Borough’s Bancroft property still faces development hurdles despite dropped lawsuit

Mayor updates situation at last month’s commissioners’ meeting

(EMILY LIU/The Sun)

A reinstated lawsuit against the borough over amendments made to the Bancroft Property’s redevelopment plan in February has been dismissed with prejudice, Commissioner and Mayor Colleen Bianco Bezich announced at the Nov. 29 commissioner’s meeting. This means that the case cannot be reopened.

The lawsuit had been brought twice, once in March 2018 and again in February 2021 by former mayors John J. Tarditi Jr. and Letitia “Tish” Colombi, as well as a group of citizens referred to as Haddonfield Encouraging Responsible Development (HERD).

HERD pushed for the Bancroft property to be used for age-restricted senior housing and filed a lawsuit against the borough for “not fulfilling the goal of providing age-targeted housing  with no reciprocal benefits to residents,” as The Sun reported in 2018.

“Residents are concerned the proposed townhomes will be too large and expensive for buyers whose children have left the school system,” wrote Alison Lowery in The Sun.

The HERD lawsuit, dismissed once in 2019 and reinstated in February 2021 , was again dismissed by a Camden County Superior Court judge on Sept. 28, according to Bianco Bezich.

When asked by resident Rick Montegna what’s next for the property and whether the borough would sue for damages, the mayor said next steps include creating a legal strategy that encompasses a “concise, consistent and agreeable plan of attack for broaching the plan of development moving forward.”

Bianco Bezich acknowledged that she and fellow commissioners who were elected this year ran for the office with different visions for the Bancroft property. In a conversation with The Sun following the meeting, the mayor explained there was more than a lawsuit interfering with development.

“If you review [the Bancroft redevelopment plan] in conjunction with the communication from the Department of Environmental Protection (DEP), what [developer Brian] O’Neill proposed and what exists right now cannot be approved,” she said.

“Because the DEP expanded the buffer area for wetlands, what was originally planned for the development couldn’t be (built) because the land for the area can’t be used,” Bianco Bezich added.

While the redevelopment plans are still up in the air, residents and commissioners at the  meeting agreed the property was in bad shape and something needed to be done with it.

Another Bancroft issue is that errors had been spotted in the bid and contract documents for the demolition of several non-historical buildings. To resolve that, the commissioners passed a resolution at the meeting that rescinds and re-awards the bid with the corrected block numbers at the meeting.

In other news:

  • Commissioners paid tribute to two groups at the recent commissioner’s meeting with proclamations that recognize Dec. 12 as Haddonfield Monthly Meeting Day and Nov. 4 as Diwali Awareness Day.
  • A four-way traffic stop was approved near Elizabeth Haddon Elementary School at Reman, Peyton, Mount Vernon and Avondale avenues.
  • The commissioners introduced a bond ordinance on first reading that totals $475,000, the cost of waterproofing part of the borough hall basement due to environmental concerns and the replacement of the HVAC infrastructure at the police department.
  • Another ordinance was introduced on first reading that would create a No-Knock registry for residents who want to opt out of door-to-door solicitation at their homes. Homeowners can register and purchase a display indicating they are on the registry.
  • The town brought on Rebecca Wood as a full-time probationary police officer.

The next Haddonfield commissioners meeting will take place on Monday, Dec. 27, at 7:30 p.m., following a workshop at 7 p.m. The next workshop is scheduled for Monday, Dec. 16, at 6:30 p.m. Both are virtual.

See http://www.haddonfieldnj.org/calendar.php for more details.