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Borough, BOE and Bancroft Officials Meet

News of the meeting was included in a commissioner's work session Monday.

, and officials met last week to discuss a public purchase of the 18.7-acre Bancroft campus on Kings Highway East, adjacent to .

The meeting was not public because there was not a quorum of public officials from either board.

Commissioner Ed Borden said he participated in the meeting along with borough Administrator Sharon McCullough, school board President Steve Weinstein and Superintendent Richard Perry. Borden described it as, "a very preliminary meeting to explore the parameters of a deal."

He said the school board is "working with a very compressed" time frame to get a referendum on the ballot this year, by Sept. 24. If it doesn't happen then, they can't do it until January 2013, he said.

"In order to get it on the ballot, they need to submit the information to the state Department of Education by late May," Borden said.

The school board is promoting a for current and future school use and open space.

The borough estimated a public purchase could cost up to $19.52 million, with $14.27 million in financing.

The commissioners agreed to work with the BOE to approach Bancroft for a purchase price, but also agreed the borough will need to be the lead developer. They said only the borough can apply for open-space grants for the property, which account for an estimated $3.5 million of the estimated acquisition cost.

The plan is projected to costs the typical Haddonfield residential taxpayer $268.80 annually over 20 years of financing, or a total of $5,376 each. The average home assessment here is $491,000.

Haddonfield’s average property tax of $12,088.88 is nearly twice the state average at $7,776, according to the state Department of Community Affairs. Haddonfield has the second highest average property tax bill in Camden County. It trails Tavistock, an exclusive enclave at the tip of Haddonfield, enclosed mostly in a private golf course. Haddonfield's property tax bills are 27 percent higher than Voorhees, $8,777.41, third in the county.

The borough also has the responsibility of meeting Haddonfield's obligation to build up to 20 low- to moderate-income housing units on the site. The Bancroft site is included in a limited area that can possibly be developed for state-mandated, low-income homes in this 2.5-square-mile borough.

Borden said Bancroft officials told them they have "multiple sites where they can move" if the property is sold.

One potential remaining stumbling block is the price of the property. The borough and school board believe it is worth $12 million. Bancroft thinks it's worth $15 million. Borden admitted neither side has a current appraisal.

The commissioners are considering three options for the redevelopment. They are:

  • A public purchase for active and passive recreational use, including open space and additional athletic fields
  • Market-rate town homes 
  • Age-restricted, senior housing

Commissioners have also said they may decide on a combination of the three.

Bancroft, a center for people with developmental disabilities and acquired brain injuries, has been located on the site at 425 Kings Highway East for the past 128 years.

Judy Juzaitis March 20, 2012 at 11:38 AM
As there is not a "current appraisal", why is there to be a consideration of a public referendum for 16.86 million?! Just because the owners of Bancroft say that they cannot move for under a certain price, doesn't make it worth that price. Land values in Haddonfield have greatly decreased over the past 5 years. The purchase price should be based on the actual value and not the desires of the land owner. Haddonfield should not be assuming debt that it can not afford lest we end up in the same dilemma as other towns, such as Collingswood, having their bonds defined as "junk status".
Jack S March 22, 2012 at 02:34 AM
The Borough just announced that it needs to raise the local tax we pay by 7%, allegedly because many taxpayers are delinquent in paying their tax bills. Given that, how can the Borough begin to justify spending more than $10 million on the Bancroft property? The fact is that Haddonfield is already surrounded by overdevelopment (with Wegmanns having turned that end of town into the King of Prussia Mall). Ceding Bancroft to development is not going to make a big difference at this point, and the little difference it would make is not worth anything close to $10 million. Certainly the BOE can't justify spending any more $ at this point -- the existing school facilities are more than adequate to guarantee Haddonfield schools their continued high ranking. For those of us who love open space, maybe it's time to move to Nebraska.
Herb Hess March 25, 2012 at 04:31 PM
Dear Mayor and Commissioners, “Borough, school board and Bancroft officials met ... to discuss a public purchase of the 18.7-acre Bancroft campus... The meeting was not public because there was not a quorum of public officials from either board.” A summary of the law as provided by Rutgers University states. All meetings of public bodies in New Jersey must be open to the public unless closure is specifically permitted by law... • Advisory bodies are not subject to the Sunshine Law, such as when a mayor or governor meets with department heads. However, if an advisory body has the power to eliminate options available to a decision-making body, it too becomes subject to the law. While there may be an impression that the law can be contravened by only sending one representative of each elective body to the meeting, the last bullet point could be interpreted (and is interpreted by me) as stating that the Board of Education representative’s presence and input has the power to eliminate options available to a decision-making body (i.e. the Borough Commission). This power is evidenced in the ability to contribute or withdraw financial support to a planned purchase – such withdrawal making the option of a purchase infeasible, exercise the power of eminent domain (as School Boards are allowed to do), and to provide for the disbursal of costs and debt service related to the acquisition allowing the Boro and/or BOE to remain within the State-mandated cap.

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