Business & Finance

Sparta Township Council Agrees to Approve Sewage Franchise for Village North Project

Attorney Debra Nicholson and Engineer Owen Dykstra address the Sparta Township Council regarding Sparta Village North development project. Credits: Jennifer Dericks
Sparta Village North rendering Credits: Jennifer Dericks
The entire project rendering for Sparta Village North Credits: Jennifer Dericks

SPARTA, NJ — The Village North at Sparta development is moving ahead Anyone driving north on Route 15 has seen the construction has started on the Shop Rite Project. Attorney Deborah Nicholson and owner Owen Dykstra appeared in front of Sparta Township Council at the meeting on Tuesday to get the sewer service infrastructure moving along.

Nicholson requested council members pass a resolution at the June 12 meeting that they would have the first hearing on an ordinance establishing the sewer service franchise at the June 26 meeting. 

Nicholson added it is up to the Board of Public Utilities, or BPU, to approve the design of the sewage treatment plant, the rates to be charged and licensed operator. According to Dykstra he will manage the sewer franchise and DeBlock Environmental will be the licensed operator.

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“They are very capable and well known,” Township Mangaer Bill Close said.

“We wanted to start with the gold standard because down the road they have done everything by the book so there are no problems and no fines,” Nicholson said.

In addition to the utility franchise, the ordinance will include language about consent to use the two roads they will access as part of the utility. 

Councilman Jerry Murphy asked for confirmation that the roads would have to be approved by the township before the project was completed.

Sparta Township Planning Board attorney Angelo Bolcato said, “The township is not going to be accepting the roads until the entire project is complete.”

Nicholson and Dykstra said, “We’re not dedicating until everything is completed. You’re getting two roads with a swear system underneath and the operational [sewage treatment plant] operating.”

“At this level for the town, it is a confined unique petition,” Nicholson said referencing the ordinance they will be asked to approve at the next meeting. She said it will only be one page of text.

When asked about the financial viability of the sewer utility Nicholson said “all of the property owners in the village will be required to be customers of the utility. There will be mandatory participation of the monopoly.”

Nicholson asked that documents requested by the township council not be made public or attached to the ordinance as an amendment or exhibit. The documents were the projected revenue and expenses, “private information,” so it can be proven to be self supporting Nicholson said. 

“Customarily it is not a municipality question because the BPU regulates it and [the project] can’t be approved without the BPU approval,” Nicholson said.

Mayor Josh Hertzberg asked about the consequences if the utility was not financial viable.

Nicholson said, “It doesn’t happen because the BPU finds an operator who can manage it better.”

Looking for a more definitive answer Hertzberg asked, “It is legally their responsibility.”

“It is within their purview,” Nicholson said. 

Dykstra said in the first year they expect to lose money. “The second year it breaks even and the third year it makes money.”

Murphy said, “It depends on the customer base.”

Nicholson said they can “go to the BPU to ask for a rate based increase to upgrade facilities. That can be very difficult so that is when the utility partners with the township.”

Councilman Gil Gibbs asked about the timeline. Nicholson said, “The end of the year.”

“It needs to be running by December 31,” Township Attorney Tom Ryan said, though when asked they did determine that the timeline was created by the builder and the attorney.

Nicholson said she wanted the resolution to be approved at the June 12 meeting so they could file their petition with the state to “get a docket number, to get the clock ticking for a hearing.” The resolution would allow them to submit the petition with “the ordinance pending.”

The council unanimously approved the resolution.   

Dykstra said the sewage treatment “plant was under construction and would be ready to work by September.” July of next year it will go online with the first tenants are in, according to Dykstra.

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