SPARTA, NJ – The Sparta Township Council approved the first reading of an ordinance to amend the parking rules in White Deer Plaza.  The proposed language pertains to Chapter VII “Traffic” section 7-11;

Parking in White Deer Plaza on both sides of the street will be limited to two hour between 5 a.m. and 6 p.m.  Previously the parking spots on the East or lake side of the plaza were limited to one hour during that time period. 

In addition to the time limits, three parking stalls will be designated “Compact Cars Only” from the crosswalk to 21 White Deer Plaza, on the East side of the plaza. 

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The 10 minute parking spots will remain as is.  These rules apply to White Deer Plaza from Mohawk Avenue to the beginning of East Shore Trail. 

The council, on the recommendation of William Close the Township Manager, voted unanimously to release the performance bond to Sparta Builders LLC.  The resolution was tabled last meeting when a member of the council indicated they had been contacted by people who live in the Round Top subdivision. The council sought additional information to confirm the areas that concerned those residents were not related to the areas covered by these bonds before the funds were released.

In his manager’s report, Close said engineers were going to evaluate the capacity of the reserve generators for the municipal building. Currently only the lower level of the building is supported by the generators.  The engineers will be looking to see if they are sufficient to also supply power to the main level, in the event of a power outage.   

In the first public comment section of the agenda, Helena Bould requested funding for the German Christmas Market, as has been done in the past.

During the final public comment Adrian Meerman discussed the North Village at Sparta-ShopRite Project. The first three of eight phases have been approved by the Planning Board. Meerman asked that the council report to the public any other projects that are of similar scope and size, regardless of where they are in the development process. 

“The CC Holdings project was done in secret…This was pretty much news to the community this summer,” said Meerman.  “Is the council or boards aware of any plans similar in scope to CC Holdings?  Is there any awareness, at any level of planning? Is there anything in the works that makes the developer so eager to develop that huge property?”

Meerman made reference to comments made by the attorney for the developer Deborah Lynn Nicholson, board and council members that indicate the North Village at Sparta development has been in the works for at least “six and a half years.”

He also referenced the comments made by members of the public at the July Planning Board meeting that indicated the school board was looking at the same property in the same time frame. Meerman said, according to public comments at the July meeting, Ernie Hofer, the Planning Board Chairman had indicated the school would not be allowed to be built there because of the Germany Flats Aquifer. Meerman questioned how, if the Planning Board members and council members say the North Village at Sparta project was being discussed at the same time the school board was seeking property for a new school, the school would be denied because of the Germany Flats aquifer and the larger ShopRite project would be supported.

While not getting a direct answer to his question, a number of council members responded. 

Josh Hertzberg said the project was not a secret. He said, “People have been talking about it for years,” Herzberg said he had heard about it even before being elected.  Meerman said neither he nor people he talked to knew about it. 

Deputy Mayor Christine Quinn said, “The project was started much longer ago but the issue was the economy.” She said when the economy declined the development was put on hold.  

Councilwoman Molly Whilesmith said, “It was dormant for quite a while when the economy changed.  As soon as opportunity presented itself, it resurfaced.”

Meerman also questioned the lack of communication about the project to the schools.  He cited concern that the number of residential units that could impact the schools was not shared with the district. 

Mayor Jerry Murphy addressed the issue of student population saying, “School population is dropping.”  Murphy gave a number of statistics about student populations throughout the county. 

Quinn said she was concerned with the impact of the project on township infrastructure. Her concerns were mitigated, however, because “it’s going to happen over years and years.”  Other council members agreed.

As to the Meerman’s initial question about other projects in the development stages, Close invited Meerman to go to the building department to discuss that issue with them.  “If you stop by the building department, they will be expecting you,” said Close.