SPARTA, NJ – One month after the new Parking Authority was announced by the Sparta Police Department, merchants in White Deer Plaza are giving it mixed reviews. Entering the plaza at mid-day in middle of the week there were many open parking spots on both sides of the road.
Kathryn Kaplan, Proprietor of Garlic & Oil said, “For me, it’s exactly what we needed. I would like to change it all to two hours to allow people to dine and browse.” She explained the merchants continue to discuss options including valet parking and parking meters, “though that is the least favorite option.” Kaplan said she would like the police to be “a little less aggressive,” about issuing tickets, with a bit of a grace period. “We are not looking to target people who are 15 minutes [over the time] but four or more hours,”
Richard Cintron of Onore clothing store said, “It’s terrible. The original concept was to take the employees out to the plaza and make room for customers. The average person does not have time to shop and walk around and have a meal. Cannot go get a bottle of wine and have a nice meal on the boardwalk. Ticketing the customers is not good. The longer they stay, the better it is for the local businesses.”
Cintron suggests it might be helpful to have additional signage to direct patrons to the longer term parking behind the plaza. He also said after 5 p.m. when the patrols leave, the entire plaza becomes “St Moritz and Krogh’s. All bets are off.”
“I hope something happens to make it more positive,” said Cintron. The custom clothier said several of his customers have been ticketed.
Phyllis of Nihao Fashion Boutique said, “I think it is good. I like it. Most people who were passing by in their cars now have a chance to stop.”
Coldwell Banker Realtor, Barbara Silvestri said in a phone interview, “As a Coldwell Banker realtor on the boardwalk, the new parking authority is counterproductive to my business. If I am taking someone out to look at houses in my car, leaving their car in the plaza, the client could get a ticket because we are likely to be longer than one or two hours. Also, the presence of police cars stationed in front of the boardwalk and the police standing outside his car watching does not convey the message that this is a safe community where you would want to live.”
Chef Joel of St Moritz said, “The whole idea of police to monitor the parking is good. Now it is a matter of trying to figure out a balance.”
Having their own valet parking service for St Moritz patrons admittedly alleviates the pressure for their customers. “No patrons have complained of [getting] a ticket,” said Chef Joel.
Joseph of Casa Mia echoed the sentiment of Cintron saying, “They should have someone [on duty] after 6 p.m. At night they park their car and stay all night,” going to Krogh’s or St Moritz.
Cathy Chute, owner of Lake Mohawk Flower Co on West Shore Trail also said there is little impact to her business because she has two designated parking spots and most of her business is done by telephone.
Spokesman for Sparta Police Department Dennis Procter said they are enforcing the ordinances that are on the books. He said, “Anyone who has ideas are welcome to bring them to the police and township.” He reiterated a willingness to work with the business owners. Any changes, however, would have to be based on revisions to existing or new ordinances. That would have to be done by the municipality.
Procter said the Court Clerk confirmed 20 to 30 warnings and 39 tickets were issued between the start of the initiative on July 14 and August 8.
Proctor said the two officers that patrol for the Parking Authority are retired officers from other towns. Between the hours of 6 p.m. and 5 a.m. the police on patrol monitor the six 10-minute spots, indicated by signs, even responding to complaints from business owners.
Lieutenant John-Paul Beebe said, “This has been an issues for 20 years or more. The plaza is the jewel of the town, with the restaurants, shops and the boardwalk. We see an improvement, with more parking spots available during the day now that the commuters, business owners and employees are parking behind the plaza or in other places.
“They are also enforcing pedestrian crossing laws, stopping cars that do not yield to people in crosswalks. It gets very busy in the plaza and drivers do not always pay attention to the pedestrians.
“It is going to be difficult to make everyone happy but the intention is to help the business owners in the plaza. We are willing to work with them, continue the discussions and make changes so it can be it as good as it can possibly be.”