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  • Courier Post

    New twists to Tabernacle fight over demolition

    By Joseph P. Smith, Cherry Hill Courier-Post,

    26 days ago

    TABERNACLE — Old Town Hall’s not what it used to be, but it isn’t going anywhere for a while.

    The township has sought to demolish its vacant municipal building on Carranza Road since February. A lawsuit filed April 18 in Burlington County Superior Court has aimed to preserve it, or at least to force Tabernacle to show it is following requirements in state law and local ordinance to take that action.

    On April 19, a judge blocked the Township Committee from going ahead with razing the building., which was built around 1874. The order remains in effect until a ruling on whether the committee has followed state law and local ordinance.

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    Two groups and an individual resident went to court in April against Tabernacle. The lawsuit alleges that local officials did not take the necessary procedural steps before voting to destroy what both sides agree is a historic building.

    The parties are due back in court on July 19. But a court ruling may not be needed now.

    At the June 10 Township Committee meeting, members voted unanimously to rescind the February demolition resolution. And cancellation of the demolition was what the plaintiffs were seeking in their lawsuit, according to their attorney.

    “Because if the vote’s rescinded, I don’t know that there’s anything left for me to do, you know?” attorney Matthew Litt said Thursday. “Essentially, the new committee did what I was asking the court to do. So, we’ll see if the judge thinks the issue has been mooted.”

    Litt said discussions will be needed now with the township about how to proceed.

    “Nothing has changed yet from the court’s perspective. So, I wouldn’t say that that’s ‘off,’” Litt said of the scheduled July 19 hearing. “But I would say that it’s probably unlikely that, a month from now, that still will be necessary.”

    The five-member Township Committee has a different makeup and structure than how it stood in February. Deputy Mayor Natalie Stone resigned May 9 and her position was filled. Committeeman Mark Hartman stepped down as mayor in June but remains on the committee.

    Township attorney William Burns and Administrator Maryalice Brown did not respond to requests for comment about the status of the case.

    The Tabernacle Historical Society, Council 49 of the Junior Order of United American Mechanics, and resident Katherine E. Crain are the plaintiffs against the township. Their lawsuit was filed April 18, one day ahead of the scheduled start of demolition.

    Council 49 is the former owner of the Old Town Hall. The council deeded it in 1966 to Tabernacle as a meeting place. United American Mechanics constructed the building and an ordinance designates it as historic and to be preserved.

    Joe Smith is a N.E. Philly native transplanted to South Jersey 36 years ago, keeping an eye now on government in South Jersey. He is a former editor and current senior staff writer for The Daily Journal in Vineland, Courier-Post in Cherry Hill, and the Burlington County Times.

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    This article originally appeared on Cherry Hill Courier-Post: New twists to Tabernacle fight over demolition

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