EGG HARBOR TOWNSHIP — Mayor James “Sonny” McCullough moderated a 90-minute conversation between the board attorney for The Atlantic Riding Center for Health and members of the public Wednesday night.
The conversation occurred during the general public discussion portion of the Egg Harbor Township Committee meeting.
The decision to put ARCH, a therapeutic horseback riding program for disabled people on Asbury Avenue, up for sale has upset many.
“This is a facility that has done wonderful things for many, many people,” McCullough said. “And we certainly want to see it continue to exist. I hope these two groups can get together to try to resolve this. We’ll try to help you in any way we can.”
McCullough made clear that he had little or no jurisdiction over decisions made by the board of the nonprofit organization but did facilitate the conversation.
The tone was vitriolic at times, with members of the audience yelling out when Robert Reilert, ARCH's board attorney, spoke.
Committee members relayed questions to Reilert.
Reilert was asked why he refused to meet with members of the public who hope to have a chance to buy the property.
He said that the ARCH board has a potential buyer. He said he does not know what the buyer intends to do with the property or if the sale will go through.
City Administrator Peter Miller said that the property is currently zoned in such a way that it could only be used as a private residence or for therapeutic horseback riding.
If the property does sell and the new owners want to rezone it, it will have to be approved by the Egg Harbor Township government.
Reilert claimed that the organization was mismanaged until the current board took over in 2010.
He said that Rolling Seas Farm, a riding center directly next to the ARCH facility that has a similar therapeutic program called HEARTS, is poaching riders from ARCH.
Sue Adams, who owns Rolling Seas Farm, was previously a board member at ARCH. She had been heavily involved with ARCH since its inception and said that her position was terminated in 2010.
Part of her separation agreement with ARCH states that she cannot speak negatively about the organization, but she did refute the notion that Rolling Seas poached riders.
McCullough asked the concerned speakers why ARCH is so important if HEARTS is next door.
Sharon Garland, of Galloway Township, explained that ARCH has a large indoor facility. This allows patrons to ride in the cold months and when it rains.
Last Thursday, the ARCH board met at the house of one of the board members, Reilert said. About 50 people showed up to the ARCH facility, thinking that the meeting was to be held there.
Reilert said the board members received a call that the gathering was becoming unruly. A board member called the Egg Harbor Township police, Reilert said.
McCullough asked Reilert if the board would consider an offer from a group of mature individuals with a serious proposal.
Reilert made clear that the board has a potential buyer, but agreed.
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