The Haddonfield Board of Education is set to vote Tuesday on an agreement of sale to buy the 19-acre Bancroft property on Kings Highway East.
The vote is scheduled in a special meeting at the borough middle school at 6 p.m.
The BOE and the borough have entered an agreement of sale with Bancroft after a decade of public debate. The parcel is seen by many as an oasis of possibilities in this nearly built-out, 300-year-old town. The public purchase of the land will allow a kind of manifest destiny to annex it to the adjacent Haddonfield Memorial High School campus and preserve parts of it for open space.
The public purchase option was among three presented to borough residents last year after another in a series of exhaustive planning studies Haddonfield has commissioned was released. Other options were age-restrictive and market-rate housing.
A $16.9 million public referendum on the financing of the sale has been a lightning rod for public debate on the merits of the deal. The referendum is set for Jan. 22.
Critics of the plan have questioned the $12.2 million purchase price for Bancroft, a center for the developmentally disabled and acquired brain injuries. Opposition has also mounted for nearly $2 million of the cost being earmarked for build an additional athletic field and resurface the football stadium field, both with artificial turf.
Questions have also been raised about why the referendum will be held in January instead of November, during the general election.
An appraisal of the Bancroft parcel released last week values it at just over $15 million. The amount raised some eyebrows of critics because it nearly doubled the assessment value from a 2005 appraisal. That appraisal was just released in July after borough officials kept it private as part of a negotiating strategy for the past seven years.
School board President Steve Weinstein said the new appraisal came in higher because it allowed for more density of housing and also used comparable recent sales in South and Central Jersey to compare value. Weinstein also said the January referendum was needed because approval of the purchase by the state Department of Education is a lengthy process that would not have been completed by the general election in November.
Weinstein also said a private fundraising effort to pay for half of the resurfacing of the high school field and an adjacent field owed by the borough is expected to be completed before the referendum and could reduce the the total cost of the project by $800,000. The borough is also seeking open-space grants from Camden County and the state that could further reduce the amount of the referendum, Weinstein said.
The grant applications has been contingent on a signed agreement of sale.
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