Cherry Hill Council does not vote on Hampton Road redevelopment plan

Council decided not to vote on the redevelopment plan at Monday night’s second reading as dozens of residents spoke out in opposition.

It’s been more than three months since the Cherry Hill Township planning board gave the green light to a redevelopment plan for the Hampton Road gateway area, sending it to township council for approval.

However, it’s going to be at least another meeting before council considers adopting the plan.

Council decided to not vote on the Hampton Road redevelopment plan ordinance on second reading at its meeting last Monday. A second reading and public hearing for the plan was on the agenda, however, council decided to extend the public hearing to its next meeting on July 24 after dozens of residents expressed concerns about the plan.

“We wanted to make sure people who took time out to come and be heard, to know that council heard them and know that we’re paying attention,” township director of communications Bridget Palmer said. “It is important.”

The proposed Hampton Road redevelopment plan would bring 300 rental residential units to a site between Cuthbert Boulevard and Hampton Road on the west side of the township. The site consists of the former Saunders Publishing building, a former Bell Atlantic Telephone service operations center, a small office building and woods.

In the plan, Cherry Hill Land Associates would be designated the redeveloper for the site. The Hampton Road redevelopment area is one of three sites CHLA is permitted to build residential developments, according to the 2015 agreement it made with the township to preserve Woodcrest Country Club.

Residents presented a myriad of concerns to council, including the impact on the existing wooded area, traffic, water runoff and overcrowding of the local schools. A number of the speakers lived in the Still Park neighborhood, located adjacent to the redevelopment area.

The portion of the property consisting of woods was a major concern for many residents. Long-time Still Park resident Deborah Samuels said her neighborhood now has an abundance of wildlife unlike in the past.

“In the last three months, I have seen more wildlife in my backyard than I ever had in the 58 years that I’ve been there,” Samuels said. “I think we have developed Cherry Hill so much, that we’ve developed our wildlife into a caged area because they have nowhere to go.”

Another Still Park resident, Magaly Crespo, voiced her opposition to the plan, saying she purchased her Lawrence Street home because it backed up to the woods. She asked the township to not develop that area.

“The reason I chose that particular lot was because my house faced all trees, woods,” she said. “There was nothing back there.”

Caren Kaufman, board president for Sustainable Cherry Hill, spoke on behalf of the organization and requested the township make a number of changes to the plan. The recommendations include the addition of more specific information of how the development would be sustainable, retention of some of the wooded areas, conducting a study on the effects of stormwater runoff and finding more sustainable ways to take care of stormwater runoff.

Long-time resident Neina Reinert had concerns about the effect on the school system. She felt the construction of 300 new apartments would contribute to overcrowding, noting there are fewer schools in the township now than there were in the 1970s and 1980s.

“Now, we’re minus schools,” she said, “and now you’re wanting to put more and more children into these schools when nothing is being done to expand the schools.”

Some residents were against apartments being built at the site all together. Darryl Jackson said his backyard faces the wooded area bordering Still Park. He said he is against the construction of high-density development on the property.

“I was hoping it would be a neighborhood much like the neighborhood we came into,” Jackson said about the wooded area.

Another Still Park resident, Chris Williams, argued apartments would not be a good fit so close to existing homes.

“We talk about preserving green lands,” Williams said. “Yes, it is important. But I’m asking you to preserve my neighborhood.”

Council President David Fleisher thanked the residents for speaking out and said the meeting was an informative listening session for members of council. Palmer said the township will be taking residents’ comments into account when it comes to the plan.

“The plan is to take their feedback seriously into consideration,” she said.

Township officials plan to notify residents about the plan’s upcoming public hearing through the township website and social media pages as well as in local newspapers. Palmer added the township would inform residents if there are any changes with the plan or a delay on the continuation of the public hearing.