Haddonfield United, a grassroots group that marshaled opposition to a referendum that would have let the school district buy the Bancroft School property two years ago, has come out against the site's becoming a drug and alcohol treatment center.

"Although detox and rehabilitation centers provide important services to those addicted to drugs and alcohol," said group founder Brian Kelly, "the location of the proposed complex is highly inappropriate and incongruous with its surroundings, as the site is immediately next to the high school, about 150 yards from Tatem Elementary School, and in the middle of a compact residential neighborhood."

Real estate developer J. Brian O'Neill announced Monday that he had an agreement to purchase the approximately 19-acre property at Kings Highway and Hopkins Lane. It is one of 15 Recovery Centers of America he plans to establish between Boston and Annapolis, Md. The facilities will be private and voluntary, offering in- and outpatient services.

O'Neill did not appear to be daunted by the early opposition.

"We fully, 100 percent intend to be operational on this site in the near future," he said.

Kelly also said he doubted the Zoning Board of Adjustment will grant the developer a use variance for the property.

The Borough Board of Commissioners has said O'Neill needs at least a use variance; the property is zoned as residential, but Bancroft was allowed to operate as an educational facility.

O'Neill said he would seek a variance, but did not believe he needed one. The Americans With Disabilities Act and the Fair Housing Act prohibit discrimination, he said.

"You can't say you can treat a kid with autism, but you can't treat a kid with substance abuse," O'Neill said.

He said he plans to meet soon with the community to discuss the project. He plans a similar facility near the Gloucester Township campus of Camden County College.

Bancroft intends to move its school to a new campus in Mount Laurel in 2017, the same year O'Neill would like to open the treatment center.

Neither O'Neill nor Bancroft officials have disclosed what O'Neill will pay for the property if and when the sale becomes final.

The referendum would have retained the site as open space as well as for school uses at a cost to taxpayers of $12 million. The county was also considering purchasing it for open space, but that proposal was relegated to third of three possible acquisitions.

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