A group of Haddonfield civic activists has won the latest round against a redevelopment project in the borough's Gill Tract section. Next is a likely court battle.
By a vote of 8-1, the borough Planning Board rejected a proposal to divide 605 Warwick Rd. into three parcels and leave most of the large stone house standing on the property, slightly more than an acre.
The decision Tuesday night followed a meeting that lasted more than four hours and was hailed by the Haddonfield Neighborhoods Association, which has been fighting to block the plan for several months.
The proposal by local developer Mark DeFeo sparked strong opposition. Critics posted lawn signs well beyond the property's immediate neighborhood.
Critics contended the redevelopment would violate the master plan and be out of scale with the neighborhood, eroding its character, as they say other developments have done in other parts of town. Some say it raised the issue of teardowns - partially or wholly demolishing sound houses to make way for something that may be larger or denser.
"It's been a long fight, and it is just gratifying that we were able to present a case that demonstrated all of the reasons why this was not in the best interest of the community," said John Simonson, a neighbor and opposition spokesman. "This kind of inappropriate overdevelopment has been going on in town for quite some time."
The developer's attorney, Donald Cofsky, expressed disappointment. He has maintained that the plan conforms with zoning and borough requirements, and that each of the three lots exceeded the 9,600-square-foot minimum required by ordinance.
The planning board left open the possibility that the developer could submit a revised application that addressed concerns about drainage problems, among other things, said Commissioner John Moscatelli, who sits on the board.
Moscatelli said he voted against the proposal largely due to concerns that the project would aggravate drainage problems. He said the proposal failed to address who would be responsible for storm-water management.
"We spent a lot of time on this application," Moscatelli said.
The developer withdrew a previous application in July and resubmitted the revised proposal that was rejected Tuesday. Initially, the developer proposed a four-lot subdivision.
Cofsky said the next move would likely be in Superior Court. "They know that we're going to appeal. My clients are in for the long haul," he said. "It's much easier to pass the buck to a judge."
"I think ultimately, when it is all done and the houses are built, it will look terrific," said Cofsky, who lives in Haddonfield and has a law office there.
"It's not going to go away. That would be too simple," said Simonson, acknowledging another possible battle. "We'll see what transpires."