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Washington Township MUA Developing New Administration Office On Fries Mill Road (Iron Hill Property). $6.5 Million Bond Intended.

Washington Township MUA Developing New Administration Office On Fries Mill Road (Iron Hill Property). $6.5 Million Bond Intended.

The Washington Township Municipal Utilities Authority has acquired land on Fries Mill Road, and plans to develop a new Administration office and maintenance operation building there.

In a separate resolution (#2021-028), the MUA states they have the intention of issuing utility system revenue bonds with a not-to-exceed principal amount of $6.5 Million, to pay for the project.

The property is directly next to Chez Dance studio, and totals 7 acres. It has around 250 feet frontage on Fries Mill Road, and is very deep at 1300 feet. It’s fair distance from the Black Horse Pike just past Watson Drive, and almost directly across from Lorne Road.

The 7 acre property was actually part of a much larger 29 acre property, which was recently split off. The remaining 22 acres sit behind the small strip mall located on Watson Drive.

Most are not aware but the full 29 acre property on Fries Mill Road has been owned by the Iron Hill Brewing Company since 2003, and they’ve seemingly long ago abandoned plans for a brewery restaurant in Washington Township.

Readers have been reaching out to 42Freeway over the last few weeks after noticing a UNDER CONTRACT was put over the For Sale sign at the property, and most notably since construction equipment and workers have been seen on the site.

I have been delaying on posting as I had wanted to fill in some of the knowledge gaps, but I was moving slowly over the summer and didn’t get all of the answers I am looking for. Well I have asked the MUA for additional details on the Administration Building project and they have not answered (yet?), so rolling with what I know and will update in a subsequent post if I get additional details.

Washington Township MUA New Location: Tax Map

MUA Administration Building: What I Know

Well first, “kudos” to the MUA for keeping agendas, meeting minutes and resolutions up-to-date and available online.

But… with all of those regular procedural communication efforts, it seems there is very little information on the Administration Office Project. More on that in a second…

I’ve been following this story since the start of this year.

On April 25th, 2021 I emailed two people in the MUA leadership team, and my email commentary basically tells how I stumbled on to the property.

So MUA activities really aren’t in my radar.. but in driving down Fries Mill Road I noticed the “Piccolo Realty” sign for 28 acres at 208 Fries Mills, and thought it said Sold.

When I got home to research I can see recent transactions to split the deed.  Correct it?  And a portion is being purchased by either WTMUA or the County?

And then I see the October meeting minutes where WTMUA is spending $455,000 for the 6 acres.

So a few days later I got a reply from the Executive Director!

The WT Municipal Utilities Authority purchased the parcel to build a new office and plant facility

Angela Grassia, Executive Director

Hey Nice! Thank you Angela for that quick clarification!

Later on I noticed in April 2021 the Washington Township MUA passed a resolution regarding the $6.5 million bond.

intends to issue utility system revenue bonds with a not-to-exceed principal amount of $6,500,000 (the “2021 Bonds”) for the purpose of paying the costs of designing, constructing, owning and operating a new administrative office building and new maintenance operation building on a property located at Fries Mill Road.

Washington Township MUA – Resolution 2021-028 April 13, 2021

But actually, this went online after the meeting of course and it takes a month or two for meeting minutes to be prepared, approved and put online… so I saw the details a little later in the summer.

So we have the general idea of what the core goal is for the property… but not the plan

But… that’s not enough information, is it? I mean.. this is 42Freeway.com and we like to give our readers more details than this.

So with a very open answer from the Executive Director, and excellently up-to-date meeting notes… I was excited to start looking more details on the plans for the new Administration office.

Administration Building Project Meeting Minutes

And this is where.. well, it’s a little odd.

Simply, I don’t see any mention at all in the Meeting Minutes regarding discussions around the plans for Administration Building.

Again, its awesome (and I believe legally required) that the financial expenditures and plans are noted in minutes and resolutions. Which the MUA has done.

But nothing about the discussions for need, locations, voting of the board members… all the commentary and decisions leading up to the decision to build the MUA Administration offices.

I don’t see any site plans. A “coming soon” page. Nothing

Now I’ll apologize profusely if I missed something.. the meeting minutes are image based PDFs so I relied on Google’s search capabilities (which turns image text into searchable text). But Google did pick up the resolutions listed as “Fries Mill Road” so I would expect it would’ve found any other discussion references.

So with summer winding down (beach and beer!) and I recently made a recommitment to myself to try and post almost every day… well 5 posts a week would be great. I have even more stories to get out than that!

So on August 21st I emailed the Executive Director again… asking for more details, and basically saying “readers and residents are going to have questions”

While it was nice to find that resolution… I literally cant find any other item on this large project.

I am impressed that your meeting minutes go back to 2010!!!  But I had trouble finding any commentary on the project.

My 42Freeway readers are asking me about what is going on with the lot… and they love my site!

My only goal is to inform the public… it’s literally the main reason I got into website journalism!

42Freeway email to Angela Grassia: Executive Director of WTMUA. August 21st.

I thought this would be easy, considering she replied to me in August.

No reply.

A month later on September 20th, 2021 I sent another email… and I called!

Well just so happened that yesterday a water main break in the area of the existing MUA Administration offices had the offices closed.

So I sent another email.

I was a little more direct, basically saying that “Washington Twp MUA is building $6 million dollar Administration office and water facility on Fries Mill Road and there seems to be zero public information on the project”

No reply as of yet. But this is the second email (the first being a month ago).

Honestly I was trying to help out.. I know there will be questions, so let’s just get the info out there.

But I bump into this a lot. I don’t have magic powers to make a business owner talk to me. A private property owner or developer doesn’t need to respond to me.

But I hold the Government and related agencies to a different standard. Its why I am getting more tougher with the NJDOT on the Bellmawr road project, and honestly… it’s why I think the MUA should have this information readily available to the public.

The Government and it’s agency have a need to share plans and expenditures with the public.

I don’t know if MUAs have different powers than other Government bodies.

But if the School District was building new buildings, and authorizing $6.5 million bonds, I am 100% certain that information would be known to the public well in advance.

And no it’s not early in the project. The property has been split off. The MUA owns the property

Planning Board Meetings

Another aspect I looked into, in trying to get details on the project.. are the county and town Planning Boards.

Honestly, all I really want is an overhead site plan, and maybe an architect exterior rendering.

While I believe that Government buildings may have some special status for new projects, I expect that they would still need to go through Planning Board approvals.

This would mean submitting plans to the Planning Boards. Having the boards review, and a public meeting on the projects.

Adding to that… Fries Mill Road is a Gloucester County Road and guess what.. the County has their own Planning Board process for projects that access their roadway.

You simply can not change the driveway access from a County Road to access your property. And it’s more than that.. even if all access points are unchanged it still needs to be reviewed by the County.

And while the County Planning Board doesn’t seem to publish meeting minutes, they do keep a spreadsheet style list of Agenda topics online, sorted by town.

And in the last three years I don’t see anything for the Washington Township MUA.

And I also can’t fins anything at the Washington Township Planning Board either.

Again, my apologies if I am missing something.. in many situations I am limited by internet searching capabilities.

The Iron Hill Brewing Connection, and Wegmans

I didn’t know this until I started looking into this project, but the Iron Hill Brewing Company has owned the 30 acres of land for the last 18 years.. and obviously have never developed.

This is a separate 30 acres from what Wegmans has owned behind Lowe’s

And from what I can see from the New Jersey Alcohol Bureau, Iron Hill Brewing does not own a liquor license in town. (Iron Hill being a full restaurant also, is required to have a full New Jersey retail liquor license. A brewery license does not support the serving of food)

The actual company name is C&D Brewing Company, which stands for “Chesapeake and Delaware Brewing”, which we believe was going to be their original name when they start out, before developing the trade name Iron Hill.

C & D Brewing purchased the land in 2003 from the Trimble Family (farm).

So why would the purchase this in 2003, and then not develop the brewery restaurant?

Wegman’s

Ahhh everyone’s favorite comment on the 42Freeway Facebook page.

2002 was the year that Wegmans purchased 30 acres of land behind Lowe’s and basically next to the Iron Hill Property.

For those who regularly drive to Cherry Hill to visit the Wegmans (or Trader Joe’s) you are proving that Wegmans is more than a Supermarket.

Wegmans is a destination.

People will drive out of their way to shop at Wegmans. There just aren’t a ton of them.

And let’s be honest, the demographics of a Wegmans shopper leans towards higher-income.

So when you have a business that draws in higher paid customers, other businesses want to be around that.

Other businesses want to grab on to the customer base that Wegmans brings in.

So one year after Wegmans purchased the 30 acres of land for a (never developed) supermarket, Iron Hill Brewing made the smart business decision to plan on developing a restaurant brewery basically next door.

And What Wegmans Bringeth, Wegmans Taketh Away.

And as we all know… Wegmans never built in Washington Township.

I don’t know why. The plans were highly publicized, and honestly when I look at the newspaper articles from the time it reads to me that Turnersville was planned to open even before Cherry Hill.

But it never did.

In July of 2018 I did a post an video on Wegmans, but never really had the true details

So to bring this back to Iron Hill Brewery….

We can only assume that when the Wegmans project vanished, so did the Iron Hill Brewery project.

Without Wegmans pulling in droves of high income customers, maybe the Iron Hill Brewery for Washington Township no longer made sense.

Iron Hill Brewing and It’s Gloucester County Connection

An interesting side note…

While the early Iron Hill Breweries were in Delaware, and many news articles of the time sited the three founders as being from Delaware.

The initial founder and current CEO of Iron Hill, Kevin Finn… grew up one town over from Washington Township.. in Glassboro!

Being a native of Glassboro.. and the Wegmans Deal being only 7 years or so after they Brewery started… Kevin was probably well in tune with the developments in the area.

And one of the other founders grew up in Berlin!

So ironically… despite Kevin growing up in Gloucester County, today Iron Hill does not have a Gloucester County brewery restaurant.

We are reaching out to Iron Hill for comments on this story.

Hey Kev… that former Don Pablos in Deptford would be a great location for an Iron Hill. Things aren’t looking good for the planned Miller’s Ale House there. You should check it out!

Links and Location

Washington Township MUA – Current Administration Offices
152 Whitman Drive
Turnersville NJ 08012

856-227-7788

Website

Future Administration Offices
216 Fries Mill Road
Blackwood NJ

(Note 216 is a new address for the newly split off property. The larger property is 208 Fries Mill)

Have I mentioned I’ve been beat up by the real media for “he only publishes on Public Meeting notices”? Well how’s this one? Ha!

Dear Washington Township Government

I want to be clear. I love Washington Township. I love what you do, and appreciate that much of it is basically volunteer. We spend a LOT of money in Township businesses, maybe even more than in Deptford.

This post is not anti-Washington Twp gov. It’s simply.. I started blogging because 15 years ago a massive project was planned in my then town of Bellmawr, and no one knew about it. I wasn’t against it or for it.. I just felt the public should know about it in advance. The public has a say in these things. So I started blogging to get the information out. So this post isn’t anti-Township or MUA.. but simply I think all Government projects should be known to the public so they have their say.