SPARTA, NJ- Sparta Township has prevailed in the New Jersey Supreme Court on July 21, regarding the Glen Lake Dam assessment.  The ruling upholds the township’s ability to levy a special assessment for the member of the private beach club, to recoup the cost of repairing their dam, according to the court documents.

The township will have to go back to the drawing board, however, to “determine the methodology” of the calculation for the assessment for each of the members of the Glen Lake Beach Club, according to township officials.

The initial 15-year loan was for $925,748 according to Township Manager William Close. Close said $422,444 has already been collected. It appears the latest court ruling will require all payments to be reviewed and property owners’ liability to be revisited, Close said.

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The court documents confirm the members of the Glen Lake Beach Club, Inc. are responsible for repaying the loan administered by the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection.  The NJDEP required the Glen Lake Beach Club to make the repairs to the dam.

The township was required to sign as a “co-borrower” for the loan to assure repayment because the township has the authority to levy a special assessment as well as the  authority to impose a lien on delinquent properties, according to documents related to the initial litigation in 2017.

In December 2017, the court ruled in the initial case that Sparta’s appointed expert on whom the commission relied, did not provide a methodology for including houses that were in the special assessment area, beyond eligibility for lake membership. The court found the expert's methodology in developing the special assessment was “arbitrary” and the Board of Assessment Commissioners were “misguided by an arbitrary and unreasonable expert report.”

A further complication in the 2017 court matter was that the “special assessment process was tainted by a fatal conflict of interest,” when then councilman Jerry Murphy voted on the resolution to approve the appointment of the commission that would develop the special assessment.

Murphy’s property is within the Glen Lake Beach Club boundaries.

An ordinance approved by the council members on February 9, 2016 established the Board of Assessment Commissioners who, together with a hired outside consultant were charged with establishing the special assessment liability for each of the Glen Lake Beach Club property owners.

The township council members will have to decide a process for creating the new special assessment, that could include a new Board of Assessement COmmissioners, according to township officials.  Township Council members released an announcement on Thursday, July 23 quoting a statement made in December 2017 by then Mayor Gilbert Gibbs; that they will serve as a “’collection agent’ for repayment of the loan...so that other residents of the municipality [are] not saddled with this financial responsibility.”

The Sparta Township Council’s July 28, 2020 meeting has been canceled.  The next meeting is scheduled for Tuesday, August 11 at 7:30 p.m. in the municipal building.