Cherry Hill Township's two major open space acquisitions this autumn have a simple goal: Save the land from development and figure out what, if anything, to do with it later.
The township Thursday afternoon closed on its acquisition of the defunct Kingston Estates Swim Club on Deland Avenue for just under $450,000, Erin Gill, the township business administrator, told 70and73.com.
"We want to keep it green and preserved, maintained for the betterment of the community," Gill said in a telephone interview. The pools will be demolished, but the township is going to keep the 14-year-old clubhouse, which may have some use in the future, she said.
And, on November 4, Camden County will hold a pubic hearing regarding 4.6 acres of land fronting on 1205 Haddonfield-Berlin Road and next to Route 295 that will be turned over to Cherry Hill Township. The now-cleared site of the USS New Jersey Lodge No. 62 Free and Accepted Masons was acquired by the county for $1.4 million under the state Green Acres Program.
Assisted by the county, Cherry Hill had stepped in to halt a sale of the Masonic Lodge property in 2016 to a company that wanted to build a recovery center for drug and other addictions. Cherry Hill paid Advanced Recovery Systems $300,000 for the sales agreement.
"The neighbors had concerns," Gill said. "It seemed like a property that we wanted to purchase and protect." The acreage joins the backyards of homes on Ashbrook Road.
Gill said the township has no plans for either property except to keep them open, mowed and free from commercial development.
Population per square mile
A walking trail had been discussed for the Masonic Lodge property, but neighbors have grown to appreciate the "quiet, green, open space," Gill said, who added that any plans for the land would be first presented to the residents of the Brookfield neighborhood. The Masonic Lodge was demolished last fall.
In each case, the properties join other property owned by the township. The Masonic Lodge property, with an entrance on Oakdale Road, borders parkland and the Cherry Hill American Little League field. The Kingston swim club site borders township land used by the Cherry Hill Youth Athletic Association.
Gill said the township isn't planning to expand the sports venues and, if it did, the neighborhoods would be consulted.
The Kingston swim club, home to the Seals swim team, added the clubhouse but, because of dwindling membership, couldn't make the $2,200 monthly mortgage payments to TD Bank, which was in the process of foreclosing on the property. Gill said the money spent by Cherry Hill at Thursday afternoon's closing goes to TD Bank.
How to attend the November 4 public hearing on the Masonic Lodge open space:
(From the legal notice) Camden County has filed a request with the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection, Green Acres Program, proposing to transfer ownership of parkland from the County of Camden to Cherry Hill Township. The Green Acres restrictions on the parkland will be transferred with the parkland and will run with the property in perpetuity. To obtain public comment on this request, a meeting will be held virtually via Zoom at https://cherryhillnj.zoom.us/j/94718098269 or via Phone at (301) 715-8592, Webinar ID 947 1809 8269 on November 4, 2020 at 7 pm.