GALLOWAY TOWNSHIP — People living nearby Seaview - A Dolce Resort reacted Saturday with surprise and worry at the news that Richard Stockton College might buy the historic hotel that employs hundreds of workers and pays more taxes than any other property in Galloway Township.
As a nonprofit, Stockton does not have to pay property taxes, so its ownership of the municipality largest ratable would mean other taxpayers would have to make up the revenue from that would be lost from the 297-room facility assessed at $16.2 million. Owner LaSalle Hotel Properties has not settled its appeal of that estimate.
"All of that money will fall on the shoulders of residents," said Michael Genoriki. The 57-year-old business manager lives on Village Drive less than a quarter-mile from Seaview.
"I think we already pay our fair share of taxes in this township and in the state of New Jersey."
Galloway Mayor Keith Hartman said college leaders have pledged to provide a payment in lieu of taxes, should they take over the site.
The college pays 20 percent of what would be the tax bill on the six houses closer to its main campus on Jimmie Leeds Road than Seaview, which is about seven miles away.
Even given that proximity, 67-year-old Bob Geiger Sr. was surprised the college would even want the site, he said.
"It seemed like they were doing well. They just had (the LPGA) tournament," Geiger said. "But the world's upside down now."
The LPGA Tournament returned to the Seaview on June 16 for its weeklong golf expo culminating in three days of exclusively professional play after a three-year absence prompted by a disagreement over dates with former association leadership. The event draws thousands of spectators to the township, boosting the regional economy by an estimated $15 million and generating more than $1 million in charitable donations each year.
Stockton and LaSalle representatives won't discuss the negotiations, so it's unclear when or how things will change there once they finalize the deal. But the purchase likely will not include the golf courses, Hartman said.
It also would exclude the Elizabeth Arden Red Door Spa and Mariott Villas timeshare on the site.
"I think it's a great idea as long as it doesn't affect the golf courses," Mike Dabundo said of the sale. "The people there really go out of their way for you — they treat you really well, and it's a great set up."
Dabundo, of Pleasantville, plays at Seaview regularly and had stopped off at McGettigan's 19th Hole adjacent to the Bay Course after a round Saturday afternoon.
"Most golfers prefer to play the Pines Course — it's a longer course. But the Bay course is more scenic. It's quite spectacular, you can see Atlantic City. It'd be terrible if these two courses were lost. And the jobs," he said.
Geiger's neighbors Paul and Joanne Weisbecker had concerns about the financial implications not only from a transfer of the Seaview to nonprofit, tax-exempt ownership, but also how the presence of college students and absence of the golf courses would affect the value of their house four blocks from the resort.
"It's going to be like JD's … every night," Weisbecker said jokingly, referring to the student-dominated bar in the Smithville section of the township. "It's kinda ugly. On the other hand, it is private property and they can do what they want."
Mariott International sold the compound to LaSalle in 1998, but stayed on as its managers for another decade. Mariott failed to meet contracted performance targets and lost its contract. LaSalle then opted to divide management responsibilities. In May 2008, Dolce International started handling the hotel and Troon Golf took up the pair of golf courses: the Pine Course wraps around the hotel and conference center, while the Bay Course sits across Route 9.
Kristine Worthington, a bartender at McGettigan's, said she thinks Stockton might be a good choice for the community.
"They've changed managers twice. It seems like nobody really cares about it. Stockton would do a good job," she said. "If they keep the golf course and hotel, I think it's brilliant."
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