Home Haddonfield News Bancroft Hall plans draw significant public interest and discussion

Bancroft Hall plans draw significant public interest and discussion

Agreements with Fair Share Housing Corp., developer at issue during Board of Commissioners meeting

At Tuesday night’s board of commissioners meeting, members of the public came out in force to dispute the borough’s agreements with the Fair Share Housing Corporation as well as with the property’s developer over the Bancroft Hall parcel, which is slated to be turned into townhomes.

Early in the meeting, commissioners were set to vote on Resolution 48, Authorization to Sign Settlement Agreement with Fair Share Housing Corporation Regarding Docket No. CAM-L-2596–15 — which was a settlement with the FSHC over a state mandate that every municipality in New Jersey should make allowances for so-called “affordable housing” units.

However, the agreement between the two entities had only been struck in the time period between the last two commissioners’ meetings, and the public was only notified of the agreement in full through print-outs available at Tuesday’s meeting. Several residents in attendance then spoke out against the timing of the vote, imploring the board to give the public more time to digest the contents of the resolution.

That prompted the commissioners to introduce a motion to table the vote until its next meeting, scheduled for March 12. All three voted to table the matter.

Focus then shifted to the main topic of contention, plans for the parcel itself, which produced the highest number of public complaints and stretched the meeting to more than 2.5 hours.

The board eventually passed Ordinance 2019–02, Application for a Long Term Tax Exemption & Authorizing the Execution of a Financial Agreement with 2 Hopkins Lane Urban Renewal, LLC upon its first reading with a unanimous vote. Second reading of the ordinance and further public comment is scheduled to take place at the board’s March 12 meeting.

In addition, Resolution 049 — Authorization to Designate 2 Hopkins Lane Urban Renewal, LLC as the Redeveloper for the Property Identified as a Portion of Block 14, Lot 2, was also passed with a unanimous vote.

At the heart of the public’s discontent were the plans for 2 Hopkins Lane to convert the Bancroft parcel into 80 “age-targeted” units at a price of $500,000 per townhome. Residents continually expressed two primary concerns: older citizens would not be able to downsize from their current properties and afford these units, and the price range would attract more younger families with children, and subsequently overcrowd the schools.

Residents Chris Maynes and David Hunter both objected to the possible overcrowding of schools with an influx of younger families who could better afford the price of the new construction, while Maynes drew the loudest cheers of the night when he expressed concern this influx might lead to greater traffic concerns in a town that prides itself on its “suburban feel” and walkability.

Hunter also said older adults who wish to sell their properties and downsize within the borough or elsewhere would not be able to do so, since those younger families would be drawn to the relatively affordable price of the townhomes rather than existing borough real estate whose prices would be much higher.

Former Mayor Jack Tarditi echoed those sentiments, but also urged the commissioners to let developer Brian O’Neill exercise the $600,000 out clause placed in the agreement with the borough and then work toward a better plan. Resident Mark Hodges then cited his 35 years as a developer to say older adults have not been previously drawn to purchase units as designed in the agreement, and that, through mutual business contacts, he felt O’Neill would not simply walk away from a deal such as the one struck between he and the borough.

Commissioner Jeffrey Kasko then said he personally placed that out clause in the agreement, and asked Hodges if he knew anyone who could get in O’Neill’s ear to take that money, because if so, the board would “jump for joy” at that prospect.

“This whole process has been a situation of trying to come to some agreement that works for the town and coming up with something that works for him (O’Neill). We have debt service costs at this point. Were we to decide that we didn’t like this, if we decided let’s sue him and try to get a better agreement, we’re liable to be in this for years. We’re going to continue to rack up this debt service, and eventually it is going to fall on the backs of the rest of the taxpayers,” said Commissioner John Moscatelli. “So, while there are a number of things in here that we would probably like to see different, that we think could be done better, this was the best agreement that we could come to, with this developer, in order to move this forward in a timely fashion. We think the bones here are sound, they’re not perfect. It works financially for the borough. We hope it will work out as we expect. We can’t promise that. But there were costs associated with stopping the drug and alcohol rehab center in that location.”

The redevelopment and financial agreement, along with supplemental documentation, has been uploaded to the borough’s website for public review and can be found at http://www.haddonfieldnj.org/latest_news/bancroft_site_redevelopment_plan.php.

These documents, along with additional detailed project documents, may be reviewed in person at the Clerk’s Office, Room 101 of Borough Hall, Monday through Friday from 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.

For more information, contact Borough Administrator Sharon McCullough at smccullough@haddonfield-nj.gov.

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