Another fast food franchise may call Sparta home

| 28 Sep 2011 | 02:59

    SPARTA - Have it your way, say town officials. Hungry diners stuck in the fast-food lane when looking for something to eat in Sparta will soon have an alternative to Burger King. A Hackensack-based developer has presented township officials with plans to build a 5,000 square-foot fast food restaurant near the intersection of Route 15 and 517 in Sparta. The fast food restaurant is being proposed, along with two new retail stores and a 76,000 square-foot Stop & Shop supermarket (see related story on page 3), as another part of the Town Center project puzzle near the Sparta junction. Jersey Investors presented plans before the planning board earlier this month. A public hearing concerning the project is scheduled Nov. 2. Township planner David Troast said Jersey Investors has not identified tenants for either the retail stores or fast food restaurant. Nor has anyone approached the township about occupying the current Stop-N-Shop along Sparta Avenue, he said. “We don’t have a say if there’s a McDonald’s, Wendy’s or Burger King,” said Troast. “It’s all up to the land owner. The same thing can be said for the supermarket. That’s also chosen by the developer.” The Sparta Town Center, based on a concept created by the state Planning Commission, focuses on the intersection of Main Street and Sparta Avenue and stretches to Glen Road in one direction and the Sparta Theatre and Lake Mohawk Plaza areas in the other. “We don’t seek developers,” said Troast. “Developers come to us. Our Master Plan is the vision of the community -- what should happen from a land-use perspective. Ordinances implement that vision as to zoning and development.” Jersey Investors also has plans for at least one more restaurant, medical offices, 50 townhouses, and a hotel near the Route 517 by-pass properties, where Troast expects to see significant economic growth. “The ordinance says restaurants are permitted,” said Troast. “Whether it’s Applebee’s or Joe’s bar and grill or Harry’s ice cream, we don’t get into personalities. It could be a Hyatt, a Radisson, or a Hampton Inn. It just has to fit the character of the Town Center.” An access road has been proposed through the 35-acre Town Center development to connect Route 517 and Main Street. “Smart growth tells us to concentrate development near transportation areas,” said Troast. “That’s why we have a by-pass and access to Route 15. That’s where we want growth to be.” Troast said Novelle Associates, a Sparta-based developer, has presented the planning board with plans to construct 44 age-restricted housing units and new commercial and retail office space along Main Street where the Central restaurant and pizzeria had stood for more than 80 years. He said ground should be broken next month. A $350,000 state grant under the township center designation is funding the current “pedestrian-friendly” construction along Sparta Avenue. When completed, about 200 seniors currently living in 180 nearby units will have greater walking access to shopping and other businesses from the current Stop & Shop to the jug handle near the Citgo service station, said Troast.