The Vernon Township Planning Board voted on Sept. 23 to approve a pottery studio site plan in High Ridge as a home occupation after a long public hearing.
The plan by For the Love of Mud was approved by a 5-4 vote with Andrea Cocula, Kelly Mitchell, Martin Theobold and Michael Whitaker voted against the measure.
It was passed with restrictions.
Todd Hooker, attorney for applicants DeBorah Goletz and Mark Anderson, said the party was seeking a either a designation as a home office or a home occupation, or if unable to achieve one of those, seek a use variance to conduct pottery classes at her home at 16 Palamino Trail.
Goletz owns and operates For The Love of Mud pottery, located in an R-2 zone.
“When I first moved to Vernon (in 2018), I did open a studio and offer pottery classes in my basement, which was considered a home occupation as it was in West Milford,” Goetz said. “I didn’t see anything wrong.”
Classes, which have been stopped since January, typically averaged about 6-8 students but can accommodate up to 11. She said her basement studio is close to 1,200 square feet, about 34 percent of the habitable space in the home.
Goletz said she offers 2 classes per week, which last about three hours each and she also wants to offer 1 or 2 classes per month on the weekend. She has no other employees and has a back-sliding door into the basement, so students never enter her home.
Engineer Ken Dykstra said only 21 percent of the space in the home is used for the studio and the driveway can fit up to 10 cars. He also said the proposed outdoor kiln meets the township zoning ordinance requirements.
The only requirement for a home occupation, according to Hooker, that it’s an activity carried about for gain by a resident and conducted as a “reasonable customary, incidental, or accessory use in resident’s dwelling unit.”
Hooker said several years ago the Land Use board approved a dance studio as a home occupation in the same zone.
“That use is far more intensive than the use that my client is proposing, and it was approved as a home occupation,” Hooker said.
Pat Seger, a 27-year resident of Palamino Trail asked for a definition of “incidental” in the ordinance wording.
“I think it’s wrong in because this doesn’t define what a home occupation is,” she said. “Bringing people to your house 3 times per week is not incidental.”
Peg DiStasi advised the board to mindful allowing any kind of business to be conducted where there is a traffic flow.
“I hope you realize you’re setting a precedent here,” she said. “If you approve this, every Tom, Dick, and Harry who wants to have a professional in their neighborhood, this is opening the door.”
Sally Rinker said having 2 signs, a kiln, 10 cars in the driveway does not fit the definition of “incidental.”
“It should include all of those words should be part and parcel,” she said.
Residents also were concerned about the amount of traffic the studio would bring.
Pedro Frazao, who lives next door said he didn’t even know Goletz had an art studio and had said he had no problem with it.
Ed Seger said her business is great for Vernon, but it is in the wrong place and would be a better fit for the Town Center. He also referred to a plumber and chiropractor that could not operate out of their homes in that neighborhood.
“We’re not attacking the person,” he said. “We’re not attacking the business. We’re attacking the location.”