HomeHaddonfield NewsAfter rough waters in 2019, Rochford sees Haddonfield on upswing in 2020

After rough waters in 2019, Rochford sees Haddonfield on upswing in 2020

Borough head anticipates stability, major moves in upcoming year.

Haddonfield Mayor Neal Rochford went all in during the borough’s presentation of ‘Skirmish’ on June 1. At the time, Rochford was on the rebound from health issues which caused a brief curtailing of his duties. Looking ahead to 2020, Rochford is in robust health and ready to tackle challenges the borough faces head-on.

After personal and professional upheavals at borough hall, Haddonfield Mayor Neal Rochford is upbeat and optimistic that a Year of Five Commissioners will yield a more stable and productive year to come.

“I am in extremely good health right now,” he stated enthusiastically during a conversation with the Sun on Dec. 20. 

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“I had some health issues at the beginning of the year, but I’ve worked through them and I appreciate everybody’s patience during that period of time. I’m working out. I’m feeling good and robust, and ready to take on the challenges and opportunities for 2020.”

At the beginning of 2019, Rochford was joined by Commissioner for Revenue and Finance  Jeffrey Kasko as well as Commissioner for Public Works John Moscatelli. After Moscatelli’s summer departure, Bob Marshall was appointed to the post and was plunged headlong into the borough’s flooding issues after devastating storms in June and July. 

But in a special November election, Colleen Bianco Bezich was elected to fill the remainder of Moscatelli’s term. Upon her swearing in later in the month, Rochford announced he would take the public works post, with the newest commissioner assuming Rochford’s public safety responsibilities. 

“I really enjoyed working with the men and women of the fire department, the police department, the EMTs and also in the office with our construction office,” the mayor said.  “I’m going to miss them, but I am super psyched to be with public works. These guys work tremendously hard in a tough environment.

“They do a fantastic job and I look forward to the many challenges that brings.”

In spite of certain public sentiment, Rochford praised Marshall for laying the groundwork in communicating with residents and formulating a comprehensive plan for remediating stormwater issues. 

“It put us on notice to continue,” Rochford added. “We already have a robust stormwater plan in place that we’ve been working on. Sharon (borough administrator McCullough) and I were just going over a plan the other day — it’s $2 million plus we’re spending on over Mount Vernon.”

McCullough added that stormwater-related projects undertaken in 2019 cost between $400,000 and $500,000, and the $2 million figure would be the cost over time for remediation.  

The borough not only has to tackle remaining fallout from the summer storms, but must deal with additional housing construction and plan to overhaul limited — aging —  infrastructure in 2020 and beyond. 

“It’s unsexy and people don’t see it, but we were talking the other day about sleeving some of our pipelines so that, if there is deterioration, it won’t affect the pipeline,” Rochford revealed.

“I was talking to Jeff (Commissioner Kasko) yesterday about finding some outside funding to pare down the cost, and he said he will be checking into that.”

Commissioners also passed a series of zoning regulations based on suggestions from a two-year study by an ad hoc committee: one regrading scale and mass of homes to prevent stormwater runoff issues from new construction and one setting an 18-inch limit on digging a foundation so as not to disturb the water table. 

“At this point, we’re waiting to see the outcome, because basically we put these in during the summertime, so they’re now being implemented throughout the town,” Rochford offered.

On a lighter note, the annual mayor’s breakfast, hosted by the Haddonfield Lions Club and slated for First Presbyterian Church, is on tap for Saturday, Jan. 18. Though the borough will come out to celebrate its citizen of the year, Rochford said he’s stuck for what’s going to be a guaranteed draw. 

“I don’t know what I’m going to do this year, because last year you know we had the dog (Officer Blue) completely steal the show,” he acknowledged. “I don’t know if I can do a two-fer on that.” 

One double-edged sword for Rochford in 2020 is resolving the twin headaches of the Bancroft property: the impending land swap between the borough and the board of education as well as development of a parcel intended to provide homes for older adults and satisfy state mandates for affordable housing. 

“I think we are fast tracking that,” Rochford said of the land swap. 

“We are moving and Sharon has indicated that perhaps by early 2020 to have this accomplished. We have gotten all the approvals that we needed. We had to do a lot of back and forth with appraisals and just the red tape of dealing with Green Acres.”

McCullough said for the deal to be completed, half of the funding comes from a sizable Green Acres grant and the other half via the borough’s trust. She revealed the borough’s responsibilities are down to a title search and writing the deeds itself. 

“It’s something I feel is going to be a win-win for both the school district and for the borough that we’ll pick up that valuable open space there,” Rochford added. “It’s really a milestone in my opinion and in Haddonfield history.”

One thing that is clear as the calendar turns is that the Bancroft site will eventually be filled with housing set aside for older adults and those with low to moderate incomes. 

As a result of rulings by a Camden County magistrate this fall — from a lawsuit brought against the borough by a group of citizens who wanted to reduce the imprint of construction — all parties must formulate a plan for 64 to 71 “age-restricted” units and 10 for affordable housing. 

“We’re still negotiating with the developer (J. Brian O’Neill) on a redevelopment plan that is in the best interest of Haddonfield,” the mayor said. “They’re working with us, we’re working with them and we’re also working with the judge who has been overseeing the lawsuit.

“We’d like to move forward because that one building in the front, Lullworth Hall, every day that we don’t do anything, it just deteriorates. It is a beautiful, wonderful building and we want to revive it and make it like a gateway to coming into Haddonfield and brought back to its splendor.”

Rochford and McCullough also reiterated they are amenable to public input that would reduce the footprint of the proposed 28-unit, 100-percent affordable-housing plan for an 0.85-acre plot of land abutting Snowden Avenue. Discussions have already taken place for a reduction in the number of units from 28 to 20. 

“We’re very pleased that we’ve finally come to accommodation on our affordable-housing obligation,” noted Rochford. “We’ll be looking forward to that. We are looking to find ways to reduce the number of units in that area. We are actively looking to see how we can disperse and lower the number.”

On the subject of liquor licenses in the borough, Rochford offered that the idea still is  bandied about, but the the process is out of the commissioners’ hands and needs to be  driven by residents dedicated to the cause. 

He expressed deep satisfaction with Kings Road Brewing Company and anticipates the arrival of a wine-tasting space in the brewery’s old location. 

BOB HERPEN
BOB HERPEN
Former radio broadcaster, hockey writer, Current: main beat reporter for Haddonfield, Cherry Hill and points beyond.
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