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Author: haddonfieldtoday

Commissioners must respect approval process

To the Editor, fom Eileen Stilwell, Potter Street

The mad rush for final approval of the borough’s first affordable housing project before the May 11 election appears to be over.

On April 21, the Haddonfield Preservation Commission tabled the developer’s application to build 20 affordable apartments in the parking lot behind borough hall until its next regular meeting on May 19, despite pressure from the Borough and developer, Community Investment Strategies of Lawrenceville.

Armed with a team of lawyers and land-use professionals, CIS badgered HPC at the virtual meeting for a positive vote, so it could seek final approval from the Planning Board on May 4, seven days before the municipal election. HPC had no legal counsel that night to help clarify some of the complex issues. Members of HPC declined to vote, citing an incomplete application and an unclear vision of what precisely the developer planned to do within the historic district.

Any attempt by the borough to bypass the HPC and go directly to the Planning Board before the election in order to lock down one of its largest and most significant housing projects in decades, in my opinion, would be a grave abuse of power.

A potential end run for the developer might be to seek planning board approval  based on the footprint only of the Snowden project, excluding facades or relevant information about public safety, or the project’s ability to blend with and preserve the integrity of  the historic neighborhood. The presentation, no doubt, would suggest that HPC’s approval is anticipated at its next meeting.  Should this occur, I would urge HPC members to find some other way to serve their community, since such action by the borough would indicate their services  would no longer be needed.

Why have an historic commission if you ignore it? Why waste the enormous time volunteer board members invest in each application? Perhaps, it should be disbanded, if it is nothing but window dressing.

Should the commission decide to bypass the HPC, it should be done by public vote, so voters know which of the two incumbents running for re-election voted in favor.

Should they follow the rules — signaling that they, not the developer, are in charge — they should be applauded for their judgment.

Students to return to school

On Monday, April 19, 2021, students in Haddonfield Public Schools will return to school, full-time, in-person, for the first time in a year.

Suerintendent of Schools Chuck Klaus previewed the momentous development in letter to parents, guardians, staff, and students on March 31:

When our students and staff left school on March 16, 2020, most of us could not imagine they would continue in a virtual learning model through the end of the year and return to school in a hybrid model in September. The abrupt shift required schools to quickly re-imagine how to best deliver virtual instruction and serve our students. And of course the continuation of the pandemic required many additional changes in the areas of PPE, cleaning, ventilation, meal deliveries, athletics, and more.

Today we are approaching the point we have been anticipating for many, many months: initiating Phase III, bringing ALL tudents to school, all day, five days per week! (Of course, students and families may continue to choose the 100% virtual model through the end of this school year.)

The Leadership Team of Haddonfield School District has been working on this plan for months, anticipating the time when safety and health conditions would allow us to move forward. The following pages will show the new Phase III schedules, set to begin April 19th (grades 1-12) if major indicators continue to improve. (Preschool and kindergarten will continue in their current schedules.)

It is important to note, however, that the schedules for the original hybrid model (cohort A attending Monday and Tuesday, cohort B attending Thursday and Friday), the Phase II combined-cohort model, and the contingency model (if schools are forced to close by state or county mandates) are still contained in these pages. If health conditions worsen, we might have to return to one of these more restrictive schedules.

We appreciate the difficulties and the stresses placed on students, staff and families over the last year. We also realize that each of us has unique circumstances, perspectives, and feelings about how best to return to school. During this process, the Phase III model was explored and reviewed with feedback from families, students, staff, community members and frequent consultation with our district physician and nursing staff. As always, our planning must balance safety, instruction, and operations in a way to provide the best solution for all 1,500 families and 350 staff members in our district.

One new COVID-19 death; total now 15

The addition on Friday of a female in her 80s to the list of Haddonfield residents who have succumbed to the novel coronavirus, COVID-19, brings Haddonfield’s death toll to 15.

To date, 587 local cases have been reported by the Camden County Department of Health, an increase of four from yesterday.

The addition of six public school cases on Thursday brings the district tally to 173.

Commissioners schedule new Bancroft hearing

The Commissioners announced today that they will hold a public hearing related to Bancroft on Tuesday, April 27, during their regular meeting already scheduled for that date.

The Commissioners were ordered to hold the hearing by Superior Court Judge Nan S. Famular. She is presiding over a dispute between the Borough and a group of residents that includes two former mayors, Jack Tarditi and Tish Colombi. She is requiring the Commissioners to re-do the portion of their January 16, 2018 meeting relating to the adoption of an amendment to the Bancroft Redevelopment Plan.

The reason for the “re-do” is that the Judge said she cannot evaluate the plaintiffs’ claims because the minutes of the Commissioners’ January 16, 2018 meeting did not note their specific reasons for approving amendments to the redevelopment plan. She ordered the Borough to record this “re-do” and provide her with a transcript.

Here is the Borough’s notice for the meeting:

NOTICE OF PUBLIC HEARING

NOTICE IS HEREBY GIVEN
 that, as directed by the Honorable Nan S. Famular, Superior Court of New Jersey, Law Division, Camden County, in her “Order Denying Motion to Vacate Ordinance 2018-01 Without Prejudice and Remanding to Borough for Further Proceedings” dated as of April 1, 2021, the Board of Commissioners of the Borough of Haddonfield (the “Borough”) will hold a Public Hearing at its regularly scheduled public meeting on April 27, 2021 at 7:30 p.m. to be conducted via Zoom, a video and teleconferencing service, regarding Ordinance 2018-01 of the Borough, at which the Borough Commissioners shall place on the record their specific reasons for approving the “Bancroft Redevelopment Plan”, as amended January 16, 2018, pursuant to N.J.S.A. 40A:12A-7(d) and (e).

During the week prior to and up to and including the date of such meeting, copies of Ordinance 2018-01 will be available at no cost via the Borough’s website at www.haddonfieldnj.org, by email request to the Borough Clerk at dbennett@haddonfield-nj.gov, and during regular business hours at the Administration Office of the Borough Hall, Room 101, for the members of the general public who shall request the same.

INSTRUCTIONS TO ATTEND/OBSERVE MEETING:  Members of the Public are welcome and encouraged to participate in the electronic meeting. The meeting will be held via Zoom. There are two options to join the meeting 1) through the Zoom App via a smartphone, computer or tablet via video link, or 2) phone audio using the following Zoom meeting access information:

https://us02web.zoom.us/j/83041911942?pwd=dCtxSUt5Q2xKVE5LVlZCWFFVRUZ0UT09

Meeting ID: 830 4191 1942
Passcode: 329789

Telephone:  Call # 1-301-715-8592; 1-312-626-6799; 1-646-558-8656; 1-253-215-8782; 1-346-248-7799; or 1-669-900-9128
Meeting ID/PIN: 830 4191 1942

Pursuant to N.J.S.A. 40:49-2, as amended, further notice is hereby given that the purpose of the forgoing ordinance is to amend the “Bancroft Redevelopment Plan” to reflect as set forth in Exhibit 3 to Ordinance 2018-01.

Videos of Commission candidate forum

Videos of the Board of Commissioners Candidate Forum, held on Monday, April 12 and sponsored by the Haddonfield Civic Association, may be viewed on the Association’s website, HERE.

There are separate videos for the opening statements, each of nine questions posed to the eight candidates, and closing statements.

The questions, asked of the candidates in random order by Janet Fisher-Hughes, the moderator provided by the League of Women Voters, were:

Question 1: What policy or advocacy differentiates you from the other candidates?

Question 2: Of the three commission seats – public works, public safety, and finance – with which of these areas do you think your strengths most closely align?

Question 3: What are your plans for improving infrastructure in town, such as fixing deteriorating roads and curbs or upgrading and modernizing borough-owned buildings?

Question 4: What will you do to improve Haddonfield’s sustainability plan?

Question 5: As commissioner what are your plans for providing tax savings to residents through shared services, cost savings, and/or revenue generation?

Question 6: What will you do as commissioner to improve communication, community engagement, and increase transparency of town decisions and actions?  As commissioner would you publicly get behind a pledge to record and post all public meetings?

Question 7: One issue facing the township is the resolution of the former Bancroft site.  What are your priorities and vision for the site?

Question 8: What is your position on the land swap between the Board of Education and the Borough to make Radnor Field Green Acres space?

Question 9: Many residents in town are concerned with the speeding that constantly takes place on the main roads and many of the connecting residential streets. What will you do about this ongoing problem?

COVID-19 has hit 1 in 20 locally

With the addition of two males and two females to the list of Haddonfield residents who have been confirmed positive for the novel coronavirus, COVID-19, the local tally hit 579 today. That’s 49.94 individuals for every 1,000 of population (based on the 2010 Census) — or 1 in 20 residents.

A total of 14 Haddonfield residents have succumbed.

The Public Schools have reported 166 cases.

Tonight: Commission candidates forum

A forum for candidates for the Haddonfield Board of Commissioners will be held tonight, via Zoom.

Sponsored by the Civic Association and moderated by a representative from the League of Women Voters, it will run from 8 to 10pm.

To see the forum live on Zoom, you must register in advance. Go HERE.

Candidates will explain why they are running or seeking re-election. They will discuss their platform and answer questions submitted in advance.

Civic Association Forum: New date, times

A special note for those who marked their calendars based on details published in recent print versions of Haddonfield Today.

The Civic Association changed the original date of its Board of Commissioners Candidate Forum from Monday, April 19 to Monday, April 12.

It changed the original start time from 7pm to 8pm.

And, to accommodate the large number of questions it received fom the community, it recently changed the end time from 9:30pm to 10pm.

SO … Monday, April 12 from 8 to 10pm.

To see the forum live on Zoom, you must register in advance. Go HERE.

Candidates will explain why they are running or seeking re-election. They will discuss their platform and answer questions submitted in advance.

The forum will be moderated by a representative from the League of Women Voters.

1.      The forum will start with a minute-and-a-half opening statement by each candidate.

2.      A question-and-answer period will follow.

3.      If a question is directed to a particular candidate, s/he will have a minute and a half to respond.  The other candidates will have the opportunity to respond, and will have one minute to do so.

4.      Candidates may decline to answer questions.

5.      If a question is directed to all candidates, or if the moderator decides the question should be answered by all candidates, each candidate will have one minute to respond.

6.      Each candidate will have a minute-and-a-half for a closing statement.

7.      The statements and answers will be timed by a League of Women Voters member.

April COVID-19 tally: 16 cases, 1 fatality

For the first six days of April, the Camden County Department of Health has reported 16 confirmed cases of COVID-19 in Haddonfield, and one fatality, that of a female in her 80s.

These additions bring the local tally to 558 cases and 14 deaths. One in 21 Haddonfield residents have been confirmed as having contracted COVID-19 since March 2020.

The public schools have reported one new case in April: A female juvenile student at Central School.

A case for placing a cell tower at the Public Works facility

By Mayor Neal Rochford

I believe every Haddonfield resident should have strong and reliable cell service.

For years, Haddonfield residents have come to me and voiced their frustration with the poor cell reception in town. This issue has only grown more apparent as so many of us have shifted to working from home during the past year. With or without COVID, work from home is here to stay and Haddonfield residents need reliable cell service to ensure that we can maintain the communication needed to be successful in our jobs. Residents also need reliable service to stay in contact with family, handle emergencies, participate in remote learning, and so much more. Capacity needs to be upgraded in order for Haddonfield not to fall behind in the Information Age.

In 2017, the Commissioners were given an opportunity to remedy this issue when we were approached by Verizon to build a new cell tower, which would greatly enhance the cell coverage throughout Haddonfield. The Commissioner of Public Works at the time worked with Verizon to find an ideal location for the tower, eventually agreeing on a site at the Public Works facility. The site is isolated in an area used for storage and the view of the tower would be minimal as there is plenty of tree coverage. Verizon determined that the site would greatly improve cell coverage in areas of Haddonfield with poor reception.

A contract was worked out and signed off between Verizon and the Borough. We made a mistake in handling the process. The project should have gone out for a bid to lease the site and awarded by resolution. The Borough should have been more inclusive in presenting the tower project to the community. 

I believe the Borough should proceed now to have the tower built with better communication with our residents. It may not happen in the short time I have left in office, but I feel strongly that it should be addressed quickly. No matter where the Borough decides to place the tower, there is going to be some opposition. I believe the greater public good is being served by improving cell coverage in Haddonfield.. 

Let’s look at some of the opposition to the tower:

The tower would emit radio frequencies that cause health problems: Studies by the FCC, FDA, National Cancer Society, World Health Organization, and Canadian Government have found no evidence of adverse health risk from the towers. The amount of RF signals coming off the tower is well below FCC guidelines. Thousands of towers sit on government buildings, hospitals, universities, and private buildings throughout the country without issue. I have never received a complaint from a resident about ill health effects caused by the other cell towers in Haddonfield, including the one at the water tower that has been in place for years.

The tower would only benefits Verizon customers: Verizon would be required to sublease the tower to other carriers. Everyone who has cell service in Haddonfield would benefit.

The Borough did not get a good deal: Some have claimed that Verizon or a similar carrier should be paying hundreds of thousands per year to lease the land. Based on our research, there is no evidence to support a significantly higher lease than what was negotiated.

The tower will adversely affect home values: The real estate market in Haddonfield is strong, with home listings often selling in a matter of days and with multiple offers above the asking price. I have not received one concern from a Realtor that a tower near a residential neighborhood would cause home values to drop. In fact, I have spoken to Realtors that have told me that some home buyers test to see how strong cell service is in the home before buying.

The cell tower is being placed in a park: The proposed tower would be sited in the Public Works facility next to a wooded area. The Public Works facility is so isolated that many residents are not aware of its location. The area is currently used for storage that would be moved to another location within Public Works. Very few people ever venture into this area and the trees in the park area will block much of the tower from public view. 

Deed restrictions: There have been other issues such as deed restrictions on the site that can be resolved. The parcel in question has changed back and forth with the County several times in the last century. Several times in the last fifty years the Borough has worked to untangle the Public Works facility in the deed from the County when it was conveyed to the Borough. 

In conclusion …

I hope everyone will take a good look at the proposal and see that the benefits of a cell tower far exceed any negatives. It won’t benefit future generations if Haddonfield is known as a great town with lousy cell service.

Haddonfield should embrace this opportunity to strengthen our connectivity for the future. Part of the mandate for the Commissioners — present and future — is investing into the infrastructure of Haddonfield, including strong, reliable cell and data service for everyone!

It is my hope that the candidates and future commissioners will show leadership on an issue that affects the quality of life for everyone in Haddonfield.