Letter to the Editor: Jeff Kasko

Jeff Kasko separates myth from fact in regard to the Bancroft redevelopment plan.

I heard a wise politician once say; “People are entitled to their own opinions, but they are not entitled to their own facts.”

I’ve thought about this recently, during meetings and discussions over the Bancroft Redevelopment Plan. I’ve heard and read some repeated inaccuracies and even outright falsehoods about what is happening with the Bancroft property. Many people have told me they are confused and have asked, “what’s really going on?”

In an effort to clarify some of things being said, here are some of my thoughts:

MYTH: We chose the developer, Brian O’Neill, to build on the site.

FACT: We did not choose Mr. O’Neill. He had a contract with Bancroft to purchase the property and planned to build a drug rehab facility there. We negotiated with him for the town to purchase the land and give up the rehab idea, but that came with an agreement that any approved housing units there would be built by him. Without that agreement, we would not own the land.

MYTH: We can pay him $600,000 to go away.

FACT: We can pay him only if he chooses to leave. It’s a sweetener that I insisted be in our agreement. It’s up to him to walk away, not us.

MYTH: The Redevelopment Plan gives carte blanche for O’Neill to do whatever he wants.

FACT: Our Plan calls for multiple public and private uses, including open space, fields, town/school facilities, and private housing on a portion of the property, which will generate tax revenue to pay for the rest. It includes detailed guidelines and restrictions regarding possible housing units to be built.

MYTH: The Plan calls for housing that will attract families with kids and will overburden our schools.

FACT: Our Plan is for age-targeted townhomes and/or flats that will be designed for and marketed to empty nesters, aged 55+ without kids.

MYTH: There are no options for empty nesters and seniors to downsize and stay in town.

FACT: There are more than 300 flats for rent or sale at multiple locations in town, including the Haddonfield Commons, Tarditi Commons, Haddonfield Manor, and Kingsway. There are also hundreds of smaller, private homes and twin homes for downsizing. In total, there are more than 2000 properties and housing units in town that are at or below the median property value of about $500,000. There are more than 1000 properties that are less than $250,000.

MYTH: This Plan is being rushed so O’Neill can get what he wants.

FACT: We have discussed potential Bancroft property uses for at least 10 years. The negotiations with Bancroft and O’Neill, and the input that lead to the Commissioners and Planning Board adopting the Plan, involved many discussions, surveys, hearings and meetings over the past several years. In public, we have passed and amended the Plan and issued more than $12 million in notes to buy the property, which we have to start paying back. This has been carefully and fully discussed. Now, it’s time to put the Plan into action.

MYTH: This is going to cost taxpayers too much money.

FACT: With age-targeted townhomes on a portion of the property, our Plan will generate enough tax revenue to pay for debt service, other property costs, open space, and some public uses on the site. It may even generate extra revenue that we can use to reduce property taxes or fund other public purposes.

Although I only speak for myself, I know the other two commissioners agree that we must move forward, armed with facts on implementing our Bancroft Redevelopment Plan. I hope residents will agree and not support delaying or re-opening old arguments and debates from the past several years. It took a long time and now we are finally ready to move forward!

Commissioner Jeff Kasko

Deputy Mayor