Haddonfield seeks to buy historical parcel from developer

Posted: May 30, 2014

A parcel of Haddonfield land where a developer wanted to erect a multiunit apartment building may instead be preserved as permanent green space.

Borough officials are proposing to buy 65 N. Haddon Ave., better known as the historic Boxwood Hall property, from its owner and would-be developer Bill Burris.

On Tuesday night, the commissioners introduced an ordinance that would allow the borough to borrow the $1.8 million called for by the proposed purchase agreement. There will be a public hearing on the proposal June 10.

As part of that agreement, the owner would drop his lawsuit against the borough regarding the property, officials said.

The property includes Boxwood Hall, built in 1799 by a member of one of Haddonfield's founding families, a smaller building, and a large, parklike back yard that featured prominantly in naturalist Samuel Nicholson Rhoads' childhood. Boxwood Hall, protected by its inclusion on the state and federal historic registers, currently houses a real-estate business.

Owner Burris could not be reached for comment Wednesday. His plan to build an apartment building with more than 30 apartments adjacent to Boxwood drew public opposition and was rejected by the zoning board, sparking the lawsuit.

Officials are considering a mix of funding streams including, said Commissioner John Moscatelli, money from the borough's open-space tax levy and state Green Acres grant funds that the borough already has.

Mayor Jeff Kasko said he expected the borough to be able to pay off the money it would borrow in about a year.

The uses of Boxwood and the smaller cottage also have yet to be determined. Officials said the borough might decide to sell the buildings, but would maintain about one-acre of green space.

"I think it's a win-win for everyone in town," said Kasko.

"It will be a great resource," Moscatelli said, "a nice park when we're done."

The proposal for the borough to buy the property was good news for many people, especially preservationists.

"It's such a significant property in town," said Lee Albright, chairwoman of the Haddonfield Historic Preservation Commission. "If we can preserve it and use it, it would be a great benefit."

Kim Custer, trustee of the Historical Society of Haddonfield, was one of those who worked long and hard to protect the green space at Boxwood, rallying community opposition to the development plan and winning zoning-board support.

"It was the drawing a line in the sand and saying, 'Not here,' " Custer said.

She envisions the park as a place students will go to learn about the life and the work of Rhoads.


856-779-3893

rgiordano@phillynews.com

@ritagiordano

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