HAMILTON TOWNSHIP — The future of the 73-year-old Atlantic City Race Course remains unknown 18 years after Greenwood Racing Inc. purchased the track for $15 million.

However, the first step was taken recently to have something done with the 250-acre parcel of property for the first time since it closed four years ago.

Earlier this month, the Township Committee approved a memorandum of understanding with Greenwood ACRA, so that both entities can work together to create a redevelopment plan for the race course, Township Administrator Michael S. Jacobs said.

About $20,000 will be put into escrow by Greenwood to pay for the redevelopment plan, Jacobs said.

The township’s planning consultant and redevelopment attorney will work on the plan. They will be paid by the township, but the money from the escrow account will repay the township for their hours spent creating the plan, he said.

The agreement calls for 180 days to work on the project, but both sides can agree to extend the time, Jacobs said.

State Sen. Chris Brown, R-Atlantic, was happy to hear the township and the property owner were joining together for the betterment of the race course.

“All along, I’ve felt this site presented a great opportunity for new growth in our county, which is why I appreciate the township and Greenwood ARC working together to find the best way to revitalize the race track and further diversify our economy while creating new jobs for our middle class families,” Brown said.

During the Oct. 7 township meeting, an attorney from the law firm, Maley Givens of Collingswood, who will work on the development plan, was in attendance, Jacobs said. The lawyer said the plan will explore having gaming at the site along with a hotel, according to Jacobs.

Commiteeman John Kurtz was pleased to hear that the possibility of a hotel is a use of the property that will be researched.

“We are a 115-square-mile township with no lodging,” said Kurtz, who added an attorney from the law firm will return at a future meeting.

Daniel Snodgrass, president of the Mays Landing Merchants Association, was also happy to hear that one of the things that will be explored with the property is putting a hotel on it.

“I am supportive of anything the township is doing to bring in new businesses,” Snodgrass said.

This is not the first time that the Township Committee has heard that someone wants to do something with the race course during the last almost-20-year period.

In 2004, the Township Committee decided against rezoning the race course to allow building of a town-center complex.

In April 2005, a Cabela’s representative — a $1.6 billion outdoor sportsmen’s retailer — met with local officials concerning the possible purchase of 240 acres of racetrack property, but by November, they said they were not coming.

In 2014, the open-air Mercato Market opened and had to suspend operations after only one month. A lack of vendor support was blamed.

Assemblyman Vince Mazzeo, D-Atlantic, said the idea of trying to put some type of development plan in place is important for the race course.

“I’m glad to see they are moving forward with a plan to redevelop the project,” said Mazzeo, who added this could lead to long-term tax revenue for the township.

Besides the Race Course, other sections in need of redevelopment within the township are: 45 Mill St., also known as Old Harding Highway Redevelopment Area; the Old American Legion Building; and the former Wheaton Factory.

Prior to the Race Course, the last area designated in need of redevelopment by the Township Committee was the Wheaton Cotton Mill property on the Great Egg Harbor River in the middle of Mays Landing in 2007.

Jacobs, who added the former Wheaton Factory redevelopment designation was prior to his start as township administrator nine years ago, said there has been some planning meetings for the Wheaton site, but no physical work.

Contact: 609-272-7202

VJackson@pressofac.com

Twitter@ACPressJackson

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