BOE puts Bancroft Plan on a Diet, Sheds $16M Off Original Cost
The school board plan to purchase the Bancroft property is now coming in at $16.86 milllion.
The Haddonfield Board of Education on Monday unveiled its latest purchase plan for the 18.7-acre Bancroft property on Kings Highway East in a joint meeting with the borough Board of Commissioners at the Central School.
The new plan is projected to cost $16.86 million, or about half of the original $32.3 million estimated in October. The board also introduced a $25 million plan in November after borough commissioners expressed doubts about the larger plan.
The school board was able to chop nearly $16 million off the original price tag by dropping plans for a new borough library and high-school learning center and reducing the amount of athletic fields to be constructed and reconstructed from four to two.
The plan is projected to costs the typical Haddonfield residential property-tax payer $268.80 annually over 20 years of financing, or a total of $5,376 each. The average home assessment here is $491,000.
Haddonfield’s average property tax of $12,088.88 is nearly twice the state average at $7,776, according to the state Department of Community Affairs. Haddonfield has the second highest average property tax bill in Camden County. It trails Tavistock, an exclusive enclave at the tip of Haddonfield, enclosed mostly in an exclusive golf course. Haddonfield's property tax bills are 27 percent higher than Voorhees, $8,777.41, third in the county.
Despite the numbers, the majority of a crowd of nearly five dozen at the meeting Monday expressed support for the plan.
"I think we should buy the property," said borough resident Barry Schwartz. "But before I vote for you to spend my money, I want to know what your COAH plan is. And, why spend $2 million on a turf field if you're going to come back to me in a few years and ask for more for other things?"
A referendum will be needed to raise money for any public purchase of the property.
The COAH, or Council on Affordable Housing plan is an agreement municipalities make with the state to build a certain about of low- to moderate-income housing. The Bancroft property is included in an inventory of land that could be used for affordable housing. The board's $16.86 million acquisition and development plan does not include a cost for building affordable housing.
A borough estimate of a public purchase for the site was $19.52 million, with $14.27 million to be financed. The price was reduced to $14.27 million by nearly $3.5 million in state and county grants and a local open-space tax fund. The borough plan included $2 million for up to 20 units of affordable housing.
Ed Borden, one of three borough commissioners who had expressed the most concerns about the school board proposal, said Monday he was "encouraged" by the new plan.
"I can't find much space between what the commissioners have on the agenda and what the board has now," Borden said.
The Bancroft redevelopment has been a potentially divisive topic for more than a decade. The debate has been framed by whether to use the property for more open space, a high-school expansion and more athletic fields or for tax-generating businesses or housing. Borough commissioners had favored a plan to build an assisted-living retirement complex on the site, but a public backlash about "high-density" development forced them to scrap the plan and start over in December 2011.
The commissioners are currently considering three development options that include a public purchase, like the school board wants, market-rate town homes or independent-living homes for senior citizens.
The property has been owned for the past 128 years by an institution established by Margaret Bancroft to rehabilitate people with developmental disabilities. Bancroft today is also a national leader in treatments for acquired brain injuries. Officials there need to upgrade facilities and have leaned toward selling its property in Haddonfield and relocating to do it.
Bancroft, a nonprofit, currently pays no municipal taxes.
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