WEST ORANGE, NJ — After 90 minutes of deliberating in closed session with members of the West Orange Township Council, Mayor Robert Parisi surprised the public at Tuesday night’s public meeting when he announced the township’s intention to purchase Rock Spring Country Club.
His proclamation comes less than a week after Essex County Executive Joseph DiVincenzo announced that the county made an offer on the same property with the intention of preserving it as open space. According to Parisi, the county’s offer has since been declined, but the township also feels that any “densely populated residential development” in this location would not be in the best interest of the community.
“The township has been actively negotiating with Montclair Country Club for the purchase of Rock Spring Golf Course,” said Parisi. “There are several issues that need to be digested and talked about. The administration will need a couple more days to finalize some things before we are prepared to announce the details of the accusation.”
In order to expedite the purchase, the council unanimously passed four resolutions that covered the hiring of an appraisal company, an environmental consultant, a bond issue and a special real estate attorney in order to guide the administration as the township pursues the purchase.
Parisi added that the administration is prepared to go into much more detail during the Feb. 19 council meeting, where the council members will vote on the first reading of an ordinance for the proposed purchase. He also briefly commented on the negotiations and the positive impact of the purchase.
“We believe this is in the best interest of the community,” he said. “We understand there’s a tax impact, but we think if we get through these first couple years, we’ll be able to replace our revenue, maintain it as a golf course and then have a lot of options for open space and recreational space.”
The mayor also stated that the township is actively looking for an operator for the golf course.
“The administration’s plan is to purchase the property, but have it maintained and operated as a public golf course for the next two years while we evaluate what our long-term plans might be,” he said.
Parisi vowed to provide all necessary information to the public by Feb. 12 in time for the Feb. 19 meeting. He also said more information regarding the purchase price will be released in the coming days.
“The alternative was the free market and losing public land to densely populated residential development, which the administration believes is not in the best interest of the community,” said Parisi. “The county was a part the discussions, but in the end wasn’t interested in pursing it, and the club wasn’t interested in the offer the county had.”
The administration plans on a full presentation during the Feb. 19 meeting. Should the ordinance pass on first reading, the mayor intends to hold a public forum for community feedback prior to the final hearing.
“This is not something any of us could of imagined two months ago, but sometimes the best things that happen, happen unexpectedly,” said Parisi.