SPARTA, NJ- Sparta businesses and restaurants will be able to apply to the town to make adjustments to their outdoor footprint as early as Wednesday, according to resolution 8-5 approved unanimously at the virtual township council meeting on Tuesday. 

Only the title of the resolution was provided to the public; “Issuance of Temporary Special Use Permit Applications and Approvals for Relief Township Ordinance due to Limitations on Business Operation During the COVID-19 Pandemic.”

After it was approved, during the New Business discussion, Councilwoman Molly Whilesmith asked to discuss the resolution for the public's edification.  Township Engineer Stan Puszcz said he will be spearheading the township’s efforts to review and approve the applications.

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“The township manager is looking to turn around these applications as quickly as possible, 48 hours if we can,” Puszcz said.  “We are prepared tomorrow morning to give the businesses the form.”

He said they “stripped it down” to make it extremely simple; name, address, phone number, describe what it is you want to do, provide a sketch or a diagram, with dimensions as to how you’re going to make it function.”

Puszcz explained the “businesses will have the opportunity to use their own creativity in the context of this pandemic to be able to get their doors open and get customers in.” 

There is no fee to apply, according to Puszcz.  Business owners will be able to get assistance getting through the application process.  The sites will be inspected "so we understand what you're doing."

“We’re expecting a lot of creativity,” Puszcz said.  They are not assuming the responsibility of the health department or the Alcoholic Beverage Control but he will be coordinating with the fire department and police department and the staff of planning and zoning and construction departments. 

Businesses can apply on Wednesday, but cannot implement their plans until June 15 according to Executive Order 150.

Puszcz said they had been monitoring the governor’s moves to loosen the restrictions.  When they “first caught wind of some relaxation about a week ago” Puszcz said the township manager Bill Close tasked him along with the township attorney Tom Ryan, Planning Board attorney Tom Collins, the Zoning Board attorney Glenn Kienz and the Land Use Administrator/Zoning Officer Maureen Donnelly, "to develop a methodology to have in place as quickly as possible.”

He said they evaluated the governor’s Executive Order 150, directives from the Department of Law and Public Safety Division of Alcohol and Beverage Control, special rule for permits expanding liquor licenses, Department of Health protocols for outdoor food service.

Sussex County Department of Health also issued an advisory to allow businesses to “install or expand outdoor dining.”

According to the township website, public access continues to be restricted to the municipal building.  Members of the public wishing to do business in the municipal building must still call to make an appointment. 

The township manager said all staff was back to work in the building this week.  He said they will use personal protective equipment and social distancing but plexiglass barriers had not all arrived yet.  Close said the department of public works staff will be installing them as they are available. 

Close said the status of municipal building restrictions will be re-evaluated at the end of next week.