Real estate developer J. Brian O'Neill announced Monday that he has an agreement to buy the Bancroft School property in Haddonfield and that he intends to turn it into a drug and alcohol treatment center.
"This is a unique behavioral health facility in a great location," said O'Neill, chief executive officer of Recovery Centers of America (RCA).
He and Bancroft officials declined to say how much he will pay for the nearly 19-acre property along Kings Highway and Hopkins Lane.
A proposal to sell the land to the Haddonfield school district for $12 million was defeated in a hotly debated bond referendum in 2013. Another proposal, for Camden County to buy the land, was put on the back burner in the fall.
Deni Carise, RCA's chief clinical officer, said the centers will be voluntary inpatient and outpatient treatment facilities.
"RCA patients are professional people. They are your neighbors, your family members, your college-aged kids," Carise said.
The Haddonfield facility could treat up to about 300 clients but will probably have less, O'Neill said.
O'Neill said he believes he has the right to operate the type of facility he is proposing on the property, but said he is "choosing to work with Haddonfield in a transparent process."
Mayor Jeff Kasko said the facility will need at least a variance from the borough's Zoning Board of Adjustment.
"It is our hope that the vision and plans to be articulated by RCA executives will be presented and considered in an atmosphere of full, open, and fair discussion by all involved," according to a statement by the Board of Commissioners.
In a statement, RCA officials said they would "enter into a series of transparent public meetings and forums to discuss in detail their intentions for the property."
Bancroft plans to open a new campus in Mount Laurel in 2017, which is when RCA would open on the Haddonfield site.
"Proceeds from the sale of our Haddonfield property will support the purchase of the 80-acre Mount Laurel site on which we will build a new day school and residences to accommodate a greater number of individuals and the programs and services required to help them lead independent and fulfilling lives," said Bancroft president Toni Pergolin.
O'Neill intends to open other treatment centers in the region, including one in Gloucester Township near the Camden County College campus.
Carise said RCA plans to operate 15 centers between Boston and Annapolis. O'Neill "is very committed to RCA's goal of getting one million Americans into meaningful recovery," she said.
"The substance abuse epidemic is growing exponentially in affluent neighborhoods throughout the United States," Carise said. "People are dying in unprecedented numbers due to the shortage of treatment availability."