Tuesday's announcement of a blockbuster $12.19 million agreement for the Haddonfield school board and the borough to buy the nearly 19-acre Bancroft property on Kings Highway East was greeted with fanfare, relief and a healthy dose of skepticism.
An informal Haddonfield Patch poll published after the announcement had 76 respondents as of 5:25 a.m. on Wednesday, with 56 percent against the deal and 43 percent giving it a thumbs up. The poll is included with this story and there's still time to register your opinion.
The agreement was negotiated by one of three Haddonfield commissioners, Ed Borden, Board of Education President Steve Weinstein and representatives from Bancroft, a center for the developmentally disabled and acquired brain injures.
Here's what some officials and supporters and detractors had to say about the deal:
We wanted to take advantage of the ability the school district and the town have to be to be flexible in terms of time. If we were dealing with a private developer, they might not have that flexibility. We leveraged that for an agreement we might not have had otherwise.
It's certainly the largest parcel of property in town that's available for public use. Once real estate is developed there's no possibility of public use by the school board or the borough. We now have a chance to determine whether we want this parcel directly contiguous to the high school to be available for public use 10, 20, 100 years into the future.
I think we have a great opportunity. The price is as low as it's going to get. I think it provides a tremendous opportunity for the school board and the town.
The issue of the costs and its impact on taxes is a legitimate, real issue. There's an opportunity to get ground that is really needed, that if it goes in another direction will be lost forever. There's a cost attached to it and the public is going to have to decide that. It's going to be up to the school district over the next few months to describe what the need is. People have to decide that.
Here's what some Haddonfield Patch readers had to say:
This deal, which was negotiated behind closed doors without public consent, needs full disclosure at every level. It's time for every resident to be made aware of the implications to the tax structure and debt of Haddonfield, the change to every neighborhood in the area, and what this will really mean to our historical heritage.
Do not think the price tag stops at 12 million dollars...that is only the beginning. To have a forum where all residents can have their opinions heard, go to the facebook page for Haddonfield United. Make your voices heard.
Once again, a sudden deal is announced. I think all of us in Haddonfield should be nervous about this. The face of our town could drastically change and not for the better if this is not handled properly and (no) matter what they do, we will all be stuck paying for it. The turf fields ridiculousness was one thing, but we all need to pay very close attention to how this deal develops and let our voices be heard during every step of the way.
How is that a good use of taxpayer money, at a time when our officials can't even patch potholes? Commissioners Columbi and Kasko -- who allegedly are fiscally conservative -- need to show some backbone on this fiasco and put a stop to it, before we taxpayers (throw) them out of office permanently. Turf field aside, enough is enough!
I support the purchase. It is a unique opportunity.
This purchase represents our insurance against the threat of being consolidated into another district with larger facilities and expansion potential.
The purchase represents the opportunity for more community and open space for the Boro.
The plan to purchase provides for a (four)-year window, possibly longer, for Bancroft to relocate. Just as Bancroft needs to plan for a new future, so must Haddonfield.
We must get the full measure of benefit from our tax and fee dollars to "measurably" improve our downtown and the value of commercial properties, provide for more housing opportunities downtown that appeal to seniors and Gen Y'ers (transit, shopping, and recreation friendly). This will lead to a greater contribution to our tax base from non-school using groups.
Many will wave the tax bills in the air and say "Too much already". I'm in that same boat folks. With vision, planning, and true community involvement we can make this work to the best for Haddonfield. Let's reassess our priorities as we have over the last few years. Do we continue to pay for services that are delivered inefficiently and often ineffectively? Or do we invest our hard-earned dollars in our future while finding savings from working smarter?
What do you think? Tell us in comments.