NJ township tears down partially built mansion after decade-long battle

The township told Action News the demolition cost $149,000 and it plans to put a lien on the property.

ByChad Pradelli and Cheryl Mettendorf WPVI logo
Friday, January 27, 2023
NJ town tears down partially built mansion after decade-long battle
On Thursday, Cherry Hill Township ripped down the partially built mansion. The property has been under construction for nearly 14 years.

CHERRY HILL, New Jersey (WPVI) -- A decade-long battle between a property owner and Cherry Hill Township may be coming to an end.

The legal fight involves a massive 18,000-square-foot partially built mansion that was torn down Thursday morning.

The Empire State building took a year to build. The Eiffel Tower took two years. And it took roughly seven years to build the Colosseum in Italy.

"My house will always be here. They're not going to tear down my property," Denise Williams told Action News in an exclusive interview last week.

Her mega-mansion on Winding Drive in Cherry Hill has been under construction for nearly 14 years, and it still wasn't done. There were still no windows, no exterior finish and no basic components.

"It will be over my dead body before I allow the township to tear my property down," she said.

Construction came to a standstill about a decade ago. The 60-year-old blames the real estate market crash around 2010, troubles with contractors and harassment from neighbors and township officials for her construction woes.

"At every turn, the township, instead of working with me, have hindered my efforts," she said.

Cherry Hill Township Attorney William Cook disagrees.

"There has been no effort by Ms. Williams to present us with the necessary documentation that we need to approve further construction for this property," he said.

Cook said the building was unsafe and an eyesore in this wealthy enclave. He said after construction halted in 2012 and Williams' permit extensions expired at the end of 2015, she failed to submit proper architectural and engineering reports and new construction permit applications to meet new building codes.

"We have been more than fair to Ms. Williams in allowing her for well over 10 years to provide us with the necessary approvals for her to complete construction," he added.

Williams gave Action News her response.

"OK, what I say to that is that is just a regurgitation of lies," said Williams.

The battle has played out in the courts. The township said Williams' attempts to prevent demolition ultimately were denied.

And on Thursday, the township ripped down the home, demolishing what Williams says was an estimated million dollars in building costs.

Williams arrived on the scene in the middle of the demolition. She had 24-7 security on site, which did little to prevent the teardown.

The township told Action News the demolition cost $149,000 and it plans to put a lien on the property.

Williams told Action News that although they tore down her home they haven't torn down her resolve. She plans to sue to try and recover her building costs which are now just rubble.