BERNARDS TOWNSHIP, NJ - There's only one United States Golf Association and USGA museum in the U.S. - and now, following months of discussion, review, and a little tinkering, there's a unique "golf heritage zone" in Bernards Township.

The Bernards Township Committee unanimously approved an ordinance at Jan. 27's meeting that establishes the zone for the property off Liberty Corner Road, in the Far Hills section of Bernards Township.

The creation of the zone makes it easier for the USGA to make changes to the property without having to file applications with the township zoning Board of Adjustment, said Township Mayor John Malay.

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Officials said during previous discussions that the USGA had to file applications with the zoning board for relatively minor adjustments or additions on the property. The USGA, founded at the site in 1972, does not conform with the residential property zoning in the rural neighborhood.

Malay said on Wednesday that the USGA did not mention any plans for significant changes during discussions on the golf heritage zone last year. The ordinance originally was introduced in 2014, but then was revised, and reintroduced early in January, after some of the language was revised to specify what uses would be permitted within the zone.

"They [the USGA] still only can develop within certain areas of the property defined by setbacks [requiring that developed areas be set back from the road and neighboring properties] and the sewer service area," the mayor added. 

Previously, when the ordinance was re-introduced earlier in January, Malay said officials would like to make it easier for the USGA to stay in the township.

"It has a low impact" on the surrounding community, he said then. He added that much of the property is out of a zone providing sewer service, which would limit future development, he added.

"The USGA has grown and in the 40 years since then it has developed into a campus-like setting, with the main buildings set back interior to the site surrounded by expansive open areas that maintain compatibility with the surrounding neighborhood," the ordinance states.

Along with recognizing that residential development of the property could be a denser use of the land with a greater impact on the area, the proposed ordinance states that "the Township Committee chooses to establish the Golf Heritage Zone to permit the private, not-for-profit USGA to maintain its corporate headquarters in Bernards Township with appropriate zoning standards, thereby coordinating public and private procedures shaping the efficient use of the USGA property while at the same time establishing limits that will contribute to the well-being of the surrounding neighborhood and the community, as well as preservation of the environment."

Along with residential use, the zone permits the United States Golf Association, and its affiliated or successor organizations, to maintain a museum, library, administrative offices, research and testing, educational programs and conferences, seminars and symposia, corporate events, television and photograph studio, archives, golf demonstrations and competitions, golf landscape, golf test range, putting greens, and golf holes on the property. The zone also would permit its use for farming, agriculture and horticulture uses, excluding the raising or keeping of livestock or the operation of commercial greenhouses, according to the wording of the ordinance.