Haddonfield Planning Board Rejects Brandywine Request to Expand Nursing Home
The board also voted to send the expansion request back to the borough Historic Preservation Commission, which ruled against an earlier plan in May.
The Haddonfield planning board on Monday narrowly denied an application from Brandywine Senior Living to expand its nursing home building by nearly two-thirds.
The 5-4 vote came after three hours and thirty minutes of sometimes rancorous testimony by Brandywine professionals and members of the public, who occasionally jeered and heckled the board and the professionals.
While the request for a certificate of historical appropriateness was denied, the board unanimously voted to send the application back to the borough Historic Preservation Commission.
The HPC rejected Brandywine’s request for a certificate of appropriateness in May, citing nonconforming use. Planning board members who voted against the application on Monday said they had concerns about the “massing” or size of a new building to replace an aging structure on the property.
“I don’t find it to be appropriate to have a commercial building twice as large as what’s there now in a residential neighborhood,” said Lee Albright, the HPC chairwoman who attended Monday’s meeting to advise the planning board. “It has such an extensive impact on the historic nature of the site, we just couldn’t approve it.”
Five planning board members—Ed Borden, Joanne Connor, Stuart Harting, John LaProcido and Andrea Rizzutto—also had enough concerns about the project to vote against it in its current form. Board members Wendy Grady, Eugene Haag, Doug McCollister and John Stokes voted for Brandywine.
A cadre of neighbors have opposed the plan. They say the expansion will drastically change the look of the property and affect their quality of life. They cited the elimination of 20 of the 182 trees on the 2.46-acre property and additional parking on site as elements that would negatively affect them.
But several residents also spoke in favor of the plan.
“The other side of the coin is the need for senior living for those who want to continue to live in Haddonfield,” said Warren Reintzel, a Colonial Ridge Drive resident. “Think of yourselves for the horrible day when you realize you can no longer maintain yourself. If Brandywine is not able to maintain this property, senior citizens in Haddonfield who have a need for assisted living will have to get out of town.”
Former mayor Jack Tarditi followed Reintzel and echoed his comments that Brandywine’s application should be approved.
But it wasn’t.
The next step for Brandywine is to reappear before Albright and the HPC. Brandywine made several changes to its plan between the end of May when the HPC shot it down by a 3-2 vote and when it appeared before the planning board on Monday.
Brandywine wants to expand the size of its two-story facility from 23,378 square feet to 35,920, a 65 percent increase. The footprint of the building will grow from 9,880 square feet to 15,730, a 63 percent increase.
The number of units in the building, 52, will remain the same, but Brandywine officials are exploring a different configuration that will allow more beds in some rooms. The current configuration has 52 beds. Brandywine officials proposed adding 12 additional beds in the application that was rejected by the HPC.
Brandywine also made other revisions, including shrinking the width of the proposed new building by 37 feet. The planning board has the final say on any request for improvements to borough properties.
Brandywine Senior Living bought the facility, formerly known as Haddonfield Home, in November for $2.7 million. Haddonfield Home was run by a nonprofit entity. Brandywine is a for-profit company with other facilities in New Jersey, including Moorestown, and five other states. Brandywine is prepared to spend up to $16 million to renovate the Haddonfield facility.
Brandywine officials said their company expects to pay $320,000 a year in taxes to Haddonfield, if their project is approved.
Brenda Bacon, president and CEO of Brandywine, was still upbeat after Monday's meeting.
"I think the planning board listened very carefully and they appreciated how hard we have been working and will continue to work to please the borough and continue to work with the neighbors," she said. "I think they believe this will be a great use and they are hopeful, as are we, that we will gain the enthusiastic support of the HPC and the neighbors."
After the HPC denial in May, Bacon hinted the company could leave town if the facility's plan isn't approved.
"... If the borough decides they don't want us here, we may have no choice but to leave and sell the property to someone who might find another use, someone who wants to rent rooms with no showers," she told Patch in May.