieri, Rizzuto Sparta, Tadrick, Distasi
Motion carries to approve resolution #23-60.
RESOLUTION REQUESTING AUTHORIZATION TO HIRE CERTAIN POLICE OFFICERS
WHEREAS, it is the desire of the Township of Vernon to hire a police officer, and
WHEREAS, the Vernon Township Police Department staff have conducted background checks and interviewed Police Officer candidates in accordance with all Civil Service guidelines; and
WHEREAS, the Vernon Township Police Department staff recommend the hiring of the following Police Officer Candidate:
Parker H. Shade- at a Probationary level, $47,713/year.
WHEREAS, the Township’s Chief of Police recommends hiring this officer; and
WHEREAS, the Chief Financial Officer has certified that there will be sufficient funds.
NOW, THEREFORE, BE IT RESOLVED, by Mayor and Council of Township of Vernon, County of Sussex, approve the hiring of said Police Officer effective February 13th, 2023.
Mayor Burrell congratulated Council President Buccieri on becoming Council President and he also congratulated Council Member Distasi and welcomed her to the Council.
At our last Council meeting, we learned of the sudden resignation of former Council member and Council President BRIAN LYNCH.
Anyone who has frequently attended our Council meetings, or who has frequently viewed our Council meetings on YouTube over this past year, know that BRIAN and I did not agree on a host of political issues.
Therefore, it might seem strange to know that I consider BRIAN’s resignation from the Council to be something that’s not good for our governing body team, nor is it good for our town.
To those individuals who don’t understand such a statement from me, they should know that from my prospective, disagreement with an individual does not automatically create an attitude or a feeling of dislike or disrespect. Because the truth is, I both like and respect BRIAN.
As I said during my Mayor’s Comments at our January Reorganization Meeting, based on what I know about and have experienced with BRIAN, he is a direct, no nonsense, tell-it-like-it-is, sometimes blunt, but also a very good, and very fair person.
My opinion of BRIAN is also greatly influenced by my belief, that unlike far too many other individuals that we all encounter during our lifetimes, BRIAN does not look down on others; he respects the human dignity of others. And my value system is one where I prefer to work with individuals with this kind of attitude of human kindness and respect, no matter what their political views are.
I end by thanking BRIAN for his service to our town, and wishing him the blessings of the Creator, as he moves forward with his life.
Vice President Rizzuto expressed his best wishes to Brian Lynch and his wife Renee on the next part of their life.
Vice President Rizzuto was surprised by the decision of Senator Oroho not to run for reelection. Should the senate have changed he would have become the majority leader and would have had a great deal of power. This would have meant a lot for Sussex County. Vice President Rizzuto said that the attention that Senator Oroho has given to his job and the towns in Sussex County as well as the State of New Jersey speaks well of him. We have had a number of conversations and he has thought well of each community that he has been representing and he has given a very good account of himself. His values as a republican are well stated and Vice President Rizzuto applauds him for it and hopes that the reason he has thought to resign is to spend more time as Pop Pop. Should he choose another endeavor in the field of politics, that form of government would be blessed to have him.
Vice President Rizzuto commented that he had the opportunity to meet with Congressman Gottheimer for the first time. He was pleased to hear his position on a number of issues. For those who may not be aware of it, it was through his studied effort that the Township was able to receive 3.4 million dollars towards infrastructure in the area of sewer and sewer development. Vice President Rizzuto said his discussion with him was pleasant and he feels that he is going to continue to be a great help to Vernon and he looks forward to working with him in any capacity.
Council Member Tadrick had no comments.
Council Member Sparta thanked everyone who put in a letter of interest for the vacant Council seat.
Council Member Sparta asked the mayor if there was an update on the Business Administrator search.
Mayor Burrell gave an update and explained that they were narrowing the candidates down.
Council Member Sparta asked for an update on the ARP money.
Mayor Burrell said he would get an update to the Council as soon as possible.
Council Member Distasi thanked everyone for their support. She takes her vows seriously and she will fulfill them to the best of her ability. She will work with the Council, with the respect and confidentiality that is required and she looks forward to doing so.
Marcy Gianattasio, RMC, CMR
Minutes approved: March 27, 2023