Mount Laurel officials say they have outgrown the Mount Laurel Road municipal complex and have agreed to purchase a Centerton Road office building for $5.48 million to move all but the police department.
The three-story, now-vacant building in the Laurel Creek Office Center was purchased by Top Terraces Inc. of Santa Monica, California last May for $8,666,666, according to Burlington County property records.
Ordinances to authorize the purchase and to borrow $6 million through bonds were unanimously approved near the end of last week's Township Council meeting after Council went into closed session. Council members did not comment on the ordinances before the votes and the meeting was adjourned after the votes.
This is likely the first the public is learning of the purchase and the need for the Township offices to move from their currently crowded space, acknowledged Township Attorney George M. Morris, of the Parker McCay law firm. He said the Township has been working with a broker to find space and did not want to publicize the need because it was negotiating.
While plans for a closed session without details appeared on the February 6 Council meeting agenda, no mention was made of the two ordinances proposed on the first reading.
A public hearing on both ordinances will be held at the March 6 Township Council meeting. The approval last week was on the first reading of the ordinances; they are not final until after the public hearings and votes on the second reading.
"The municipal building is just completely out of space," Morris told 70and73.com on Tuesday morning.
The 750 Centerton Road building has about 70,000 square feet of office space. The Municipal Court would move with the Township administrative offices, Morris explained.
Morris said the existing space is about 40,000 square feet, which includes the police department. He said one of the considerations was the amount of records the Township is required to store.
He said the goal was to have a large enough space to ensure the Township would not have to move again for at least 15 years.
Asked about the $5.48-million purchase price compared with the former price of nearly $9 million, Morris said he believes the Township will be getting a bargain.
The 18.53-acre property includes a large parking area and about half is heavily wooded on the west side.
Police operations would move into the larger area now housing Township administrative offices, he said. The Mount Laurel Community Center would remain open on the existing campus.
Mayor Stephen Steglik could not be reached for comment.
Morris said the Mount Laurel Road complex opened in the late 1960s and was expanded about 35 years ago. The Township was based in the 157-year-old Farmers Hall, at Mount Laurel and Hainesport Mount Laurel roads, from 1904 to 1969, according to the Historical Society.
"The Township has considered multiple options, including purchasing properties around the existing municipal complex for construction or rehabilitation as well as renting and/or purchasing office space in the Township," according to the ordinance authorizing the acquisition.
Morris said the Township tried without success to approach the U.S. Postal Service about buying the post office building next to the existing Township complex.
The acquisition ordinance for the Centerton Road office building notes that town officials "toured this building and believe it represents the most economical option to rehome municipal services with enough space for future growth."
The balance of the $6 million in borrowing after the purchase would be used to renovate the office building to prepare for the Township move, Morris explained.