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Haddonfield Identifies $3.5 Million in Open-Space Funds for Bancroft Purchase

This amount more than triples previous estimates of available funds.

Haddonfield officials this week said they are hopeful of having at least $3.5 million in state, county and local open-space funds toward the public purchase of the 19-acre Bancroft property on Kings Highway East.

This is more than three times the amount previously cited to help offset the $16.8 million cost for acquiring the property adjacent to Haddonfield Memorial High School and demolishing buildings there. The plans also include resurfacing the high-school football stadium with artificial turf and constructing a new artificial-turf athletic field and other site improvements.

Commissioner Ed Borden said he, borough Administrator Sharon McCullough and school board President Steve Weinstein, met Monday with a county official to clarify how much money could be coming from Camden County and the state toward the purchase. 

"The county has $800,000 in open-space funds the state gave it toward the Bancroft purchase," Borden said in a Board of Commissioners work session Monday. "Those funds have to be matched, but the county could match it out of their open-space funds."

Haddonfield officials had previously only confirmed $500,000 in county funds and about the same in borough funds toward the Bancroft purchase. The borough funds come from the local open-space tax, which, like county and state funds, must be used to preserve open space. Preservation of several acres of open space, which could include walking trails next to county park land there, is also part of the Bancroft development plan.

Borden and McCollough said the county could add more toward the $3.5 million tallied so far. The total amount in grants and open-space tax funds toward the purchase will not likely be known before the language for a $16.8 million bond referendum is completed, Borden and McCollough said.

The school board has scheduled a special meeting on Nov. 27 to announce the language for the referendum. The referendum date is Jan. 22 and the board must get the final language approved by the state Department of Education before then.

That means only $1 million in open-space funds from the county and borough that had been confirmed before last month are likely to be available to be used to reduce the bond amount of the referendum. Public reaction to the purchase has generally been supportive in several meetings over the last nine months since the public purchase option beat out other development plans, including market-rate and senior housing on the site.

One drawback in public support has revolved around the inclusion of turf athletic fields. School officials say the fields and site improvements are needed to address aging and overused borough athletic fields. Some critics say they support a public purchase of the land, buy won't support it if athletic fields construction remains in it.

The borough and school board have agreed to jointly buy the Bancroft property. The borough is the designated developer of the redevelopment zone there, but the school board will issue the bond if voters approve. Another reason for the joint effort is the school board can not apply for open-space grants but the borough can.

Bancroft is a center for the developmentally disabled and those with acquired brain injuries. It has occupied the 428 Kings Highway East property for 128 years. Officials there have said they want to sell the property in an effort to upgrade their aging facilities in another location outside of Haddonfield.

The parcel is seen as an oasis of possibilities in this nearly built-out, 300-year-old town.

Jim November 09, 2012 at 12:45 PM
Bring in another use a University who would use part of the land to build a satellite facility.This can reduce the cost and share future over head and have some tax revenue to make the project more productive for the land.
Taxpayer November 09, 2012 at 01:47 PM
Jim, a public university would not pay any taxes.
Jack S November 09, 2012 at 03:16 PM
"Identifying" $3.5 million is not the same as having commitments for $3.5 million in hand. Even if the funds were committed, the $12.2 million purchase price is vastly overstated by $4 to $5 million, based on the $8 million appraisal at the height of the real estate market, and the $6.5 million in the most recent appraisal. (The separate $15.1 million appraisal is irrelevant as it based on an "expanded institutional" use that is both legally impermissible today and the BoE admits it has no intention of making.) Also, if local officials are trying to spin this purchase as an open space purchase, why do they state in the next breath at their meetings that the parcel presents an oasis of possibilities such as a location for an educational campus? Clearly a $16.8 million bond will cost Haddonfield taxpayers tens of millions more over time if those possibilities are executed. Can we afford this sort of development when we historically couldn't even afford to patch potholes?
Maryann Campling November 09, 2012 at 05:45 PM
About a month ago I kept hearing a public service-type ad on l0l.5 about a bill that was before the NJ legislature that, if passed, would allow colleges and universities to locate, build and/or expand without the approval of the residents of the town. I am not great at researching on the computer, but it would interesting if someone could verify this. I have been at odds trying to figure why the Boro/BOE is so hot to purchase this property. If it is indeed for the establishment of an educational campus, and the above-mention legislation is in place....then, once again, the tax-paying residents will have unwanted development jammed down their throats.
Brian Kelly November 10, 2012 at 12:20 AM
The patch was misinformed on this one. The borough has always had access to the grants. They are... Borough Green Acre grant - $950,000 Borough Open Space grant - $680,000 County Green Acres grant - $800,000 Total $2,430,000 additional match $1,070,000 Grand total $3,500,000 Our elected officials have been sitting on these grants for ages and always knew they had this amount. They refused to submit them. What gall. The commissioners haven't decided how much of the open space will be used for active or passive recreation and as the grants come with stipulations, we still don't have any answers from these people as to what is really going on. They have the same agenda as always and are trying every angle they know to get it. They're still playing games and hiding their intentions of not only what they want that land for, but how many added millions their projects will cost the residents of our town. It's painfully obvious we can't trust these people. Will our elected officials ever figure out we're not as gullible as they think we are? We must defeat the January 22 referendum and put the decision of what happens with Bancroft back into the hands of the residents. The commissioners and BOE want 17 million from us to buy Bancroft and them give them 3 free years rent! Brilliant! Thanks for looking out for the town you serve!
Brian Kelly November 10, 2012 at 04:13 PM
Notice how Ed Borden is talking about 2 turf fields? Remember the good old days when we were only asked to go into permanent debt for 1 field? This means we're stuck for the payments for 2 turf fields EVERY 8 years. In the Civic Association meeting, when asked about the future of turf cost Steve Weinstein said "As the technology improves in the future the price could go down". That's a bull*#&# answer from a man who knew it the second he said it. Did anyone see the waterhole in the middle of Anniversary field that poured onto the street for a week after the storm? Has anyone seen the sinkholes on the high school track? Does anyone have any idea how much the drainage system would cost to put in place? Has anyone looked at the 100 year old trees that surround this whole area? Anyone see the trees that fell onto Anniversary Field and would have destroyed the turf...that crushed the fence along the high school track? Interested in seeing the articles and photos? Don't have facebook? Just send your email address to haddonfieldunited@hotmail.com*** That's our online newsletter. The commissioners have been sitting on that 3.5 million grant money for a long time. They didn't submit them because they come with stipulations they don't what and are trying to get around. And will. Just acquired the grant money, eh? We're collecting all the boloney we've heard in the last year in one volume. So far it's bigger than War and Peace.

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