SPARTA, NJ – The skirmish that has come to be known as the Lake Mohawk Country Club parking lot issue has come to a conclusion.  The township council voted unanimously to approve the ordinance introduced at the last meeting.

The vote was not without comment.  While many of the White Deer Plaza Merchants Association members were present, only one member from the public spoke, requesting they approve the agreement.

Councilman Dave Smith read a prepared statement that caused some grumbling by people in the audience.  Smith likened the potential parking fees to “lifting the welcome mat,” having the charm of the boardwalk “turn more into commercial tourism.”

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Some of the merchants groused when Smith said he was “surprised when the LMCC decided to use their merchants at pawns.” He conclude by explaining he decided to support the ordinance because “the majority of the merchants don’t seem concerned and that it really has no impact to the town in any way.”

Deputy Mayor Christine Quinn echoed Smith’s statement that the members of the planning and zoning boards were looking out for the merchants and working within the confines of the rules.  She again encouraged people to listen to the audio recordings of the meetings.

“Today came about because litigation took the place of communication,” Quinn said.

Councilman Jerry Murphy said he was always an advocate for the businesses but then admonished “be careful what you wish for.”

Finally, Councilman Dan Chiariello said three parties will be impacted by this decision; businesses, LMCC and the shoppers. While he too was initially concerned for the businesses he said, his “fears were allayed after hearing from them.”  He said the shoppers will speak for themselves over the next few years and  “if it doesn’t go the way we hope we’ll address it at that time.”

The ordinance allows for the option to charge non-association members for parking in a lot owned by a homeowners association with at least 300 members.

The ordinance only pertains to the parking lot.  Street parking is not included and will remain free in the plaza.

Plaza merchant Chris Murch, owner of WaggMore Pet Boutique said, “I’m glad we came to a conclusion.  I hope it works out for everyone.”

LMCC attorney Kevin Kelly thanked “Mayor Molly Whilesmith and council member for their efforts getting this resolved.  And thanks to the professionals [township attorney] Tom Ryan and [township manager] Bill Close for coming up with the idea to make it work.”