Economic development, natural land preservation, and their tax implications

Sparta /
| 31 Oct 2022 | 03:08

    There has been a lot reported, posted, and talked about lately regarding all these subjects particularly as it relates to Sparta. But this is not just going on in Sparta, but across the state, and the nation. That’s why this conversation isn’t just a local one, but why it has state political figures and political action groups helping to curate the narrative. I’m not going to address the state and national narratives, but I do want to address my perspective on Sparta, and specifically the industrial zone that includes the proposed warehouse.

    This area has been zoned for industrial use since at least the 198’s. Even after NJ’s Highlands commission came in and effectively took away most of Sparta’s developable land, they still left that piece as one of the very few areas for development. Many of you who live downtown, and pay higher that normal sewer costs can thank them for cutting Sparta’s sewer usage area in half, leaving our customers to pay double (we are working on helping with that).

    So when you hear the argument that the area shouldn’t be developed because of the aquifer, please note that the N.J. state commission, whose job it was to protect the aquifers, left that area as one of our only choices for development. But, on top of the current state protections, we also place extremely strict regulations on what can and can’t be done in that area to further protect the ground water. In fact, any development that does occur now, is held to a much higher standard than it’s current use. Better and safer protections for our groundwater.

    Nobody wants to see Sparta overdeveloped, especially our volunteer boards who are working hard on each and every application. You are currently seeing how board questions and process lead to action and benefits to the community. The council and planning board have been working diligently on a well thought out and measured redesign of the current ordinance. Taking into account current needs of businesses without compromising the needs, or any potential negative impacts, on our community. The same thing they have always done, regardless of what you may hear reported by political appointees and political action groups. And the way you know there are so many outside influences at work is the nastiness of the attacks and some of the people. That kind of rhetoric and negativity will never be accepted in Sparta. Those people and groups know who they are and should be ashamed.

    Protecting this community that I love had always been my number one motivation. But I don’t have a singular view on how to do that, nor will I let any political agenda control it. I know that there needs to be a delicate balance between business growth, development, and land and natural resource preservation. But I also understand that we desperately need a new grade school for our children’s and teachers’ health and well being. We would like to build a town center park, a dog park, a recreation center, upkeep and growth to our current recreation centers. We are looking at areas that cannot be developed to turn into nature preserves and parks therefor not impacting our ability to give tax relief.

    We are seeing record inflation and cost, currently impacting the towns cost of doing business. We have been able to keep Sparta township taxes flat for the last four years. We have brought Sparta from almost bankruptcy to one of the most financial stable and safest towns in the state. None of this is by accident, but it has taken hard work and discipline. I know some people think we can do it all on rainbows and fairy dust, but it all costs money. We work very hard to make sure that the money comes from a good and stable local economy. Covid and state lock downs almost destroyed many local businesses, luckily Sparta is rebounding well. We understand that all of this requires balance, and we are working just as hard on that.

    Hearing some of these people talk about wanting to shut down all development, because they are ok spending another $1K or $2k a year on taxes. One of them actually said “we are better than that!” It shows how out of touch they are with the average family, or the senior struggling to survive on a fixed income. I know that this is probably one of the most divisive times in our nation’s history, but that is not the Sparta way. Let’s work together to continue to strengthen our town for everyone who lives here.

    Josh Hertzberg

    Sparta Deputy Mayor