Residents oppose Medford Crossings plan

By Sean Patrick Murphy

It was standing room only at a recent Medford Township Council meeting.

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And most there expressed their opinion about the proposed Medford Crossings plan — they are dead set against it.

At that meeting, a special committee tasked with exploring the possibility of developing that area recommended the township not move forward.

One major determination was that the township should not float a $35 million bond to help pay for the development.

According to Lennar Corporation, the designated redeveloper of Medford Crossings, the site situated around the intersection of Route 70 and Eayrestown Road will be a mixed-use retail and residential project.

The plan includes 167 single-family homes, 260 apartments, 149 townhomes, 120 stacked townhomes, and 60 affordable housing units.

It also calls for about 600,000 square feet for commercial purposes.

The committee suggested the township not put out a bond for $35 million for project improvements. It said a more reasonable amount might be $10 million or nothing at all.

One major factor was the cost to the township created by the surge in school age children created by the development.

Hank Owen, a spokesman for the seven member Blue Ribbon Committee who made a presentation before council, said he is concerned that the decision makers do not have accurate information regarding the project.

The committee was put together in early spring and finished work in June.

“I hope the public recognizes a lot of their comments were heard,” Owen said. “There’s no way this could work.”

Council member Bob Martin said the committee’s presentation was “excellent.”

He also said the report was “very, very well done.”

“They are a sharp group of people,” Martin added, noting the presentation influenced him. “They analyzed all the pieces of it.”

However, Martin said two things were overlooked.

One was how the overall culture of the town would change because of Medford Crossings.

The other was determining if 600,000 square feet of commercial space would alleviate the township’s needs for commercial space.

“That’s the only area we have,” Martin said, noting that there is no other commercial part of township than that section of Route 70.

“I don’t want to see any bonding,” he said. “That’s how I feel right now

“I don’t know how I’m going to vote at this moment,” Martin added. “I’m probably leaning against it.”

Resident Chris Buoni said he was glad the study was done by objective people with no political agendas.

He said the proposed Medford Crossings plan is “horrible for our town.

“I don’t understand why we’re using taxpayer dollars to fund a private development,” Buoni said. “You’re asking taxpayers to bear the burden of risk for something that should be left up to entrepreneurs.

“We have a free market that rewards risk — people take risks — sometimes they lose money sometimes they make money — that’s how the free market works,” he added. “We already bear enough burdens we don’t need to have any more.”

Robert Calabro, regional director of land for Lennar, remained upbeat despite the committee’s report.

“We appreciate the time and effort Blue Ribbon Committee members put into reviewing all aspects of the Medford Crossings plan,” Calabro said. “It was a well thought out presentation and we’re hopeful the tools they used to analyze the plan will help Medford Township move forward on a plan that works for parties involved and most importantly, Medford residents.

“We want to do right by Medford and build a quality development and hope this project will come to fruition soon,” he added.

In other news, Township Manager Christopher Schultz has cut the proposed township budget to the bone.

In the spring the budget referendum put forward to the public was voted down. That would have gone about $2.4 million above the 2 percent tax cap.

The latest proposal is a $21.9 million budget, around $350,000 more than last year’s.

Under that proposal, the average homeowner would contribute around $1,046 to municipal taxes, up $47.90 from last year.

“The town has a fiscal dilemma,” Schultz said. “We need to figure a way to get out of it.”

As many as 30 township employees will lose their jobs if this amended budget is approved.

He said the township is considering selling cell tower space for $1.2 million but that’s a one-shot deal.

“We’re not out of the woods yet,” Schultz said, adding he now has to start looking at next year’s budget.

There will be a public hearing on the budget at the council’s August 15 meeting.

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