Developer withdraws latest Warwick Road proposal

Posted: June 05, 2014

With a room full of opponents eager to have their say, the lawyer for a controversial redevelopment project in Haddonfield's Gill Tract section told the Planning Board on Tuesday night the developers wanted to postpone their application until July so it could be amended.

The proposal had been to divide the property at 605 Warwick Rd. into three parcels and leave most of the large stone house standing.

Instead, Donald Cofsky said, the development company, which includes local developer Mark DeFeo, plans to submit a proposal to knock down the existing house and create three lots.

Cofsky said he believed the plan before the board would have met building code requirements. Opponents contended it did not.

"We don't want that fight," he said.

He also said that the proposal being tabled was preceded by a plan that called for a four-lot subdivision and tearing down the old house.

His announcement was met with quiet disappointment from the audience.

The tabled version was meant to "assuage" the opponents, but, he said, "we have learned that it apparently does not."

Neither did the new version.

"It's just a delaying tactic," said Ann Tarbell, a member of the Haddonfield Neighborhoods Association, an ally of the Warwick Road residents' coalition. "Wait until everybody is on vacation so they won't get as much of a turnout."

Opponents see the project as out of scale and character with the area.

Jon Simonson, who lives close to the property and helped rally his neighbors, vowed to continue to fight.

"We are adamant about the situation, and we will just have to persevere and carry on," Simonson said.

Lawn signs urging residents to speak against the proposed development had sprung up around town, as the opponents won support from people in other sections of Haddonfield who shared concerns about unwanted neighborhood and town character change, exacerbated flooding problems, infrastructure stress, and loss of green space, light, and mature trees.

Central to those concerns was redevelopment through teardowns: The demolition or partial demolition often of sound buildings to make way for something new or different. The practice and its aftermath has been an issue in other communities around the country, particularly older, built-up suburban towns with little undeveloped land.

Just as the Warwick Road neighbors said the proposed subdivision would adversely affect the character of their community of larger houses and grounds, residents of more relatively modest sections have complained about seeing bungalows and ranchers replaced by larger and much more expensive homes.

Teardowns and the resulting redevelopment was an issue in Haddonfield in the late 1990s and early 2000s. It seemed to fade as the economy faltered. However, many town residents have said it has reemerged in the last few years and appears to be picking up steam.

The borough's commissioners have asked the planning and zoning boards to look for ways to plug "loopholes" in the existing codes that developers might seek to exploit.


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