Sparta officials await plans for the redevelopment of Main Street

| 28 Sep 2011 | 02:47

    SPARTA-Sparta officials are still awaiting plans from the developer of the proposed town center along Main Street. Township manager Henry Underhill said at a council meeting this week that he expects the developer, Novelle Associates of Sparta, to file for a date on the planning board agenda by early May. He said the project has been delayed while Novelle Associates address regulatory concerns with the state Department of Environmental Protection. The meeting attracted about 25 residents to what is typically a somewhat empty chamber room where council members gather the second and fourth Tuesdays of each month. Sparta Township officials have come under greater scrutiny of late, following concerns raised by residents about overcrowding in the schools, the town's master plan, the new firehouse, limited grocery shopping, and delays in construction of the new municipal building. Establishment of the town center is planned to include 44 age-restricted housing units and new commercial and retail office space where the Central restaurant and pizzeria has stood for more than 80 years. Officials from Novelle Associates have said they expect ground to broken by the fall. The site also includes a florist, law office, barbershop, and memorabilia store. Louis and Louise Nazzaro, who own the Central restaurant, had expected to close on the property last week. No future date for closing has been given to them. Both Louis and Louise Nazzaro were at the council meeting Tuesday night to receive a plaque from the township in recognition of their longtime service to the community. Sparta officials have been doing their part to move the town center project along. Council members recently amended a zoning ordinance that paved the way for the senior units they believe will generate affordable housing within walking distance to the grocery store, haircutters, the library, banks, shoe store and municipal building. "One of the goals of the township has been to encourage more senior housing," said David Troast, Sparta Township planner. "This ordinance sets forth the standard by which it can happen. It's where housing is supposed to be, especially affordable housing and, in my opinion, age-restricted housing. It allows for higher mobility without the use of the automobile." The Main Street Town Center designation prohibits any structure from exceeding three stories or 38 feet. The amended ordinance requires at least one occupant of the senior residential units to be 55 years of age or older and other members to be over the age of 19. At least 80 percent of the units shall be under three bedrooms. Sparta officials have said the project will bring increased ratables to town without placing an added burden on an already acknowledged overcrowded school system.