Park To Get Country Club Land: Cumberland Township Approves Country Club Subdivision, Tim Purdente, The Evening Sun, August 25,201, 08/25/2010
The Cumberland Township Board of Supervisors voted Tuesday evening to approve a subdivision plan that opens the door for the National Park Service to purchase 95 acres of the Gettysburg Country Club. The property saw significant fighting during the first day of the Battle of Gettysburg. Since Susquehanna Bank foreclosed on it over one year ago, the Park Service has been interested in acquiring the property and adding it to the Gettysburg National Military Park.
The supervisors voted 4-1 to approve the plan. Supervisor Debi Golden voted against the subdivision plan. She said that was because the township would lose as much as $150,000 in annual property taxes if the Park Service acquired the land. "It's tough (to do) when people are coming in to complain about their taxes," Golden said. The plan divides the country club property into two tracts, one of which would be about 15 acres and contain the developed portions of the property, with facilities such as the clubhouse, tennis courts and banquet hall. The other would be 95 acres and consist of the golf course and other undeveloped portions.
Golden said she also voted against the plan because of some questions regarding easements on the property and whether the remaining 15-acre lot will meet township code. "I like to treat applicants equally and if this was an issue not related to the Park Service it may not have passed," she said, after the vote.
With the decision, The Conservation Fund plans to purchase the property from Cumberland Club Investment LLC., the current owner, and then sell the property to the Park Service. "We'd like to have it for as little period of time as possible," said Todd McNew, Pennsylvania State Director of The Conservation Fund. "It will maybe be 90 days before the Park Service gets it."
Likewise, Cumberland Club President Martin K.P. Hill said the company plans to sell the property to The Conservation Fund "as soon as possible." Before the vote, Hill said if the plan was not passed he would pursue development opportunities for the property, which is zoned as residential and could include as many as 3.5 housing units per acre. "Dollar for dollar that would be the way to go, but we're most interested in seeing this become battlefield," Hill said.
In fact, Hill said the Park Service had previously expressed interest in purchasing 100 acres of the property, but township ordinances for open space, among others, required the remaining tract be at least 15 acres. The remaining lot will continue to function in its current state, meaning the pool and tennis courts will still be available for use, according to Hill.
Cumberland Club purchased the property in April of this year for $1.45 million. Prior to the sale, the club had fallen into financial distress and Susquehanna Bank ultimately foreclosed on the property. It went up for sale at a sheriff's auction for a minimum of $2.79 million in February 2009, but no one placed a bid so the property transferred back to the bank. At the time the Park Service had expressed interest in the property but a long-standing legal covenant on the land had prevented its purchase. The covenant - which stated no hog farming could take place on the land - proved a legal and bureaucratic hurdle for the federal government, according to Hill. "That was probably what prevented Susquehanna Bank from selling to them," Hill said. "We could go to settlement in 45 days but the Park Service has to go through the Department of the Interior and they got no word from Washington."
In fact, Hill said the Park Service had offered the bank more money than his own company but it would have been unable to close the deal in the necessary time frame. Although the covenant caused problems for the Park Service in the past, Hills said the issue has been resolved and the Park Service is now able to purchase the land."The contract has been sent to their attorneys for final review and we're expecting to reach an agreement in a week," he added.
Preservation groups have taken such an interest in the property because it proved the site of substantial fighting during the Battle of Gettysburg. On the first day of the battle, the famed Iron Brigade attacked across Willoughby Run, onto what is now the golf course, driving back a Confederate brigade and capturing its commander, Gen. James Archer. Later in the day, Confederate Gen. James Pettigrew's North Carolina brigade advanced across that same ground to attack the Iron Brigade near the run.
Text Source: The Evening Sun
Image's Source : Gettysburg National Military Park