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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.

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.

Mayor Rochford to retire at end of term, in May

Haddonfield Mayor Neal Rochford has announced that he will not seek re-election to the Board of Commissioners. The election, for three commissioners serving concurrent four-year terms, is scheduled for Tuesday, May 11.

Mayor Rochford posted the following message on his “Haddonfield Mayor Neal Rochford” Facebook page today:

“Dear Friends,

“I am announcing that I will not be running for another term on the Haddonfield Board of Commissioners. As I look forward to embarking on my next chapter, I leave proud that I was able to serve three portfolios: Finance, Public Safety and Public Works during my time in office.

“It is our engaged community that makes Haddonfield truly a special place. Without a doubt, the appeal of Haddonfield is due to the contributions of countless residents who volunteer on boards and committees around town. I leave with a sense of pride, knowing that Haddonfield has continued to be the go-to town in the region for visitors and residents alike.

“One of the best aspects of Haddonfield’s elections is that they are nonpartisan. I hope that this tradition is not diminished by the strongly polarized political environment we are currently living in. I wish the future commissioners all the best as they continue to work together on the issues that will define Haddonfield for generations.

“While there are many people I would like to recognize, I want to give a special thank you to the borough employees who are the backbone of the municipal workings. Working alongside you all has been a wonderful experience.

“Lastly, I give a heartfelt thank you to the community for allowing me to serve as your commissioner and mayor. It has been my honor to serve my community and I have wonderful memories of my time as commissioner and mayor.”

  • * * * *

Neal Rochford first ran for the Board of Commissioners in 2001, placing fifth in a field of eight. (Tish Colombi, John Reisner, and Jack Tarditi were elected that year. Having received the highest number of votes, Tish Colombi became the mayor.)

Neal entered the fray again in 2005, and placed third in a field of five. (Colombi and Ed Borden served with him for the next four years.) He took on the Revenue & Finance portfolio.

He came fourth in a field of six in 2009 — Colombi, Borden, and newcomer Jeff Kasko formed the Board of Commissioners at that time — then returned to the board in 2013 with Kasko and newcomer John Moscatelli. Rochford took on the Public Affairs & Public Safety portfilio.

At the 2017 election, Kasko, Moscatelli, and Rochford ran unopposed. As the recipient of the largest number of votes, Rochford became the mayor. He continued as Director for Public Affairs & Public Safety until a special election was held in November 2019 to fill the unexpired term of John Moscatelli, who had resigned that summer. (Rochford and Kasko appointed Robert Marshall to serve as interim Commissioner until the election.) When Colleen Bianco Bezich was elected in November 2019, she took on the Public Affairs & Public Safety portfolio, and Rochford picked up Public Works, Parks and Public Buildings.

Neal Rochford was active in many community matters before he first ran for office, involvement that was recognized publicly when he was named Citizen of the Year in 2003. He was a key member of the committee that established First Night (the New Year’s Eve celebration) in the late 1990s, was treasurer for the HATCH (dinosaur sculpture) Committee, and served as president of the Rotary Club of Haddonfield.

Judge reinstates Bancroft lawsuit

During a Camden County Superior Court hearing today, Judge Nan S. Famular agreed to a request by a group of Haddonfield residents, among them former mayors Jack Tarditi and Tish Colombi, to reinstate a suit they had filed in 2018 against the Borough of Haddonfield and its commissioners, objecting to aspects of the proposed redevelopment plan that failed to promote senior housing. 

Tarditi and the other plaintiffs had withdrawn the suit in 2019 without prejudice — meaning they retained the right to reinstate it in the future — based on a settlement agreement in which the Borough committed to the development of age-restricted housing at the site.

The plaintiffs requested reinstatement of their case because, they claimed, the commissioners had failed to abide by the settlement, which was spelled out in an order entered by Judge Famular in October 2019. The order noted that the borough would take steps to achieve and promote age-restricted housing on the site.

The borough’s attorney alleged that the borough had been unable to find a viable alternative to the “age-targeted” townhomes proposed by the site’s designated redeveloper, despite efforts to do so.

In the suit filed in March 2018, the plaintiffs called for the revised redevelopment plan the commissioners adopted in February 2018 to be set aside, and for the original Bancroft redevelopment plan to be reinstated. The 2018 plan called for fewer design restrictions and increased floor area per townhome — changes the developer had requested. The Planning Board voted overwhelmingly against the developer’s requests, but the commissioners set their objections aside and adopted the revised plan.

It is not known at this time if the Planning Board will schedule a hearing on the developer’s pending application until the issue is resolved in court. Judge Famular has not yet set a date for a hearing on the plaintiffs’ reinstated suit.

Planning Board cancels Bancroft hearing

The Haddonfield Planning Board has canceled a special meting, scheduled for Tuesday, January 26, at which it would have considered a development application for the portion of the Bancroft property on the Cherry Hill side of Hopkins Lane.

The action was taken, apparently, after questions were raised about apparent legal deficiencies in the application.

The application proposes the construction of 80 market-rate townhomes and 10 affordable units.

The Historic Preservation Commission completed its work on the application on December 30, 2020, a necessary prerequisite for Planning Board consideration.

New Year message from the mayor

The following message, from Mayor Neal Rochford, was posted on the Borough’s Facebook page on December 31.

This year has been like no other. No one could have expected our lives and our way of living to change so rapidly, the way it did with the Covid-19 virus: schools closing, businesses interrupted, widespread unemployment, sports, and an entertainment shut down. Also a byproduct of the pandemic: social isolation and families that cannot see one another.

At the borough, us commissioners had to take drastic action to preserve services that are vital to our resident’s well being. Police, fire, EMT’s service, trash collection, storm remediation, borough hall services, and the library needed to continue. Our borough employees were instrumental in keeping services ongoing. With their cooperation, the borough has been able to meet our goal to serve our residents despite the many hurdles presented by Covid-19. The borough will continue to preserve vital services during the pandemic.

In the next year, I expect the first quarter to be challenging. The virus will continue to infect large numbers until the new vaccines take hold. Please continue to follow mask rules, hand washing recommendations, and social distancing. I urge everyone to obtain the vaccine when it becomes available to you. I would take the vaccine today if I could, however, I will not do so until our police, fire, EMTs, and public works crews receive the vaccine first.

Heartfelt thanks to so many individuals and families who have stepped up to volunteer and help out others. There have been many initiatives from our residents to assist others that need help during the pandemic with food, clothing, and services. Your support of the business district has been instrumental in keeping shops and restaurants open. Another group that deserves recognition are our families with school-age children and educators who have had to transition to a remote learning model. You are awesome for adapting to a new model of teaching.

Let’s make 2021 the year of normal again. In the spirit of positivity, share something that you are grateful for. I’ll start by saying that I am grateful to serve our borough and for all the volunteers that make this town great. Wishing you and your families a Happy New Year!

Special Board of Health meeting

A special meeting of the Haddonfield Board of Health will be held on Tuesday, November 24 qt 8:30pm, or directly following the scheduled meeting of the Board of Commissioners, whichever is later.

To register to attend the virtual meeting, go HERE.

Bancroft update

The Board of Commissioners released the following statement with respect to the Bancroft property on Wednesday, October 13.

The Board of Commissioners has spent several months communicating with Two Hopkins Lane Urban Renewal, LLC (“2HL”), the designated redeveloper of the Bancroft site, in an effort to spur the productive re-use of the Bancroft site.  2HL has recently submitted site plans for the Bancroft site, seeking approvals to construct a proposed redevelopment project consistent with the terms of the redevelopment plan and redevelopment agreement between the Borough and 2HL.  

The filed site plans (the “2HL Plans”), which are on file within the Community Development Office, are nearly identical to those submitted in 2019. The 2HL Plans will be made public on the Borough website once deemed complete in accordance with applicable land use laws, and may also be obtained by residents via request pursuant to the Open Public Records Act (“OPRA”).  Importantly, the 2HL Plans will be subject to multiple public hearings. The 2HL Plans were already under review by the Historic Preservation Commission (“HPC”) back in 2019, when the review process was halted due to litigation. HPC will now convene a sub-committee to re-examine the 2HL Plans this fall. After appearing before HPC and receiving their Certificate of Appropriateness from the Planning Board (“PB”), 2HL will then apply to the PB for site plan and subdivision approvals. The Borough anticipates that the Planning Board will hear the 2HL Plans during the fourth quarter of 2020.

As always, the Board of Commissioners will continue to pursue the productive re-use of the Bancroft site in a manner beneficial to the residents of the Borough, and will provide regular updates to the public moving forward.

The page on the Borough’s website titled “Bancroft Site – Redevelopment Plan” may be accessed HERE.

Ethics complaint filed against Commissioner Kasko

Five Haddonfield residents have filed an ethics complaint against Commissioner Jeffrey S. Kasko.

The complaint alleges that as he was being arrested, following an incident outside his home in February 2019, Kasko improperly “attempted to use his official position as elected commissioner to secure more favorable treatment from the Haddonfield Police Department” by asking an officer at the scene to allow him to speak with the police chief.

The complaint, which was filed with the Local Finance Board, claims Kasko’s request violated a state law that prohibits the use of an official position to secure “unwarranted privileges or advantages.” The board is part of the NJ Department of Community Affairs. Kasko is Haddonfield’s Commissioner of Revenue & Finance, and serves also as deputy mayor.

Among those filing the complaint were two former mayors, John J. Tatditi Jr. and Letitia G. Colombi.

The five residents allege that Kasko made “a clear attempt to utilize his position as an elected official in an attempt to obtain from the chief more lenient treatment than he was receiving from [a police officer at the scene].”

Kasko was charged with ten offenses, among them aggravated assault on a law enforcement officer, reckless driving, and leaving the scene of an accident involving property damage. After being arrested, he was taken to Camden County Jail and was held overnight. In May 2010 he was admitted to a pretrial intervention program.

Voting Info: Register to vote

To check if you are already registered to vote in New Jersey, go HERE.

To register to vote in New Jersey, you must:

  • Be a United States citizen.
  • Be at least 17 years old, though you may not vote until you have reached the age of 18.
  • Be a resident of the county for 30 days before the election.
  • Be a person not serving a sentence of incarceration as the result of a conviction of any indictable offense under the laws of New Jersey or another state or of the United States.
  • Complete a Voter Registration Application and/or Party Affiliation Form, available HERE. The form also is available in Room 101 of the Borough Hall, 242 Kings Highway East, Haddonfield.

Completed forms may be submitted to the Borough Clerk at the Borough Hall or mailed or delivered to the Camden County Board of Elections, Elections and Archive Center, 100 University Court, Blackwood NJ  08012. Regular hours: Weekdays from 8:30am to 4:30pm.

The deadline to register to vote for the General Election on Tuesday, November 3 is Tuesday, October 13. (The Camden County Board of Elections will remain open later than its regular 4:30pm closing time on that date.)