Cherry Hill mayor, residents discuss Woodcrest site

Posted: April 20, 2013

Cherry Hill residents worried about development of the bankrupt Woodcrest Country Club site gathered Thursday night at a neighborhood meeting, where the mayor tried to assuage their fears.

"You really can't develop the back of your homes, because there's nowhere to develop," said Chuck Cahn, using a laser pointer to circle wetlands on an aerial map of the 155-acre property while addressing about 80 residents in the Woodcrest Elementary School gymnasium.

Only part of the course is within the sewer service area, Cahn said, making development expensive. It would also be a challenge for a developer to convince the township's planning board that a project wouldn't cause traffic problems, he said.

But "we're getting ahead of ourselves," he said.

The township is also trying to bid on the course, which filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy last year and is to be sold at auction May 20.

A Marlton-based real estate group has entered an agreement to buy the club for $6.25 million, setting the floor for the minimum bid.

Cherry Hill Land Associates L.L.C. is a subsidiary of First Montgomery Group, which has developed apartment units in Pennsylvania, Delaware, and New Jersey.

But the group - which has not commented publicly on its plans - told the township "they would not come in with any zoning changes at all," Cahn said.

The township has made "an emphatic statement" that it opposes any changes to the zoning of the property - currently zoned for institutional use - in meetings with potential bidders, Cahn said.

Township officials, he said, have met with the Union League of Philadelphia - which has said it would bid on the club and would run it as a golf course - as well as Ron Jaworski, the former Eagles quarterback who manages golf courses in South Jersey.

The township is also partnering with the county in an attempt to make its own bid, although "I don't know whether we as the county or township could get high enough," Cahn said. He also said Sun Bank, owed more than $11 million by the club, was unlikely to make a credit bid.

"They have no desire to have it," he said.

Some residents wanted to know why the township would bid if it had the assurance of a bidder like the Union League that the land would remain a golf course.

"What if they don't bid?" Cahn replied.

One man asked whether the township could be sued for denying an apartment development on the basis that it had not met its obligation to provide affordable housing. Another asked whether a golf course run by anyone would be viable, given what happened to Woodcrest.

Cahn said that that kind of lawsuit wasn't a threat and that a golf course could succeed, although it might not make sense for the township to run one.

After the meeting, Roslyn Lanza, who lives near the course, said she felt "a little bit better, because he keeps insisting this is the one thing he's going to fight for."

But, she said, "you never know what's going to happen."


Contact Maddie Hanna at 856-779-3232 or mhanna@phillynews.com, or follow on Twitter @maddiehanna.

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