A months-long controversy over a planned apartment complex in Cherry Hill took a new turn this week when township officials abruptly called off a special council meeting, scheduled for Wednesday, that was to hear an appeal of zoning approvals for the project.
A township spokeswoman said Tuesday that the meeting was postponed to let a key opponent of the proposed 152-unit complex at the former Haddonfield Lumber site obtain a clearer transcript of testimony given in the fall before the zoning board.
But an attorney for Bob Shinn and other neighbors opposed to the project said they had not asked for a delay and were frustrated by the last-minute decision.
"We had notified hundreds of people about this hearing," Lynda Yamamoto said. While the township posted updated information on its website, many likely will not see it in time, she said.
In raising concerns with the township, Shinn had hoped to be allowed to re-question witnesses he had questioned before the zoning board but whose testimony was unintelligible in the transcript, Yamamoto said.
Township officials have said they cannot consider new testimony under the statute that lets them hear the appeal.
Though the transcript was prepared by a company Shinn selected, "he had no way of knowing" there would be numerous unintelligible portions, Yamamoto said.
The zoning board has granted variances sought by the developer, Buckingham Partners of Cherry Hill, for the complex, which is proposed to include 23 units of affordable housing.
Shinn and other residents in the sections neighboring the site at Brace and Kresson Roads - most recently occupied by ProBuild, a building materials supplier - have raised an array of objections to an apartment complex here.
They have said another business would produce higher tax revenue for the town and place no burden on the school district.
They also have argued that the zoning board circumvented the township master plan by allowing Buckingham residential use on the commercially zoned site.
Township spokeswoman Bridget Palmer said Shinn contacted the township last week and said "he felt the transcript was unacceptable, incomplete, and inaccurate."
"We wanted to accommodate that concern and give him the opportunity to get a new transcript," Palmer said.
It was unclear Tuesday when or if the hearing would be rescheduled.
The township is required to consider the written appeal filed by Shinn and eight other neighbors, but it does not have to hold a hearing, Yamamoto said. It also doesn't have to issue a decision.
If the township takes no action by Jan. 11 - 95 days from the date the zoning board issued notice of the variances - the board's decision stands, Yamamoto said. Shinn and the other neighbors could then appeal to Superior Court.
Bob Dale, managing partner for Buckingham, did not return a message Tuesday. The company's attorney, Kevin Sheehan, also did not return messages.
While the company has received the variances it needs, it still has to get site plan approval. That has been put on hold pending the appeal, Palmer said.