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Bancroft Bankrolls One Haddonfield

With the sale of Bancroft hanging in the balance, the institution contributed $3,500 to a campaign to promote the sale.

Bancroft Neurohealth has provided 85 percent of the funding for a group that describes itself as "grassroots" and advocates in favor of the $16 million public acquisition and development of Bancroft's 19.2-acre property on Kings Highway East.

Bancroft, a center for the developmentally disabled and those with acquired brain injuries, gave $3,500 of One Haddonfield's $4,095 in contributions as of Dec. 27, according to a New Jersey Election Enforcement Commission filing.

One Haddonfield describes itself as "a grassroots organization of concerned residents who support the Bancroft land acquisition." Voters will ultimately decide if the deal goes through in a Jan. 22, $12.5 million bond referendum. The cost of the deal to taxpayers was reduced from $16 million with $3.5 million in open-space preservation funds from the borough, county and state.

Some opponents to the Bancroft public purchase say the Board of Education and the borough are paying too much for it. The Bancroft land was assessed at around $8 million in 2005 but a 2012 school-board assessment valued it at $15.1 million. Critics have argued the earlier assessment was in the height of the real estate market. The most recent assessment cites Bancroft's value as an institutional use and not a residential use, as the earlier assessment did.

Jack O'Malley, president of One Haddonfield, defended his group Wednesday against allegations of "shilling" for Bancroft.

"We knew that Bancroft's contribution would stand out in our first report," O'Malley said in a letter to the media. "But we also knew that our funding would become much broader once the campaign got under way. As future reports will show, financial support for One Haddonfield is growing broader by the day as more and more residents understand the proposal, reject the rumors, decide to vote 'yes' on Jan. 22 and contribute generously to our cause."

The "shilling" allegations came from a member of Haddonfield United, a rival group opposed to the sale that has grown out of a Facebook page.

O'Malley, 50, a salesman of over the counter health-care products, said he's a lifelong resident of Haddonfield and his ties to the community and commitment to the Bancroft purchase run deep.

"I'd like to think my credibility in town means something," he said. "I've been here my entire life, and my mother before me and my grandmother before her."

O'Malley said his group has about five active members and dozens of active supporters. He said Bancroft, which will be paid $12.2 million for its property if the referendum is passed, reached out to them.

Bancroft President Toni Pergolin said One Haddonfield reached out to them, but their goal is the same.

"One Haddonfield is a community-based organization that has been working hard to provide facts about the referendum so Haddonfield residents can make an informed decision," she said. "When they asked Bancroft to support their efforts, we were pleased to do so. This referendum will be decided by the residents of Haddonfield, and it is critical that they have the most accurate and complete information as they prepare to vote."

Proponents of the deal want to acquire the Bancroft property, which is adjacent to Haddonfield Memorial High School, for current and future school development and to preserve open space. Opponents have criticized the cost of the project and its impact on taxpayers and the inclusion of fund a $1 million artificial turf field in the project.

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Bill Tourtellotte January 10, 2013 at 11:53 AM
The most sound and well informed piece written on this topic just appeared this morning at Haddonfieldtalks.com. It was written by our friend and former Mayor, Bill Reynolds. I highly recommend that regardless of your perspective, everyone should take the time to read and consider his comments and distribute it to other residents.
Jack S January 10, 2013 at 12:15 PM
If One Haddonfield wishes to promote a position shared with Bancroft (the seller), certainly that is their right. If their opponents want to raise questions about whether the receipt of money from Bancroft affects the substance or quality of information, that's their right. I'm not sure what that has to do with the credibility of any one individual in the group (such as Mr. O'Malley's), since the word "shilling" merely means to promote. As noted, One Haddonfield is permitted to "promote" a pro-Bancroft position, if it wants to. In terms of most recent assessment (or appraisal), the article above is correct that it included a figure for an institutional use of the property, which is an "expanded" institutional use (i.e., above and beyond what Bancroft is using the property for today). An expanded institutional of the property is not legally permitted today, so the higher number in the appraisal is inapplicable at best. Pointing to that figure is like saying that my house would be worth double if it could be used as a massage parlor, when everyone knows that it's unlikely I'd ever be approved to use my house as a massage parlor, from a zoning standpoint.
Pro-Haddonfield January 10, 2013 at 02:35 PM
Bill, Thanks for pointing to this article. Mr. Reynolds make some very solid points about what Haddonfield is all about and what I would hope we all would imagine the future of our borough to be. Here is the link http://groups.yahoo.com/group/HaddonfieldTalks/message/18434
J January 10, 2013 at 04:27 PM
"Bancroft gave $3,500 of One Haddonfield's $4,095 in contributions" Hmm. something smells fishy. Since when does the seller of a property give a large sum of money to promote a contreversial sale. iDo you think it's becuase Bancroft knows that no other fool would buy that property for that much?
Brian Kelly January 10, 2013 at 06:29 PM
As my first post didn't go through, I'd like to repost my thoughts. Nobody is attacking Jack O'Malley, who I'm sure is a good guy, as are people on both sides of the issue. I've been the brunt of a lot more criticism but I don't take it too personally as the people doing it are my fellow residents who are passionate about the bond. Bancroft has every right to contribute to One Haddonfield. The problem people have with it is the asking price is overinflated by millions and the taxpayers are paying for it. To them it represents a serious conflict of interest. Now, I expect Bancroft's contribution to be smaller, especially after articles like this. Many people won't have any problem with the funding. I don't think anyone, no matter which side of the issue you're on, should have trouble understanding why this would be a problem to many residents. The bond represents a make or break to many people, while others have problems with spending this kind of money before we repair our schools, roads, water system (that's going to be a big one). and other points of infrastructure. Most of these people have lived in Haddonfield for decades also and have raised their families here. The referendum stands to make their living here more difficult or outright impossible. This sometimes gets lost in the shuffle. Behind the name of Haddonfield United and others groups voting no against the bond are people who live here and love their town.
Joe Taxpayer January 10, 2013 at 06:47 PM
Brian, with all due respect, overinflated price is simply your and others opinion. The BOE and boro believe it is a fair price and they have produced documentation supporting their basis. The majority of the boro elected them all and put our trust in them so I have to err on believeing they are better positioned than you or me to know. We had our chances to run for office and we didn't. If there is evidence to prove they are wrong, please produce it otherwise the insinuation is they are doing something corrupt which I don't think you mean to do but absent evidence, that is all you have. If anyone has any evidence or valuation that they can produce that would prove the price to be "inflated", now is the time. Finally, I know my posts are getting old about the root causes of why our taxes are high and impacting residents but you again closed by acting like this deal is the make or break moment. It's not. Salaries, fuel costs, pensions, healthcare, electric costs, etc are all rising. Why single out debt service which at least produces an asset whereas pension costs help who in Haddonfield afford to live here? I am with you on too much tax so let's cut the real culprits - salaries, pensions & healthcare. The boro's pension expense is higher than the cost to acquire Bancroft on an annual basis.
Brian Kelly January 10, 2013 at 07:01 PM
No problem Joe. Your voice needs to be out there. What I would suggest to some is take a walk with me through the neighborhoods and talk with the people who have these problems. I couldn't make their point any better than that. I'd be more than willing to spend that time with anyone who is interested. Please don't try to make the insinuation of corruption since nobody is making it. Bancroft has every right to make the donation. It's up to you to decide whether you think its a conflict of interest. Pensions, ,salaries, healthcare, school bonds...they all contribute to rising taxes. As this topic is about school bonds, I'll stay focused on that and maybe we can sit down and discuss how to deal with the others on January 23. Maybe we can come with some answers to those problems.
Joe Taxpayer January 10, 2013 at 07:28 PM
Brian, I am not debating people have problems. Quite the opposite. I am trying to make people aware of why and what the main cost drivers of our HIGH tax bills are. I get it that no new spending is being opposed by some right now. I wish the liars in the WhiteHouse would take the debate about debt, taxes and bankruptcy as serious as you and I do. With $16.5 trillion in debt and growing, we are doomed but I digress. I said you are not insinuating corruption but the opinion that the deal is bad because the price is wrong clearly implies you believe something is amiss and if based on a bonafide number, the only conclusions are its accurate or fraudulent. Anyway, while we disagree on this issue, I applaud your greater efforts and will stand with you to fight tax increases for public employee benefits all the way and try to find a way to lower costs so people can live here forever in the town we all love. And thanks for putting yourself out there. It is appreciated
Brian Kelly January 10, 2013 at 11:11 PM
Joe, I think the 12.2 million dollar tag was poorly negotiated for the taxpayers of Haddonfield. I've talked with Steve Weinstein about this and he said this was the price Bancroft asked for and he felt it was a fair negotiation. He said it's up to the voters to decide whether they think it's fair or not. I respect that. He also said something that helped me put things in perspective about the referendum. He said no matter what happens with the vote, the next day the sun will rise, children will go to school and life will go on. I don't see how anyone could argue with your points about debt and taxes. That's just plain old fashioned good sense.
Beth Zigmund January 11, 2013 at 01:19 AM
The fact that Bancroft did not identify itself as THE major contributor to One Haddonfield, particularly in light of how much money Bancroft will make from the sale, was simply unethical. That the leadership of One Haddonfield failed to publicize this on the website can only be perceived as an effort to conceal Bancroft's sponsorship for very obvious reasons.
Mike McCready January 11, 2013 at 01:51 AM
You don't have to be a genius to figure out the price of the land here. Bancroft is zoned R-2. In the R-2 zone in Haddonfield, the minimum lot size for a house is 20,000 SF, approximately ½ acre. If you could utilize all 19 acres here for houses (which would be impossible because you would need to install roads) but let's just say you could, that would be 38 homes. Now the question becomes, how much is an UNIMPROVED ½ acre residential lot in that part of Haddonfield worth? Let’s say $300,000. $300,000 X 38 lots = $11.4m. Now back out the $3.5m in grant money. That brings the price that Haddonfield should be paying down to $7.9m. Over $4m LESS than what we are paying. And that is being generous by saying you’d be able to build 38 homes here, which again you could never do. I don’t really see how anyone could vote for this.
Jack S January 11, 2013 at 04:02 AM
Mike, the District's own Appraisal pegged the value at $6.5 million, for permitted residential uses. Back the $3.5 million off that, and you're looking at a much lower number. Deduct from that the additional grants that the district should be pursuing (but doesn't want to because those grants would prevent development of those portions of the land), and you're even lower still.
David Siedell January 11, 2013 at 05:03 AM
I'm not posting to argue about which method of appraisal is appropriate here, but for your sake of argument I'll still help get the facts straight: The number of R2 lots and units is well established in the 2006 Heyer Gruel Report, scenario 4. I'll post the section verbatim but I will preface it with one adjustment since 2006. Our affordable housing obligation ON BANCROFT's land would be 10 units, not 5, so the 22 market units drops to 17 while the COAH doubles from 5 to 10 however it is mixed. That said, for every house built there our taxes get worse, not better. The unbalanced deficit in BOE tax (each house assumes more than 1 child which actually a net cost to each tax payer) is greater than the local share of taxes the borough would collect. Remember, the local tax is the smallest of county, boe and local.
David Siedell January 11, 2013 at 05:03 AM
So here is the finding of the report which can be found at: http://haddonfieldcivic.com/hca/wp-content/uploads/2010/09/2006-Bancroft-fiscal-impact-analysis.pdf page 3 along with the HCA's nearly decade recording of this issue long before we had 4 newspapers covering our little town: http://haddonfieldcivic.com/hca/public-documents-2005-2010/ ********************* The fourth redevelopment option propases 22 four bedroom Single-family home for sale units, 2 two bedroom affordable units and 3 three bedroom affordable units and open spoce. The development is projected to generate a net tax revenue for the Borough of $10,800 and a net deficit in tax revenue for the School District of $11,600. The County is projected to receive $114,090 in revenues.
Mike McCready January 11, 2013 at 12:02 PM
I'm with you, Jack! I was just trying to be generous and give this harebrained idea the benefit of the doubt. Even the most quixotic view of this project still doesn't pass the smell test.
Jack S January 11, 2013 at 12:23 PM
@Dave: I don't view you as arguing. In fact, your citations support the position that the permitted use by a third party are principally residential. Thanks.
Dawn January 11, 2013 at 02:59 PM
Let's keep in mind the economy. Nobody is going to buy and build on that property in the current state. Has anyone noticed the number of houses for sale in Haddonfield and the length of time they have been on the market? Plus it would cost a contractor a fortune to tear down the asbestos and lead paint buildings currently on that site. Which in fact, is once again being covered up. There is no way the $ figure One Haddonfield is quoting will be enough to get done what they are claiming.
David Siedell January 11, 2013 at 03:12 PM
Well, not saying that. R2 is what has made it unattractive to potential residential developers. Bancroft's existing use is permitted too. As a school and institution its property is worth much more, appraised at 15.1 Million. Some would say, but it is illegal. It's not, but as a pre-existing, non-conforming it needs to get zoning and/or planning approval to make changes. Oh, you mean the same zoning and planning boards that have unanimously granted everything Brandywine has wanted. It must be worth the money because Brandywine is spending up to 16M, MORE THAN THIS REFERENDUM, to redo that one building on that much smaller lot. Maybe Bancroft is a better neighbor than we give them credit for. They have been patient allowing the Borough to spend years discussing redevelopment plans. If there really is that much money in the Brandywine project, maybe Bancroft has kept other wolves at bay?
Mike January 11, 2013 at 07:08 PM
My land is worth double if the town lets me sub-divide it. Oh wait, based on my zoning I'm not allowed to sub-divide. I wonder why in the world my engineer gave me an appraisal that way then? Hmm.
Joe Taxpayer January 11, 2013 at 07:36 PM
Jack, are you saying Renwick, a professional appraiser, is wrong with the the appraisal they gave and by extension claiming they are wrong smells of something duplicitous? I mean if they are wrong as many claim , then clearly something must be amiss to support the number they came up with by the boro and BOE and it would be very easy to stop the entire referendum cold in its tracks by seeking an injunction. Again, if Renwick is wrong or the Boro or BOE is relying on bad information, I think that would be the easiest way to stop this. Dave, can you walk me through how "The development is projected to generate a net tax revenue for the Borough of $10,800 and a net deficit in tax revenue for the School District of $11,600." What is the gross taxes paid under scenario 4?
Jack S January 11, 2013 at 09:37 PM
David, I think Brandywine and Bancroft are apples and oranges. There's a history of Haddonfield not acceding to Bancroft's expansion wishes. There was a town-wide campaign against high-density development at Bancroft. The Brandywine opposition (unfortunately) was much more limited in scope and area. Brandywine also generate rateables, which Bancroft does not. Apples and oranges in my view. With respect to the appraisal, it was 'made to order,' as some commented in the past. The $12.2 million purchase price had already been negotiated, so the town needed to find a shoe to fit it. Since Bancroft is not legally permitted to use the property for an "expanded institutional use," the $15 million appraisal is a stretch at best. Perhaps the appraiser should have said that a Trump Tower (also not currently allowed) is the "highest and best use" of the property to yield a $35 million appraisal.
Joe Taxpayer January 11, 2013 at 09:48 PM
Jack, just to be clear by "made to order", do you mean that there was collusion for the price by our elected officials and that Renwick's appraisal was developed soley to justify the secretly negotiated price? Further, is Renwick an accessory to the fraud you suspect? Would they really jeapordize their work and history like that? You keep dancing on these illegal and fraudulent allegations. If the deal was struck in secret and Renwick produced a "made to order" appraisal, I would think you should sick the authoraties on them.
David Siedell January 11, 2013 at 11:01 PM
@Joe Taxpayer, remember this was done in 2006, and I'm not an expert on taxes, though I play one online. For sake of arguement I'm using easier numbers. Take the tax bill on a 4 bedroom new construction on 1/2 acre. Let's say their taxes are 20,000 per year. The borough take is about 13% or $2600. Multiply that by 22 units (in the 2006 study but pretend 5 of those units are affordable) and it is $57,200 to the town in taxes. Subtract out the increase in costs to the borough for services and they took that to be about 46,600 for trash, sewer, police, fire, streets... so haddonfield is net positive for these units by 10,800. Now the schools, for easy math needs 10,000 a student. There is some formula that probably comes out to around 2.5 kids a house (assume that new 4 bedroom houses families with kids would buy them) so each house is using 25,000 worth of taxes, times 22 is 550,000 in taxes, and the houses only contribute 538,400 so we are short 11,600 each year for the new properties. I was only pointing out that residential single family housing not only would be unrealistic economically for a builder, but also a tax negative for the town. My point is that the property is being sold as a campus with its existing buildings and infrastructure and an appraiser set the value at 15.1M.
Eric Johnson January 12, 2013 at 09:14 PM
Thanks. I just went to www.onehaddonfield.com and donated a small amount via paypal. I heard they raised close to $1300 in a few days from city taxpayers in small donations to help support the "yes" vote. They won't need Bancroft money anymore, the good people of Haddonfield showed up to make a difference! I also heard the green signs are free to a good home!
Eric Johnson January 12, 2013 at 10:17 PM
According to Jack O'Malley in a public letter. " We registered One Haddonfield with the NJ Election Law Enforcement Commission knowing that we would be required to file periodic public reports. We knew that Bancroft’s contribution would stand out in our first report. But we also knew that our funding would become much broader once the campaign got under way." Did you expect a personal e-mail from him? I've only recently moved to Haddonfield and Jack O'Malley is someone I have found to trust in my short time here. I myself am insulted that you, and some of your extremest friends, are using open forums to discredit good residents to achieve your goals. It is one thing to state facts...it is another to run a smear campaign. I have recently visited www.onehaddonfield.com to donate a small fee( from our family savings) and feel privileged to help him in his cause. I hope I am leading the way for others to follow to show our support to the real people of Haddonfield.
Joe Taxpayer January 13, 2013 at 12:52 AM
Dave, thanks for responding. Do you really think adding 20 homes requires the boro or BOE to add any expense? we don't need more police or DPW or classrooms to take care of the roads or protect them or teach them. It doesn't work like that. The average cost stats you used are just stats X/Y. If they were real, what would happen if a family of 15 moved into a rental, would taxes go up? If taxes are $25k per x 20, that's 500k. The school gets 55% or 275k. They have no added expense for 20 homes and can easily absorb the kids into the system. It's pure new tax revs for them to play with and use to offset the ever growing healthcare costs ($5.5m last yr).
Rick Muller January 14, 2013 at 06:06 PM
Joe, to answer your question "Do you really think adding 20 homes requires the boro or BOE to add any expense?" I think the answer is most likely yes. If excess High School and Middle school capacity is currently filled by tuition students at $11,000 a piece, how many would be displaced by new residents? Also, I am pretty sure that Tatem is already at capacity now, which would require moving kids to different schools. If additional elementary grade classes were required than that would either be an additional salary or a cut to something like language arts or music.
Joe Taxpayer January 14, 2013 at 06:36 PM
Rick, again it doesn't work like that. The cost per kid is an average. Next year if there are less kids and spending remains the same (we wish), the avg goes up or vice versa. What about other scenarios? What if all 20 homes had no kids, sent all their kids to private schools; every kid was 1 year old and would someday replace those graduating? What if today, a family of 20 moves into a home with 18 kids, do school taxes go up? It's just a stat so the state can pretend to compare districts. In 2010, there were 2452 students and today there are 2518. That's 66 new students, an avg of about 5 per grade and under your scenario , costs would have risen 660,000 from it at the average. However, costs today are 2m higher than they were in 11. 600K for heatlhcare and the rest mainly from salaries. What I cannot tell from the budget is if there are more staff or less.

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