Agreement to settle lawsuit goes forward at Board of Commissioners meeting

Dispute with Fair Share Housing Center over affordable housing put to rest

At its most recent meeting, Haddonfield’s Board of Commissioners voted unanimously to approve a resolution that puts an end to a lawsuit brought by the Fair Share Housing Center against the borough regarding its lack of state-mandated “affordable housing,” which is slated to be part of the 90-unit construction on a 13.15-acre plot of the Bancroft property.

“I get a little conflicted sometimes. My personal and political philosophy is that government and courts should not be involved in where housing goes and determine housing costs and who can qualify for housing. But I do understand the need, in many communities, including ours, where folks that do have low- to moderate-incomes are essentially shut out of the housing market,” said Commissioner Jeffrey Kasko.

“A few years ago, before I was married, I was a low- to moderate-income person. I had a hard time sometimes finding a place in the community to live, so I understand that, and quite frankly, regardless of my personal feelings … we don’t have a choice on this matter because we’re legally required to do so. It’s what we need to do, and I think we got the best remedy and agreement with FSHC and under the court that we could expect.”

According to Borough Administrator Sharon McCullough, now that the resolution has been approved, it proceeds to a judge, who will decide to either accept or deny the terms within. If it is accepted, the borough will have 120 days to prepare a document and then submit it to the borough’s planning board for approval.

Mayor Neal Rochford additionally revealed that, along with the 10 affordable-housing units included on the Bancroft site, there will be 28 affordable-housing units planned for the space behind Borough Hall.

“That is something which has pretty much been on our radar for a number of years. It’s really no big surprise that we’ve had this parcel in the back for a while, we knew we’d have to use it for our affordable-housing obligation,” Rochford said.

The measure was set to be voted on at the commissioners’ previous meeting on Feb. 26, a contentious, marathon affair. However, when multiple members of the public spoke out against different facets of the Bancroft Plan, including authorization to sign the agreement, and a motion was passed to table any vote on the settlement until the body’s next public session.

A complete summary can be found at http://www.haddonfieldnj.org/latest_news/borough_important_current_topics.php under the title “Affordable Housing Settlement Agreement.”

One other item that arose from the Bancroft Plan discussion at the Feb. 26 meeting was the second reading of Ordinance 2019–02, Application for a Long Term Tax Exemption & Authorizing the Execution of a Financial Agreement with 2 Hopkins Lane Urban Renewal, LLC.

Approval of that ordinance upon second reading was tabled due to a wave of public sentiment against the “PILOT” program included in the deal which would essentially give a tax break to anyone who purchased a townhome on the Bancroft site.

Public comment and a vote by the commissioners had been originally scheduled for the March 12 meeting, but was subsequently pushed back due to a number of factors until their April 30 public session. Haddonfield’s Board of Education also issued a statement prior to its Feb. 28 meeting, expressing concern for the tax structure of the agreement between the borough and 2 Hopkins Lane.

“Relative to the concerns raised by the school board, we also heard loud and clear from a number of folks who were concerned about the school but also more concerned about any tax break being given over there at all. I think we can come to a much better financial agreement, at this point, seeing the response from the community,” said Commissioner John Moscatelli.

“We will not be bringing that same plan back. That, we can assure you. There will be change when we bring it back. Give us a chance to work on it, give us a chance to work with the school board, and I am confident that when we come back with a revised financial arrangement, it will be much more acceptable.”

In other news:

  • The commissioners proclaimed the week of March 17–23 as National Poison Prevention Week, calling attention to alcohol and drug intoxication, the dangers of household items and environmental toxins, as well as the proliferation of cigarette substitutes, and asking borough residents to be acutely aware of these factors when considering children and pets.
  • The board voted to authorize the rejection of three separate bids from outside contractors relating to the borough’s 2019 Stormwater Outfall and Drainage Improvements project for cost overruns. Mount Construction, Co. Inc., Neri’s Construction and Rental, Inc. and Pioneer Pipe Contractors all previously submitted bids for the project.
  • The board also voted to authorize the awarding of bids to a pair of companies — North American Pipeline Services, LLC and National Water Main Cleaning — to address the cured-in-place pipe projects in the 2019 Stormwater Pipe Improvements undertaking.