Citizens group reinstates lawsuit against borough over Bancroft

Fight centers around agreement to provide age-restricted housing on site.

A lawsuit brought against the Borough of Haddonfield by a group of prominent citizens, including a pair of former mayors, has been reinstated and is expected to be heard in front of a Camden County Superior Court judge on March 3. 

The original lawsuit was presented by a group dubbed Haddonfield Encouraging Responsible Development (HERD) in 2019. It sought to compel borough commissioners to work towards age-restricted housing for older adults on the former Bancroft School site.

At a hearing in late September 2019, Judge Nan Famular dismissed the HERD suit, without prejudice to re-filing. That left the door open for the group to reinstate their complaint if warranted.  

As a result of the ruling, both parties were legally obligated to work on an altered plan, which would reduce the number of homes planned for the site from 80 to 71. Under the framework of an anticipated concord between the borough, developer J. Brian O’Neill and HERD, the Bancroft site would eventually provide sufficient housing for homeowners 55 and older, rather than the market-rate townhouses that the developer and the borough had planned.

On Jan. 30, the borough’s official twitter page released a brief statement: “On 1/22/21 the lawsuit filed by several residents to vacate Ord. 2018-01 amending the Bancroft Redevelopment Plan was reinstated. This lawsuit alleges that there was a flaw in the procedure for adopting the amendment, which the Borough denies. A hearing is scheduled for 3/3/21”

Reinstatement of the suit is directly related to the ongoing issues between HERD and the borough pursuant to all the business both parties had in front of Judge Famular back in Sept. 2019, as confirmed by both Commissioner Jeffrey Kasko and Jack Tarditi, a principal of the citizens’ group.

In a conversation with the Sun on Feb. 4, Tarditi stated the move was made to spur the borough to follow through on its promise to make good on allowing for more age-restricted housing at Bancroft. 

In the 16-plus months since Famular’s initial ruling, both sides have met only once, in a closed session near the end of February 2020. That meeting did not bear fruit, as a dispute over who should attend the gathering ended up with two of the three commissioners — Kasko and Mayor Neal Rochford — walking out. 

“Nothing has been discussed since. They’ve stonewalled it,” Tarditi added. “We remain steadfastly convinced that the best answer to Bancroft development are age-restricted units.”

Tarditi offered his hope that Judge Famular would ask the commissioners to reveal what they have done to remedy the Bancroft situation since her previous ruling, and to compel them to continue working toward a solution.

“We’re prepared to go on March 3 and defend our position that the ordinance (relating to the approval of development at Bancroft) was legitimately formed and legitimately adopted, and that we’ve acted in good faith. Our attorneys will address any and all objections the plaintiffs have at that time,” Kasko stated.