Woolwich Township received the honor for their “continued support of the men and women in uniform,” the plaque read, “and the mission of the Veterans of Foreign Wars of the United States.”
VFW 10886 Commander Charles Wells credited Woolwich for publicly displaying their patriotism as they celebrate Memorial Day, Armed Forces Day/Week, Flag Day, the National Day of Prayer, the day to remember 9/11, and Veterans Day.
In other business, the Committee authorized the execution of a grant contract with the New Jersey Department of Transportation under the municipal aid program. Also, they approved hiring of a part time employee for Public Works, and a part time substitute Subcode Building/Housing Code Inspector.
Another resolution authorized the placement of municipal liens on various Woolwich properties for lawn maintenance. One more resolution authorizing an amended agreement between Woolwich Township and the Kingsway Regional School District for the provision of a School Resource Officer had to remain tabled. Schlump said it stayed tabled because the Board of Education had not met yet.
During the public portion of the meeting, former Woolwich Mayor Alan Schwager asked why the town was considering buying the Beckett Golf Club. “At what point do we stop buying land?” he questioned. “We’re going to buy this when it doesn’t improve what we already have?”
Schlump responded that the township was merely getting an appraisal of the golf club property, and they would see what was in the best interests of Woolwich.
Director of Community Development Matt Blake noted that potential future acquisition of the golf club property was considered in some detail during the Open Space & Recreation Plan process that took place in 2016 as an element of Woolwich Township’s Master Plan. Based on public input and recommendations from landscape architect firm Simone-Collins, which developed the OSRP for Woolwich, the property was recommended for acquisition as a second park should it ever become available, according to Blake.
“We’ve actually been discussing the opportunity with the landowners since 2013 when they first reached out to us,” he continued. “The township’s preference was for the property to remain a privately owned golf course.”
He said that was why Woolwich did not act when the property was offered years ago and instead gave private buyers every chance to step-in and refurbish the course. “Unfortunately, that hasn’t happened,” he said.
Blake explains, “When a course goes out of business, they either get abandoned, developed, or preserved in some fashion. After years of passive and active marketing, the golf course option now seems less likely. As a result, the owners re-engaged the township earlier this year, where discussions with Woolwich, the county preservation department, and state Green Acres Program are continuing.”
He says that neither Gloucester County or Green Acres wants to own the property, but both are considering providing funding towards municipal acquisition as the project would clearly benefit both residents and visitors alike. “If the township wishes to take advantage of potential Green Acres and County cost share should it ultimately decide to acquire the property, then it must follow strict State guidelines in how the property is appraised among other rigorous due diligence currently underway,” Blake clarified.
“At present, no final decision has or will be made until all of this information is made available and carefully considered by local, State and County project partners,” he assured.
Blake said to ensure that the property didn’t become developed, part of the golf course was preserved under the township’s Transfer of Development Rights program in 2016, with 70 percent in State funding support. Should the township secure state and county funding support, local costs would presumably be substantially lower and would come out of the local voter-approved dedicated open space tax levy, collected annually.
Blake maintained that this project will not interfere with current township plans to construct new athletic facilities at Locke Ave Park. “Phase 1 already has funding in place and is in final design with major permits under review by the NJDEP, with construction anticipated to begin in the second quarter of next year,” he explained. “Phase 1 at Locke Ave. will include three large multi-purpose athletic fields, a new concession stand, new bathroom facilities, parking, picnic pavilions and a paved pathway for walking and biking.”
Mayor Schlump said about the golf course, “As one of the fastest growing towns in the entire region, Woolwich Township has a responsibility to provide adequate open space and recreation for its residents. The township committee is examining the golf course property because it has all the things that make for a great park. It is a truly beautiful property that could accommodate a multitude of desirable recreational uses and amenities as recommended in the Open Space Plan, including some that are less feasible at Locke Ave Park.”
Blake cleared up a misconception saying it is incorrect that appraisals were done for the Beckett Golf Club property as part of the TDR auction. “The township does own a few hundred acres of open space, but much of it comprises unusable wetlands, steep ravines and other environmentally sensitive areas not suited for recreational purposes,” he concluded.
In other departments, Committeeman Dan Battisti reported that all was well with the town’s finances. He added that 288 cases were seen by the municipal court during September.
For Parks and Recreation, Committeeman Vernon Marino noted that a bus trip to New York to see the Rockettes was set for Nov. 10. Marino also pointed out that the new Woolwich Township website was being updated with Parks and Recreation information.
Committeewoman Gina Santore told the Committee that Mark Fruits had submitted his letter of resignation as Recycling Coordinator. Santore suggested that they choose his replacement as quickly as possible, saying, “He was very thorough and diligent in his work.”
Deputy Mayor John Carleton announced that the Business Development Advisory Committee had chosen Independent Beer Distillery as its Business Spotlight of the Month for October. This was the same location as the second Business Owners Appreciation Event held in October. Carleton also mentioned that the Christmas parade, set for Dec. 1, would start its route at Stratton School, go down Center Square Road and down Auburn Road.
In Fire, Carleton reported that the Woolwich Fire Company had received an Assistance to Firefighters Grant of $39,000. In Environmental, Schlump observed that solar power continues to be big in the township. “The Green Team is looking for their energy audit to go in place,” the mayor commented. “Sounds like we got some good prices.”
“We have bronze status under Sustainable New Jersey and are going for silver,” pointed out Blake. “Residents are learning about grants, low interest loans and how to save money.”
— by Robert Holt