As controversy and confusion lingers over the plans of First Montgomery Group, which bought the Cherry Hill, N.J. property at auction in May, over 100 military families enjoyed a Sunday outing after being invited via e-mail. The military connection is important to the new owner because it rents to many who serve at local bases.
After First Montgomery Group $10.1 million bid secured Woodcrest Country Club in Cherry Hill, N.J. in an auction of the property in May, the purchase caused an outcry from local elected officials, who vowed to prevent any development on the site, The Philadelphia Inquirer reported.
The state Department of Environmental Protection excluded the property from regional plans for sewer development, and First Montgomery, as well as the Fair Share Housing Center, a Cherry Hill group that pushes for low-cost housing, appealed the decision, the Inquirer reported.
The development company also sued Cherry Hill in October, arguing that the township had failed to plan for enough low-cost housing. The lawsuit said 20 percent of the project’s proposed units would be for low-cost housing.
Matthew Haydinger, a Principal with First Montgomery, has continued to insist that his company’s development plans for Woodcrest, which would build 844 rental units on the 178-acre course, would not have a great effect on surrounding communities, the Inquirer reported.
Haydinger grants there would be increased traffic, the Inquirer noted, but said the company expects road improvements would go a long way toward solving any traffic problems that might result if the company’s development plans win approval.
Most importantly, commercial development would take place on only 20 acres or so, and the golf course would be maintained as a for-profit club, Haydinger affirmed.
“It’s a great piece of property and a great location. We grew up several minutes from here,” Haydinger said of himself and his brothers Rich and Mike, who run First Montgomery with him.
As part of the family’s effort to polish the project’s image with local residents, the Inquirer reported, the Haydingers opened up the clubhouse and golf course to military families and members of the public for several hours on Sunday, November 17. The military connection is important to First Montgomery, Haydinger said, because more than half the company’s 4,000 rental units are occupied by military members and their families at Joint Base McGuire-Dix-Lakehurst.
Local military leaders sent out word of the event via e-mail to military families. As of 1 p.m., the event appeared to have attracted more than 100 visitors, the Inquirer reported.
Haydinger and First Montgomery’s Director of Marketing, Jamie Berman, reiterated to the Inquirer that the company intends to preserve the golf course and operate the club as a for-profit venture. Haydinger, noting that the property is zoned for hospital use and other institutional development, said the company might eventually shift from housing to development of a medical or nursing facility.
The golf club, founded in 1929, is cherished by many Cherry Hill residents for its pastoral setting and its unique place in local history, the Inquirer noted. It began as a club for the region’s Jewish elite who could not gain access to other country clubs.
The continued vagueness of the development plans and whether they will involve either high-density housing or a medical facility on a portion of the property seems to be a direct result of the regulatory uncertainty hovering over the project, the Inquirer reported. While local officials have said they will resist any development, Haydinger insists he has the right to build on the land. But everything remains in the conceptual stage.
Meanwhile, since the new owners took over in May, Berman said, about 10,000 people have visited the club and played on its golf course, the Inquirer reported. It is an activity that she says her company wants to continue long into the future.