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(Cherry Hill, N.J.) – Cherry Hill has reached tentative agreements with both Fair Share Housing Center and Cherry Hill Land Associates that could end decades of affordable housing litigation, permanently preserve the Woodcrest Country Club property, and give the Township greater control and protection regarding open space and development, Mayor Chuck Cahn announced today.
Details of the settlements are pending court approval; however, in addition to permanently deed restricting Woodcrest Country Club, the terms include mechanisms to protect open space properties throughout Cherry Hill.
“My focus as Mayor has been, and will continue to be, reusing and revitalizing existing sites and preserving our open space,” Cahn said. “These pending settlements allow us to move forward with that policy intact.”
As part of the agreement with Cherry Hill Land Associates (CHLA), the Township will purchase the development rights to the 165-acre Woodcrest Country Club property, and CHLA will continue to operate the golf course. Future use of the site will be restricted to use as a golf course and related functions, or for other active, recreational purposes and open space.
The country club was sold at bankruptcy auction in May 2013. From day one, the Mayor and Council, along with Camden County Freeholder Jeff Nash, made clear their opposition to development of any kind on the site.
In October 2013, however, CHLA sued the Township, with a proposal to develop more than 800 units of high-density housing on the site, which the Township vigorously opposed.
Council President David Fleisher reiterated the Mayor and Township Council’s commitment to seeing this issue through to the end.
“This is an important turning point in this long-standing litigation and the Township’s efforts to preserve Woodcrest Country Club,” Fleisher said. “From the beginning, our message was clear: Open space must be preserved. Council will continue to stand with the Mayor as we move these settlements forward and protect our green spaces all across town.”
Freeholder Nash, on behalf of Camden County, praised the Township’s efforts, and indicated his support for the use of County open space funds to assist in the preservation of the property.
“I am proud to have worked alongside the Mayor and his team to successfully preserve this historic property, and I am relieved, both as a resident and a Freeholder, to know that we have finally come to an agreement to make that happen,” Nash said. “I am anxious now to begin the process of securing County open space dollars to help fund this purchase.”
CHLA currently owns several parcels within the Hampton Road and Park Boulevard redevelopment areas. As part of the settlement, the company has committed to working with the Township to help redevelop and revitalize those areas to their most appropriate uses.
Cahn said the total purchase price of the development rights will not exceed $3.99 million, significantly below its appraised value and drastically below CHLA’s purchase price of $10.1 million.
The proposed settlement with Fair Share Housing Center and the Camden County and Southern Burlington County branches of the NAACP gives the Township a Judgment of Compliance and Repose, which states that the Township has satisfied its affordable housing obligations and prevents developers in the future from demanding the right to develop any given property for housing. “I was not willing to sit back and let Cherry Hill’s future depend on the outcome of litigation,” Mayor Cahn said. “Each of these pending agreements allows the Township and our zoning laws to determine the most appropriate uses for land in our community, so we can continue making the best decisions for Cherry Hill.”
Cherry Hill’s proximity to Philadelphia, shopping, major roadways, and prominent school system make it attractive to commercial, retail, and residential developers.
“There are existing developed but underutilized properties in Cherry Hill that are in need of redevelopment and revitalization,” Cahn said. “I firmly believe that is where we should seek to promote development, not on our open spaces.”
The court will review the settlements at the beginning of July and a decision on approval is expected by the end of the summer.