HomeHaddonfield NewsResidents sue borough over Bancroft site amendments

Residents sue borough over Bancroft site amendments

The borough was served last week by Haddonfield Encouraging Responsible Development, consisting of eight plaintiffs and more than 80 residents financially supporting the group, according to lead plaintiff and former mayor Jack Tarditi.

The borough was served last week by Haddonfield Encouraging Responsible Development, consisting of eight plaintiffs and more than 80 residents financially supporting the group, according to lead plaintiff and former mayor Jack Tarditi. The group is suing the borough to invalidate recent amendments made to the redevelopment at the Bancroft site.

This suit was filed on March 30.

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HERD believes the amended Bancroft Redevelopment Plan is not fulfilling the goal of providing “age-targeted” housing at the Bancroft property, and provides no “reciprocal benefits” to residents.

The Bancroft property was purchased for $12.9 million through an agreement between Bancroft School and 2 Hopkins Lane, LLC, the buying company of Brian O’Neill of Recovery Centers of America. O’Neill had originally intended to use the property to open a drug rehabilitation center, which would have been placed near Haddonfield Memorial High School.

In January 2016, the developer and the borough entered into an agreement through which the borough would purchase the property, leaving the developer with the right to develop the residential portion of the redevelopment plan.

In April 2016, the commissioners adopted a redevelopment plan to turn part of the Bancroft site into “age-targeted” living facilities.

In February, amendments were made that had some residents concerned the changes were not as “age-targeted” as initially presented. At a meeting on Feb. 13, borough commissioners adopted an ordinance on second reading to approve amendments to the redevelopment plan.

“We believe the commissioners’ action on Feb. 13, in amending the 2016 Bancroft Redevelopment Plan, is gutting the 2016 Plan,” Tarditi said.

Plaintiffs are concerned the proposed townhomes will be “too large” and “too expensive” for those whose children have left the school system and want to downsize. The average floor area per townhouse was amended to increase from 2,000 square feet to 2,250 square feet and could have a price tag of $600,000.

The plaintiffs are asking to stick to the original redevelopment plan that has smaller, single-level, less-expensive units targeted to seniors, which would avoid younger families with children purchasing them. The plaintiffs, including former Mayors Tish Colombi and Tarditi, and Planning Board Member John C. Stokes, are concerned about overcrowding in the schools. The plaintiffs argue with the amendments now put in place, the townhomes are attractive to families with children at the detriment to the borough but of “financial benefit” to the developer.

Although the group is supportive of all the other aspects of the Bancroft plan, including greater utilization of the high school campus, Lullworth Hall and expansion of recreational and passive land use, their point of contention rests in the practicality of achieving “age-targeted” homes with the amendments.

Moving forward, HERD will continue to communicate concerns and ask the development plan for the “8-plus acres” on the Cherry Hill side of Hopkins Lane result in townhomes that are age-targeted and not more expensive than the average Haddonfield Home.

“If the commissioners truly believe that their proposed housing will be for seniors, then they should require it to be ‘age restricted,’” Tarditi said.

In response to the lawsuit, Commissioner Jeff Kasko said although everyone’s opinion does count, the commissioners were elected to make decisions after examining all of the feedback gathered.

“It’s unfortunate that we have to spend more time and taxpayer dollars to fight a last-minute lawsuit because a few people didn’t get their way and are unhappy with parts of the Bancroft Redevelopment Plan,” Kasko said in response to the lawsuit.

Kasko explained of all the benefits to the residents of Haddonfield, the one worth noting includes an end to the uncertainty and controversy over the Bancroft site. After extensive discussions with the developer, the borough now has something “workable” that will move the plan along. This would not have been possible without the amended redevelopment plan, according to Kasko.

Kasko also said the current plan will produce tax revenue to cover the millions spent to purchase the land.

“We don’t have the right to force O’Neill to do anything,” borough solicitor Mario Iavicoli added. He said the borough cannot make him leave, but if he willingly chooses to, the borough will pay him and eventually have to pay the bonds used for the purchase, impacting the taxpayer.

“I’m disappointed, to say the least, but hopeful that a judge will look at the law and finally, after so much time and hard work, allow us to move forward,” Kasko said.

To review the amendments to the Bancroft Redevelopment Plan, visit www.haddonfieldnj.org.


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