Letter to the Editor: John C. Stokes

John Stokes talks about how he can’t support the commissioners’ Bancroft Plan.

As a long time resident of Haddonfield who has been active on the Planning Board and Environmental Commission for many years, I can’t support the Commissioners’ latest Bancroft Redevelopment Plan. Here are but a few reasons why this Plan is bad for our town:

In spite of contrary claims, our Commissioners’ 2016 agreement did indeed pre-select Mr. O’Neill to redevelop Bancroft and endorsed his plan to develop large and expensive town homes before a Redevelopment Plan was even adopted. No other plans or developers were considered.

Since O’Neill didn’t like the Redevelopment Plan that was later adopted, the Commissioners amended the Plan to suit his, not the town’s, interests. They gutted the goal of building housing for seniors by increasing the number of town homes, allowing them to be bigger and taller, authorizing multiple story floor plans that are not conducive to seniors and reducing many other development protections.

Common sense tells us that these town homes, which are much larger and more expensive than the average Haddonfield home, will not attract seniors looking to downsize. While a $600,000 price tag, along with higher taxes and homeowner association fees, may not be attractive for many seniors, it offers a more affordable entry point for a younger family to move into a new Haddonfield home instead of purchasing a newly “rebuilt” home for $800,000 or more.

Imagine what happens if most of these 90–92 units are bought by families with children. It will lead to higher school taxes and stress our already over-capacity schools. Educating 80 (or more) new children will cost taxpayers more than $1 million each year. And that doesn’t account for expanded school facilities that may be needed or the tax relief that the Commissioners have promised O’Neill.

We can do better. The Commissioners need to stand by the original Redevelopment Plan and insist on a housing plan that will attract seniors, not families. If O’Neill doesn’t like it, he can withdraw and other developers can be given an opportunity to bid on a better plan.