Cherry Hill planning board drops controversial agenda item

Posted: February 20, 2013

A proposal due to be considered by the Cherry Hill planning board tonight that would eliminate the right of residents to appeal zoning variances to the township council has been pulled from the agenda, township officials said.

The proposed change has drawn protests from residents opposed to a 152-unit apartment complex planned at the former Haddonfield Lumber site at Brace and Kresson roads, an area zoned for commercial use.

The residents, nine of whom appealed to the township council to reconsider the zoning board's decision to allow the development of apartments on the site, say the proposed change will force future appellants to automatically take their cases to Superior Court, a more costly path.

Even under the current procedure, however, the township council wasn't required to hear appeals of zoning board variances - and it didn't in the case of the residents opposed to the project, calling off a hearing at the last minute.

The residents accused the township of trying to avoid hearing the issue, but the township said it wanted to accommodate concerns raised by one of the appellants. The residents have since filed a complaint in Superior Court, according to their attorney.

The township administration decided to pull the proposed change from tonight's planning board agenda "to give it some more time to be vetted internally," said spokeswoman Bridget Palmer. She said the change was proposed by the Department of Community Development last fall and was not in response to the appeal from the residents.

"Ultimately what it does is politicize the zoning process, prolongs the process, and it prolongs the process at the expense of the taxpayers," Palmer said of allowing residents to appeal directly to the council before going to court.

She said the proposal wasn't removed from the planning board's agenda to head off criticism at the meeting from members of the Barclay Area Civic Association who have been advertising plans to speak out.


Contact Maddie Hanna at 856-779-3232 or mhanna@phillynews.com.

 

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