The Sparta Township, N.J. club had sought approval to add gates so it would be able to charge for parking in a lot across from its clubhouse and adjacent to its tennis courts, but a Planning Board vote resulted in a 4-4 tie. It has now sued for a reversal and relief in a Superior Court filing that singles out one councilman for basing his vote on information that was not part of the public record.
Lake Mohawk Country Club (LMCC) in Sparta Township, N.J. has filed a suit against the Sparta Planning Board and Councilman Jerry Murphy, reported TAPinto.Net, an online independent local newspaper covering the northern New Jersey/New York metropolitan area.
Papers filed in Sussex County (N.J.) Superior Court on April 28 sought relief from a 4-4 Planning Board vote that sunk the club’s efforts to charge for parking in a lot across from its clubhouse and adjacent to its tennis courts, TAPinto.Net reported.
The club, represented by Kelly & Ward, LLC, had argued its case to the Planning Board during four hearings that stretched over more than six months, TAPinto.Net reported. The club had said it needed to make repairs and reconfigure the parking lot, and in an effort to cover those and other ongoing costs, it was seeking to add gates at the lot’s entrance and exit to collect a fee for parking in the lot.
The last hearing on March 1, which lasted four hours and even required an intermission, began with attorney Megan Kelly and Stan Puszcz of CP Engineering reviewing 11 previous concerns raised by the Planning Board members, TAPinto.Net reported. Each objection was answered or brought to a solution, some incorporated into the language of the proposed motion to approve the parking lot application.
The issue that led to Councilman Murphy being singled out in the club’s suit stemmed from comments he made during the hearing and a statement he read prior to his “no” vote, TAPinto.Net reported.
Murphy’s statement began, “Public officials are not required to give reasons for voting one way or another, but in the interest of transparency I would like to have the public be made aware that the [Sparta Township] Economic Development Committee discussed this proposed plan…”
By Murphy admitting that he had sought input from the township’s business community in formulating his vote, Tapinto.Net reported, the club’s lawsuit contended that he did not base his vote on facts on record from the hearings in front of the Planning Board and on the township’s land use ordinances. While the Economic Development Committee was not party to nor did it provide official testimony about the matter, the club’s suit adds, minutes of the its meetings in December 2016 and January 2017 show that the country club’s application was discussed.
The club’s lawsuit also reiterates the case presented to the Planning Board, citing relevant land-use ordinances, previous applications and agreements between Lake Mohawk CC and Sparta Township regarding the parking lot, TAPinto.Net reported.
Based on Sparta Township Land Use ordinances and other precedent-setting agreements between the township and the country club, the Planning Board does not have the jurisdiction or “legal authority to mandate the use of this private property for public use,” the lawsuit claims. Further, it contends, the Board “was obsessed with LMCC’s decision to charge a modest sum for non-members to use its parking lot,” TAPinto.Net reported.
The suit requests relief by eliminating Murphy’s vote, calling his actions “improper and adversely affecting the… vote and outcome of LMCC’s application.” Doing so would result in a 4-3 vote that would allow for the implementation of the parking lot plan, TAPinto.Net reported.
The lawsuit further asks for the Sparta Planning Board to reimburse Lake Mohawk Country Club for expenses, professional fees, attorney fees and costs of the suit, along with “other such relief as the Court deems just and reasonable,” TAPinto.Net reported.