HAMILTON TOWNSHIP - The township will add $300,000 to its coffers with the sale of the last of the old Sunshine Park nudist colony properties.
The final sale price was $25,000 more than the minimum bid for the roughly 30½ acres.
The land along Somers Point-Mays Landing Road was bought by Michelle Morris, who was, according to township officials, representing the Century 21 real estate agency in Mays Landing. Morris did not return a phone call seeking comment on plans for the site.
Regardless, Township Administrator Edward Sasdelli said the money will come in handy during a tough budget year.
"We need the money more than we need the land," he said.
One thing that is not for sale is about 5 acres of old Sunshine Park property that runs along the river. Township officials said they did not want to lose valuable riverfront property that conceivably could be turned into a park.
While the township successfully sold the other Sunshine Park parcels, there were no bidders for the second part of the land sale involving 16 lots in the Mizpah section of the township.
The lots ranged in size from about one acre to slightly more than two acres, with a $20,000 minimum bid for each lot. A successful sale of all those lots would have brought in $320,000.
Sasdelli said many of the people who wanted to bid on the Mizpah properties said the minimum bid price was too expensive. He said he'll likely recommend to Township Committee that the lots be put out for sale again, but with a reduced minimum bid price.
Sunshine Park and the township have been connected financially for years.
The nudist colony was founded in 1931 as a health resort by Ilsey Boone, a minister-educator who was struck by the then-new "nudism fever." Psychologist Oliver York bought it about 30 years later for $120,000.
The park flourished for decades: As many as 750 families would gather at the park on weekends, staying in cabins and enjoying the pool, tennis courts, sauna, whirlpool and miniature golf course.
And while it was family oriented, Sunshine Park also attracted Atlantic City showgirls who wanted full-body tans.
However, the park eventually became a victim of its own success, as its sanitary systems were overwhelmed by crowds of people attracted in part by the $14-per-couple weekend price.
Neighbors eventually grew critical of Sunshine Park, and township officials cracked down on the facility for health violations. Some neighbors also accused York of harassment for his alleged repeated attempts to buy their property.
A judge eventually ordered the park closed in 1983.
In 1989, the Atlantic County Board of Taxation ordered York to pay more than $100,000 in back taxes after residents challenged the property's tax status as a tree farm. The board found the property valued at $5,800 as farmland was actually worth about $2.4 million.
York claimed the property at one point drew the interest of an Atlantic City casino owner, who offered $2 million for the park, and billionaire publisher Malcolm Forbes.
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