SPARTA, NJ - After years of discussion, negotiation and litigation, the Lake Mohawk Country Club parking lot will only be open to members. Beginning on October 23, non-authorized vehicles will be prohibited from parking in the lot across the street from the clubhouse, according to an announcement sent by Megan Ward of Kelly & Ward, attorneys for LMCC.
The statement said, "The West Shore Trail parking lot is private property that remains available for use by LMCC Members, their guests and patrons of the Clubhouse. Vehicles of trespassers will be towed/immobilized at the expense of the vehicle’s owner."
In January the state Superior Court Judge Stuart Minkowitz rejected the LMCC argument that they should be allowed to charge non-members to park in the lot, ruling instead for the Sparta's Planning and Zoning Boards.
This issue has been brewing since 2016 when the club began the process of improving and maintaining the parking lot, including adding additional parking spaces. It was the big price tag that led the LMCC to go to the Planning Board with a plan to charge non-members for parking. After several meetings and much discussion the planning board rejected that request.
The Planning Board presented a list of 19 reasons to reject the request which LMCC disputed. At the planning board's final meeting on the issue, it was suggested by some members that the request really belonged at the Zoning Board.
In April 2018, Judge Minkowitz agreed, asking the LMCC to get an opinion from the Zoning Board. In the single meeting on the issue, the Zoning Board, acting on the transcripts of the Planning Board, rejected the request. This action caused the Zoning Board to be added to the litigation against the township.
In February 2019 Minkowitz found for Sparta, denying the LMCC the option to charge for parking in their lot. The LMCC appealed the decision that said the addition of fees would be a new use for the property and subject to the Zoning Board’s ruling.
The judge did uphold the LMCC's option to exclude non-members because the Planning Board had approved a gate early in the process.
“LMCC spent tens of thousands of dollars pursuing approvals from Sparta Township for a fair means to offset maintenance costs of this private lot for the patrons and staff of White Deer Plaza area businesses to share its use,” according to the statement released by Ward.
Ward said attempts had been made this year to work with the township but have not been successful.
“For many years, we have tried to explain to anyone that would listen, that the Club does not have the resources to provide free public parking; unfortunately, all of our efforts fell on deaf ears,” LMCC Board of Trustees President, William Greenlaw said. “LMCC never wanted this outcome and tried very hard for an equitable solution. The only fair thing that we can do now is limit the parking lot to the LMCC Members and Clubhouse patrons who pay for it.”