Cherry Hill's Woodcrest Country Club was auctioned off Monday to a Marlton real estate group that bid $10.1 million for the historic golf course - nearly $4 million more than its appraised value, according to Camden County officials.
Cherry Hill Land Associates, a subsidiary of First Montgomery Group, outbid the county and the Union League of Philadelphia, and narrowly defeated George E. Norcross III and Ira Lubert, who bid $10 million during a closed-door bankruptcy auction at the Blank Rome law firm in Philadelphia.
First Montgomery has apartment holdings in New Jersey, Pennsylvania, and Delaware, as well as several shopping centers. Its principals are Richard Haydinger Jr. and his sons Richard III, Michael, and Matthew.
The group has not revealed its plans for the property to county and township officials. Calls to the group went unreturned Monday.
Last week, Matthew Haydinger said, "We are aware it's an area and a piece of land that impacts a lot of people, and we are absolutely taking that into consideration."
The group's bid for the course - a rare swath of green space in heavily developed Cherry Hill - drew sharp criticism from rivals who want the property to retain its parklike setting.
"I am disappointed and outraged," county Freeholder Jeff Nash said after the auction.
The county bid $7.2 million on the property, with a stated aim of preserving it as a golf course or park.
A recent appraisal commissioned by the county valued the property at $6.5 million, county officials said. It was assessed this year at $5.4 million, according to tax records.
"I find it difficult to believe that a real estate group would bid more than $4 million above the appraised value for a historic parcel that would be extremely difficult to develop in an environmentally sensitive area that requires federal, state, county, and municipal approvals," Nash said.
Founded in 1929, Woodcrest became a haven for the area's Jewish elite, who at the time were unable to gain entry to other country clubs. The club filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy last year and did not open this season.
The property, which includes wetlands, is zoned for institutional uses, such as a hospital or school.
Cherry Hill officials, including Mayor Chuck Cahn, have voiced strong opposition to any zoning change. In the weeks leading up to the auction, they called for the course to stay open space, seeking the county's assistance in a bid for the club.