Evesham Scuttles Proposal To Renovate Riding Arena The Council Deems It Not Viable. The Proponent, A Horse Trainer, Pleads For A Fuller Review.

Posted: October 29, 1992

EVESHAM — Carolyn Marshall, a Cinnaminson horse trainer and riding instructor, thought her plan to rehabilitate the old Barclay Farm equestrian center in Evesham, one of South Jersey's few indoor riding arenas, was an idea the township could not refuse.

With a little "spit and polish," Marshall said, the township-owned arena and barns could be opened to the public for riding lessons, boarding and shows. It could be a distinguishing Evesham landmark. Best of all, she said, it could be a moneymaker for the township.

After working several weeks with Marshall on her proposal and recently asking her to do some further research, the Township Council notified her Friday in a brief letter that it did not think her idea seemed viable.

Tuesday night, she went to the council meeting to appeal the rejection. She waited in vain. Council members refused to hear her.

"To say it's just not viable without all the information in hand is ridiculous," Marshall said yesterday. "From all aspects - recreational and

financial - this is nothing but good for the community and the township. I think it's all because it's out of their field of knowledge, and that's kind of intimidating. It's a reasonable concern, but I don't see it as a reason to walk away from the project saying, 'I just don't understand it.' "

For several weeks, the township studied Marshall's proposal. Although the council had already approved plans to turn the equestrian center into a public works garage, Marshall's plan sparked interest among township officials when they realized it might be profitable. Township engineer Ron Gsell has said it would cost $1 million to convert the arena and barns into a garage.

Marshall estimated it would cost $100,000 to restore the center's three buildings for her plan and offered to pay for the repairs. She also estimated that the operation would gross $300,000 per year and offered to split the profits with the township.

Marshall and a couple of her supporters attended the council meeting Tuesday to seek an explanation for the rejection. The council members, however, refused to discuss the issue with them or to answer questions because the item was not on their agenda and because it was a work session not open to public comment.

In an interview yesterday, Mayor Gus Tamburro said the council did not necessarily dispute Marshall's financial estimates but thought her plan was a ''questionable venture."

"The council mainly felt the liability potential could far outweigh any positive considerations for that plan," he said. "What if a kid got hurt in there? Or a horse?"

Evesham's finance director, Tom Tontarski, said last week that Marshall's numbers were too sketchy to base a decision on.

Marshall said the council should have waited for a more detailed financial forecast before rejecting her plan.

Tontarski said he was also concerned because state laws governing the use of township-owned property, such as the Barclay Farm equestrian center, require the township to solicit bids to use the the property. He said the contracts also must be rebid every three years.

"Because of the (contract's) short term, I don't know who would want to incur the costs of starting this business if they couldn't be guaranteed long- term use of the facility," Tontarski said."

But Marshall said that did not concern her.

"I'm willing to take that chance. Even if I got bid out, as long as someone was going to do a quality job, that's fair. That's all I'm looking for."

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