Warwick Rd. proposal back before Haddonfield board

Posted: July 02, 2014

A controversial proposed subdivision in the Gill Tract section of Haddonfield is slated Tuesday to come before the borough Planning Board.

Local developer Mark DeFeo is seeking permission to divide 605 Warwick Rd. into three lots. The plan also calls for tearing down the large stone house on the slightly more than one-acre property.

The subdivision has sparked strong opposition, not to mention many lawn signs, well beyond the property's immediate neighborhood.

Critics - including civic activists from other sections - say the redevelopment will be out of scale with the neighborhood, eroding its character, as they say other developments have in other parts of town. Some say it raises the issue of teardowns - partially or wholly demolishing sound houses to make way for something new that may be larger or denser than what currently exists.

At last month's planning board meeting, in a room packed with plan foes, the developer's attorney, Donald Cofsky, withdrew a previous application that also sought permission for three lots but that was differently configured. That plan would have preserved most of the existing house. He said they would be back in July with an amended application.

At the time, Cofsky said, the developer did not want a fight, even though they believed the lot plan conformed with zoning requirements. The opponents said it did not conform, particularly the lot at the back of property fronted by Treaty Elm Lane near Gill Road.

Not much has changed since then. The developer contends the lots conform to borough requirement; opponents disagree.

Cofsky said each of the three lots exceeded the 9,600-square-foot minimum required by ordinance. One fronted by Warwick Road is about 14,000 square feet; the second at Warwick and Gill is about 17,000; and the third, fronted by Treaty Elm, is about 19,000 square feet, the lawyer said.

"We still contend it's a nonconforming lot," said Jon Simonson, a neighbor and opposition spokesman.

The opponents also contend that the development will further aggravate existing drainage problems and will violate the borough's master plan.

"In the master plan, Warwick Road is cited as a gateway," Simonson said. "It is very important that residents maintain the attractiveness of our gateway roads."

Opponents say the greater density will make the redevelopment out of character with much of the rest of the tract. There are no details of what the completed project might look like, nor is the developer required to provide them.

Simonson has said the opponents would rather the current house remain, but probably could accept two houses on the property.

"It's not a negotiation," Cofsky said. "They don't own it."

He contended that the sought-after subdivision complies with the town ordinance. If the residents want the ordinance changed, he said, "that's an application for a different day."

Initially, the developer proposed a four-lot subdivision.




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