Haddonfield Commissioners Move to Settle Bancroft Litigation for $3.25M


The borough government voted unanimously to approve a conditional settlement that would resolve its lawsuit with J. Brian O’Neill’s 2 Hopkins Lane, LLC and terminate its 2019 redevelopment agreement. 

By Matt Skoufalos | June 27, 2023

Developer J. Brian O’Neill and former Haddonfield Mayor Jeff Kasko in 2015. Credit: Matt Skoufalos.

(This is a developing story.)

Since purchasing the 19.22-acre Bancroft parcel from developer J. Brian O’Neill in 2016, the Borough of Haddonfield has navigated a seemingly impenetrable thicket of legal objections and community conflict in its push to redevelop the land.

On Monday, its municipal government unanimously approved a conditional agreement to nullify its redevelopment agreement with O’Neill to the tune of $3.25 million.

According to the resolution, Haddonfield commissioners and representatives from O’Neill’s 2 Hopkins Lane, LLC (2HL) came to terms eight days prior on an agreement that will “resolve any and all issues in the Lawsuit and any and all claims arising from 2HL’s designation as ‘redeveloper’ of the property,” as well as terminating 2HL’s redevelopment rights to the project.

In exchange, the borough is on the hook for a $3.25-million settlement payment, the costs of which it will pass a bond ordinance to fund.

The original deal struck by Haddonfield Commissioners Jeff Kasko, John Moscatelli, and Neal Rochford in 2016 included a walkaway clause of $600,000 for O’Neill, as well as a $5.5-million option  to buy back 8.2 acres of the parcel on which to build 70 “age-targeted” market-rate and 10 affordable townhomes.

At the time, its $12.9-million purchase price was touted by borough officials as comparable to the $12.2 million school bond referendum that failed to clear a public vote in 2012, and preferable to O’Neill’s stated intentions to raze the Bancroft structures to build an opioid addictions treatment facility there through his subsidiary, Recovery Centers of America (RCA).

However, in the intervening years, three separate mayoral administrations confronted legal challenges to what form redevelopment at the site would or should take.

“Say No to High-Density Development at Bancroft,” spotted in Haddonfield in 2018. Credit: Matt Skoufalos.

Under Kasko, the borough government settled a lawsuit with the citizen group Haddonfield Encouraging Responsible Development (HERD), which sought to create exclusively senior housing through the project, as representatives from Fair Share Housing sued over the possibility of creating age-restricted housing units amid the borough affordable housing deficit.

Under Rochford, the commission carved out a portion of the land for the borough school district in order to preserve Radnor Field as open space in a $3-million swap.

As negotiations over the future of the property dragged on, the borough was forced to begin demolition on the site and clean up lingering issues there, including the discovery of a leaky underground oil tank. At that point, the government under current Mayor Colleen Bianco Bezich also set up an appraisal to calculate the value of the property rights, and offered its historic Lullworth Hall for redevelopment.

By the end of 2022, the borough was back in court with 2HL, this time, as O’Neill sued for the right to build either the original residential recovery facility or the age-targeted housing community, alleging that the borough had breached the terms of its redevelopment agreement. Monday’s agreement would resolve that suit.

In the seven years since originally agreeing to purchase the land from O’Neill, no formal application for the project ever was brought before the borough planning and zoning boards.

Haddonfield Commissioners declined comment for this story, citing the pending legal nature of the agreement.

This is a developing story; stick with NJ Pen for updates.

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