Haddonfield OKs plan to buy Bancroft site
Published: Wednesday, July 25, 2012
Written by Phil Dunn, Courier-Post Staff

HADDONFIELD — Borough commissioners have voted to sign a letter of intent to jointly purchase the Bancroft site with the school board.

The plan also would require public approval at a Jan. 22 referendum, borough officials said.

“This is a tremendous opportunity for us to control a substantial amount of ground next to the high school,” said Commissioner Ed Borden. “It gives the whole education system an option to add playing fields or school buildings, something they didn’t have previously.”

The proposal, in a Master Plan by Garrison Architects of Marlton, calls for much of the Bancroft site to be cleared to make way for turf athletic fields, open space, parking and possibly affordable housing. Historic buildings on the site would be preserved.

“We have one of the best overall sports programs in the South Jersey area, but our fields are not in the greatest shape,” said School Board President Steve Weinstein.

The bond referendum is slated to reach $16 million, although that could be reduced by the availability of open-space funding.

Officials said they expect to spend $12 million to buy the site and to use $4 million for demolition and construction of two athletics fields. According to the district, the project would boost school property taxes by an average of $241 per year.

The school board is expected to vote on the project at a July 31 meeting.

Borden said the borough has about $550,000 in open-space funds available for the project.

“The state has already committed a $950,000 grant and we have had discussion with the county on the possibility of making funds available if we were to ever purchase the Bancroft property,” Borden said. “There has been no commitment from the county … but we hope it will be a significant contribution.”

The future of the Bancroft complex, which covers 19.2 acres off Kings Highway and Hopkins Lane, has been a controversial topic for several years.

Bancroft, which serves people with developmental disabilities and brain injuries, has said it wants to leave the site where it was founded in 1883.

Bancroft President and CEO Toni Pergolin said if the sale goes through, her organization will look to build a new campus elsewhere. If the referendum is defeated, the nonprofit plans to stay and renovate the existing complex.

“Our goal has always been to modernize our facilities to best meet the needs of the students we serve on our Haddonfield campus, and we will achieve that goal either by relocating or renovating the current campus,” Pergolin said.

Weinstein said the Haddonfield district needs room to grow.

Among other concerns, he said the district will continue to battle with enrollment growth and increased classroom sizes. The district also expects to see curriculum expansion, notably through partnerships with colleges.

“Basically all of our school buildings are just about full and there is not much land around,” Weinstein said. “This space provides the opportunity for growth in education and recreation.”

Some critics believe that part of the site could be dedicated to state-mandated affordable housing obligations.

“The letter of intent specifically states a portion of the property is designated for affordable housing, if needed,” Borden said.

“The plan provides 10 units but the status of the borough’s affordable housing obligation and COAH as an agency is very much up in the air, so we will have to see how that plays out.”


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