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BOE Set to Vote on Bancroft Purchase Letter

The school board meets tonight at the Central/Middle School library.

The Haddonfield is set to vote tonight on a letter of intent to purchase the nearly 19-acre Bancroft property on Kings Highway East.

Tonight's board meeting at 7 p.m. at the / library is the third public meeting this month to discuss the purchase.

The borough Board of Commissioners unanimously approved the letter of intent last week. The letter launches a 45-day process for the borough and the school board to appraise the property and draft an agreement of sale with Bancroft, a center for the developmentally disabled and acquired brain injuries.

The $12.2 million purchase price is part of a $16.8 million plan to acquire the property, which is adjacent to , demolish existing buildings there, construct an artificial turf athletic field and install an artificial surface on the existing football stadium field.

The purchase will also preserve open space adjacent to a nearby county park along Cooper River. Reaction to the plan has generally been positive in two other public meetings on it this month. Frequent objections have been raised about the athletic fields, however.

"This has been a long haul and I'm proud to be here tonight," Kim Custer, a borough resident who has long campaigned to buy the property to preserve open space, said at a public meeting on July 18. "This is where we wanted to be and I'll be the first person out there cheerleading for that property, but the $2 million proposal for turf is extremely controversial. We've worked too hard to lose this over a turf field. Get the acquisition and lets worry about the development of turf or grass another time."

But a group of residents known as the turf field committee has raised over $250,000 in private donations, with a goal of $500,000 before the end of the year, to install artificial turf at the football stadium and an adjacent borough-owned field. The borough and school board have agreed to kick in just over $500,000 for the $1 million project. If the committee raises enough money, it will eliminate $800,000 from $2 million earmarked for turf and other athletic facilities improvements in the Bancroft plan.

Officials argue the turf will reduce maintenance costs and increase the use of the fields because the artificial surface is more durable than grass.

"Installing one turf field is like installing two to three grass fields because you can use them all the time," Joe Del Duca, of the turf field committee, said in a meeting on July 23. "I'm not going to tell you it's a perfect solution, but it’s the best solution."

The school board is also scheduled to meet in closed session, not open to the public, before the meeting. One of the topics of discussion will be the district's 24/7 student discipline rules. A similar policy by a North Jersey school district was ruled to be illegal last week by the state Appellate Court.

Haddonfield school officials said last week the ruling could put their plan in jeopardy. Three former students have sued the district over the policy, which barred them from extracurricular activities. The student's attorney said a settlement of a ruling in the suit could cost the district hundreds of thousands of dollars. An attorney for the district rejected that claim.

Jim July 31, 2012 at 10:25 AM
The puchase price is too high for sports fields that a private developer would donate for free under the right zoning allowances. End result no public tax payer debt or Borough debt for affordable housing costs and a tax ratable for years to come that would pay for new roads and infra strucure needed in the Borough.If the borough insists in buying only pay closer to $8 million and reserve the rights for some private development in the future to generate tax revenue and reduce the overall debt.
Maryann Campling July 31, 2012 at 12:05 PM
$17 million....are you kidding? Real estate values down 6.8% since LAST YEAR, thirty homes in foreclosure in the Boro...and yet some people keep ignoring the 600 pound gorilla in the room....guess they are too wrapped up thinking about how they will personally benefit from this fiasco.
John Sullivan July 31, 2012 at 01:46 PM
"Reaction to the plan has generally been positive in two other public meetings on it this month." That's entirely incorrect. The majority of residents at the last public meeting spoke out against the plan. That's an inaccuracy that Patch needs to correct. Also, Patch's own poll on the plan had a majority of respondents opposing the plan. What gives?
John Sullivan July 31, 2012 at 01:51 PM
Haddonfield residents must not lose sight of what was said by Haddonfield's Solicitor at last week's public meeting: If the town does not purchase the Bancroft property, Bancroft has vowed to "remain" on the property and make "improvements." For those of us who were worried that a buyer would construct a high-density development on the property, that was great news! Zero cost to residents. Zero debt for residents. Retention of the same institution that's been there for over a century, etc. Why is the BoE/Commissioners even considering this purchase, given that the alternative has become the status quo, with Bancroft now vowing to do what it's always been entitled to do? Have the BoE/Commissioners run out of other ways to justify spending new taxpayer money?
Bill Duhart (Editor) July 31, 2012 at 02:02 PM
Hi John, I have to disagree with you, respectfully, about the reaction to the plan. Most of the concerns about the plan, in the first and second meeting, had to do with the inclusion of turf. Others questioned the purchase price and not necessarily the purchase. Some expressed support for the plan, but against turf. Also, there were more people in the first meeting than the second.
Taxpayer July 31, 2012 at 05:30 PM
What is really suspect about this BOE scheme is that they are not planning to get County Open Space grants before the January referendum. Why aren't our commissioners first getting the County grants, then BOE subtracting those many millions in grants from the referendum total? The BOE claimed it could not hold a November referendum because it needed to allow time for the fake grass fundraisers to reach their goal so BOE could subtract that donation from the referendum total. Why aren't they doing the same for the County grants? We've paid plenty into county taxes and grants could buy the entire property. Could it be that the BOE wants to own the parcel so it can sell it later to a NONPROFIT/NONRATABLE like Rowan University? Remember the BOE can sell land like they proposed to do with Radnor field--for high density/ low income housing. BOE does not answer to our municipal planning board. They can do anything they want to with that parcel just as we saw them consider with Radnor field. OUR BOE SHOULD NOT BE IN THE REDEVELOPMENT BUSINESS!!! THEY CANNOT BE TRUSTED AS GOOD STEWARDS OF THE BIGGEST PARCEL OF LAND IN HADDONFIELD!!! Our Commissioners have failed in their role by handing control of this over to the BOE. If Haddonfield votes yes on the whole amount, the county may not give anything in OS grants, assuming we don't need grant $$ because we as a town are willing to pay ourselves.
concerned business owner July 31, 2012 at 07:27 PM
as a concerned business owner I can't help but think that the people that are going along with this idea either have their heads in the clouds or drank the "cool aid" as this has to be the most ridiculous thing that this town has come up with.....the roads in this town suck and given the amount of taxes that are paid and they remain this way is horrendous....the amount of stores that can't survive in the best "Downtown" take a look around not only is the town DEAD but the stores are closing left and right...you don't exactly make it easy to operate a business here nor do the locals support "DOWNTOWN" THE BEST DOWNTOWN...I find it rather interesting that you would hold a meeting in the middle of summer when the majority of this town is vacationing smells a little fishy....the fact that Bancroft has offered to stay here and improved speaks volumes so why is that the Powers of Be aren't listening what is in for them???hmmmmm maybe we should look into that....as far as the "turf" issue I think that you need to stop thinking that you always have to have the best (not that it is) cause you have already have a generation that feels they are "entitled" why not teach that "you can't always get what you want" it may actually build character. The field they have is fine they can still win games, work to fix it if thats they problem but don't burden the town with additional taxes when they can't fix what needs to be taken care of now i.e. roads, vacant stores and a dimishing Downtown.
Bill Duhart (Editor) July 31, 2012 at 08:05 PM
Hi John, I have to disagree with you, respectfully, about the reaction to the plan. Most of the concerns about the plan, in the first and second meeting, had to do with the inclusion of turf. Others questioned the purchase price and not necessarily the purchase. Some expressed support for the plan, but against turf. Also, there were more people in the first meeting than the second.
John Sullivan July 31, 2012 at 08:41 PM
Bill, by my own reckoning, the speakers at the second meeing were approx. 3-2 against the proposal. While some speakers opposed the plan primarily or exclusively because of the turf component, the turf component is nevertheless a key element of the plan, and those individuals certainly cannot be considered to have a "positive" view of the plan, particularly since many have indicated they will vote 'no.' Moreover, as noted above, Patch's own poll has for several weeks shown a majority of respondents being opposed to the plan. All of this is remarkable, because I would have expected the proponents to have brought their allies to bear on this measure at this point. I suspect both sides will wake up somewhat after the summer recess is over.

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