New zoning ordinance would bring more traffic

Sparta /
| 27 Jul 2023 | 04:26

    Summer’s here and so are backyard barbecue gatherings, swimming pool parties, Sparta Arts concerts on the weekends (great lineup this year-check out the website), a great time to get away from all the congestion in our lives.

    Except that a new zoning ordinance, about to be voted on by the Township Council, would bring additional volumes of traffic to Route 15, especially to the stretch between the railroad crossing and the intersection with 94, with the result of more congestion because of what the ordinance allows to be built.

    The current proposal, with a scheduled vote Aug. 8, applies specifically to the open cornfield opposite the North Village neighborhood on Route 15 and would permit numerous business developments, think fast-food restaurants, pharmacy chains, convenience stores and others, to set up shop there, creating not only a visual blight on the landscape but also non-stop streams of traffic, exiting and entering the already congested road, bringing urban traffic density right into the heart of our living environment.

    Why even consider such a proposal after the overwhelming vote last November (3 to 1!) for a Sparta that retains its small-town character, rather than the drive-through culture created by faceless developers?

    Proponents of the proposal will point out that the existing ordinances allow for massive buildings to go up along that same stretch of road and that 20 smaller enterprises are better than one or two monster businesses, but I wonder why that’s the only choice that the Township Council is considering. Why not do away with this assault on our township altogether and retain the open space as is?

    New Jersey land use law allows a council to adopt ordinances that deviate from a town’s masterplan if there are rational, compelling reasons to do so. Where the old Sparta master plan emphasized ratables, ratables and more ratables as a means to head off financial disaster (at one time, Sparta had just $600-six hundred dollars-in the bank because of mismanagement), the current landscape has changed completely ($15 million surplus) and the residents have been crystal clear about what they want from our township. And it is not more Burger Kings, Wawas, CVS’s and Dollar Stores.

    The council would be on very solid legal (and moral) ground if they adopted an altogether different ordinance, one that reflects the values that the residents voted for: a future not hijacked by the interests of a few, with irreversible consequences for everybody else. In other words, an ordinance that bans unwanted development altogether in that specific zone and possibly even helps protect the water supply area of Germany Flats.

    What I am hoping for is a good turnout of our residents on Aug. 8 at 7 p.m. at the Sparta municipal building, 65 Main St. (Yes, I know, many of us are on vacation, but still), so the council is reminded who actually voted them into their seats and especially the reason why.

    And if attending in person is not an option, please send them an email. Here are their addresses:

    Mayor Chiariello:

    Deputy Mayor Clark:

    Council Member Blumetti:

    Council Member Quinn:

    Council Member Hertzberg:

    Adrian Meerman