To better connect with residents and plan for the future development of the town, Haddonfield is inviting stakeholders to participate in a handful of public surveys.
By Matt Skoufalos | October 26, 2017
What could the Haddonfield of tomorrow look like?
For a town that traces its colonial roots back some 335 years, a short answer might be, “not that different.”
But in figuring out how to get there, the borough is crowdsourcing input from its residents, business owners, and the general public in the development of a four-year strategic plan.
Haddonfield Borough Administrator Sharon McCullough said the concept of strategic planning is a national municipal trend that is gaining popularity as local governments look to focus their budgeting priorities. By polling residents directly via focus groups, public meetings, and surveys, borough commissioners are seeking input on everything from local services to development to business and marketing.
“What would be the best Haddonfield we could possibly have?” McCullough said. “The idea is to make sure we’re spending our money in the appropriate way with the services the residents want.”
The interest in strategic planning comes amid frequent belt-tightening in an age of uncertain state and federal aid programs.
About 55 percent (nearly $40 million) of Haddonfield local property taxes goes to the local school district, and another 1.2 percent covers its library and municipal open-space funds (about $867,000).
The county takes another 28 percent (nearly $19 million), leaving about 15 percent of local revenues (nearly $10.4 million) to provide services for a community valued at more than $2.2 billion.
“It’s how best to spent our dollars,” McCullough said. “We want to make sure we’re giving our residents the biggest bang for the buck that they receive. If there’s an overwhelming response that we’re missing something, then we’re going to look.”
As one of the few area governments to return its incumbent slate to office—Commissioners Jeff Kasko, John Moscatelli, and Neal Rochford were all unopposed in the April 2017 municipal elections—Haddonfield is positioned to create continuity in whatever strategy it adopts. McCullough said it will draft a plan by December to cover its direction for the next four years.
“We’re finally in a place where we can start to look longer-term in planning for our facilities and our services instead of being reactive,” she said. “We have the same people for another three-and-a-half years, so the benefit is they can try and decide what they want to try and accomplish in that timeframe.”
The borough has a number of big goals on the immediate horizon: finalizing a redevelopment plan for the Bancroft parcel with developer J. Brian O’Neill, determining the viability of the Boxwood Arts center proposal, and awaiting word on its affordable housing obligations from a special master.
Then there are long-running, background issues: maintaining its canopy of shade trees against an onslaught of storms, bacteria, and invasive species; tightening up zoning laws to address a pattern of tear-downs and maximum-footprint replacements; and the constant reshuffling in its downtown business district.
That last issue is one Haddonfield Mayor Neal Rochford said the borough government would like to address in detail as the town approaches a planned repaving of Haddon Avenue in the next couple years. Discussions have covered streetscaping and building materials to branding and marketing and retail recruitment.
“We’ve been having meetings with the landlords, the merchants, the residents, and other stakeholders to see where we want to be when that process takes place so we’re not flat-footed,” Rochford said. “We think their plan, once they do Haddon Avenue, is to do Kings Highway next.”
The mayor said he’d also like to discuss plans for recreation facilities, senior activities, and environmental issues like stormwater management.
“All these pieces come together to make for a high-quality place to live,” Rochford said.
“People don’t want to lose the character of the town.”
Haddonfield held the first of its strategic planning meetings Wednesday evening; another session is scheduled for 10 a.m. Saturday, October 28, in borough hall.
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