Because 80% of Jefferson Township is in the Highlands, any new construction, including something as simple as a deck, may require an exemption from the strict Highlands regulations.
Assistant Township Engineer Jim Lutz told the Jefferson Township council on Wednesday, March 3, he wants to enable his department to review any applications in the Highlands, no matter how small, before they go to the Land Use Board. He said this is common in other municipalities.
Issues such as grading and other impacts on neighboring communities are harder to fix after they are built, he noted.
Some Highlands applications will still be sent to the Land Use Board, but others can be handled by the engineering department. In other cases, the engineering office can probably work with the applicant to reduce the scope of the project to a point where Land Use Board involvement isn’t necessary, Lutz said.
Council Vice President Jay Dunham commented that while he generally doesn’t like excessive regulation, he believes this will be helpful to homeowners.
Lutz agreed. He said no homeowners want problems with the neighbors.
He did say the fees for the kind of reviews the engineers have to do on Highlands properties are higher than applicants might expect or like, but there is extensive documentation to analyze.
“By getting the engineer more involved in land use matters, we are guiding the residents the best we can,” Mayor Eric Wilsusen said.
Council also introduced an ordinance updating stormwater policies for the township. It is a state-mandated ordinance which was sent to municipalities as a template with the opportunity for each town to customize it.
The ordinance refers to new development which is not an issue in Jefferson, Wilsusen pointed out. The Wawa and medical building at the Lakeside Shopping Center will actually reduce the footprint of the previous buildings. Apartment buildings have been proposed for that area, Wilsusen said, but aside from that, there will be no major development in the township although there could be teardowns and rebuilding or additions to existing buildings.
The ordinance outlines green infrastructure best management practices for groundwater recharge, stormwater runoff quality or quantity, providing erosion control and runoff treatment. The intention is to minimize the impact of stormwater runoff on water quality and quantity in the receiving water bodies.
Council will hold a public hearing on the ordinance at its next meeting which was moved from the initially advertised date of March 17 to the next Wednesday, March 24.
That meeting will also see the introduction of the 2021 municipal budget. The mayor said he does not want to drag out the budget introduction as has been done in recent years when there were delays at the state level.
The March 17 date would be difficult because Councilman Ron Smith has a work conflict, Wilsusen said. Since council is down to four members because of the retirement of long-term Councilwoman Debi Merz Bennett, that would only leave three votes on the budget introduction and on a bond ordinance for capital projects that requires four affirmative votes.
The Morris County Republican Committee has the responsibility to offer three candidates to replace Bennett. Wilsusen said there are seven contenders for those three slots and he has no idea who the committee will select. Council will interview the three finalists and choose the new council member when they get the names from the committee.
Council will have a discussion at another meeting about issuing a sixth kennel license.
Amy Warnock, a new township resident, operates a non-profit dog rescue, Save the Satos. Wilsusen said he understands she will use a storefront on Route 15 to sell fundraising items and occasionally keep dogs overnight.
The township ordinances have mandated only five kennel licenses for many years. These haven’t been revisited in some time.
A Schooley’s Mountain resident who adopted a dog from Save the Satos said the group works with 11th Hour Rescue and brings dogs from Puerto Rico.