Sunday, October 1, 2023

Wuerker Farm Morphs Into $18 Million Baby

By C.M. Mattessich

The U.S. Home development, with units reportedly starting at $400,000, will be named “Greenbriar Cape May,” following on a line of upscale, age-restricted “Greenbriar” communities that U.S. Home has developed around the country.
Just a year ago, Eddie and Suzanne Wuerker sold the 31.1-acre farm and an adjoining .73 acre residential tract for a total of $4,575,000 to Seaboard Village Development LLC, whose principal is local developer Mark Robinson.
That’s a one-year profit of over $13 million for Seaboard and Robinson.
Robinson didn’t spend the year sitting back.
He lined up municipal variances, and preliminary and final site plan approvals, for a new age-restricted development with 176 units located within 44 quad buildings, and a 5,000-square foot community center with an exterior pool and other amenities.
The adjoining residential tract, which opens onto Railroad Ave-nue, will be converted into the main access route for the new development.  (A plan of the site may be viewed at page 48.)
Middle Township’s Zoning Board approved site variances in March 2005.  To meet concerns expressed by neighboring residents about increased traffic and lighting, particularly along Railroad Ave-nue, the board directed Robinson to explore alternatives that might mitigate offsite conditions before returning for site plan review.
In its resolution, however, the board determined that Railroad Avenue was a better-suited alternative to increasing an “already quite congested” Route 47. 
At a July 2005 site plan hearing, the board noted that some of the affected neighbors received concessions from Seaboard and Robinson in light of their traffic and lighting concerns.
The site’s new purchaser, MW Housing Partners III, LP, is head-quartered in San Francisco, but MW’s homebuilder – U.S. Home – is no stranger to the East Coast.  In recent years, it has de-veloped three of its noted “Greenbriar” communities in New Jer-sey.
At the end of last week, representatives of U.S. Home were in the county to review the site and attend a pre-construction meeting with township Engineer Vince Orlando and his staff.
Township Mayor Nate Doughty told the Herald that the company may be visiting additional township officials this week or next.
U.S. Home’s Regional Vice President Don Bompensa confirmed to the Herald that, for the most part, the company would be follow-ing the site plans for which Seaboard and Robinson already gained approval.  Township Engineer Orlando noted that there have been “soft discussions” about relocating the clubhouse to the rear of the property.
The company would not confirm or deny reports that it will sell its basic unit starting in “the low $400’s,” an approximation cited by township officials who received introductory informa-tion from U.S. Home on an informal basis.
If accurate, this is significantly higher than the pricing at U.S. Home’s three other age-restricted developments in New Jer-sey:  Greenbriar Horizon in Bordentown (with a range of $293,000-343,000 base prices for homes with square footage be-tween 1,666 and 2,675), Greenbriar Westlake in Jackson ($314,000-367,000 for square footage of 11,627 to 2,675), and Greenbriar Oceanaire in Waretown ($310,000-370,000 for square footage of 1,666 to 2,675).
The 1,400-home development in Waretown, marketed by the company as a “Jersey shore” location, is just east of the Garden State Parkway’s exit 69.  It’s the only other site within U.S. Home’s south Jersey division to date.  Situated on 888 acres, it in-cludes an 18-hole golf course and a 38,000 square foot clubhouse which the company describes as “the largest in an active adult community in the State of New Jersey.”
The gated Jackson development, billed by the company as “highly luxurious living” and located west of the Parkway’s Lakewood exit in central Jersey, also includes a community center and 18-hole golf course.  And the company describes its 240-home Bor-dentown community, which is located some 25 miles south of Tren-ton, as “a picturesque gathering in a park-like setting.”
In other Greenbriar communities, the term “active adult” means that at least one homeowner is required to be age 55 or older.  Although adults younger than 55 can live in the same home as an age-qualified resident, Township Engineer Orlando explained that under both state law and municipal ordinance the “age re-stricted” nature of the property use operates to exclude resi-dents under the age of 18.
Also implicit in the township’s approvals:  internal roads, lighting, drainage, snow and trash removal, will be the respon-sibility of the homeowners’ association rather than the town-ship.
Township officials told the Herald that U.S. Home expressed the intention to pursue the project, pronto – perhaps even breaking ground next week.  U.S. Home’s Bompensa declined to confirm a definite start date, however, noting that the company is cur-rently meeting with the Department of Community Affairs for ap-proval of its “public offering.”
“We hope to commence sales this summer,” Bompensa stated, add-ing that the company anticipated that customers familiar with the “Greenbriar” concept might request to be placed on a waiting list.
Township Engineer Orlando stated that he expected to see the company start certain site work such as stripping topsoil within the next two weeks.
U.S. Home, which started developing “Greenbriar” communities in 1969, was acquired by Lennar Corporation in May 2000.  In 2005, Lennar reorganized its New Jersey division into central and south Jersey divisions.  A company representative told the Her-ald that the south Jersey division covers “everything from Route 195 to Cape May” and that the company intends to expand through-out the south Jersey area.
Many of its homes — which can be viewed at www.lennar.com — are constructed in an airy, elegant, California style.
For many years, Eddie and Suzanne Wuerkers’ farm supplied local residents and visitors with the simple visual elegance of the New Jersey farm – as well as mouthwatering southern Jersey vege-tables.
Real estate professionals say that it is not uncommon for a de-veloper in Seaboard’s position to end up in the middle of pur-chases with skyrocketing values.  The value to the party in U.S. Home’s position, they say, is that it enters the market with all local approvals in place and can commence immediately with what it does best – building.
The record price paid to Seaboard also resulted in realty transfer fees of $222,290.

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