Rumors and controversy have abounded in the Sparta community since the Lake Mohawk Country Club announced last week, through a statement by its attorneys, that it will close its parking lot to non-members starting on Oct. 23.
Lake Mohawk Country Club (LMCC) and Sparta Township have been embroiled in conflict regarding the parking lot’s fate for three years, beginning when LMCC first proposed implementing paid parking for non-members in 2016.
LMCC, which also owns much of the diagonal parking in White Deer Plaza, sought to mitigate the costs of maintaining the 400-space lot.
“LMCC has spent tends of thousands of dollars pursuing approvals from Sparta Township for a fair means to offset maintenance costs of this private lot for the patrons and staff of White Deer Plaza area businesses to share its use,” read the statement from Kelly & Ward, LMCC’s attorneys.
In 2017, LMCC’s application for paid parking was rejected by the township Planning Board, and likewise rejected by the Zoning Board of Adjustment in 2018. According to the statement, both rejections remain in litigation.
“For many years, we have tried to explain to anyone who would listen, that the Club does not have the resources to provide free public parking; unfortunately, all of our efforts fell on deaf ears,” LMCC Board of Trustees President, William Greenlaw said in the statement. “LMCC never wanted this outcome and tried very hard for an equitable solution. The only fair thing that we can do now is limit the parking lot to the LMCC members and Clubhouse patrons who pay for it.”
Following this announcement, Mayor Molly Whilesmith released her own statement addressing the issue.
“The LMCC parking lot is privately owned and operated and as such, the Board of Trustees are wholly within their right to close their parking lot to non members. We agree that it is unfortunate that LMCC has decided to close the lot at this time.
The matter is complex and all parties are trying to act in the best interest of their members, patrons and residents. Myself and my colleagues have met with LMCC representatives several times this year with the intent to discuss possible solutions to this situation. The litigation filed by LMCC has created some constraints as to achieving a full resolution of the issues.”
In the absence of an agreement with LMCC, the township has sought out other solutions to provide parking for patrons of White Deer Plaza’s businesses. As of Oct. 4, the Township had reached an agreement in principle with Steve Scro, owner of Carl’s Auto Body Shop, to lease the property for up to five years.
The auto body shop would be used to provide several additional parking spaces for White Deer Plaza, and would also serve as the location for a police department impound lot. The property has been used for “community events, employee training and fundraisers” in the past, according to the statement by Mayor Whilesmith. She also stated that the town would “continue to explore other options for addressing parking issues in the White Deer Plaza and throughout Sparta’s Commercial Zone.”
Meanwhile, White Deer Plaza’s merchants have taken matters into their own hands, and will host an event on Saturday, Oct. 12 to bring awareness to the parking issue, which many fear will have a substantial effect on businesses in the plaza.
“The merchants of White Deer Plaza have been made pawns in the fight between the Club and the Township,” read a flyer posted by St. Moritz Grill & Bar on its Facebook page. “We need your help to bring attention to this critical issue and pressure the Club and Township to settle this once and for all.”
“We want what’s best for the community,” said Joel Cain, manager of St. Moritz. “We really stand to lose a lot.”
The event was scheduled for noon to 2 p.m. in White Deer Plaza on Saturday, Oct. 12, with free food available to attendees.