The developer seeking to create a residential drug and alcohol rehabilitation center on the Bancroft School campus in Haddonfield said Friday he was close to acquiring an alternative property in a nearby town.
"We are in negotiations and should have something to report very soon," said developer Brian O'Neill, CEO of Recovery Centers of America.
O'Neill declined to name the municipality "until we have a settlement," but he said it was "very close" to Haddonfield. He added, however, that "we still plan to build at Bancroft if that deal falls through."
Mayor Jeff Kasko said Friday he was "hoping to have an announcement next week where we're able to say what will happen with the Bancroft property."
O'Neill's proposal to create a 100,000-square-foot drug and alcohol rehabilitation facility on the 19-acre Bancroft campus provoked vigorous opposition from some borough residents because it abuts Haddonfield Memorial High School and is near J. Fithian Tatem Elementary School.
"The location just wasn't appropriate, and wasn't zoned for that," Kasko said.
First aired in March, the plan called for a combined inpatient and outpatient center that would serve up to 300 people at a time. It would be one of 15 Recovery Centers of America (RCA) that O'Neill, of King of Prussia, hopes to build in several mid-Atlantic states.
Last week his company announced it had secured $231 million in financing from the investment firm Deerfield Management Co. of New York.
Prospective RCA sites include Blackwood and Mays Landing in New Jersey, and Paoli in Montgomery County, according to the announcement.
RCA has an agreement of sale with Bancroft and is the campus' owner in equity. O'Neill said Haddonfield officials had been "very genteel, very helpful, in helping us find another property."
Kasko and O'Neill said they had been discussing what to do with the Bancroft site if O'Neill abandoned his plans for drug and alcohol treatment there.
"We're still negotiating, so I can't say too much," Kasko said. "The borough is going to acquire the property and subdivide it. A portion will be used for appropriate housing, which [O'Neill] could develop - maybe age 55-plus townhomes that don't bring in a lot of kids."
Both the borough and the school district are studying ways they might use the remainder of the site, said Kasko.
Bancroft School, which serves students with autism and other disabilities, is moving towards completing a new campus in Mount Laurel in 2017.
A proposal to sell the land to the Haddonfield School District for $12 million was defeated in a hotly debated bond referendum in 2013.
Borough Commissioner John Moscatelli, who serves as liaison to the local planning board, said Friday he was "slightly less optimistic than the mayor" that an agreement on the Bancroft site was imminent.
"There are still some substantive issues that have to be resolved," Moscatelli said, noting that Haddonfield "does not have an area designated for redevelopment," i.e., for municipally directed land improvements according to state guidelines.
"If Bancroft is in need of redevelopment and that [municipal acquisition of the site] goes through, we would have to put a redevelopment plan in place," Moscatelli said.
"So we have a Catch-22 situation. Before he [O'Neill] can come to an agreement he wants reassurances" from the borough. "But we can't reassure him until he brings his plans before the planning board, which has control of the process.
"Still," Moscatelli said, "at least we're in the same ballpark. So I'm cautiously optimistic."