Randy Teague, Jim Mulroy, and Ryan Linhart were re-elected in an uncontested race last week. They’ll focus on a handful of key issues in the coming months, including redevelopment projects and lead line replacements.
By Matt Skoufalos | May 18, 2023
Last week, in a quiet municipal election, Haddon Township voters returned incumbent commissioners Randy Teague, Ryan Linhart, and Jim Mulroy to office for another term.
The trio was first elected in 2019 in an uncontested race, after Teague’s original running mates, John Foley and Paul Dougherty, stepped away from the local government.
Foley resigned in 2017, citing a desire to spend more time with family; he later lost a 2021 race for New Jersey State Senate District 6 to incumbent Democrat Jim Beach.
Dougherty was forced to resign his position in 2018 after pleading guilty to official corruption charges.
Mulroy defeated Linhart in a special election to fill Foley’s seat in the spring of 2017; a year later, in the fall of 2018, Linhart was tapped to fill Dougherty’s vacant seat, and then all three ran unopposed on a common slate in the 2019 municipal elections.
The 2023 race was similarly unopposed, with just 10.55 percent of the local electorate participating in the process, and 3,891 votes cast across 1,372 ballots. (Teague was the top vote-getter, with 1,309, followed by Mulroy at 1,265 and Linhart at 1,229.)
For Teague, who will return as Haddon Township mayor for a fifth consecutive term, the 2023 race represents the fourth time he’s run unopposed in five municipal contests. He accepted the victory as a referendum on the quality of life in the township, and the work done by the incumbents in the past four years.
“I would hope that the residents feel confident in our leadership of Haddon Township, and feel comfortable with us,” Teague said.
Tax revaluation upcoming
The commissioners-elect will confront a handful of significant issues in their next term, not the least of which is a state-ordered, township-wide tax revaluation.
The process is revenue-neutral, and is intended to spread the local tax burden equitably throughout the municipality, Teague said.
Typically, one-third of property owners will pay increased taxes as a result of the process, one-third will pay less, and one-third will find their rates unaffected by the process.
The total cost to the township for the work is estimated to come in around $400,000.
“Due to the increase in property values, we are ordered by the state to do the re-evaluation, and we’re forced to hire a company to do that, and to get them in line with the assessed values,” the mayor said.
Haddon Township last underwent a tax revaluation in the 2010 tax year, and some of the explanatory documentation around that process remains online. The township has not yet selected a vendor for the work, but will issue a Request for Proposals from vendors in June.
From there, residents will be notified of the process, which involves interior and exterior property inspections, analysis of comparable properties, and reviews, as needed.
Property values have shot up across the region in a supercharged real estate market, and Haddon Township homes have become hot commodities in the past several years, owing not only to a low housing inventory but also an influx of buyers from nearby Philadelphia.
“As one realtor said, they want a walkability factor for downtown, and they want access to mass transit to get back to Philadelphia, or go somewhere else,” Teague said.
“Our part of Haddon Avenue is getting more and more restaurants and stores, and bringing more and more people because they like that.”
Redevelopment on the horizon
By the same token, township commissioners also expect to advance a pair of major housing redevelopment projects in their upcoming term, both of which could add hundreds of new residential units near to a major shopping plaza.
Haddon Township already has signed a memorandum of understanding with 600 Cuthbert Boulevard owner Ravi Sachdev to explore converting the former Wells Fargo office building there into an 11-story, 216-unit apartment complex.
The second project is less concretized for now, Teague said, but would transform the former Thriftway shopping center on Crystal Lake Avenue into a 120-unit, mixed-use project, with residential units atop commercial spaces. Both would include a 15-percent set-aside for affordable housing units.
“We’re waiting for movement from the owners of both properties,” the mayor said. “The change in the economy from when these projects were first proposed is significant.
“Interest rates have doubled, and costs have gone up as well,” he said. “I think that’s causing a little bit of a pause, or at least a look at how these projects are going to be redeveloped.”
Haddon Township commissioners are also poised to manage another major infrastructure project in the coming months; namely, a statewide Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) order to replace all water service lines constructed from, or lined with, lead and galvanized steel.
Teague said that some 400 homes in the township will need these connections replaced, and that commissioners estimate costs of about $7,000 per line to address the issue.
As the municipal government continues with its infrastructure repairs, the mayor said it will also focus on community amenities as well. Work revitalizing the West Collingswood Extension historic train station will continue in the next month or so; the front steps have been repaired, and new windows and paint will follow.
Whatever the next four years will bring for the township, Teague said its local leaders are “working very well” together.
“We all have the common interest in focusing on infrastructure, and there’s always roads to be paved and drainage to be fixed,” he said.
“We all feel that’s a very important aspect of what we do, and we all feel that services are very important to the community, and maintaining our taxes the best we can.”
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