Robbinsville Township last night filed paperwork in New Jersey Superior Court to seize ownership of nearly 160 acres of Miry Run Country Club.
The Sharon Road property, which includes a golf course, swimming pool and clubhouse, has sat idle since 2015. The filing starts the process of condemning 158 acres of the property, including all existing facilities, and preserving it as open space. A 3-person commissioner board will determine whether the township’s filing is valid and its offer fair. A township appraisal values the land at $1.34 million.
If the commissioners accept that offer, the condemnation process is over, and the township will pay the property’s current owners, Spring Garden Country Club, Inc., the appraised value with money from the township open space fund. If the commissioners feel Robbinsville’s appraisal is too high or too low, they can adjust the price, a process that can take months.
Such was the case the last time Robbinsville Township used condemnation for open space purposes, the Washington Woods property along Robbinsville-Edinburg Road. It took six months before the panel settled in July 2017 on a price of $8.7 million for 225 acres. The township appraisal had the land valued at $8 million.
The land at Miry Run has a lower value because it is only zoned for a golf course, and doesn’t have approval to build residential buildings currently. Still, the township feared the possibility of housing units on that land, and moved to buy the property. Negotiations with Spring Garden did not bear fruit, Robbinsville Mayor Dave Fried said, leading the township to file to take the land through condemnation.
It was the fear of additional housing units that also motivated the township to condemn Washington Woods, using money raised by an increase of the municipal open space tax to purchase the land. Township voters overwhelming approved a ballot question in 2016 to increase the rate. The municipal government pitched the increase as a way to ensure the township preserved the land at both Washington Woods and Miry Run. Now, two years later, it appears the second part of that promise will come to fruition.
“I think most people will be happy it’s getting done,”Fried said. “It’s frustrating for some people how long these things take. But you also want to be really, really fair to property owners. You don’t want to use condemnation willy nilly. It’s something you want to be thoughtful with.”
The township plans “passive recreation” for the land. It could remain a golf course or be converted into a facility with walking paths, Frisbee golf or soccer golf, Fried said. The township will also consider converting the abandoned pool facilities at Miry Run into a township pool or splash park.