The miniature Borough of Pine Valley is expected to disappear by the end of this year. The police chief will retire, the handful of mostly part-time employees will be laid off, and the cottage-like municipal building will cease operations after what locals call “The Valley” is absorbed into the adjoining Borough of Pine Hill.

“We’ve always been good neighbors,” said Pine Hill Mayor Christopher Green, whose borough will gain nearly one square mile of territory, about $200,000 in additional annual property tax revenue, and the legendary Pine Valley Golf Club, where presidents and celebrities play and the public is allowed inside only once a year.

Pine Valley Mayor Michael Kennedy said in an email that residents of his borough “will be very well served and enjoy a positive future” after the consolidation.

Kennedy said that Pine Valley had sought the consolidation after a nonbinding 2020 referendum voters there approved, 10-0, because it “has been experiencing some budgetary challenges.” Becoming part of Pine Hill will provide his constituents with “a sustainable municipal government,” said the Pine Valley mayor.

Kennedy’s minuscule municipality — New Jersey’s second smallest — was established in 1929. Since then, the tight-lipped private golf club and the micro-borough it sought to establish nearly a century ago have been synonymous.

The club is a gated enclave of fewer than two dozen houses that are tucked within the lush, security-fenced perimeter of one of golf’s most beautiful, challenging, and storied courses. Many of the residences are vacation homes; although the 2020 census estimated Pine Valley’s population at 21, local officials said the year-round number is smaller.

And the club itself has begun making changes: Golf Magazine and Golf Digest reported in May that female golfers will be eligible this year for membership at Pine Valley, where women have only been allowed to play as guests and even then only on Sunday afternoons. For much of the club’s history, females were not allowed on the premises at all; Barbara Nicklaus was taken on a tour of the surrounding area while her husband, the future PGA champion Jack Nicklaus, played a round during their honeymoon in 1960.

“Pine Valley, welcome to 2021,” wrote Just Women’s after news broke that women at long last would be permitted to seek membership.

It’s not clear whether there’s a connection between what one club official called a “long-overdue” abandonment of that retrograde (if not reprehensible) membership policy and the move to dissolve the Borough of Pine Valley altogether.

It’s also unclear whether those two moves have anything to do with an investigation by the Division on Civil Rights in the New Jersey Attorney General’s Office that has been underway since at least 2019.

The continuing probe was first reported by NJ.Com in June. It arose from the club’s long-standing requirement that only members — in effect, only men — could purchase a home in Pine Valley. The Civil Rights Division is investigating whether the borough or the club may have violated state and federal fair-housing laws.

Charles M. Raudenbush, the club’s general manager, did not respond to a reporter’s emails seeking comment about the investigation. Nor did Kennedy.

Lee Moore, a spokesperson for the Attorney General’s Office, said the office does not comment on investigations.

But Pine Hill’s mayor said his administration has performed its due diligence, searched for “any potential liabilities, both legal and financial” that could result from the consolidation, and found none. And Tammori C. Petty-Dixon, communications director for the state Department of Community Affairs, said in an email that the department “does not see this as [impeding] the consolidation.”

Said Green: “We would never have proceeded with the consolidation if it was going to expose the residents of Pine Hill to ... serious liabilities.”

Green said the boost in tax revenue will be used to mitigate and reopen the Mike DeMarco Recreation Center, which was shuttered in 2019 after mercury vapor was found to be emanating from flooring material.

So far, Pine Hill seems to be taking in stride the prospect of gaining a few well-heeled residents, a $20 million tax ratable, and bragging rights to one of the finest golf courses anywhere.

Pine Valley could be “the most unique 18-hole” course in the world, according to Golf Digest. A recent Forbes magazine list of “The Top 25 Most Exclusive Golf and Country Clubs in the World” ranked Pine Valley second, behind only Augusta National, in Georgia. And as the Golf Association of Philadelphia put it, “Pine Valley simply has more great golf holes than any other course in the world.”

Perhaps all those superlatives, combined with the club’s history of strictly enforced super-secrecy, explain why a former caddie, a retired employee, and even a member of a local historical society would talk about Pine Valley only if they could remain anonymous. People in Pine Hill who were happy to be quoted by name said taking in Pine Valley wouldn’t have all that much impact on their borough of 10,700.

Pine Hill has long had a distinctive personality. It’s home to 1960s rock legend Billy Harner. The original “Scarface,” mobster Al Capone, once lived in a mansion/hideout in the borough. And former President Donald Trump’s Trump National Golf Club is located there.

The borough is also diverse: The 2020 census found that people of color are about half of Pine Hill’s population, compared with the 14% of Pine Valley residents who identified as biracial.

And unlike some other South Jersey towns with mount and hill in their names, Pine Hill actually has tangible hills, including one of the highest in Camden County.

Many in the town believe the merger with Pine Valley will be good for the borough.

“The grounds crew over at Pine Valley is one of our biggest accounts, and the same goes for Trump National,” said Chris Harris, 38, an owner of Pine Hill Hardware, a landmark in the heart of the borough where he grew up and still lives.

“It seems like a win-win for Pine Hill,” Harris said. “I think it’s a great thing.”

A block east on Erial Road, longtime borough merchant Sam Rizzo is enthusiastic about the consolidation with Pine Valley. “When Trump came in, it was a plus for our great little town,” he said from behind the counter at Heart of Gold Jewelers.

Pine Hill resident Rick Woelpper, a retired IT professional, was not surprised that Pine Valley would seek the consolidation. “To me, it’s a sign of the future,” he said. “All these small towns in New Jersey have higher costs and are raising tax rates. Pine Valley has always been wealthy, and apparently [the cost of government] was hitting even them in their pocketbooks.”

But Gina Genovese, who led “Courage to Connect NJ,” a grassroots effort to encourage municipal mergers and consolidations, sees Pine Valley’s move differently. Only in “home rule” New Jersey, she said, could there exist a 615-acre town with fewer than two dozen inhabitants that costs more than $500,000 a year to operate.

Meanwhile, with Pine Hill poised to become home to a second upscale private golf club, Green said the borough might consider promoting that distinction.

Does that mean that the town might change its “Home for a Lifetime” slogan to something like “Home for a Tee Time” or “Home for a Lifetime of Golf”?

“LOL,” texted the mayor in response. “NO.”