Town hall attendees overwhelmingly oppose redevelopment at Reading Country Club site
A town hall hosted by Exeter Township supervisors was held Wednesday evening to discuss the future of the Reading Country Club where over 100 residents attended the event.
The evening started with a presentation by Ruth Devenney and Michael Bowser, representatives for High Associates, Ltd., the firm tasked by Exeter supervisors in 2018 to help the township explore options for the township-owned Reading Country Club property.
High Associates provided free services to the township starting in October 2018 until signing a formal contractual agreement in July of 2019 when they began to pursue two different types of opportunities — lease the property to a golf course developer or sell for redevelopment.
Essentially the exploration process was broken into two phases; gather request for qualifications (RFQ), and then request for proposals (RFP).
Bowser indicated four RFQs were submitted to Exeter Township on November 15. One company, Resurgent Golf Advisors, was interested in leasing the property as a golf course while three others shared their interest in the sale and redevelopment of the property.
Devenney indicated that Resurgent Golf Advisors was a family-owned business which owned the Olde Homestead Golf Club in New Tripoli, PA.
The three companies interested in the sale and redevelopment were Realen Properties, The Goldenberg Group, and High Real Estate Group, LLC.
Following the presentation, residents were invited to speak publicly on the options presented where many spoke in opposition of any type of new development on the site.
The Reading Country Club property was purchased in 2005 by Exeter Township largely due to a proposal made by Mignatti Companies, a development firm based in Bucks County. The proposal called for the development of 523 townhouses on the site.
Former supervisors voted to take the land by way of eminent domain to prevent the development plan; the reasoning attributed to the concerns of traffic and school enrollment with an introduction of over 500 new homes in the area.
Echoes of those fears from 15 years ago filled the ballroom during the town hall’s public comment portion.
Concerns over traffic, school expansion, sewer lines, police and fire coverage were just a few examples that were brought to the supervisors when considering the idea of redevelopment.
Despite the opposition to redevelopment, not everyone in attendance was in agreement with retaining ownership of the property.
Exeter resident Jerry Geleff felt that attendees were weighing their sentiment too much in emotion when considering the sale.
“The harsh reality is, this is a business. This is a business that has been horribly mismanaged because government has no ability to do so,” Geleff said. “Golf is a dying sport… the time is right now. Dump this thing.”
Another resident expressed her concern with taxes, “There are people in this township who struggle to make ends meet,” she said. “Keep those people in mind when you make your choice.”
A number of additional comments focused on the lack of a restaurant in the clubhouse since supervisors evicted the former tenant, JMH, Inc., in December of 2017.
Generally any opinion that expressed desire to retain the green space and golf course were met with applause throughout the public comment portion.
After an hour of listening to attendees speak, resident Linda Strain asked those in the audience to stand or clap if they were in favor of keeping the property as a golf course and restaurant. The majority of the audience responded to Strain’s request.
“If that’s not your answer, I don’t know what is,” Strain said.
No decisions were made at the town hall, but supervisors plan to discuss the topic at a future board meeting.