The fate of Kingston Estates Swim Club will not rest in the hands of a banking conglomerate, but rather in the familiar hands of Cherry Hill Township.
On Sept. 10, Mayor Susan Shin Angulo and township council revealed in a joint statement that the governing body planned on introducing resolutions, at its next open public meeting on Sept. 14, aimed at purchasing the embattled community landmark with the intention of preserving it for open space.
Council unanimously passed the legislation, and anticipates a quick closing on the property.
“We were in a holding pattern with TD Bank waiting for the foreclosure in the spring and early part of summer. Then the township stepped in, to ask if they could purchase the land. We’re very thankful for all the work they did. They spent a lot of time and effort to get us to this point,” KESC Board President Bob Mangels told the Sun.
The land will be purchased using Township Open Space funds. According to Director of Policy, Planning and Programs Chris Summerhayes, the open space trust fund arises from a 1 cent levy on every $100 of assessed property value. The purchase of the swim club will come entirely from the fund itself, while council has additionally applied for additional money through the Camden County open-space trust fund.
“We have heard a great deal of concern from residents worried about the impact of any development on that site and we promised from day one to do everything in our power to protect the neighborhood and residents’ quality of life,” Angulo revealed in the statement.
“The board of the swim club remained engaged and in contact with us. Their cooperation is an incredible example of the progress that can be made when citizens and government work together to achieve a positive result.”
The nearly four-acre site, located along Deland Avenue, sits in the middle of an open area directly next to athletic fields. It is situated between Drake Road to the north, Deland to the south, Knight Road to the west and Edgemoor Road to the east. The property’s proximity to both the neighborhood and existing recreational facilities makes it prime land for a walking trail or a neighborhood park, per the release.
“As much as we hated to see it happen, it was the best option available to us. And if the bank would have taken control of the club, who knows what would have gone in there,” Mangels added.
“Everybody is not pleased the club has to shut down. It was more than just a swimming pool; it was a summertime gathering place for the members and the neighborhood.”
The first of its kind, Kingston was founded in 1957, four years before Delaware Township officially changed its name to Cherry Hill.
The club faced financial issues in recent times. Despite a fundraising effort earlier this year which netted $94,000 toward a delinquent loan on the club held by TD Bank, in May, Florida-based representatives of the financial giant refused the offer. Kingston was left with two options: a drawn-out foreclosure process or a deed in lieu of foreclosure, where both sides voluntarily enter into an agreement to prevent foreclosure proceedings.
However, in June, Mangels said that TD Bank also declined Kingston’s request for a postponement in the Motion for Entry of Final Judgement of the pending foreclosure.
Due to a drop in membership and subsequent loss of revenues, along with the complications inherent in opening a public space in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic, the swim club did not open this summer. The club’s website has also been taken offline.
The Township’s Department of Public Works will begin to clean up, secure, and beautify the site in the coming weeks.
“This action ensures that this property will stay out of the hands of developers. This is
a major victory for the Kingston neighborhood and our community,” said Council President David Fleisher in the release.
“We look forward to seeing this property used for recreational purposes to benefit our residents.”