Sparta's limited menu

| 28 Sep 2011 | 02:45

    SPARTA-While the lack of supermarket selection in recent years has some Sparta residents disgruntled, township officials maintain that they could be hearing a development application for a designated commercial zone as early as February. "When we first moved here 12 years ago there were three supermarkets; now there is only Stop & Shop," said Lake Mohawk resident Bert Hirsh. "This one remaining market is somewhat limited in space and selection of goods." Many residents travel to neighboring towns to do their grocery shopping, including larger stores in Byram, Franklin, Newton, and Jefferson. According to Town Manager Henry Underhill, the new larger supermarkets need approximately 65,000-square-feet, plus related parking. Sparta's Stop & Shop is about half that size. "Finding a site large enough to accommodate an interested developer has not been easy," said Underhill. "And sewer service versus the available septic systems in most areas, has been a major obstacle, as well." The Town Council has recently invested in sewage and rezoning. The Town Center Land Use Plan, includes two zones listing supermarket as a "permitted use." Additional permitted uses within the commercial districts include retail, hotel, restaurant and office space. "It took us six years to get our sewers in the Town Center," said Township Planner David Troast. The anticipated development plan from Jersey Investors for the ‘"rock pile"' property between Main Street and the Route 517 Bypass is a "long time in coming." In addition to the Town Center's commercial and limited commercial zones, there is over 60 acres of Planned Commercial Development Zone property on either side of Route 15. There are no applications currently to develop those sites, but wastewater issues are a major factor. "We are bound by New Jersey DEP (Department of Environmental Protection) septic rules, so a developer would have to secure DEP approvals for larger septic on that property," explained Troast. "The Town Council has done everything they can under the law to entice a supermarket to come here," asserted Troast. "The private sector has to make their decision according to the right economic stimulus, but I'm hopeful that this is the year [Sparta approves a new supermarket]." "We have always been interested in Sparta," said DJ Romano, owner of Ronetco Supermarkets, which operates ShopRite stores in nearby Byram, Franklin, Netcong and Newton. "The problem is that the areas they want to develop have no existing infrastructure. They want to develop along Route 15, but there is nothing up there but telephone wires. And why hasn't anything gone up at the Bypass property yet? Time will tell." One of Sussex County's more affluent townships, Sparta is home to nearly 20,000 residents, covers over 39-square-miles and boasts 11 private lake communities. The site formerly used by the Acme supermarket is currently occupied by a CVS store, and the Post Office moved into the old A&P location over a decade ago.