WEST ORANGE, NJ — After announcing earlier this week that he intends to present the West Orange Township Council with a contact to purchase Rock Spring Golf Club, Mayor Robert Parisi released a public statement explaining why this purchase would be “a critical step in the township’s desire to maintain open space, build and operate recreational facilities for the future and plan in a proactive manner.”
According to Parisi, the contract—which is for a purchase price of $11.28 million, or far less than the current assessed value of approximately $15 million—is in the midst of being finalized. Parisi, who said he is enthusiastic about the possibilities that acquiring this 138-acre property provides for the entire township, intends to host a public forum on the subject sometime between the Feb. 19 council meeting and the second reading/final adoption of the bond ordinance.
“Immediately upon learning of the potential sale of Rock Spring, the township began a series of meetings and discussions with the County of Essex and the Montclair Golf Club Board of Trustees,” said Parisi. “Simultaneously, we began exploring the options and possibilities for this critical tract of land.”
In 2016, the decades-old private golf club (located on Northfield Avenue near Walker and Rock Spring roads) merged with the 36-hole course of Montclair Golf Club (located on the northern border of West Orange and Verona). Approximately 60 days ago, Montclair Golf Club announced its intention to sell the property of Rock Spring and that the course would not be opened this year.
As a result of various negotiations and council approval of required enabling resolutions and contracts adopted during the Feb. 5 council meeting, the township is poised to move forward with its due diligence.
“We have already received environmental reports, which are being evaluated by our outside environmental consultants,” said Parisi. “We will present a bond issue to the township council for consideration at its Feb. 19 meeting along with a contract concerning this proposed acquisition.”
At this point, the township intends to seek competitive proposals to obtain a professional golf course management company to run the course and related operations.
Eventually, Parisi said the township will conduct a thoughtful and open planning process as it considers whether the golf course should continue with 18 or nine holes.
“The recent trend toward fewer holes takes into account busy professionals and others who love golf but don’t necessarily have the time or resources to spend approximately four hours on a course,” said Parisi. “More importantly, by reducing the footprint of the golf course, there may be other recreational needs which can be accommodated—including a recreational center, walking and jogging paths, and exercise stations, which are prevalent at many areas throughout the country.
“Some small, complementary development to maintain the property tax base or locate township facilities may be appropriate, but that will be all part of the process for determining the eventual need and resources within the township.”
Should the township council approve the transaction, the closing would occur between April 30 and June 30. The Township would then be entitled to a credit of $3,000 for every day prior to June 30 that closing occurs, which could reduce the purchase price to $11.1 million, according to the township.
“Closing as quickly as possible will permit Rock Spring to operate this season,” said Parisi.
At the Feb. 5 meeting, the township council unanimously approved expedited due diligence to finalize the analysis as to whether to purchase the property.
Parisi thanked the longtime members of Rock Spring Club and many others throughout the community who have reached out to request that the township preserve the course and open space.
“This is an incredibly important goal which we will strive to maintain to the greatest extent possible,” said Parisi. “We are beginning a process that would allow the township to control the destiny of this centrally located land. We encourage everyone’s input and support.”