Letter to the Editor: John Stokes

Haddonfield resident expresses dismay with lack of transparency in borough governance.

As a former member and chair of the Planning Board who grew up in Haddonfield, I am disheartened by our Commissioners’ ongoing lack of transparency and their disdain for the Planning Board. 

These transgressions began with their secretive 2016 Bancroft deal with developer Brian O’Neill, their pre-determined Bancroft Redevelopment Plan and a later set of developer-driven plan amendments that they adopted in spite of the Planning Board’s overwhelming objections.

The Commissioners continue to ignore good government traditions that Haddonfield leaders have practiced for decades by illegitimately hiring a special attorney to represent the Planning Board in a lawsuit without its knowledge or consent; failing to properly record public hearings; issuing meeting minutes that are long overdue and incomplete; failing to consult with the Planning Board or School Board before announcing their ill-fated Bancroft “PILOT” program that would have cost taxpayers and the Board of Education millions of dollars; blaming Bancroft delays on the residents’ lawsuit instead of publicly divulging that an affordable housing lawsuit has actually tied up Bancroft for several years; secretly allowing several Planning Board members’ appointments to lapse for a year but permitting

those same members to unwittingly participate in Board business; applying a Bancroft “litmus test” to Planning Board re-appointments; and reportedly doing the same for candidates who’ve applied for the upcoming Commission vacancy. 

This record, which demeans open government principles and trivializes the Planning Board, is antithetical to Haddonfield’s traditions. We’ll soon find out whether they continue these embarrassing practices when they select the new Commissioner. Will they do the right thing and select a well-respected and independent resident to temporarily serve as a Commissioner until the November special election or pick a candidate who passes their litmus test and who intends to use the appointment as a springboard for the special election? 

John C. Stokes