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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.

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