The Haddonfield Planning Board will is scheduled to consider a request tonight to nearly double the size of the Brandywine Senior Living elderly assisted-care care facility on Warwick Road.
The hearing is scheduled at the monthly planning board meeting tonight at 7:30 p.m. in the auditorium of the Municipal Hall.
The borough Historic Preservation Commission rejected the Brandywine request in May. The HPC's denial of a certificate of appropriateness came in the first step any property owner in Haddonfield's historic district must take for major alterations of property.
The HPC ruling is not binding and the planning board has the final say on any request for improvements to borough properties. The planning board recently overruled the HPC on a request to erect a new 6-foot wooden fence at the Methodist Cemetery on Kings Highway East. Nearby property owners on Lee Avenue are challenging that decision in Superior Court.
Brandywine Senior Living at Haddonfield, formerly known as the Haddonfield Home, wants to expand the size of its two-story facility at 132 Warwick Rd. 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 Historic Preservation Committee.
Officials there said the expansion is needed to upgrade the facility, which will be razed and rebuilt, except for a historic home that acts as the front facade.
But neighbors lined up for the better part of an hour at the HPC hearing to pan the plan as too big and too intrusive to them and Haddonfield. Perhaps the only silver lining for Brandywine was the HPC vote was split 3-2. Thirteen residents spoke during the public comment portion of the meeting, all against Brandywine.
"The Historic Preservation Commission did what they were supposed to do," said Dave Gottardi, a neighbor near the facility and head of Preservation Haddonfield, a citizen advocacy group. "They protected streetscapes and neighborhoods and green space. They protected a historic property from being gobbled up by a giant, oversized addition."
Gottardi recently stepped down as chair of the HPC, a borough commission whose responsibilities include advising the planning board on the appropriateness of commercial and residential real estate additions in the Haddonfield historic district.
"We're disappointed," said Brenda Bacon, president and CEO of Brandywine, who led the presentation to the commission. "Obviously, we believed we worked very hard to bring a state-of-the-art senior facility to Haddonfield. We're not asking for any variance on massing and size. We meet those codes. We'll continue to pursue. We think seniors deserve to have a quality place to live and not the current structure, which is totally inadequate."
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. Bacon said Brandywine is prepared to spend up to $16 million to renovate the Haddonfield facility. She said that would mean a substantial increase in local taxes paid.
CORRECTION: An earlier version of this story included information about the dimensions of the proposed Brandywine expansion that was not correct.