Friday, May 09, 2014

N.j. Court Ends Role In Housing Shifts Fairness Battle To Council


Posted: February 21, 1986

TRENTON — Eleven years after its sweeping ruling against discriminatory zoning, the New Jersey Supreme Court yesterday withdrew as the arbiter of low-cost housing needs in New Jersey and affirmed the constitutionality of a new state housing council.

The decision was the court's third major ruling since 1975 on the controversial question of whether the poor are being unfairly excluded from suburbs whose low-density zoning ensures only large, expensive homes.

The issue grew out of a 1971 case brought by the NAACP against Burlington County's Mount Laurel Township. More than 100 similar cases have followed.

The ruling yesterday, in effect, shifts the battleground over fair housing from the courtroom to a committee appointed by the governor and staffed by professional planners.

In unequivocal terms, the court ruled that the seven-month-old Council on Affordable Housing met all the constitutional requirements it needs to determine where low-cost housing should be built and how much is required.

The court ordered that 12 contested housing lawsuits - none in South Jersey - be transferred from Superior Court to the council's jurisdiction. The transfer will not result in a "manifest injustice" to builders or others who have spent large sums to overturn zoning ordinances, the court said.

Trial judges may still impose conditions on the transfer of other pending cases to the council, the high court said. In some towns, only one tract of land would be suitable for low-cost homes, for example. If a case is transferred, the trial judge could require that the town bar development there until the housing council acts.

As of November, 116 Mount Laurel challenges to zoning laws were pending in Superior Court, including 12 in South Jersey. These will shift to the housing council.

In nearly all the cases, the litigants were already seeking the council's assistance but were awaiting the Supreme Court's decision on the constitutionality of the council. Some towns not yet in litigation were also seeking action by the council.

The South Jersey towns that had been involved in court action were Berlin, Cherry Hill and Gloucester Township in Camden County, and Moorestown, Delran, Eastampton and Lumberton in Burlington County. Some of those areas had multiple suits from developers.

In all, 182 towns have requested that the council oversee the housing issue in their communities. The original case in Mount Laurel Township was settled in 1984.

Gov. Kean and legislative leaders, many of whom had criticized court oversight of housing matters, welcomed the judges' decision. Kean called it ''excellent" and said it "puts the decision-making process where it should be placed."

State Sen. John A. Lynch, a Middlesex County Democrat who was the prime sponsor of the new housing law, said of the housing council: "Theirs is a monumental task, and now armed with a clear mandate, I am confident we can proceed . . . in a reasoned atmosphere under law."

C. Roy Epps, president of the Civic League of New Brunswick, which had sought to overturn zoning ordinances in several central New Jersey towns, said the ruling was a "temporary setback" in his organization's effort to ensure the construction of affordable housing.

But, he said, "we don't see it as something that will prevent housing in the future," adding that "it would be premature to pass judgment on the (housing) council."

The Supreme Court decision, written by Chief Justice Robert N. Wilentz, means that all pending litigation involving disputes over higher-density, lower-cost housing will cease.

After two years of intense litigation by developers across New Jersey, builders will no longer be able to turn first to the courts to demand the right to build low-cost homes on property they own, the court said.

If all goes according to plan, those functions and responsibilities will pass to the council, which was created by the legislature and the governor last year.

The court said that, if the new housing law "works in accordance with its expressed intent, it will assure a realistic opportunity for lower-income housing in all those parts of the state where sensible planning calls for such housing."

Wilentz stressed that the Supreme Court would step into the housing fray again if the new council failed to uphold the court's 1975 ban on ''exclusionary" zoning, or if undue delay by the council threatened the rights of poorer citizens.

But for the time being, the decision said, the council must be given an opportunity to work.

Wilentz wrote: "No one should assume that our exercise of comity today signals a weakening of our resolve to enforce the constitutional rights of New Jersey's lower-income citizens.

"The constitutional obligation has not changed; the judiciary's ultimate duty to enforce it has not changed; our determination to perform that duty has not changed. What has changed is that we are no longer alone in this field. The other branches of government have fashioned a comprehensive statewide response to the Mount Laurel obligation."

In its second Mount Laurel ruling in 1983, the Supreme Court said clearly that it did not relish the task of ensuring the construction of low-cost housing where local governments had failed to reform their zoning laws. "The matter is better left to the legislature," the court said then.

Yesterday, in a judicial sigh of relief, Wilentz said of the governor and legislature, "They have responded."

The Council on Affordable Housing is still in its infancy. Under the law that created it, the nine-member council will hear any dispute over a town's obligation to provide low-cost homes. Its nine members, recently appointed by Kean, are four representatives of local governments, three representing ''the public interest" and two representing the interests of people of low and moderate incomes.

The chairman is Arthur R. Kondrup, executive assistant to the state director of water resources. Other members include William Angus, the former mayor of Moorestown; Ara K. Hovnanian, executive vice president of the housing development firm Hovnanian Enterprises, and Newark Mayor Kenneth A. Gibson.

The council, which concluded a round of public hearings this month, will estimate regional housing needs and pass judgment on a town's own estimate of its "fair share" of low-cost housing. The council also will determine whether newly revised local zoning laws are proper.

A new state planning commission will draw up a statewide growth and redevelopment plan that the council must use as a guide for determining housing needs.

Any town that does not voluntarily present its case to the council could be sued. All final decisions by the council could ultimately be appealed to the courts. But the Supreme Court affirmed yesterday that a heavy burden of proof would rest with developers or others seeking to overturn a council action.

Developing Office Parks And An Empire

Source: Posted: March 12, 1986

So much has changed since the tears of a disappointed fifth-grade pupil spilled to the soil while he and his father struggled to pour a foundation for a new house.

The boy, Tommy Whitesell, didn't want to build then. He wanted to play football. He yearned to be a pilot. And the last thing he wanted that tedious day was to work on a house while his friends scrimmaged on a football field without him.

But the fifth grader grew. And so did his appetite for building.

Today Thomas R. Whitesell, 44, is a builder and developer who has left his imprint across South Jersey - from Burlington County's tallest building, at 6000 Midlantic Drive in Mount Laurel, to his sprawling Moorestown home, which is more than a third the size of a football field.

In the last three decades, the Delran company - Whitesell Enterprises - has built more than 300 industrial and commercial projects containing more than 7.5 million square feet of space. The company, of which Whitesell is president, has kept ownership of more than half of those buildings.

His signature W marks the Laurel Corporate Center, a high-tech compound of new offices rising in Mount Laurel that will become the county's largest corporate park. Eventually, the 240-acre park will include several seven- story buildings and a labor force of 4,000 people.

Whitesell's yellow-and-navy-blue construction signs have spread from Delran to Evesham, and from Cinnaminson and Pennsauken over into Pennsylvania and King of Prussia. The builder aims to expand his empire, hoping to build in Princeton, Florida and North Carolina.

Whitesell, the man behind the W mark, is lanky and self-effacing.

Whitesell, the grandson of a builder, started working part time for his father on construction sites when he was in the fifth grade and the boss was paying $25 a summer for digging holes and cleaning up.

Later, young Whitesell gave up a football scholarship and dropped out of business classes at Temple University to work full time with his father, who was then building custom houses.

"My father was a hard-working, honest man and had a lot of talent and common sense," said Whitesell. "I would say that's a good description of me. I'm not the best educated. I've always preferred work to school."

At age 27, Whitesell bought the business from his father.

He has matured into a rare breed: A developer who attracts accolades from people ranging from community leaders and his sharpest competitor to a retired painter who has worked for three generations of Whitesells.

"When we first heard about him, it was sort of like, 'Is this guy for real?' " said Charles Johnson, executive director of the YMCA of Burlington County.

He was.

The YMCA needed a new building and officials asked Whitesell to help. The developer offered to donate five acres at his Laurel Corporate Center for the construction of a $2.5 million fitness center and headquarters for the YMCA.

Whitesell will be paid to build the YMCA's new quarters and he is involved in the selection of designs for the proposed facility.

"I couldn't believe what I was hearing for a while," Johnson said,

recalling his reaction to Whitesell's enthusiastic ideas. "Sometimes developers are so profit-oriented that all they want is something for nothing.

From our standpoint, he has a genuine concern about us and he wants to feel good about what we build."

Johnson said that when his board discreetly checked on their potential benefactor's background, it found that even a partner in a Whitesell business deal that went sour still had high praise for him.

Township officials in Upper Merion, Pa., were so impressed with Whitesell's efforts to save an old copper beech tree growing at his new development that they gave him a special award.

Whitesell's staff redesigned a driveway for an 83-acre corporate park, called The Orchards, to avoid chopping down the tree, which was estimated to be more than 100 years old.

"We were encouraged that he did it," said Phyllis Welch, who chairs the community's shade tree committee. "We feel that a developer who does save old trees should be noticed. That was the first time that we ever gave an award like that to a developer."

Whitesell is a little shy about being cast in the role of a hero. The bottom line, in his view, is simply that charity and philanthropy are good for business.

"I think any large developer has to get involved," he said. "Anything you do in a community reflects you as an individual and being involved in the community probably will enhance your image. It's just a reinforcement of things you stand for and, of course, you do get a certain amount of press for doing good things."

Image is important to Whitesell.

It is something that he said he thinks about while driving past his buildings: There are the tinted blue-green windows of the Mid-Atlantic

Financial Group, which wanted a "corporate image," and the metal skeleton of a seven-story Mount Laurel building that will house a Texas company seeking an "attractive, technologically up-to-date image."

He is conscious of the impression that the community gets of Whitesell Enterprises, too. "I'm always thinking about what we're doing," Whitesell said. "I'm always conscious of the impression that we're making."

For Whitesell, this is a time when his firm is highly visible in Burlington County. Within the last year, Whitesell Enterprises grew from 70 to 200 employees and became one of two top office developers in a county that is becoming a fashionable business address for corporations.

Whitesell sales have doubled in the last 12 months, a company spokeswoman said.

In November, Whitesell crews were building more than 1.8 million square feet of office space, according to the latest available figures compiled by the Burlington County Office of Economic Development. Whitesell edged The

Linpro Co., which had more than 1.78 million square feet of office space under construction.

Lewis Nagy, who heads the development office, gives Whitesell credit for keeping the area's construction industry alive when high interest rates discouraged others from investing heavily in the area more than two years ago.

"They were speculating in the area," Nagy said, "putting their own money out and putting 'spec' buildings up before they had tenants. . . . That helped Burlington County and it helped the (tax) ratable base during a slow time."

Whitesell's closest rival is The Linpro Co., a national company headed in Marlton by its regional partner, Jay G. Cranmer. Not surprisingly, Cranmer likes his own buildings best, but he has kind words for his competitor's effect on the South Jersey market.

"He's good competition," Cranmer said of Whitesell. "A good person. He builds a good product and he's aggressive in his marketing. When you have that and people of integrity, they attract business to an area."

However, Cranmer's favorite Whitesell building is not one of the typical company "products."

It is Stillpond - Whitesell's rambling Georgian estate of bricks and gracious white columns that looms in the morning mist in the countryside along Tom Brown Road in Moorestown.

The house, which was designed by Whitesell and finished last spring, is 17,000 square feet and contains an indoor swimming pool. Nearby are a man-made lake that, at 10 acres, is large enough for water skiing, and stables under construction.

More than any Whitesell building, this house represents the image of the developer.

His wife, Debbie, wanted a colonial-style house, but the couple settled on a Georgian-style structure that Whitesell could design to create the illusion of an even larger home. There is room for a spacious garden, one of his passions. The reason for the man-made lake was simple. Whitesell wanted to fish.

"It had to be right," Whitesell said of his home. "I wouldn't compromise."

That same demanding attitude also applies to his vision of the future for Whitesell Enterprises. Like his father, Whitesell is hoping that one day his son, Jamie, now 16, will take over the company's helm.

Whitesell has three children, but he said he wants to make sure that only one would lead the company to prevent family conflicts that could split the firm and dilute its strength.

As a boy, Whitesell was groomed by his father to lead the company. Inevitably, there were times when the young Whitesell preferred to be doing other things. Those memories are vivid enough to make him worry about the best way to continue the construction dynasty.

Whitesell said that he did not want to push, but that he was anxious for the fourth generation to get involved.

His son worked about six weeks for the company last summer, Whitesell said. But the younger Whitesell preferred to spend the rest of his vacation living and working at the shore as a busboy.

"There's so much for him to learn," Whitesell said. "If he's going to take over the business, the first thing he's got to do is work out there and gain their respect."

That's the way Whitesell did it, recalled retired painter Richard Seifert, 67, who started working for the Whitesell family in 1953.

As a young man, Whitesell painted houses alongside Seifert. His brush technique was good, Seifert remembered, but it was Whitesell's easy-going nature that impressed him most.

But these days the boy who used to paint walls and dig holes for $25 a summer has more ambitious dreams.

"South Jersey is my home. I'll aways be here and I hope to do a good job. We'll probably continue to concentrate in the Delaware Valley," said Whitesell.

"Hell, I'm only 44. I've got some time left. Some day I'd like to do something in downtown Philadelphia," he said.

A Growing Interest In Quakers

Source: Posted: May 04, 1986

It was in August 1757 that the orders came down for the militia to recruit young men from what is now Burlington County to relieve the troops at the English garrison at Fort William Henry in New York during the French and Indian War.

A group of Quaker men, stoutly opposed to war because of their religious beliefs, were in a quandary.

Some left home and stayed away until the war ended. A few agreed to be soldiers. Still others became what were possibly the first conscientious objectors in the fledging colonies and refused to fight.

The young men who objected to the fighting were counseled by John Woolman, a young tailor in Mount Holly who was a Quaker. He encouraged them to accept ''a fresh opportunity to see and consider the advantage of living in the real substance of religion."

Now, more than two centuries later, a small but increasing number of people are taking a fresh opportunity to look at Quakers. After a decline in membership for the last two decades, the Quakers report that the skid may have stopped and that interest in their religion is growing.

It is a religion whose history is intertwined with the history of Burlington County.

And while much has changed during the last 200 years in Burlington, the Quaker ideals of peace and a simple life have remained constant.


Consider Joseph T. Lippincott, who, generations after John Woolman, was drafted into World War II. The young Quaker was on his honeymoon when word came down from his draft board that it was his time to fight.

"I admit I wasn't diplomatic" with the draft board, recalled Lippincott, who is coordinator of the Burlington Quarterly Meeting, which oversees several meetings in Burlington County.

"I want to make it clear I have no intention of cooperating with the military," he said he told the draft board.

He was a Quaker, which meant he was a pacifist. It was not a popular stand in World War II, but Lippincott persevered and eventually was classified a minister and released from the draft.

Thirty years later, Steven Brick of Medford found himself in the red clay hills of Georgia at Robins Air Force Base, 100 miles south of Atlanta.

For more than two years, the Quaker, who was serving as a supply officer in a stationery store, felt at ease with his duties. Then he was transferred to the Strategic Air Command wing at Robins.

"All of sudden, I was ordering munitions," he said. "There were planes going off to war."

His involvement in the Vietnam War became more than overseeing the sale of computer paper and pencils. Now, he was ordering missiles and rockets that would be used to kill others.

"That was a big distinction in my involvement, and it became unacceptable to me," Brick said. He was released from the Air Force as a conscientious objector.

The Quakers have remained true to their ideals. But those aims now compete with an increasingly complex modern world, with its trend toward materialism and a general apathy toward religion. Despite those challenges, many Quakers say they are seeing a resurgence in attendance at their meetings.

The Religious Society of Friends - the Quakers' formal name - is not a proselytizing group. You will not find Quakers ringing doorbells to hand out religious pamphlets or selling flowers at airports.

But in Burlington County, they are trying to reverse their loss in membership and are having some success, Quaker leaders say.

The Philadelphia Yearly Meeting - the umbrella organization for Quakers in Burlington County and other parts of South Jersey, eastern Pennsylvania, Delaware and Maryland - reported a drop in members in the county in the last six years, from 1,321 to 1,240. Worldwide, the Quakers report about 300,000 members.

But local meeting leaders say that in the last year or two there has been an increase in attendance by nonmembers who eventually are expected to become Friends.

Many of the 10 meetings in the county have been holding open houses to allow the community to learn more about the faith. Some, such as the Medford Meeting, are even actively advertising for new members.

"Are Quakers Extinct?" reads an ad in a local paper. It assures that they are not and invites those interested to come to a meeting for worship.

"I think a lot of people don't realize there are live Quakers here," said Brick's wife, Lynne. "They think it's a dead, historical thing like William Penn."

But they are very much alive. Lynne Brick credits the advertising, in part, for the fivefold increase of younger members in the Medford Meeting in the last half-dozen years. In 1980, six people in the Medford Meeting were under the age of 40; now, there are more than 30.

Pacifism is a theme that runs through Quaker history, from Woolman's counseling of the reluctant young Burlington men of the 1700s to the Quakers who were conscientious objectors during the Vietnam War and who made not a political statement with their refusal to fight, but a religious one.

Nevertheless, the Quakers' adherence to their beliefs has often put them in conflict with civil authorities. Indeed, the very name Quaker was originally a derisive term resulting from a 17th century confrontation between an English judge and the chief proponent of the Quaker religion, George Fox.

Fox had said that the judge should tremble at the word of God. And the judge replied, "You are the Quaker, not I."

Central to the Quaker faith is the belief that each person is guided by an inner light that leads him toward an understanding of God's revelation to him. And the Quakers believe that a person does not point a gun at another person because everyone has an inner light.

There is no creed one must learn to be a Quaker, no vows or baptism. With a few exceptions, such as the meeting in Maine in which Joseph Lippincott once was minister during World War II, there is no clergy.

Meetings for worship on Sunday take place in simple buildings called meetinghouses, where there are no steeples and no altars. There are only pews where members sit in "the silence," seeking God's word.

If members feel moved to speak - and they often do - they are free to share their thoughts with the other members.

It is different from most religious services in that there is no leader and often no music.

"Quakerism," said Lydia Andrews, who is former clerk of the Medford Meeting, "is such a do-it-yourself religion."

It was because of that do-it-yourself aspect that, in the 1600s, the Quakers left England and the persecution they suffered for refusing to attend Church of England services and came to America.

They were established in Burlington County by 1675. More than 1,400 of them had settled along the riverfront before William Penn came to Philadelphia in 1682.

They left their mark, creating some of the first governments and establishing some of the first schools here.

They had names such as Lippincott and Haines, and driving through Riverton and Delran one can now find Lippincott Avenue and Haines Mill Road.

There are other reminders.

Quakers, especially in colonial days, were known for their temperance. Even today one cannot purchase alcohol in many South Jersey communities, such as Willingboro and Moorestown.

Quakers now often find themselves confused with the Mennonites or the Amish. Some people are surprised to learn that Quaker women do not wear stern gray bonnets and that Quaker men do not go about in black suits and have beards.

Instead, they wear suits and wingtips and blue jeans and sneakers as most folks do.

"We really aren't that different (from) anybody else," said Brick, now a successful real estate broker in Medford.

But appearances aside, they are different because where some may only speak of their religious beliefs, the Quakers act on them.

"It's more than a religion, it's an attitude," said Jack Parry, a member of the Westfield Friends in Cinnaminson. "It's a way of life."

"A religious compulsion," Quaker historian Margaret Bacon has called it.

And it is that acting upon their beliefs that has led Quakers to take unpopular stands throughout history.

John Woolman, born in what is now Burlington County in 1720, was one of the first Americans to see the need to abolish slavery. Quaker Susan B. Anthony led the cause for women's suffrage in the 19th century.

More recently, Quakers were among the first to protest atomic war, the Vietnam War and nuclear energy. They have been fighting famine in Africa and sending medical and school supplies to Nicaragua.

Now, they are organizing opposition to the United States' military strikes against terrorists, such as the raid against Libya last month.

"I cannot believe that what we did was right," said Hannah Stapler, a member of the Burlington Meeting. "I cannot believe that adding violence to violence settles anything."

Although those more visible actions are often what brings attention to Quakers, they are only a small part of the everyday life of the members who strive just as strenuously to live their religious values at home and at work.

In Burlington County, some Quakers are involved in helping with child-abuse prevention, aiding the poor and other social-action programs.

A Quaker newsletter called the Peace Piece, which is distributed at meetings in Burlington County, keeps members informed on the struggle for farm workers' rights, legislation in Congress, the Sanctuary movement aiding illegal aliens, and local school and housing concerns.

Their lifestyles, though varying from individual to individual, contain an element of simpleness.

"I drive a small car, and I keep it for a long time," said Lippincott. ''I seldom eat out; it's an expense that isn't necessary."

Many Quakers attempt to extend their religious beliefs into their business practices. "We don't try to stick anybody," said Parry, who is an architect in Philadelphia.

And Brick, whose real estate firm is expanding in the county, said that he encouraged his sales staff to be honest with customers.

"People come to the real estate business with the mind-set, 'Well, that's what (the salesperson) said, but is it true?' " he said. "Here, you can take it at face value.

"It is good long-term business practice, but it is not all that common," he added.

At the yearly meeting level, programs such as the open houses in Burlington County have been initiated to attract members. Although the Quakers have attributed the decline in members to several factors, including a falling birth rate, they now think the trend may be reversing.

People such as Sandra Moore of Medford are helping to do just that.

Moore, "Sam" to her friends, said she grew up a Presbyterian "Bible- beater," spending all of her Sundays in church.

"I was so turned off by that, when I left home I didn't practice it," said Moore. She wanted religion to be part of her life, but she just needed to find out how.

Five years ago, she was invited to go Christmas caroling by a friend who is a Quaker. Moore, 35, said she was impressed with the people she met.

"I thought they must all be dentists or something - they were all smiling," she said.

Moore began attending meetings and 18 months ago became a member. Now, Moore said, she feels as if she has always been a Quaker and did not know it.

"In your heart, you know what is right and wrong" and don't need a religion to tell you how to act, she added.

There is a reason others are beginning to feel as Moore does.

"I'd like to think," Lynne Brick said, "it's because we have beliefs that are possibilities for everyone."

Accidents Cited In Appeals For A Traffic Signal

Source: Posted: August 06, 1986

Even though he has operated his gas station at the corner of Bridgeboro and Hartford Roads for almost 30 years, the last six months have been the most hectic for Walter Yansick.

In that time, there have been four major accidents at the intersection in front of his gas station, all causing injuries, and Yansick said he saw no end in sight - no end, at least, until a traffic signal is installed.

The solution is simple, but getting the light to the intersection is somewhat more complicated.

First, the intersection is owned by the county and maintained by the freeholders. For the last two years, at the urging of the Delran Township Council, the freeholders have considered installing a light at the intersection but have so far approved only its design and construction, not its funding. The project was then put on a list of 27 locations where traffic lights may be installed.

At its July 23 meeting, the Delran council passed a resolution "strongly urging" the freeholders to "recognize the immediate necessity" for a light and place a high priority of the project.

Freeholder Henry G. Metzger said last week that the board recognized the need for the light, but that funds for such a project were slow in coming. He said that a traffic light could cost anywhere from $15,000 to $40,000 and that the county had allocated a lot of money for badly needed bridge repairs.

"People have been calling for every light needed in the county," Metzger said last week. "I have gone through that intersection and recognize that it is a prime candidate for a light. But I can't tell you exactly when it will be installed."

County engineer James Quinn said the crossing ranked 14th on a list of 27 county intersections that would receive traffic signals. But he noted that most of the locations that were ahead of Bridgeboro-Hartford were places where traffic signals had already been installed or were under construction.

"The intent is to install the light next year," Quinn said. "Of those that remain to be designed, that light is one of the higher priorities."

He said the volume of traffic that went through the intersection was the criterion for the light and that, although the township had been asking for the signal for at least five years, only recently had there been enough traffic to warrant a light. Quinn attributed most of the new traffic to the expansion of RCA Corp.'s operations in Moorestown.

"In the last two or three years, RCA has added a couple of thousand employees," he said.

Standing in the office of his gas station just after rush hour one morning last week, Walter Yansick watched the traffic thin out.

"The last accident was about a month ago," he said, moving toward the open door to point out where the cars had met their fate. After a brief description of one three-car accident, he spoke of another accident that had occurred just four hours after the first. Then he described a near-accident that occurred on July 28.

"They come speeding through here, they cut through my lot," Yansick said. ''What worries me is if they come in here."

Apparently, someone already has. A few years ago, although Yansick can't recall exactly when, a woman tried to stop on Hartford Road, next to the gas station. Instead of hitting the brake pedal, Yansick theorized, the woman hit the gas pedal, drove through the intersection, jumped the curb in front of the gas station, knocked over a gas pump and an oil rack, and crossed Bridgeboro Road before coming to a stop in the grassy ditch across the street.

George McDowell, who has lived at the intersection for 36 years, installed short steel poles along the edge of his property after his garage, right on the corner, was nearly demolished - twice.

"No one seems to want to stop," said McDowell, who lives with his wife and daughter. He said had seen or heard at least 10 accidents at the intersection in the last six months.

"There's an awful lot of traffic and we need the light very badly. If you could see the way they go through that intersection . . . there's nothing we can do," he said. "I wouldn't even direct the traffic myself. I wouldn't take a chance on my life out there."

Both McDowell and Yansick are concerned about what it may take to get a traffic light installed at the intersection. Whatever happens, though, they said they will be there to see it, to call the police, to watch the ambulance arrive and the wreckage towed away. And then they will resume their wait.

Talks Held In Delran Tax Dispute

Source: Posted: October 08, 1986

A long-running dispute over the 1985 tax assessment of Delran's largest apartment complex appeared to be nearing a settlement last week as attorneys for both sides met in an attempt to avert a trial.

William Levine, who represents the owners of Hunter's Glen Apartments, and John Harrington, who represents the township, met last Wednesday with New Jersey Tax Court Judge Anthony Lario to discuss alternatives to lengthy and costly litigation in the dispute. Representatives of both sides characterized the meeting as productive and hinted that a settlement may be near.

At issue is whether the sprawling apartment complex on Route 130 carries its fair share of the township's tax burden.

Harvey Berk of Manhattan Management Inc. of New York, owner of the 1,124- unit complex, contends that the 1985 assessment of $8.4 million is too high. He is seeking a 50 percent reduction of the assessment and the accompanying tax bill of $250,600.

"It's simply (our) position that . . . the property was overassessed," said Levine.

Delran Township officials contend that the assessment is fair. If anything, said Mayor Richard Knight, it is too low. In response to the appeal, the township filed a counterclaim seeking an increase in the assessment.

Should the matter go to trial, the stakes would be high for both parties.

For the township, losing the appeal would mean having to raise taxes throughout the township, according to Knight, who estimated that every $28,000 in lost revenue would translate into a 1-cent tax increase. If the assessment of Hunter's Glen were halved, the township would lose about $125,000.

For the owner, a higher assessment would mean a higher tax bill, which could force an increase in rent.

To try to avoid both scenarios, the attorneys met last week with Lario, in whose Camden courtroom the matter is scheduled to be heard later this month.

Although neither side has retracted its position, each has expressed an interest in compromising to resolve the dispute.

"I think a solution can be negotiated," Knight said Monday. "But it has to be fair. We will not sacrifice the stability of the community for such a settlement."

Levine also expressed cautious optimism, noting that there has been discussion of a possible settlement.

Berk, the owner of the complex, declined to comment on the matter, and Harrington was unavailable for comment.

Dot's Creek Road Plan Reawakens Opposition

Source: Posted: April 22, 1987

When it comes to the issue of traffic along Creek Road, residents and government officials agree on one point - there are definitely problems. How those problems should be addressed has not been resolved. A solution has been debated for more than 10 years, according to Burlington County engineer James Quinn.

Creek Road, which is the only access road to Interstate 295 in predominantly rural sections of Moorestown, Mount Laurel and Delran, is hazardous, Quinn said.

The state Department of Transportation has proposed adding an 8-foot-wide shoulder to each side of the road. Residents from all three communities will have an opportunity to speak with DOT officials about the proposal tomorrow during an information session at the Moorestown Municipal Building, scheduled from 3 to 8 p.m.

The DOT wants to add the shoulders to the road to allow people to pull to the side if they encounter difficult driving conditions, Quinn said.

"The roadway is bumpy and includes a number of steep hills that make driver visibility difficult. The narrowness of the road makes matters even worse when drivers try to pass other vehicles," he said.

According to Quinn, Creek Road, which is owned and maintained by the county, was not designed to handle heavy traffic. Today's problems, he said, were brought on by local residents and county officials.

When Interstate 295 was constructed, an access route along Creek Road was not planned, Quinn said. "The state was convinced by local and county people that an exit should be put in to serve motorists in this area. The one stipulation the state made was that Creek Road be leveled out and widened to handle the traffic," Quinn said.

The county first contacted state officials in 1976 to help develop a solution to the Creek Road traffic problems. By 1978, the DOT and the federal government had earmarked funds to widen the two-lane highway to four lanes and to level some of the hills, according to DOT spokesman James Stevenson. The project would have required residents along the 3.6-mile stretch of road to give up between 16 and 40 feet of their front yards, Quinn said.

After holding two public hearings in 1978 on the proposal, resident outcry about the plan led the state to cancel the project, Stevenson said. Since then, the future of the roadway has remained undecided as state officials reviewed the options.

Recently, Creek Road residents between Moorestown-Bridgeboro Road and Centerton Road learned of the state's new proposal to widen and level the roadway. The proposal did not come as a surprise to Creek Road property owners.

"We had been hearing rumors for some time that the state was going to take another stab at widening the road," said Delran resident Shirley Woodington. ''We expected it, but people I've talked to around here are pretty much against the idea."

Opposition to the project centers on two key points, according to officials in all three townships: The project would require property owners to sell the state between 8 feet and 20 feet of property, and residents believe that widening the road would aggravate traffic problems.

"If they come in and take 8 feet from my property, they would be removing all of the shrubs I planted when we moved here," said Moorestown resident Sharon Dunne. "Those shrubs help block the view and noise of the road. I am completely opposed to the state doing anything with this road. They'll only make matters worse. I don't understand why they cannot realize that putting a shoulder in and leveling out the road will just invite people to drive faster."

Woodington agreed, noting that since she moved to Creek Road 22 years ago, she has witnessed a tractor-trailer jackknife in her front yard and has frequently heard hubcaps striking her house as vehicles lose control on the road.

Francis Melvin, DOT project engineer, said that resident concern over faster driving was unfounded, but that opposition to selling land was a natural response.

"No one wants to give up part of their property, even though the state is obligated to pay the full market value of the land," he said. "Their concern is not the fact that they will lose a little piece of land, it's the fact that the road will be closer to their homes. Even though it may only move up a few feet on their properties, from their perspective, closer is closer," Melvin said.

At tomorrow's informational session, maps of the area and the project will be on display, according to Stevenson, but details on how much land would be needed from each property owner will remain undecided for at least five months. The project is scheduled to begin in late 1988 and to take 18 to 24 months to complete.

A State Effort To Save Farms Harvests Little

Source: Posted: April 26, 1987

By all appearances, the New Jersey Farmland Preservation Act of 1981 was one of those rare gilt-edged measures that had everything going for it.

The Farmland Preservation Act had a kind of wholesome glow, a deeply satisfying appeal to the emotions, the intellect and aesthetics. Who could criticize an effort to preserve that which was most beautiful in the Garden State? How could anyone oppose legislators' hopes of saving land from the developer's bulldozer?

The legislature loved it. The governor loved it. The voters loved it. After an easy trip down the usually perilous governmental rapids, the bill handily won voters' support in a 1981 referendum that set aside $50 million to purchase farmers' development rights and ensure that their land would stay green forever.

Five and one-half years later, the act has a dismal record.

Of the $50 million appropriated for the program, only $2.5 million has been spent. And only half of that has been used to acquire permanent protections against development. The other $1.25 million has been paid to farmers who have agreed to forgo development for only eight years on a total of about 17,000 acres.

In a state that has nearly a million acres of land devoted to agriculture, only 1,021 acres are under permanent protection through the farmland preservation program, according to Carol Shipp, who spoke for the state Department of Agriculture. Although 16 of the state's 21 counties have officially moved to participate in the program, the only permanently preserved farmland is 608 acres in Burlington County and 413 acres in Hunterdon County.

"There still is a sense that we would like to see more in the program," Shipp said recently, adding that the department and the legislature were looking for ways to improve it.

Since the program was established, the state has lost 110,000 acres, or about 10.6 percent, of its farmland. New Jersey's farm acreage has fallen from 1,030,000 in 1981 to 920,000 in 1986, Shipp said. The number of farms has declined from about 9,500 in 1981 to 8,300 in 1986.

And no one knows how much farmland has been sold to developers who are keeping it in production only until they are ready to build.

What went wrong?

According to farmers, agricultural extension agents and planners, the program is simply a poor alternative to the immense profits that developers use to entice farmers to sell.

And to a large extent, the Farmland Preservation Act has been hampered because it has tried to avoid the kinds of problems that the state encountered with the effort to preserve the Pine Barrens.

Many residents, officials and business people in the Pinelands felt that legislation governing use of that South Jersey region had unfairly deprived them of their property rights by imposing severe restrictions on development.

The two-tiered farmlands preservation program, on the other hand, is voluntary.

At the first stage, farmers offer to give up their rights to develop their land for other uses for eight years. In exchange, the farmers receive grants and tax benefits that enable them to make improvements in their water supplies and drainage.

Once admitted to this level of the program, a farmer can opt to enter the second stage and give up development rights forever in exchange for a one- time cash settlement. In this case, the land is appraised twice - first for its current agricultural value, then for its current value for residential or commercial use.

The farmer is paid the difference between the two appraisals. Half the money comes from the state and half from local governments - the latter half typically is split between the county and the municipality.

In theory, the process brings the farmer a one-time windfall. The farmer continues to own the land and can keep farming it. But if the land is sold, a deed restriction requires that the property always remain farmland or open space.

But the problem, according to farmers and others who have studied the process, is that the assessment of the land's potential value for nonfarming uses is often too low to be attractive.

And the assessment - by law an appraisal of current values - cannot take into account future land values. Many farmers watch commercial and residential developments rolling in their direction and conclude that the value of their land will dramatically increase in the years ahead. The deed restriction prohibiting future development limits a farm's market value, even if one wants to sell to another farmer.

Walter Butler of South Harrison, Gloucester County, had been farming for 64 years when he took a look at the program last year.

He figured his 115-acre vegetable farm might bring him a final nest egg through the farmland preservation program. He could take the cash and stay on his land, knowing that the plot to which he had devoted his life never would be devoured by earth-moving machines and covered with concrete.

"I was getting ready to retire, and I thought I'd get some money on the deal," he said.

But he was shocked by what he discovered.

"I think the appraisals were atrocious," he said. "Put it this way: I've never been so insulted in my life."

In exchange for his development rights, he was offered $200 per acre. Butler said he might have considered taking $1,200 an acre.

Now he is looking for a buyer.

"I'm going to try to sell it to a developer," he said. "The heck with this."

His price: $2,500 to $3,000 an acre.

Gloucester County's principal planner, Morris Bayer, said farmers in the county had had about 567 acres appraised, but none of them had found the results - ranging from $200 to $600 per acre - attractive enough to sell development rights. Gloucester County has about 66,000 acres of farmland.

In Cherry Hill, brothers Joseph and Dominic Sergi have been farming a 250- acre corn and vegetable farm on Marlkress Road since 1950. Today, the farm represents about a quarter of the open privately owned land remaining in Cherry Hill, which has been under steady development pressure for three decades.

Much of the surrounding land already has been developed, and nearby homeowners increasingly are complaining about the Sergis' pesticide spraying and noisy machinery, Joseph Sergi said.

"We're being crowded, and it makes it hard for us to farm," he said. ''It's not a place for a farm anymore because of the people around us."

He said he was aware of the farmland preservation program but figured there was no way it could compete with the open market.

"I don't think the state is going to be able to afford these kinds of prices," Joseph Sergi said.

"Prices in the immediate area would run from $25,000 to $65,000 or $75,000 per acre, depending on where it's located. We've turned it down for years. We would have preferred to have stayed a little longer, but we can't now."

The Sergis soon will close a sale with a developer who plans a mixture of commercial buildings and homes on their land, Joseph Sergi said.

"I personally think that the big problem with the program is that there hasn't been enough money budgeted for it," said Robert Ruizzo, Camden County agricultural extension agent. Camden County has about 17,000 acres of farmland.

In Burlington County, by contrast, freeholders and municipal leaders in Lumberton, Southampton and Chesterfield have been enthusiastic about the farmland preservation program.

Still, in booming Burlington County, it is hard for farmers to withstand the lure of big bucks. The county, whcih has an estimated 120,000 to 130,000 acres of farmland, about 4,000 acres of farmland a year to development between 1978 and 1982, and that rate of loss now may have doubled, according to Charles Gallagher, the county's land-use coordinator.

Fred Moriuchi and his family have been growing fruit on a 650-acre farm located in Moorestown and Delran since the early 1960s - when they left a farm in Cherry Hill because developers' offers were too good to refuse.

"I can't justify leaving all these values tied up" in the land, Moriuchi said. "Basically, we made a decision to sell about one-third of it, and then we'll decide what to do with the rest."

Moriuchi, who holds a master's degree in business administration from Rutgers University, is trading his bib overalls for a three-piece suit. He has become an equal partner with three developers who plan a luxury residential development and golf course on a site that includes about 200 acres of Moriuchi's family farm in Moorestown.

It is all, said Moriuchi, a matter of arithmetic. His production costs run about $1,500 per acre, not including major routine capital expenses like tree- spraying equipment. This year he hopes to gross about $1,650 per acre, making his profit $150 per acre. But in recent years, the farm has failed to do that well.

"If we were making money, I don't think we would consider selling," he said.

If Moriuchi were to sell the land for $4,000 an acre and put the money in a passbook savings account at 5 percent interest, he would make more money than he does farming, he said - $200 per acre. And he would face none of the risks of farming.

In fact, the value of the land for development is far in excess of $4,000 per acre, he said. "It can be anywhere from $15,000 to $25,000 per acre."

Figures like these make the future of the farmland preservation program seem hopeless. But some legislators and agricultural experts believe the program's prospects can be enhanced with a little fine-tuning, and legislative committees are considering several measures to do so.

One would enable the state to assume up to 75 percent of the costs of purchasing a farmer's development rights, overcoming the problem many counties and municipalities have in coming up with their shares of the costs.

Another would enable the state to purchase farms, rather than just buy the development rights. The state would have the authority to match any offer received by a farmer. Once a farm was acquired, the state would attempt to resell the land with deed restrictions that would keep it green forever.

And still another proposal would allow farmers to sell their development rights in the form of credits that could be banked by counties and later sold to developers who wanted to build more than the usually permitted number of units per acre on other parcels in the county. In effect, developers then would be financing the program.

In June, a state Department of Agriculture task force is expected to complete other recommendations for improving the program - recommendations expected to focus on ways of streamlining its paper work.

Agricultural experts say the best prospects for the program are in rural areas far from current development. Out in the hinterlands, farmers may choose the immediate windfall from the farmland preservation program rather than wait many years for development pressures to boost land values.

But in the booming areas near sprawling suburbs, the experts say, farming probably is a thing of the past.

Township Runs Out Of Growing Room

Source: Posted: April 10, 1988

In 1939, at the tail end of the Depression, Fred Wolff and his wife purchased their home in the small farming community of Delran for about $3,000. As Wolff recalled, "it was the best one down there."

Almost 50 years later, the average house in Delran sells for 38 times that price.

"Police force, fire station ambulances, I've seen all these things grow, and watched all the little farms disappear," said Wolff, who is now the township's official historian. "I remember houses that would sell for about $19,000 40 years ago." Now those houses sell for $130,000.

It was more than 100 years ago that a group of farmers incorporated to form Delran, which got its name by combining the names of the Delaware River and Rancocas Creek. Town meetings were first held in a hotel, then above the firehouse and finally in a coffee shop.

Today, Delran citizens still meet to discuss pressing issues, but now the meetings are in a sturdy brick municipal building. Today, Route 130 is no longer home to family-run coffee shops, but the busy strip still serves as Delran's main street. And today Delran, though largely developed, still faces pressures to make room for new businesses and houses.

Close to the growing and congested Route 73, and offering a favorable tax rate to businesses, Delran's location is especially attractive to businesses. As North Jersey gets more and more built up, experts say, townships such as Delran become more appealing.

With an area of just under 7 square miles, and a population of more than 14,000, Delran doesn't have that much room to grow. The north side of town is the older side, and old wooden farmhouses and newer one-story ranch houses stand side-by-side. South of Route 130, the winding tree-lined streets of newer neighborhoods such as Swedes Run and Tenby Chase show off neatly-kept lawns and parks around every corner, evidence of zoning efforts aimed at minimizing density.

Yet, residents are never far from Route 130, which bisects the town with its fast-food restaurants, shopping centers and small stores selling everything from auto parts to revolvers.

Most of the undeveloped land is in the southeast section of town, along Hartford Road, where there are still a few rickety red barns. In the near future, the character of that area will be changed as well because three major development projects are planned.

Interdevelco Assoc., an Englewood development firm also known as IDC, is planning to begin construction in the summer on 746 houses east of Hartford Road. The Samost Group, a developing company located in Berlin, is also developing in the same area.

Also along Hartford Road, Gerard Builders of Moorestown is seeking approval from the township Planning Board to build an adult community of 230 houses on 54 acres.

According to Mayor Richard Knight, the IDC and Samost projects are essentially the same, with the Samost Group building about 750 units.

Both projects involve three different types of housing: single-family houses, townhouses and condominiums - the first condos for Delran. Of the 746 residences being built by IDC, 75 will be low-cost houses, which Delran is required by the Mount Laurel II decision to provide. Single-family houses will range from $120,000 to $180,000, the townhouses will start at $85,000, and the condominiums will sell for between $70,000 and $80,000. Edward Gallacher, vice president of Interdevelco, said that the Mount Laurel II decision determined a formula for pricing the low-cost housing, so IDC will build them at a slight loss.

The Samost project, for which final approval has not yet been granted, will also provide some affordable housing.

Gallacher said that the property owners believed Delran was a good place to develop for several reasons.

"Delran was a growth area some years ago, and is growing again," he said. ''Between Exit 4 and 5 (Route 73 and Route 541 respectively) on the turnpike, there are a number of new office buildings, and along the 295 corridor as well."

Matthew Watkins, the township administrator, said 80 percent to 90 percent of Delran is developed, covered by a mixture of residential, commercial and light-industrial building.

But that doesn't mean the town isn't attractive to businesses and developers, and Watkins said that they are trying hard to maintain workable guidelines for development in Delran.

Delran has increased new ratables over the last four years by $10.5 million.

"The township government has taken the position that we want to control development," Watkins said. "Unfortunately, that's sort of like stopping a boulder from rolling down a hill."

For municipal officials, slowing down the boulder means revising the town's master plan. Delran has not yet taken the first step in that task - hiring a professional city planner.

Knight says that by setting up a master plan that updates zoning laws, the municipal government will have greater say over the type of development that goes on, "rather than just reacting."

Project's Approval Ends 4-year Fight

Source: Posted: November 09, 1988

The first of two housing developments was approved by the Delran Township Council last week after more than a four-year legal battle between the township and two developers.

The 744-unit housing development will have single-family homes, condominiums and townhouses.

Ten percent of it will be for low- to moderate-income residents, in accordance with the Mount Laurel II decision, said Mayor Richard Knight.

Early in 1984 the township was sued by Creekford of Delran, a developing company, and Joseph Samost, a Philadelphia contractor and developer of the second housing project. Creekford stated that Delran's zoning regulations did not allow enough density for low-income housing.

The township decided to negotiate with the owners of the property and Affordable Living Corp. of Cherry Hill, so that township officials would be able to have some control in the future of the developments, said Knight.

The negotiation called for the township council to make decisions regarding approvals, normally done by the planning board.

The 135-acre tract, now owned by InterDevelCo. (IDC) Delran Associates of Englewood Cliffs, Bergen County, which bought the property two years ago, is bordered by Hartford, Creek and Bridgeboro Roads.

The housing development will also have baseball fields, basketball and tennis courts and a 25-meter swimming pool.

The 75 low-income housing units, priced from $20,000 to $27,000, will be undistinguishable from the other units, said Knight.

The plan also includes market-priced condominiums and townhouses and single-family homes from $75,000 to $150,000.

The second housing development, proposed by Samost, consists of 713 units, and is adjacent to the InterDevelCo site.

A public hearing on his development will not be held until he complies with a list of recommendations by the township engineering firm, Richard A. Alaimo Associates in Mount Holly.

"The (Samost) development will be easier for us (township council) to review," Knight said, "because criteria has been established with IDC and the consent judgment."

Final approval came almost one year after preliminary approval of IDC's plan.

Conditions about parking and drainage concerns still need to be addressed, Knight said.

There are also concerns about the growth rate of Delran and the need for a new elementary school, since approval of the two developments would total 1,457 housing units, which would mean more people and more children.

Delran Gives Preliminary Nod To Samost Development Plans

Source: Posted: January 25, 1989

Joseph Samost's odyssey may be coming to an end.

The Delran Township Council on Thursday night gave preliminary approval for Samost's plans to build an estimated 700 houses on a 125-acre tract of farmland between Hartford and Creek Roads. The vote came after five years of negotiation and litigation between the township and Samost.

Before the meeting, Thursday night, Council President Bill Smock spoke of those years as "Joe Samost's odyssey."

Samost and InterDevelCo, the developer of a tract contiguous to the Samost property, sued the township in 1984, claiming that the zoning regulations did not permit sufficient housing density to construct low-income housing. Yet the developers had to include some low-income housing in their plans to win approval.

The township decided to negotiate with the developers in order to exercise some control over the project.

InterDevelCo received final approval from the township in November to develop 744 houses on a 135-acre tract between Creek, Hartford and Bridgeboro Roads.

The Samost plans call for 183 single-family houses, 308 townhouses, and 216 condominiums. Interspersed among the condominiums will be 75 set aside as low- income housing, to avoid the perception that particular buildings were home to low-income residents, said Steven Samost, the attorney representing the project, and son of Joseph Samost.

Most of Thursday's meeting involved the clarification and legal wording of numerous technical aspects of the development proposal: storm drainage, lighting, street names, tot-lot equipment, a contribution by the developer for a traffic signal, and other details. A few issues, including the expiration date of the prelimary approval, were left unresolved for the moment. The council will meet again in February.

More than an hour into the meeting, with the township's attorney about to turn to item No. 28 on his list, Smock, noting impatience among the six Delran residents who attended the meeting, referred to the importance of nailing down the terms of the plan.

"For the public's information, these things are necessary, and as time goes by you will see why," Smock said.

Delran, with a population of 14,811 as of 1980, could handle the extra 300 to 400 children the Samost development could bring into the township, said Andrew Ritzie, a Township Council member.

During a break in the proceedings, Barbara Posch, a Delran resident whose house on Hartford Road is located just north of the entrance to the planned development, expressed concern with the increased traffic that would use the two-lane road. She said that morning traffic is already so heavy that it can take her husband five to 10 minutes before he can pull out onto the road.

The plan calls for acceleration lanes and widening of part of Hartford Road.

In Delran, Effects Of Housing Examined

Source: Posted: March 26, 1989

Although Delran's current school population is way below the enrollment high of 14 years ago, recent housing approvals in the township have made school officials wonder whether the district's five schools will be able to handle an anticipated influx of new families.

Members of the Township Council and the school board will meet at 8 p.m. Wednesday at the municipal building to discuss the effect of two large housing developments on township services and the school district.

What necessitated the joint meeting was the approval within the last four months of two developments that will bring 1,451 houses and apartments to a site between Creek and Hartford Roads in one of the last undeveloped tracts in the township.

In January, after four years of negotiations, the council reached an agreement with Marlton developers Joseph and Steven Samost for construction of 707 units comprising 183 single-family homes, 308 townhouses and 216 condominiums in a 125-acre tract bounded by Creek, Hartford and Bridgeboro Roads.

In November, the council approved plans by Bergen County-based InterDevelCo for construction adjacent to the Samost site of a 744-unit development that will also have single-family homes, condominiums and townhouses, on a 135-acre site.

Each development will have 75 units set aside for low- and moderate-income families. Those houses or apartments will be interspersed throughout the developments.

Delran's township population rose from 10,065 in 1970 to 14,811 in 1980. During the same period the school population rose to 3,300 during the 1974-75 school year and then began to decline to the current enrollment figure of 2,187.

"The two developments mean a big question mark for us," said school official Doris Christy. "They will have an effect on enrollment, but how much we don't know yet. In the meantime, we're busy tallying the number of bedrooms so we can get a better idea of what to expect."

Both projects will be located in the southern section of the 7-square-mile township. The township is 80 percent to 90 percent developed, according to Matthew Watkins, township administrator.

The township decided to negotiate with the owners of the two properties so it could have some control in the future development of the township, said William Smock, council president. In 1984, the two developers sued the township, contending that zoning regulations did not allow enough density to construct low-income housing.

Crashes Bring Call For A Traffic Signal

Source: Posted: June 25, 1989

There have been 10 reported accidents at the intersection of Bridgeboro and Creek Roads in Delran since the beginning of this year - four in the last two weeks - and police officers there say accidents will continue to happen until a traffic light is installed at the corner.

Last week, a GMC mini school bus carrying about 10 youngsters to the nearby Aronson Bell School crashed head-on into a Nissan, ripping off the front end of the car. No one was injured.

On May 5, a 17-year-old girl suffered severe facial cuts when the friend she was riding with failed to yield to an oncoming dump truck heading north on Bridgeboro Road.

It's only a matter of time until someone gets killed on that corner, said Patrolman Leonard Mongo.

The roads carry a high volume of traffic, and there is a blind spot rounding the corner of Bridgeboro Road toward Route 130, Mongo said.

"It's not a rural area anymore," Mongo said. "It's one of the major thoroughfares coming off Interstate 295 now."

Construction has recently begun for a 1,400-home development on Creek Road, near the intersection of Bridgeboro Road, making the need for a signal more urgent, Mongo said.

Township Clerk Bernadett Porreca said that she has recorded numerous complaints about the intersection in her 17-year tenure in the township.

The Police Department has called the county Highway Department "more than once," but nothing has been done yet about the intersection.

The county Engineering Department has only one record of a request by Delran police to investigate the intersection, said assistant county engineer John Eckman.

"The police called us about two weeks ago," he said. "I didn't see any complaints in our files, but there may have been other complaints by telephone."

Prompted by the complaint, a traffic count to study the number of vehicles that regularly use the intersection will begin in the next several weeks, Eckman said. "In about two months we should know whether that intersection warrants a traffic signal."

Factors such as traffic volume, number of accidents, speed limits, pedestrian traffic and proximity to a school all influence the determination of whether a signal is needed, the engineer said.

Delran Board Backs Slightly Updated Plan

Source: Posted: August 02, 1989

The Delran Planning Board is recommending only "subtle changes" in the state-required update of its master plan, township officials said.

"There are no major changes to the zones," said Chairman Joseph Otto of the plan that the board approved in June.

"Within the zones there is upgrading to reflect what has happened in the last 10 years," Otto said.

The recommendations include changes to some residential ordinances to allow houses to be built closer together to comply with the state's affordable housing regulations, Otto said.

Two developers have township approval to build 1,500 houses in the area between Hartford, Creek and Bridgeboro Roads, with 150 set aside for low- and moderate-income families.

In 1984, the two developers of the site, Joseph Samost and InterDevelCo. sued the township, contending that zoning regulations did not allow enough density for construction of low-income housing. The suit was settled out of court.

Limited retail development, such as convenience stores, would be permitted in the newly developed neighborhoods, Otto said. The board will not permit strip malls in the area.

The Township Council could discuss the plan at its meeting next Wednesday.

Mayor Richard Knight said that the council wanted an update that maintains buffers between residential, commercial and industrial areas, and complies with affordable housing laws.

"We want to implement the Mount Laurel II housing decision, and we want to see any other areas of town we should consider zoning or rezoning," Knight said.

He also said that the council was interested in zoning ordinances that would encourage development along Delran's waterfront and address drainage problems throughout the community.

Otto said he expected the council's approval and hoped to hold public hearings on the plan in September.

State law requires townships to update master plans every six years.

Sewage May Be A Hurdle For Housing

Source: Posted: December 27, 1989

While final approval for the 256-unit Ashley Crossing housing development could be granted tomorrow at the Delran Planning Board meeting, getting sewerage permits could be far more tricky, township officials have said.

Ashley Crossing, proposed by Gerard Brothers Inc., of Moorestown, would be an L-shaped development on 50 acres of farm and wooded land on Hartford Road.

Gerard will also need approval from the county planning board, the state Soil and Conservation Board and the sewerage authority.

Without sewerage, a housing development with lots of less than one-third acre is doomed, said Delran Sewerage Authority chairman Jack T. Foster.

"They can't build until we can take their sewerage," said Denis C. Germano, sewerage authority solicitor.

Harry Hansell, Gerard's Ashley Crossing project manager, did not return telephone calls regarding the development.

Delran zoning rules don't allow septic systems on lots smaller than 15,000 square feet, slightly less than one-third acre. Septic systems too closely grouped are considered environmentally hazardous, the Department of Environmental Protection maintains.

But "most developers are hurt by the low-density housing. They want more houses on less land," said planning board Chairman Joseph Otto. Plans call for rowhouses, patio homes, duplexes and quadplexes on lots averaging one- fifth an acre.

Gerard could put in sewerage pipes and hope for expansion of the Delran Sewerage Authority. That hinges on the DEP's approving a plan for increasing the sewage treatment plant by a million gallons a day. Waiting for that approval is "a risky thing," Foster said.

"The state's holding up our ability to expand," Foster said. "We're at a dead end with the DEP. It's just one hell of a hassle."

The authority wants to expand the 1.5 million gallon-capacity plant by a million gallons, Germano said. DEP approval could take up to three years, he added.

If the plan is approved, but the sewerage is not, Gerard has two options. It could hold onto the approval permits - which are good for a year and can be easily renewed - until the sewerage moratorium is lifted.

Or, it could sell the approvals to another developer. One planning official, who asked not to be named, said this is one way developers can benefit from their investments.

Delran Solicitor Resigns

Source: Posted: March 07, 1990

The Delran Township Committee announced the resignation of solicitor Thomas P. Foy at its meeting last week.

Foy, also a Democratic assemblyman, is leaving after six years as the township solicitor. He has been named vice president of the Hill Group, a Willingboro engineering consulting firm that does business with several Burlington County municipalities.

Mayor Richard J. Knight lauded Foy for his "top-flight, cut-rate legal expertise."

In other business last Wednesday, the committee delayed until March 28 a vote on an ordinance prohibiting development of a senior citizens' housing and health-care project at a site south of Bridgeboro.

The ordinance would derail the planned construction of 500 units on the 135-acre Anderson peach farm between Creek Road and the Rancocas Creek. The Woodbridge-based Char-Land development company has been fighting with the township to get the project approved for two years.

Knight also announced that a hearing on the township budget will be held at the March 28 meeting.

A Residential Emphasis To Latest Master Plan

Source: Posted: November 07, 1990

The recent revision to Delran's master plan, approved two weeks ago by the Delran planning board, resolves some inconsistencies in zoning restrictions and points to an increasingly built-up, residential township.

The Delran Master Plan Update is a revision to a document originally approved by the township in 1978 and not re-evaluated since 1982. New Jersey state law requires that townships revise their plans every six years, to give local officials a guide for the commercial and residential development of the community.

The most significant change in this year's revision is the abandonment of Delran's earlier objective to exploit its "potential as a center for commerce and industry."

"We probably didn't attract as much industry as you would want to," said Daniel Paolini, chairman of the township's planning board.

Several areas, particularly in the southeastern corner of Delran, have been rezoned from agricultural to residential uses, primarily to accommodate housing associated with the Mount Laurel II court decision that required every town in New Jersey to provide affordable housing.

The biggest of these projects, the 713-home Creekdale Farms project by the Scarborough Corp. of Voorhees, is slated for a site south of Route 130 between Creek and Hartford Roads. It is in the approval process before the township council.

Another project, proposed by Delran Plaza Associates and planned for a site along Pancoast Road between Bridgeboro Road and Fairview Streets, will contain 50 homes in its first phase of development.

But two factors - sewage capacity and a slumping real estate market - are derailing plans for further development of projects like the one on Pancoast Road. The developer wanted to build 104 homes, but could not obtain the required sewerage capacity to complete the project, according to Administrator Jeffrey Hatcher.

"Whatever remaining sewer capacity has been reserved for projects that are impending," Paolini said. The Delran sewage authority has plans to increase the township sewage system's capacity, but first must receive approval from the state Division of Environmental Protection.

By the year 2000, the revisions predict, Delran will "build out," or have no more room for development, with a population of 19,500 to 20,500. The township currently has a population of 13,766, according to the 1990 census, which is down from 1980's figure of 14,811. However, officials have appealed to the U.S. Bureau of the Census, alleging an undercount.

With an expected influx of young families into Delran, some council members have expressed concern about putting a strain on Delran's schools and municipal services.

Open Space Featured On Agenda

Source: Posted: November 25, 1990

The Moorestown Council is expected to take a major step tomorrow toward the purchase of open space in the township.

The council is likely to approve two applications for state Green Trust funds from a list of three sites recommended by the Open Space Advisory Committee. They are Stokes Hill, a 10-acre site on the eastern end of Main Street; the Weiner Site, a 14.5-acre tract on Garwood Road near the Delran Township border, and Carson Farm, a 70-acre site on Hartford Road.

The council also is negotiating the purchase of an undisclosed site, which is likely to be announced tomorrow.

The application for state funds is just one aspect of Moorestown's open- space program, which got a boost from voters last year when they overwhelmingly approved a referendum authorizing the township to save land from being developed.

"It's certainly a positive step . . . in terms of acquiring open space, especially in this day and age where municipalities and the entire region are suffering from somewhat of an economic downturn," said Councilman Salvatore A. Alessi, who serves as a liaison to the Open Space Advisory Committee.

Moorestown also is spending $250,000 on Memorial Field. The money is being used to improve drainage, repair the field's monument and upgrade fields and parking.

The three finalists for the Green Trust funds were chosen by the Open Space Committee from a list of 40 sites of five acres or more, according to Barbara Rich, chairwoman of the five-member committee. The committee, which was formed as a result of the referendum, spent the last year studying sites and looking for ways to finance their acquisition.

The township had not planned to apply for the funds this year because the final list was not ready by the original Oct. 30 deadline. When the state extended the deadline to this Friday, the committee used the extra time to choose its priorities.

Each of the sites has its advantages, Rich said.

Stokes Hill has been used as a sledding hill by Moorestown and surrounding communities for as far back as anyone can remember, Rich said. The site is also a high point of the town and has wetlands. The township could qualify for a 2 percent loan toward its purchase.

The Weiner Site is well-suited to recreation, especially for athletic fields, Rich said. The site also is adjacent to the Willowbrook Country Club. The township could qualify for a 2 percent loan to acquire it.

The wooded Carson Farm site contains environmentally sensitive wetlands and borders the Swede Run Stream. The township could qualify for a combination grant and loan because of environmental considerations, Rich said.

Delran Development About To Take Shape

Source: Posted: December 09, 1990

At a time when developers in southern New Jersey are scaling back plans and staving off bankruptcy, one developer, Joseph Samost, is nearing approval for Delran's first major project in years.

On Dec. 19, the Delran Township Council is all but certain to approve the first phase of Samost's proposed "Creekdale Farms," a 713-home development that would rise amid trees and farmland in Delran's southeast corner.

Located between Hartford and Creek Roads, south of South Bridgeboro Road, the first phase of Creekdale Farms would contain 282 townhouses, condominiums and single-family houses. The project would be the first in a series of developments in the area that would likely make Delran a growing township in the 1990s.

Other properties in the area have been the subject of interest from developers, but Samost's project would be the first to receive township approval.

Getting to the point of approval for the Berlin-based Samost, though, has been a five-year process of lawsuits, hearings and negotiations over a site that originally allowed only one house on each acre.

When Samost proposed the project in 1985, he sought to increase the density of the 122-acre site by building affordable-housing units. Courts and the legislature require each township to provide a certain number of housing units for low- and moderate-income families.

Samost wanted to build a project of about 1,000 units, but the township balked at the density. Samost filed a lawsuit against Delran, and the subsequent judgment, combined with Delran's current zoning ordinances, helped set the development at 713 units.

The first phase of the project would be built on the site's western edge and would consist of 118 townhouses, 72 condominiums and 92 single-family houses. Of the condominiums, 28 would be for low- and moderate-income families. "That's almost twice the number of affordable units required" in the project's first phase, according to Stephen Samost, the developer's son and attorney.

Delran has received about 300 inquiries about the affordable units, township clerk Bernadette Porecca said, but most of them came several years ago when the lawsuit's settlement was made. Delran has not yet decided how it would determine who would be able to purchase the affordable units, according to adminstrator Jeffrey Hatcher.

Construction on the first phase of the project would begin early next year, with the Scarborough Corp. as the builder. The rest of the project would be developed "as rapidly as the market will bear," Stephen Samost said at a recent hearing on the project.

Development of the remaining phases of the project would also depend on Samost's ability to secure sewerage capacity. What little remains in the Delran Sewerage Authority's capacity has been reserved for Creekdale Farms' first phase and other projects that would provide affordable housing in Delran.

The authority is working to increase its capacity, but any increase will not occur for several years, officials said.

If the township had any remaining objections to Samost's proposal, they concerned the lack of recreation space in Creekdale Farms.

In response, Samost has said he would provide 10 acres of recreation, including two tennis courts, one 2,000-square-foot recreation building, and an area for a pool, if the board approves.

To find the room, Samost would replace 16 single-family homes with 30 townhouses and the recreation facilities.

Delran Home Assessments Up By An Average Of 117%

Source: Posted: February 03, 1991

Delran Councilman Henry Shinn's home went from $31,800 to $75,900 in assessed value. His neighbors, Michael and Pam Bennett, saw their house increase from $32,600 to $71,000.

The reassessment of Delran's property is now complete, and Delran homeowners will see sharp increases, averaging 117 percent, in the values of their homes on their tax bills this year.

Hardest hit in Delran will be the older area of town by the river, where the Shinns and Bennetts live.

"The increases around here are going to be atrocious," Shinn said. The sharp increase in the area, according to township assessor Harry Renwick, came because the area received a disproportionally low assessment in Delran's last reassessment, in 1981.

While the preliminary values do not, in themselves, mean higher taxes, homeowners are likely to experience a confusing year in which taxes increase to make up for a significant shortfall in 1990 revenues.

And to help homeowners sort through the confusion, Renwick is urging them to pay careful attention to the budget and tax rate this year.

"The taxpayers have got to become more involved in the budget hearings," Renwick said. Appeals, he said, often are mistakenly filed, and thrown out, because a homeowner does not understand why his or her tax bill has increased.

"If (property) values increase by 117 percent, and if there's no change in any of the budget entities, the tax rate should fall by the same margin," Renwick said.

For 1991, though, there is almost certain to be a change in the "budget entities" - or the money needed to run the township, the county, the schools and the sewer authority.

At the last Township Council meeting, Mayor Richard Knight said the 1991 budget would hold spending to a 2 percent increase, but a significant revenue shortfall from 1990 is forcing the township to make the uncomfortable decision of raising taxes or cutting services.

"This (budget) is going to be a bear," Councilman Bill Smock said. Delran residents will have an indication of what to expect on their 1991 tax bills when the preliminary budget is released Feb. 25.

The preliminary total assessment for Delran Township in 1991 is $650 million, up 117 percent from the approximately $300 million of 1990. For homeowners in Delran, the average assessed value rose from about $60,000 to $130,000. The numbers, Renwick said, are preliminary figures and do not include the results of any appeals or changes made by the assessor.

Of the total amount, the largest share, $458 million, was for residential properties, and the next largest, $167 million, was for commercial, industrial and apartment properties.

Delran's days of country roads and farms continued to recede further into the past as the total value of farmland came to only $2.5 million, or less than 1 percent of Delran's total assessed property value.

Homeowners who disagree with their assessments may appeal. When a taxpayer receives a bill in the first or second week of July, the appeal must be filed before the Burlington County Board of Taxation by Aug. 15.

At the appeal, the taxpayer must present proof - sale prices of comparable homes and written appraisals are two common types - to support a claim that the property is not worth what it has been assessed.

A common mistake, Renwick said, is for homeowners to use the assessments of other homes, and not their sale prices, in support of an appeal.

In any case, the homeowner remains obligated to pay the first three quarters in taxes to the township.

Renwick said that the reassessment - which cost the township $130,000 - would bring property values into line with a market that had vastly increased in recent years but had now stabilized.

Creek Road's Gain Would Be The Loss Of Parts Of Yards

Source: Posted: September 22, 1991

Creek Road was a country byway until Interstate 295 opened. Now it handles so much traffic that the county engineer and the New Jersey Department of Transportation plan to improve it into a "state of the art" road.

But the improvement means widening the road by buying land from property owners on Creek Road's west side.

Francis Melvin of the state Department of Transportation said the plan was to widen Creek Road from its present 28 feet to about 40 feet, using federal and state money.

The county has sought to improve the two-lane road since I-295 opened in the early 1970s and drivers began using Creek Road as a link to Route 130. Officials think the road is likely to be even more heavily traveled as the area becomes developed.

Delran Township Council members said they were concerned about residents' having to surrender parts of their front yards to the widening.

" 'We're going to buy your front yard, and you have to let us' " is the Transportation Department's message to property owners, Councilman Henry Shinn said.

The department plans to buy at fair-market value a strip of land about 8 1/ 2 feet deep from property owners on the west side of the road, county engineer Jim Quinn said.

On the east side, the department will buy "slope rights," letting landowners keep their property but allowing the DOT to work on that land during construction, which would not begin until after land purchases are completed at the end of next year.

There's not much the township can do about the purchases, according to Delran Mayor Richard Knight, but he said the department should address other concerns, such as speeding along the improved road, which has two schools on it.

Council members said they were pleased a traffic light for the corner of Creek Road and South Bridgeboro Road was part of the improvement plans because of the number of accidents at the intersection.

The DOT will keep Creek Road two lanes wide, rather than enlarging it to two lanes in either direction, as an earlier county plan had recommended. The planning to improve the road began in 1975. Improvements will be needed also to handle increased traffic at the northwest end of the road in Delran, where Berlin Township-based developer Joe Samost plans to build 713 houses on 122 acres he owns.

"We're providing the service before there's a 100 percent need," Melvin said. It's easier to widen the road before people move into homes in the area, he said.

The prospects for development in Delran are partly behind planning for a new fire station and for the purchase of more municipal office space, council members said.

The Delran School District also is preparing. Board members engaged the architectural firm of Kanalstein, Danton & Johns to begin designing a new building that might be needed if new development comes to town.

Even before construction of houses begins, township services such as police patrols will be stretched thinner as developers move construction equipment into the area, Shinn said. The police will be forced to guard the area against the theft often associated with construction areas, he said.

"We're already under capacity," in terms of delivering services to residents, said Maryann Rivell, council member. "When you look at (Delran's) projected growth, it becomes overwhelming."

There's A Pit In Peach Farm's Future It's The Last Large Undeveloped Open Space In Delran. And The Owners Are Ready To Surrender.

Source: Posted: January 23, 1992

Raymond Anderson still can walk on the land on which his father, grandfather and great-grandfather toiled. He can point to the farmhouse where his grandfather died, to the house his father built and to the wood gazebo his grandfather constructed to honor his only son.

"You find a lot of history here," he said, driving through barren orchards on a blustery afternoon. "(But) you have to conform to the shape of the town. Especially when development is all around you. You're just this bare spot in the city."

Delran Township officials say the Andersons own the last large working farm and substantial tract of land not zoned for residential or commercial development in the area.

And for at least two years, the Anderson family has been negotiating with a developer to sell its four-generation-old peach farm. Preliminary plans call for a facility for senior citizens.

It is the winds of change, the Andersons say.

"You ask any farmer, it's gotten tougher and tougher to farm with more and more people around you," said Philip Anderson, Raymond's father.

"People who have been here are used to us. You get new people in and they do the complaining. . . . Everybody wants to move to the country until there are problems."

The Andersons foresee complaints about odors and are concerned about their potential liability if trespassers - perhaps children drawn by the waters of the nearby Rancocas Creek - are injured on their property.

They anticipate trouble with the influx of new neighbors expected when about 1,500 townhouses, condominiums and single-family houses are constructed on more than 200 acres just across from their 132-acre farm on Creek Road.

"It's not easy giving up land that has been in your family for years," said 36-year-old Raymond Anderson, one of Philip Anderson's three children. ''but . . . you have no choice (but) to go along with the growth of a town and get phased out. Fifty years ago, farming was the only industry around."

Philip Anderson, 61, traces the family farm's beginnings to the early 1900s when his grandparents - Wesley and Alice Anderson - bought about 54 acres on Creek Road, 30 of which were meadows and wetlands near the Rancocas Creek and 20 were farmed for peaches, corn and apples.

During the 1920s, Wesley's Anderson's son Raymond - Philip Anderson's father - built a dike on the wetlands to create about 30 acres for celery, but muskrats dug holes and crops were ruined when the creek overflowed.

In 1945, Philip Anderson's father bought 100 acres adjacent to the property.

Today, the original white farmhouse sits deep into the land between Creek Road and the edge of a Rancocas Creek tributary. Built in the 1800s, the house is out of view from three other houses constructed throughout the years by family members. What separates the dwellings are 10,000 neatly aligned peach trees that fill the land called Rainbow Meadow Farm - so named because the earthen wall that once served as a dam was rainbow in shape.

"This land is the only legacy we have to leave to our children," said Philip Anderson. "It's a hard decison to make."

The family has turned down other interested developers. One wanted the land for a cemetery, but the Andersons said no. Others wanted to build more houses. No was the response again. It wasn't the money - Philip Anderson said he did not even ask how much - but because the farm has been in his family since 1906 or 1908 and he intends to retain a small portion and live on it during his golden years.

"When you work a piece of land as long as we have, you get a feel for what you would like to see on it," he said. "What we look out on means as much to us than anyone else."

Charland Development of Edison has made an appealing offer to both him and the township, said Anderson. He would not give any numbers but said Charland wants to build a long-term life-care community for senior citizens. It would provide housing as well as a medical facility for short- or long-term health care.

Councilwoman Mary Ann Rivell said such a self-contained community would be Delran's first.

Township officials are drafting a special zoning ordinance to make it attractive for Delran's senior citizens to remain in the township "especially for residents who really were the mainstay of the town before other developments came in."

"If you meet the Andersons, they are really honorable," Rivell said. ''Their family has a long history in the town and there really is an element of altruism to have this kind of development."

The Andersons do not expect the sale to occur overnight. They are awaiting township decisions on the zoning and the tradition that began more than 80 years ago, when Wesley Anderson purchased acreage and a farmhouse, will continue for now.

"If the farm ever goes to developers, we plan to keep on farming until the last roof is nailed down," Raymond Anderson said.

Delran Cracking Down On Delinquent Builder

Source: Posted: March 01, 1992

Since 1990, Delran has waited for one of its major developers to pay its taxes. Numerous delinquency notices later, the Township Council has decided to play hardball by instructing its solicitor to initiate foreclosure on a parcel of land zoned for affordable housing.

"Either way, we are going to get our taxes," said John Harrington, the solicitor. "We are not going to let the township suffer."

InterDevelCo., of Englewood, the company that was to build low-to-moderate- income housing on a vacant tract along Hartford Road, has ignored requests for back taxes that now amount to $394,489, according to township officials. The amount owed is the largest tax delinquency in Delran in at least 10 years, according to Donna Ibbetson, tax collector.

"There is an issue of fairness here. We have to provide services that must be provided every day," Mayor Richard Knight said. "We have senior citizens and unemployed folks who are being asked to subsidize InterDevelCo., and I think they are in better financial shape than the senior citizens of Delran."

Delran's troubles with InterDevelCo. began in December 1990, when the township refused to grant the company final approval to build on 135 acres until the company paid $160,000 in taxes due.

"They never showed up, gave the money or appeared again," Harrington said.

The township recouped less than $10,000 of the taxes owed by InterDevelCo. in a July 1991 tax sale at which investors acquired liens on small portions of the property. The township itself placed a lien on the bulk of the land - 124 acres, which now could be foreclosed.

InterDevelCo., also known as IDC, was to build 744 housing units on 135 of 257 acres zoned for low-to-moderate housing. (Scarborough Inc. has begun constructing 713 units on the remaining 122 acres.) The company had bought the property from Affordable Living Corp., a New York development firm that had brought a lawsuit against the township in 1983 accusing it of violating the state Supreme Court's Mount Laurel II decision on affordable housing. ALC's lawsuit was merged with a similar lawsuit filed by Creekford of Berlin.

Although Scarborough, the developer of Creekford, has begun construction, township officials say there has been no construction on the land owned by IDC. Bisgaier, an attorney in Haddonfield for ALC, said that for the last year IDC has been the target of a separate foreclosure attempt by ALC and National State Bank of Woodbridge, N.J.

InterDevelCo. was one of six businesses in Delran that failed to pay taxes in January 1991, causing a shortfall in expected revenue collection, township officials say.

Knight said five of the businesses - including Rouse & Associates of Philadelphia and the Millside Shopping Center - either have paid their bills or have arranged an installment plan with the township. The payment requests to InterDevelCo. have gone unanswered, he said.

In an interview Tuesday, a spokesman for InterDevelCo., Ken Breskin, gave two reasons that the firm has not paid its taxes to Delran: The financially troubled company has been involved in a three-year lawsuit with a lender, and Delran's tax assessor had placed too high an assessment on the land - $6 million.

Breskin said the delinquent taxes eventually would get paid.

"No one is going to forfeit the property just for the amount of taxes owed," he said.

Township officials said InterDevelCo., one of three major developers in the town, was one factor that caused the uncollected tax reserve (the difference between anticipated and collected tax receipts) to jump from $449,000 in 1990 to $974,000 in 1991.

"Those words are really nice," Knight said, referring to Breskin's assurance the bill will be paid, "but those taxes are due when the bill is rendered. What is happening is the taxpayers are asked to subsidize InterDevelCo. while they are in litigation.

"So, I'm not sympathetic in the slightest. We have a responsibility to collect those taxes."

Sales Of New Homes Soaring In 3 Areas Bucks, Montco, South Jersey

Source: Posted: August 07, 1992

New home communities in Montgomery and Bucks counties and South Jersey are selling like hotcakes, despite an overall drop in new home sales for the Delaware Valley during the second quarter.

Sales of new homes in the Philadelphia suburbs plunged 30 percent during the April to June period after a robust start in the first three months, according to a quarterly report by Legg Mason Realty Group.

However, Legg Mason analyst Bob Lefenfeld was quick to point out that even with the drop, sales for the first half of 1992 outshine the comparable 1991 period by 14 percent.

"It gets dangerous when you look at the market on a quarterly basis," cautioned Lefenfeld, co-author of Housing Market Profiles. "Part of the reason the second quarter is down is that we had such a healthy first quarter."

The new-home market is a lot healthier than it was last year or even two years ago, Lefenfeld said. The decrease in traffic over the last two months and the corresponding drop in the number of houses sold (2,483 vs. 3,545) does not mean the market is "going back down the tube," he said.

Lefenfeld said major builders are surviving the recovery by cutting back on housing starts and making those they do build more affordable.

"In the long-term there is still going to be a market for new homes," he said. "The low interest environment expands the universe of potential homebuyers to people who never would have considered homeownership four years ago.

"Things have slowed considerably, but realistically, the building industry recognizes that we're not going to have the kind of household growth or house sale numbers that we had in the go-go years of the mid '80s."

Don't tell that to builders in Bucks and Montgomery counties, where some communities are selling at a pace reminiscent of the boom years.

Warrington Oaks, a single-family detached home community in Bucks County built by Fieldstone Partnerships, has racked up a phenomenal 155 sales since February. Another Bucks best-seller, The Quaker Group's Hidden Pond site in Warwick, signed 48 contracts in just three months.

Makefield Glen, a Toll Brothers' townhome community, has moved 75 homes since January, selling an average of five a week, said Tom Argyris, an assistant vice president for marketing.

At least 12 units at The Townhomes of Spruce Mill - the latest phase of the Bucks County community - were sold in the past four weeks from blueprints alone, he added. "That's way beyond our expectations without a model or promotion," Argyris said of the fourth and final phase of the Makefield project. Prices start around $104,900 for a two-bedroom, 1 1/2-bath townhome with a full basement, he said.

Meanwhile, Realen also is defying the slow economic recovery. Sales at Fairfield at Farmview, a Bucks community of pricey estate homes, are moving at a rate of around five a month, even with a $262,900 starting price tag.

Realen's townhome communities also are selling well, said Diane Standen, the firm's marketing director. She cited Brookstone in Yardley, where 41 townhomes starting at $115,900 were sold in the past six months.

Still, Standen said, "things are moving slower this year" than last when the country was riding the crest of a wave of euphoria over the success of Desert Storm. "The war was ending and there was a lot of enthusiasm about getting into the home market," Standen recalled. "This year, thre's a lot of wait and see. People are taking longer to make a purchase."

Realen communities like Farmview, which will open a fourth phase called Penn's Field at Farmview next month, have been able to successfuly capture the interest of what few buyers are out there, she said.

Farmview's attractive location, amid rolling acres of preserved farmland, near I-95 with commuter rail access to New York, Philadelphia and the Princeton, N.J., area, adds significantly to its sales appeal.

Location, location, location is also key to the success of Warrington Oaks, said Sylvania Boenenberger, sales manager for Fieldstone Partnerships. Price is another. Houses in the community, which has room for 155 homes, start at $169,990, within the range of most move-up buyers, she said. "All of our buyers had a house to sell," she said. "But their homes were lower priced than ours and they aren't having any problems moving them."

Just in case, the builder offers seller contingency clauses in its sales contract, Bonenberger said.

Not surprisingly, the Legg Mason report highlighted Bucks and Montgomery counties as the most active sales area in the Delaware Valley. With a total of 1,108 transactions, the two counties accounted for 44 percent of the quarterly action, Lefenfeld said.

Bucks County and western Montgomery County have some of the strongest employment growth in the region, he said.

Chester and Delaware counties' share of the suburban market continues to shrink with only 454 sales reported for the three months, he said. That's 18 percent of the region's total sales activity for the period.

Across the Delaware, the three South Jersey counties surveyed reported 931 sales for the quarter - 37 percent of the area's sales. According to Lefenfeld, South Jersey was the only area of the survey to experience an increase in sales compared to the second quarter - 931 vs. 749.

One of the hottest communities in South Jersey is Scarborough Corp.'s SummerHill community in Delran, Burlington County.

At least 75 families have bought single-family homes and townhouses in the community since its opening in March. That's about six times the normal rate of sales in today's economy, said Mark Hodges, marketing director for Scarborough. Another 35 buyers are on a waiting list for SummerHill's next section of single-family homes.

SummerHill has been overwhelmingly popular since its opening day, when 300 people lined up outside the sales center. Hodges attributed SummerHill's success to its location, affordable prices, and the Scarborough name.

Delran is a popular town with an uncongested, small-town atmosphere and excellent school system, he said. Prices at SummerHill start at $129,990 for single-family homes and $97,990 for townhouses. And about 20 percent of the SummerHill buyers are from Tenby Chase, a nearby Scarborough community built in the 70s.

Delran Delays Road Project To Bring In The Peach Harvest

Source: Posted: September 21, 1992

DELRAN — The 8,500 peach trees at Anderson's Rainbow Meadow Farms, the largest family-owned farm in the township, have been plucked of their fruit. Only 1,000 boxes remain to be stored and shipped.

And although the final tally won't be complete until November, this year's harvest appears to have been a success, said farm owner Phil Anderson.

It could have easily been a failure - all because of a road project.

The township council came to the rescue last month and put a temporary halt to the project, which would have disrupted the daily route that trucks took to the farm to pick up shipments of fruit.

"Those (projects) always happen in a farmer's busy season," said Anderson, a third-generation owner. "It could go on in May or October. We really appreciate the delay."

Last month, the five-member township council - angered that developers did not coordinate the road work with the harvest - unanimously granted the Andersons' emergency request to delay the project for 30 days. The county, which owns the road, backed the decision. The delay expires today.

The project spans a 1,000-foot section of Creek Road just next to the farm. The road will be widened, and a 100- to 200-foot stretch will be leveled, said Scarborough Corp. engineer Ray Lindsay.

Scarborough first placed signs near the site in early August, telling drivers that the work would last a week and that access would be severely limited. Scarborough, based in Voorhees, is building a 713-unit housing development between Creek Road and Hartford Road. Drivers along the stretch, including the peach truckers, were told to find alternate routes.

The leveling would have coincided with the Andersons' last harvest of peaches, which blossomed about two weeks late this year because of unseasonably cool spring weather. The road work was sure to delay the arrival of trucks at the farm.

The suggested diversion was a roundabout solution. Trucks would have had to drive on Hartford Road to Bridgeboro-Moorestown Road and proceed to Creek Road - a detour that would have taken up to seven minutes.

With months of effort on the line, the Andersons took their case to the council.

"It's the worst possible time for us," Phil Anderson's wife, Alice, told council members. "Nobody, unless they're in farming, knows what we go through. If they could wait even six weeks, we could all sit down and talk. I'm very emotional about this."

Scarborough, represented that night by Lindsay, said the company had already spent $10,000 in engineering costs. He offered to keep one lane open from 4 to 6 p.m.

Alice Anderson argued that truckers operating on a tight schedule would be scared away if even five to seven minutes were added to their normal trip. She also maintained that area residents would forgo their visits to the burgeoning retail store, which the Andersons increasingly rely on for supplemental income.

Council Vice President William Smock, son of an Indiana farming family, jumped to the Andersons' defense, telling other council members that the harvest would be threatened by the road project.

"I'd do it again," Smock said.

A Major Comeback To Delran For A Builder Of New Houses Summerhill's The First Development In 25 Years. Eventually, It Will Include More Than 700 Residences.

Source: Posted: September 27, 1992

SummerHill, Delran Township, Burlington County

There are more than just one or two reasons why Scarborough Corp.'s SummerHill is creating a stir in Delran.

1. It's the only new-home development in Delran since Scarborough built Tenby Chase 25 years ago, according to sales manager Brenda Bencini.

2. More than 700 units are planned for the community, including single- family homes, townhouses and condominiums.

3. Prices for single-family homes start at $135,990.

4. There are 12 floor plans to choose from, and home designs include Colonials and a bi-level. The 200 single-family homes planned for SummerHill offer from 1,300 to 2,300 square feet of living space, and each will have a garage (two-car except in one model with a one-car), and 2 1/2 baths (except in one model with 1 1/2).

Eight models have family rooms (optional in others), and all but two models have three bedrooms. A fourth bedroom is standard in the Brentwood. The Hawthorne can be built with three or four bedrooms. A fourth bedroom can be had at extra cost in other selected models.

A sign announces "No Cold Showers" in the bathrooms, alluding to the standard, 50-gallon hot-water heater. Other standard features include vinyl tub and shower units, wrought-iron balustrade and steel exterior doors (and frames) with self-closing hinges.

Nine-foot first-floor ceilings are standard in some models. In SummerHill, ''7-11" stairways are standard. These stairs designed for added safety have 7-inch risers and 11-inch treads. Another special standard feature are door frames wide enough to accommodate a wheelchair.

A furnished sample of the Hawthorne, with its two-story foyer and cathedral ceiling in the family room, can be seen at the site. Also on-site is the Berkeley, which offers an optional family room.

All single houses at SummerHill are two-story except for the Oakwood, which is a bi-level. It also is the least expensive home, but includes a family room on the lower level, where a second full bath can be added at extra cost.

An eat-in kitchen, living/dining room, 1 1/2 baths and three bedrooms are on the upper level.

Although the prices of the single-family houses range from $135,990 to $161,990, Bencini said one lot remained in the first section, where the prices were $2,000 to $5,000 lower (depending on the model chosen).

Bencini also noted that all remaining lots carried a premium of between $500 and $2,000.

About 500 condominium flats and two-bedroom, 1 1/2-bath townhouses (with one-car garages) are planned for a site contiguous to the singles of SummerHill.

Construction is underway on the townhouses, starting at $99,000. Plans are not set for the condominium flats.


Name: SummerHill.

Type of housing: Single-family homes.

Builder: Scarborough Corp.

Phone: 609-461-0060.

Number of units: 200.

Price range: $135,990 to $161,990.

Styles: Colonial; bi-level.

Bedrooms: Three and four.

Baths: 1 1/2 and 2.

Construction: Frame on slab; vinyl siding.

Heating: Gas, hot-air.

Air conditioning: Standard.

Fireplace: Optional.

Garage: One-car or two-car, depending on model.

School district: Delran.

Estimated taxes: $3,133 to $3,732.

Insulation: Walls: R-13; Ceiling: R-30. (Recommended insulation standards for this area are: R-19 walls and R-30 ceiling. The higher the R factor, the better the insulation.)

Floors: Wall-to-wall carpet in living areas; no-wax sheet vinyl in kitchen, foyer, and baths.

Extra-cost options: Basement; fireplace; deck; intercom and alarm systems; upgraded flooring, cabinetry and appliances; fourth bedroom in some models; family room in those homes without one; master bath in one model where not included; windowed bay area; whirlpool tub in some models; skylights; six- panel doors; stained-trim package; cathedral ceilings in some models; wooden balustrade, and laundry tub.

Shopping: Moorestown Mall, 10-minute drive; Cherry Mall, 15-minute drive; center with market, three-minute drive.

Public Transportation: PATCO High-Speed Line, 15-minute drive; bus, five- minute drive.

Hours: 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Tuesday through Sunday; noon to 5 p.m. Monday, or by appointment.

Directions: Take the Tacony-Palmyra Bridge to New Jersey. Follow Route 73 south to Interstate 295. Go north on I-295 to Exit 43 (Delran). Bear right at end of ramp toward Delran, onto Creek Road. Go 3.2 miles to SummerHill on the left.

Excavation At Delran Field Site Has Residents Yearning For Dirt The Topsoil Was Dug Up During Work On A Housing Development. Some Of It Was Sold Out Of Town.

Source: Posted: December 06, 1992

DELRAN — The latest dirt making the rounds here is not about politics.

This is the real thing - tons of topsoil that have been displaced during construction of the 700-unit Summerhill housing development between Creek and Hartford Roads.

Specifically, the topsoil in question lies on the site of a soccer field that the developer, Scarborough Corp. of Voorhees, is building as part of its development agreement with the township.

During the last several weeks, Scarborough has been using most of the soil for landscaping around the development. But it also has been hauling some of it out of town, for a profit, much to the consternation of local recreation leaders.

The Township Council had given Scarborough permission to haul dirt in mid- November without informing the Delran Athletic Association or the Recreation Advisory Committee. But the council asked Scarborough to stop removing the soil one day after its Nov. 24 meeting, saying the developer should wait until an official resolution permitting the removals was approved, perhaps on Dec. 16.

Now some residents, including recreation officials, fear they are witnessing the pillaging of a native treasure. They say the topsoil is desperately needed to renovate more than 10 soccer, baseball and softball fields across the seven-square-mile township.

"In order to bring them (the fields) up to snuff, we're talking major money. I could spend one-half million dollars real fast," said Marion Bayne, president of the athletic association.

The association could use the topsoil at 11 of the township's 13 recreation fields to fill in ruts, level the ground and prepare it for seeding, Bayne said. He added that in some cases, new grass had not been planted for at least 20 years.

The dirt removals led to a sharp exchange between Bayne, several other residents and Council President Henry Shinn at the Nov. 24 meeting. Shinn pounded his gavel several times while facing down accusations that he was letting Scarborough "rape" Delran.

Delran's 1974 land-excavation ordinance does not even address the transportation of dirt out of the township, and Shinn said there was no reason the athletic groups couldn't use the dirt.

"If you can haul it, you can have it," Shinn told them at the meeting.

Recreation officials said they did not have the means to transfer the dirt to the fields and wanted the township to do the job. That doesn't seem likely, mostly because leaf removal is occupying township workers' time and attention.

Eileen McGonigle, council liaison to the RAC, said she believed at least some of the dirt should stay in town.

Our children need the fields," she said. About 1,600 children between ages 5 and 15 use the seven soccer fields during the year, Bayne said.

Approval of the resolution could take place as soon as Dec. 16. Until then, the council is expected to discus what to do with the dirt.

Ray Lindsay, Scarborough's project engineer, called the delay "ridiculous. We wanted to get something built for the township early. We wanted to remove the excess. That's all we're trying to do."

He said he did not know how many tons of topsoil were in question or how much had been removed. He added that Scarborough was earning well below $100 per truckload, not the "incredibly inaccurate" $300 to $400 per haul that Bayne had told the council.

The controversy, Lindsay said, will not prevent Scarborough from completing the soccer field and several adjacent tennis courts by the spring.

Delinquent Property Tax On Delran Tract Is Paid Up

Source: Posted: December 19, 1992

It took three years, but taxes on one of the biggest property tracts in Delran are finally paid up.

On Wednesday, the township tax office got a holiday surprise when National State Bank in Woodbridge presented it with a check for $563,590.18.

But despite the good news, settling the township's largest tax delinquency was not exactly viewed as Christmas one week early.

"It's good news any time anybody pays their taxes," Township Administrator Jeffrey S. Hatcher said. However, "I don't think it's that big a deal. I think they should have been paying their taxes all along. There are 3,500 people who pay their taxes on time every quarter."

The bank bought the tax-delinquent property - 235 acres between Creek and Hartford Roads - in a March tax lien sale under the name of Delran Land Partnership.

The property's previous owner, InterDevelCo, had been delinquent since 1990. The partnership took over the property's title in June, but the imminent possibility of losing the land to a private buyer apparently compelled it to pay up.

In October, a private party from Berlin expressed interest in buying the property and paying its back taxes, Township Solicitor Anthony Cavuto said. Cavuto notified the partnership and on Wednesday, hours before the Township Council was scheduled to consider the offer, the check was in Tax Collector Donna Ibbetson's hands.

The effect of the payment on the budget and municipal tax rate is unclear, Hatcher said, because state aid figures will not be released for months. Plans for the land also remained mostly unclear, except that the partnership, which declined to comment, will still have to develop affordable housing on the property because of special zoning, Councilman Andrew Ritzie said.

InterDevelCo was supposed to build 744 low- and moderate-income housing units on 135 acres of the property.

Delran Reports 33 Percent Increase In Building Permits Over 1991 Records Show 784 Permits Were Issued Through Last Month. Home Repairs Account For Much Of The Jump.

Source: Posted: December 20, 1992

DELRAN — Despite the sluggish economy, and perhaps because of it, the township employees who issue building permits hardly had time for a vacation this year.

They have been busy, really busy. And it's not just because of new houses sprouting up at Summerhill, a large-scale Scarborough Corp. development being built between Creek and Hartford Roads.

Records at the Construction Code Office show that, through November, 784 new and updated permits had been issued, a 33 percent increase over last year. The total for 1991 was 590, said Thelma Espenschied, clerk with the office.

Even without the 124 new housing permits issued so far, the tally is still well above the 1991 figures. Espenschied said she expected to process at least 50 more by month's end, unless the holidays or bad weather act as a deterrent.

Records show that many people have made repairs on their aging houses and have installed energy-saving timers on their central air-conditioning systems.

In addition, about 30 Delran residents have made down payments on 132 available townhouses or single-family homes at Summerhill, which will eventually comprise more than 700 residences.

Donatius McMahon, the township's construction code official, said he also believed some residents were living on tighter budgets. As a result, they are adding on and renovating instead of purchasing homes.

"I would attribute it to the poor economy, because people tend to fix up rather than buy," he said of the permit increase.

"I'm in that position myself," said resident Bob Salmons, a building contractor.

Stretched for cash, he applied in June for a permit to build a $5,000 addition to his house on Pine Valley Road. Enclosing a newly renovated kitchen that cost about $25,000, the addition awaits new roofing and siding.

"People, instead of moving out of their homes, are renovating so they don't have to move out of the neighborhood," said Salmons, whose renovation business has gone up this year.

If not for the medium-priced homes at Summerhill, new home construction in town would have been nearly nonexistent. Other than Summerhill, only two such building permits were issued, according to office records.

Only one new commercial development was on the list.

The increase in permits is important for Delran because the construction code office has taken in more fees - $250,768 so far this year - and the township has expanded its pool of taxable properties.

Last year, the total value of all construction was $11,268,559. Through November, the total value this year was $12,357,373, about $7.5 million of which the township has added to its list of taxable properties, said Donn Lamon, the tax assessor.

Because of Summerhill, Delran's building permit figures fit in with current housing market statistics across South Jersey, according to Rick Van Osten, director of Member Services with the Builders League of South Jersey. Members of the league include 120 building contractors, including Scarborough Corp., and 355 supporting agencies such as lumber and mortgage companies as members.

"There has been an upturn in people remodeling, but compared to last year through the end of November, the units our members have built and sold is up 29 percent," Van Osten said.

"Anything compared to last year will be pretty good," because it was considered the worst year since World War II for the number of building permits issued statewide, he said.

Delran Athletic Association Balks At Plans For More Soccer Fields The Dispute Involves The New Fields At Summerhill. Some See Them As A Baseball Diamond In The Rough.

Source: Posted: December 27, 1992

DELRAN — Recreational fields are meant for fun and games, but in the cold months of winter, those with a major interest in them are becoming embroiled in a dispute that is hardball all the way.

The latest encounter involves a proposed soccer field on a site that athletic officials in town would like to see used for baseball. The site is part of the 713-home Summerhill development, between Creek and Hartford Roads.

Just a few weeks ago, the Delran Athletic Association was outraged because the Scarborough Corp. of Voorhees, builder of the development, was transporting valuable topsoil out of town from the construction site.

The association's run-down fields, which are used by 1,500 youngsters during the year, could use that soil, association president Marion Baynes said. But the Township Council is pessimistic about finding a way to deliver the dirt. Scarborough won't do it. That conflict is far from being resolved.

The latest issue is lying right beneath the topsoil and involves the use of the site itself.

The first proposal, as the development got underway, was for a football field. Then, it was going to be two soccer fields. Then, until this month, one soccer field and two tennis courts.

The association wants none of it, Baynes said. With nine mostly deteriorated soccer fields available for the association's popular soccer leagues, the main concern now is a facility for a resurging interest in baseball.

On Dec. 16, the Township Council decided to drop the current plans and negotiate a new arrangement with Scarborough.

Delran's participants in the national pastime have just two fields to play on: the Notre Dame field and one at the high school.

The two fields are being used by the high school, the Delran Diamonds of the Rancocas Valley League, teams from the Delran AA league for 13- to 15- year-olds and, starting this spring, the local men's Senior League.

"It's hard to schedule games; it's hard for practice," said Committeewoman Eileen McGonigle, the council's representative to the township Recreational Advisory Committee. "There's a lot of teams out there."

Baynes has expressed no desire for another soccer field; she just wants the topsoil for them.

But in two contentious appearances before the council, Don Deutsch, the AA's representative to the advisory committee, recommended installing a soccer-field overlay on the proposed baseball field. He says soccer fields are in short supply in the eastern end of town, where the development is being built.

Deutsch added that he would not fight a baseball field if that is found to be a priority.

McGonigle said the Summerhill recreational field might come up again when the council resumes meeting next month. She predicted that Scarborough would cooperate, because it had in the past.

"I don't think it will be a problem at all," she said.

Scarborough is developing part of its 200-plus acre tract for affordable housing. In that case, the council is acting as the Planning Board.

Delran Fights Appeal Of Tax Assessment Since 1981, Hunters Glen Has Saved $555,403 Through Appeals. Delran Wants That Trend To End.

Source: Posted: February 24, 1993

DELRAN — Like many municipalities, Delran saw tax dollars slip away last year when commercial properties received reductions in their assessments, either by appealing to the state or county tax court or by settling with the township.

The successful tax appeals "have taken a significant toll on municipalities (throughout the state) over the last several years," said Jay Johnston, New Jersey Department of Community Affairs spokesman.

But when it comes to gaining by the system, Hunters Glen Apartments has historically taken the prize among Delran's commercial properties.

Since the 1981 revaluation, assessment records show that the apartment complex on Route 130 has saved $555,403 through appeals. Each year's assessment was under appeal at some point, the tax assessor's records show.

By far the township's biggest taxpayer, the 1,124-unit complex is currently appealing its 1991 and 1992 assessments of $33,720,000 with the state Tax Court of New Jersey in Newark. Hunters Glen's assessments nearly doubled after the 1991 revaluation.

The big stakes have again compelled Delran to hire an expert appraiser to revalue the property and testify in tax court, if asked. Lee L. Romm, Inc. was contracted last month to do the job for no more than $2,500.

"When you realize what the (potential) loss in taxes are, it's money well spent," Councilman Andrew Ritzie said.

Township officials say that commercial properties like Hunters Glen are taking advantage of a no-lose situation. In 1992 alone, various Whitesell company properties, Dredge Harbor Marina and Willowbrook Country Club saw their assessments lowered by hundreds of thousands of dollars, said Victoria Pfeiffer, clerk of the Tax Assessor's Office.

"I don't like it," said Ritzie. "but the fact remains (that) any reduction they get is a win.

Sidney Lipkin, property manager at Hunters Glen, put it this way: "We have everything to gain."

Hunters Glen, which was built in the late 1960s and the mid-1970s, started appealing about 20 years ago with minor success, former Township Assessor George Scimeca recalled. Then in the late '70s, he said, Hunters Glen began winning because poor management dragged down the value of the property.

For instance, the complex had its 1981 assessment reduced from $10.416 million to $9 million, a tax savings of $34,975, records show. In 1989, its assessment was lowered to $17 million by the tax court, a reduction of $6 million and a tax savings of $232,440.

Assessments of commercial properties are based on an income approach, which relies on a number of factors: occupancy rates, depreciation and property improvements, according to current Township Assessor Donn Lamon. Taken together, the assessor calculates an assessment based on what an investor would pay for the property. The municipal tax rate is 36 cents per $100 of assessed valuation. The average home in Delran is assessed at $130,000.

Lamon defended the Hunters Glen assessment, saying that its rising occupancy rate, which now stands at 86 percent, "absolutely increases the property (value)."

The management of Hunters Glen, which has been in Chapter 11 bankruptcy since May 1991 but hopes to get out in six months, said the complex could not survive the township's $33,720,000 assessment.

Lipkin said the assessment overvalued the property by not accounting for 20 burned-out units and exaggerating the income earned through a higher occupancy rate.

"If we are forced into it, we'd take the appeal to bankruptcy court," he said.

Hunters Glen does not owe the township any back taxes. It could not have appealed to the tax court if it did. Taxes on the 1991 and 1992 years totaled $1,503,911.

If it wins its appeal, the apartment complex will receive a tax credit similar to any property that gets a favorable ruling on its assessment, Pfeiffer said.

When settling for a lower assessment, Township Administrator Jeffrey S. Hatcher said Delran tried to avoid cash payments, preferring to give properties a future tax credit.

Town Pinched By Recession Is Now Ready To Rebound Lots Of New Development Is Planned. Affordable Housing Has Attracted Scores.

Source: Posted: April 18, 1993

One could easily drive through this suburban mecca off Route 130 and miss the hidden treasures.

Split in two by a heavily commercialized highway, Delran offers a vast housing pool - priced in the $110,000-to-$175,000 range - that beckons scores of families with middle to upper-middle incomes.

The township's Delaware River shoreline, while missing the stately mansions that dot the waterway elsewhere, quietly boasts one of the river's largest concentrations of marinas.

"I think a lot of people don't realize the size and magnitude of marinas in the area," Jeff Truesdale, general manager of Clark's Landing Marina, said.

"If they came over here, they'd be shocked."

Delran takes its name from the Delaware and the Rancocas Creek, which form the township's western and northern borders, respectively.

Like other area towns, it was pinched by the recession of the late 1980s and early 1990s. Several of the township's large commercial properties negotiated large decreases in tax assessments. In 1992 and 1993, total township assessments actually decreased.

Now, once-dying properties along Route 130 are taking on new life. With the expansion of the township's sewage-treatment plant and the state's decision last year to end the near-total construction moratorium, developers have begun to show a heightened interest in reviving projects the recession and the moratorium had put on hold. Thelma Espenschied, the controller in Delran's building inspections department, said she expected building applications to increase.

The housing market, a big magnet in this township of about 14,000, is perky again after an 18-month slump.

"It has picked up considerably in the last couple of months," said Liz Oberschmidt, broker manager at Stockwell-Knight Co., a real estate firm in Cinnaminson.

SummerHill, a 713-unit development on the eastern side of the township near Moorestown, is the most recent boost to Delran's housing credentials.

SummerHill symbolizes the inexorable march of development in Burlington County, where corn and cows have lost out to people in the battle for the expanses of gently rolling land.

Scarborough Corp.'s project is attracting aspiring homeowners looking for townhouses that sell for about $105,000 and detached single-family houses that go for about $137,000.

At least 120 units have been sold since sales began last year.

Condominiums are set to be constructed, which will help the township meet its court-approved quota to provide low- to moderately-priced housing. Every municipality in New Jersey is required by state law to provide such units.

An adjacent tract of land already is zoned for another large housing development, yet to be named. Once it has been built and occupied, the township population will be much closer to the 20,000 limit envisioned by the township's 1990 master plan.

Despite the housing slump, Delran homeowners historically have received a good return on their investment, Oberschmidt said.

When pitching a home in Delran, Oberschmidt said, she talks about quality housing, neighborhoods that are friendly and safe, good schools and ample shopping.

Families stay in Delran for generations and even attract relatives from Philadelphia who are seeking an escape from the city's hustle and bustle.

Joann and Stephen Blaser are making such a move, leaving their twin house in Northeast Philadelphia to follow relatives into Delran. Earlier this month, they applied for a mortgage on a single-family home in Tenby Chase, where they hope to settle soon with their 16-month-old daughter, Lauren.

"We were looking in the area for about the last six months," Joann Blaser said. "I have family members over here, and I really enjoy the area."

With interest rates at their lowest in recent years, "we figured this was the perfect time (to buy) because we could get more house for the money," she said.

Location is another Delran plus. Joann Blaser, a registered nurse at Pennsylvania Hospital, has only a 15-to-20-minute car ride to work in downtown Philadelphia. Delran is accessible to both the Jersey Shore - the Atlantic City Expressway is easily reached by traveling south on Route 130 - and the bridges that form a gateway into the Poconos.

Boaters and water lovers gather along Delran's marina to nibble on fast food and glimpse the setting sun. Truesdale believes the township's marina facilities are a great asset and should be marketed more aggressively. Philadelphia's docks are just a 20-minute boat ride away and the Chesapeake Bay is a mere 2 1/2-hour trip downriver and through the Chesapeake and Delaware Canal, he said.

"Instead of driving two hours in traffic to get to the Jersey Shore, we're right here," Truesdale said. "We offer the same things all the Jersey marinas offer: dockage, sales, service, fuel and food. There's coves and harbors and creeks. There are a lot of places to go, a lot to do."

Most of Delran's suburban developments - Swedes Run, Millside and Tenby Chase - are on the eastern side of Route 130. Built in the late 1950s and early 1960s, they contain about 2,500 single-family homes.

Houses on the western side of town are more moderately priced, and they are well-maintained, Oberschmidt said.

Indians had settled the Delran area long before the English and French Huguenots arrived during the Quaker migration of 1675-82.

Through the years, Delran was included in the old township of Chester, then Cinnaminson. Delran was incorporated as a town in 1880.

Despite the presence of a lumber and small-boat-building industry during the 1700s and 1800s, Delran remained predominately rural until the construction of the first large housing developments.

Commercial development along Route 130 exploded in the 1970s and '80s, further changing the town's once pristine atmosphere.

Some longtime residents, such as former Mayor Lorraine Schmierer, long for the Delran of yesteryear, when Millside Shopping Center was part of a large dairy farm, instead of a mixture of asphalt, glass and concrete.

"I think it (Delran) is two towns," said Schmierer. "I would prefer that it be like it was. (There's) too much congestion, too much development, too much of everything."

But the Blasers are excited about their move.

"We always had an idea that we wanted to settle in Delran," Joann Blaser said.


Population: 13,178.

Median home price: $132,000 in 1991.

Income: $13,971 per capita in 1987, 4% lower than the 7-county suburban average.

Public schools: Delran School District. Elementary: Aronson Bell School; Cambridge School; Millbridge Elementary School. Delran Middle School and Delran High School.

Taxes: Estimated tax on median-price house is $2,950.

Transportation: 15-20 minutes to Philadelphia via Route 130 and the Betsy Ross Bridge or via Route 130 to Route 30 (Admiral Wilson Boulevard) to the Ben Franklin Bridge.

Hot Dogs, Burgers And Chicken: That Was Sure Some Block Party!

Source: Posted: June 18, 1993

Builders build houses. But people build neighborhoods.

Building a sense of community at SummerHill, a new home development in Delran, is what Bert Hermansky and his wife, Linda, had in mind when they started knocking on their neighbors' doors to invite them to a block party.

"We moved into SummerHill last November," said Hermansky, a liquor and wine salesman. But it was the summer before that, while their home was under construction, that the Hermanskys got the idea for the get-together.

"Driving around in the mud, meeting our future neighbors, seeing how we got along . . . we decided it would be a good idea to have a block party," he said.

And so, they did. Last Saturday, about 200 people showed up at 2 p.m. - many of them before that - to meet and greet, to run races, play volleyball, croquet and tug of war, poke at piatas, ride on fire trucks, and eat hot dogs, hamburgers and Linda Hermansky's "phenomenal" hot chicken wings. Many stayed until after midnight.

Hermansky said he wanted to belong to an old-fashioned neighborhood where ''everybody knows everybody else," where he could take a vacation and know his house would be guarded, where his children would always be under watchful and caring eyes.

On Saturday, neighbors set the foundation for a community, among the rows of brand-new houses.

"We're all new here and feeling our way around," said Bert Hermansky. ''And it would be real nice if, as a result of this, everyone looked out for everyone else."

Bert Hermansky didn't stop at his neighbors' doors when he began organizing the block party. He went to the police and fire departments, and local merchants for their support. And he got it. Donations in the form of discounts, goods and services came pouring in, adding to the pot of good will the Hermanskys had started cooking up.

Even the developer, Scarborough Corp., came through with some funds. The rest of the money, and elbow grease (it takes a lot of hands to set up, cook, and clean up for 200 guests), came from the neighbors themselves.

"It looks like I started something," Bert Hermansky said.

It's called a neighborhood.

At A Delran Development, Anger Over Back Yards That Fall Short Residents Feel Fenced In And, They Say, Surprised Over Limits On What They Can Do With Their Land.

Source: Posted: August 10, 1993

DELRAN — A tour of Albert Hermansky's house in Delran Township's new SummerHill development inevitably stops at the back yard, where the father of two young sons explains his unfulfilled vision.

Connected to the house should be a sun room that leads out to a 12-foot-by- 24-foot above-ground pool, the Springcress Drive resident said. They would be flanked by decks, which would complement the existing swing set, he added.

When he bought the new $150,000 house in October, Hermansky said, he paid $300 more to get a 70-by-130-foot lot - the standard lot is 30 feet shorter - that would easily accommodate his $2,500 pool. Then in May, his application for a building permit was rejected by the township's land use office, which said the deck, sun room and pool would violate the 50-foot buffer requirement.

What buffer?

Hermansky said no one had said anything about a buffer, which in this case separates Hermansky's home from a tree farm.

Hermansky learned that the buffer requirement is part of the consent order signed by Delran in 1986 that governs the development zone where SummerHill's 713 single-family homes and townhouse and condominium units are being built. A portion of the development is set aside for moderate- and low-income housing under the Mount Laurel II agreement.

In many cases, Scarborough Corp., the developer, built close to the buffer zone, residents said.

Hermansky and others have discovered they cannot proceed with additions, which they often planned for by purchasing extra land from Scarborough.

"I have a wonderful yard," said Hermansky, who has a 59-foot back yard. But "if there's a 50-foot buffer zone, that leaves me with nine feet to work with."

Scarborough officials did not respond to repeated phone calls seeking comment.

The residents say Scarborough never told them about the buffers. Homeowners said they were shown site plans indicating the lot dimensions but not the placement of the homes.

"If you sell something for that price, you ought to let people know what they're getting," said Hermansky, a Delran native who moved back from Willingboro so his children could attend township schools. "I was never told of a buffer zone."

Some residents blame themselves for not asking Scarborough salespeople about the placements, but they are still upset. The same sentiments are expressed by residents across the street from Hermansky, who have 20-foot backyard setbacks that also cannot be built upon. The way their homes are placed, their back yards are not much deeper than 20 feet.

"Maybe I was stupid, maybe I should have asked," said Jack Smith, one of those with the irksome setback. "I thought 70-by-100 was a fair-sized lot for the home I was buying."

Similar setbacks separate Smith's home from other single-family homes under construction behind him, creating a crowded feeling that has some owners joking about sharing newspaper subscriptions with their future neighbors.

The complaints have not gone unnoticed. The Township Council has scheduled a public meeting with Scarborough officials for Sept. 1 to arrange a solution that will satisfy residents. Under the 1986 consent order, the council is acting as the planning board for the development.

Councilman Andrew Ritzie said he would push for a blanket variance to allow residents to build on their buffers.

"What bothers me is the developer sold the land, collected the money, (and) didn't tell the residents what they're doing," Ritzie said. "It never crossed my mind that people could sell a buffer."

Joseph Bieniek said he did not let the setback requirement stop him from building a deck, but he reduced the dimensions from 18 by 14 feet to 18 by 8 feet because he didn't want to pay $400 to apply for a variance.

He said he also had to return $100 worth of unneeded lumber and wasted another $100 in cutting down oversized pieces.

That made him angry, said Bienick, who paid $500 extra to get an 80-foot- deep lot.

The SummerHill houses, themselves, are of good quality, residents said. Janet Yansick, formerly of Tenby Chase, another Scarborough development in Delran, is among those who say so.

But after she and her husband spent $1,300 for a larger lot and $700 for a special structural beam that would facilitate an addition, their plans were defeated by the buffer.

"They should have let us know in the very beginning there was a 50-foot buffer," she said.

Freeholders Say They'll Back Down On Unpopular Creek Road Project They Want The Towns To Decide. But They Worry About Liability If The Bridges Are Not Fixed.

Source: Posted: January 27, 1994

MOUNT HOLLY — After hearing from 100 residents from three towns, the Burlington County freeholders last night pledged to "wash our hands" of an unpopular road proposal that has haunted officials and residents for 20 years.

The freeholders proposed returning control of Creek Road to Delran, Moorestown and Mount Laurel. The county had planned to widen a section of that road.

Freeholder Director Vincent R. Farias said the move "would negate the project" because the towns would vote against the project to widen 3.8 miles of Creek Road. The section runs from Bridgeboro Road in Delran, through Moorestown, to Centerton Road in Mount Laurel.

The freeholders are reluctant to kill the project because the county could be held liable if bridges along the road are not fixed. The Department of Transportation has been working with the county on the project since 1975.

"Let the towns make the decision," whether the project goes forward, Freeholder Francis Bodine said. Farias said if the towns reject the project, the county must reimburse the state between $2 million and $3 million in engineering costs.

Moorestown resident Gregory Lawson, who helped lead opposition to the project - which officials say is expected to cost at least $10.8 million if completed - said after the meeting that he did not think the freeholders would get off that easy.

"I think it's predictable politics," Lawson said. "The potential of these towns taking back something with a potential liability is low."

State and county engineers want to widen the road for safety. But residents said that expanding the two-lane road from 20 feet to 24 feet and adding an eight-foot shoulder on each side would harm their areas.

They particularly worried about more traffic, especially from trucks traveling from Routes 38 and 130 and I-295.

"I don't want to cross a major highway to get to my school," said David Gorman, 7, of Moorestown. "I don't think the Creek Road project is safe or makes any sense. My friends don't either."

The boy and his parents were among 18 people who spoke against the project during a 90-minute session.

Many of the residents were also concerned about environmental damage.

Last week, they asked the Department of Environmental Protection to deny the county a permit for stream encroachment, required because the road passes over five tributaries of Rancocas Creek.

These Homes Are Suited For Empty Nesters As Well

Source: Posted: June 19, 1994

SummerHill, Delran Township, Burlington County

Sandy and Stanley Wieckowski moved from a rowhouse in Philadelphia's Port Richmond section to a condominium garden flat at SummerHill when their two boys were grown because it was the right size for their stage of life.

"We fell in love with the atmosphere, the cozy apartment. It was convenient, just the right size for the two of us," said Sandy Wieckowski.

"And we really liked the way everything was laid out here at SummerHill - the townhouses, condominiums and the single homes," she added.

Gary Schaal, senior vice president of Scarborough Corp., said SummerHill was designed to provide families with the right size home for different stages of their lives without leaving the neighborhood.

And although Schaal's vision is of families trading up from a smaller home to a larger one, the Wieckowskis have shown that moves can go both ways.

"Being in our 50s, we decided it would be easier for us to enjoy our weekends together here," Sandy Wieckowski said. "I always had an idea of how I wanted things. Here, I have everything I could want on one floor."

About 711 residences are planned for SummerHill in Delran, including 172 single-family homes, 331 condominium townhouses (half with garages), and 208 condominium garden flats.

"We started with the singles, then we started the towns. The condos are the middle," said Schaal. "I think it makes a nice homogeneous community," he said.

The garden flats are in two-story buildings with vinyl siding of various pastel tints. Each unit has a private front entrance, and the second-floor units have interior stairwells.

"The exteriors of the condos were designed to blend in with the community," Schaal said. "They don't look like flats per se, but more like townhomes. And the colors are the same (ones) we use throughout all our communities."

All of the flats at SummerHill have two bedrooms and one bath as part of the standard package. The first-level units all have 921 square feet of living space, and the second-level units have 1,039 square feet. They range in price from $78,990 to $81,990.

Optional second baths are available for $2,150. End units, which have an additional two or three windows, cost $1,000 extra.

The two basic designs (offered on each level) are the same except for the location of the kitchen. In the Arlington it's between the living/dining room and the second bedroom; in the Braddock, it's at the rear of the unit.

A patio or balcony with a storage closet is standard in every unit, as are mini-blinds or vertical blinds on all windows and sliding glass doors. Also, besides hard-wired smoke alarms, every unit has an interior sprinkler system. If activated, this system sounds a common alarm in the building, said sales manager Jackie Marrama.

Second-floor units have cathedral ceilings and a large walk-in closet with two windows in the second bedroom.

SummerHill currently has a single community association, with a $95 monthly fee. Eventually each section of SummerHill will have its own association that will operate under the main organization.

Bert Hermansky, 37, who lives in a single home with his wife, Linda, and their two young sons, is one of two residents serving on the board along with three Scarborough representatives.

He said he feels that any problems in individual homes are taken care of quickly, and that Scarborough is taking care of a minor drainage problem brought to its attention by residents.

"I'm just thrilled to be here," Hermansky said. "It's our slice of heaven."


Name: SummerHill.

Type of Housing: Condominium Garden Flats.

Builder: Scarborough Corp.

Phone: 609-461-3919.

Number of Units: 216.

Standard Price Range: $78,990 to $81,990.

Bedrooms: Two.

Baths: One.

Construction: Frame on slab; vinyl siding.

Heating: Electric heat pump.

Air Conditioning: Standard.

Fireplace: None.

Garage: None; off-street.

School District: Delran.

Estimated Taxes: $1,800 to $1,900.

Insulation: Walls: R-11 to R-13; Roof: R-19 to R-30. (Recommended insulation standards for the metropolitan area are: R-19, walls; R-30, ceiling. The higher the R factor, the better the insulation.)

Floors: Wall-to-wall carpet in living areas; no-wax sheet vinyl in kitchen, foyer and bath.

Shopping: Moorestown Mall, 10-minute drive; Cherry Hill Mall, 15-minute drive; food market, 5-minute drive.

Public Transportation: PATCO High-Speed Line, 25-minute drive; bus, 5- minute drive.

Hours: 10 a.m. to 5 p.m., Tuesday through Sunday; noon to 5 p.m. Monday, or by appointment.

Directions: In New Jersey, take I-295 North to Exit 43 (Rancocas Woods/ Delran). Bear right off the ramp toward Delran, and onto Creek Road. Go 0.2 mile to first traffic light and turn left onto Rancocas/Centerton Road. Go 1.4 miles to Hartford Road (blinking light) and turn right. Go about 2.4 miles to SummerHill Drive on the right. Go 0.2 mile to Autumnwood Drive and turn left. Go one block to Foxglove Drive and turn right to the garden homes.

Township Opposes Widening Of Road Moorestown Officials Say Expansion Of Creek Road Will Change Its Character.

Source: Posted: March 06, 1995

MOORESTOWN — For more than 20 years, Burlington County officials and residents have fought about plans for a project to widen Creek Road.

They're fighting still.

Township Council members in Moorestown - which is home to the largest section of the road - went on record last week opposing the plan as it is currently designed, contending it "would forever alter the roadway's character and surrounding environment."

"What we don't want to see is a legalized trucking route through Moorestown that hasn't been a legalized trucking route," said Councilmember Howard A. Miller Jr., to the applause of about 60 residents.

State and county engineers want to widen 3.8 miles of Creek Road, from Bridgeboro Road in Delran to Centerton Road in Mount Laurel, for safety reasons.

Residents have argued that expanding the two-lane road from 20 feet to 24 feet and adding an eight-foot shoulder on each side would add traffic that would damage their neighborhoods and the environment.

"It would be like living on Vine Street in Philadelphia," said John Semenuk, who told the Moorestown Council that prospective buyers for his Kendle's Run Road home had shied away from the property because of its proximity to Creek Road. "I don't see any need for going through with the project. There are enough interconnectors."

They have particularly expressed concerns about more traffic, especially from trucks traveling from Routes 38 and 130 and I-295. Many of the residents were also concerned about environmental damage and the $10.8 million price tag for the project.

Burlington County first suggested the project to the state Department of Transportation in 1975. Originally, plans called for Creek Road to be turned into a four-lane highway from Route 130 all the way to Route 38. Strong opposition to the plan forced the county to downgrade the reconstruction.

"We have worked to mitigate the impact and we are still working to mitigate the impact," said Ralph Shrom, administrative assistant for the county freeholders.

For example, the county got state and federal highway officials to approve a 10-ton weight limit on the road. Although the project would still improve the bridges so emergency vehicles over that weight would be safe, the limit would make regular usage of the road by large trucks illegal.

But the project still faces obstacles. The Department of Environmental Protection still must approve a permit for stream encroachment, required because the road passes over five tributaries of Rancocas Creek.

The DEP and the Department of Transportation also have conflicting ideas about how the project should be accomplished, Shrom said. The freeholders are set to meet with representatives from those departments within the next month to try to reach a consensus.

In January 1994, the Burlington County freeholders had toyed with the idea of returning control of Creek Road to Delran, Moorestown and Mount Laurel, which some believed would have effectively stalled the project because the local governments likely would not have supported it.

Shrom said the municipalities did not seem to want to take back control of the road, perhaps because of liability concerns if bridges along the road are not fixed. Also, if the project is halted, whoever owns the road would have to reimburse the federal government more than $2 million in engineering costs.

Delran drew boundaries from many divisions


Posted: March 3, 2000

Western New Jersey was divided into 10ths by the English settlers around the 1670s. The land that would become Delran Township was part of the "London Tenth," which covered what is now Burlington County and extended to the Pennsauken area. The earliest road that ran north to south was set down in 1682, linking the early towns of Burlington and Salem Counties.

By 1694, the division into l0ths had fallen by the wayside and Burlington County was established. Chester Township, which included what is now Delran, is mentioned in records as early as 1692. The township covered a large expanse of land from the Rancocas to the Pennsauken Creeks and from the Delaware River to Mount Laurel, and it included what also would become Moorestown, Riverside, Riverton, Palmyra and Cinnaminson.

Some of the early landowners and influential residents of what would become Delran included Thomas Hackney, Thomas Hackney Jr., Isaac Conoroe and Matthew Allen. Thomas Hackney, Conoroe and Allen all served as the township constable. Thomas Hackney Jr. was the "overseer of highways."

A north-south road was built through Chester Township in the 1740s. It connected the settled town of Burlington with Cooper's Ferry (later Camden). The road, made of sand and gravel, was known simply as "the Road to Cooper's Ferry." A century later it was a turnpike road, called Burlington Pike. Today it is Route 130. Soon after the road was established, a ferry across the Rancocas Creek was started. It went from Chester Township to Willingboro Township and was operated by John Buzby.

The new road and the ferry drew business and people to the area. Taverns were built, one by William Allen in 1755 and another by Thomas and Mary Gill and William Wallace in 1763. Surrounding land was developed, and communities began to evolve. By 1860, it was decided that Chester Township would be divided into two smaller, more manageable municipalities. Cinnaminson was created from about half of what was Chester Township, taking with it what would become Delran. Twenty years later, Delran was established by legislation that split Cinnaminson in half again. A town hall that had been built for Cinnaminson a decade earlier became Delran's town hall, or "town-house," as it was often called.

When Delran became its own municipality, the population was about 1,760. The towns in Delran included Bridgeboro, Fairview and Cambridge. By the 1970s, the population was 9,748.

Delran had its first full-time police officer in 1960. Today, Delran has 29 full-time officers. In 1967 the first police station was built. Before then, the township rented half of Gracie's Coffee Shop on Bridgeboro Road in the Bridgeboro section.

Facts and figures
1998 population: 14,191
Projected 2003 population: 14,791
Household Income
$100,000 or more: 798
$75,000-$99,999: 890
$50,000-$74,999: 1,264
$35,000-$49,999: 673
$25,000-$34,999: 325
$15,000-$24,999: 484
Less than $15,000: 352
Median household income: $60,494
Population by age
Younger than 6: 1,008
Age 6 to 17: 2,307
Ages 18 to 24: 1,451
Ages 25 to 34: 1,948
Ages 35 to 44: 2,149
Ages 45 to 54: 2,137
Ages 55 to 64: 1,489
Ages 65 or older: 1,702
SOURCE: "The Historical Background of Delran Township" by Lloyd S. Griscom; Delran Police Chief Art Saul and Claritas Inc., 1999.

Burlco Buys Farm And Declares That's Where The Sprawl Stops

Source: Posted: June 29, 2000

DELRAN — Negotiations had stalled, and Burlington County officials thought the coveted Anderson peach farm along the Rancocas Creek would end up in the hands of developers.

"I really walked out the front door feeling we were way apart on what we were offering and what they had in hand," Freeholder Director James K. Wujcik recalled of talks with Phil and Alice Anderson in April.

But the freeholders purchased the Creek Road farm for $5 million yesterday after the Andersons decided to sell them 123 of the 130 acres of lush beauty that has been in their family for 100 years.

Under a tent at the farm, three of the five freeholders held a special meeting to buy the property as family members and county officials looked on. Then the Andersons, Wujcik, and Freeholder William S. Haines Jr. walked down to the creek and signed the agreement.

The deal, in the works for nearly two years, calls for the Andersons to continue farming the land and retain their homes. The family has the option of receiving $1 million for five years or receiving interest payments for five years with $4 million payable in the final year.

Looking out over the creek, Phil Anderson said that five or six developers had been "hounding and pestering" him with lucrative offers to sell but that he had accepted the county offer even though 1,300 homes had been created all around him.

"Everything's going to be the same," he said. "That has value of its own."

His son, Ray, 45, agreed.

"If we sold to developers, we'd have to look out of our windows . . . and see bulldozers and the tops of houses every day," Ray Anderson said. "That wouldn't be a pretty sight. I'd like to see it stay a farm forever."

The Anderson property is an integral piece of the county's much-touted open-space and farmland-preservation program. The purchase is also the officials' third involving farmland along the Rancocas Creek, which extends from the Delaware River into the heart of the county. Last year, the county spent $1.4 million to buy the Pennington Farm on Creek Road in Delanco. It also led the purchase of Olympia Lakes in 1997.

Under the direction of the county park-and-recreation system, the farm will be opened to the public in about three years, after bike and hiking trails have been carved along the creek, county officials said.

The farm was purchased through taxes collected by way of public referendums in 1996 and 1998. Each year, the 4-cent tax generates about $9 million, Haines said.

Haines acknowledged that the price of the land was significantly higher than that of other purchases but said he was "more worried about losing the race" with developers than about "running out of money."

Wujcik and Haines said that once they had seen the view of the farm overlooking the creek, they knew the deal had to be made at all costs.

"You only have to take the ride once," Haines said, "to realize that, regardless of the dollar amount you're spending on this property, you can't buy potential, you can't buy the future, and you can't buy the creek."

Leonard N. Fleming's e-mail address is

In Delran, a rift over rent rise

Source: Posted: October 15, 2001

DELRAN — Call it the story of Rent in suburban South Jersey.

The characters are grandparents and retirees in the 30-year-old Tenby Chase Apartments off Route 130 in Delran.

During the summer, word at the 327-unit complex was that new owners were planning rent increases. That was worrisome enough to those on fixed incomes. But no one expected the notices of 24-percent increases that some tenants got in the mail after Panco Real Estate of Bergen County bought the 15 buildings in June for $20 million.

At the time, rents on identical two-bedroom townhouses ranged from $750 to more than $1,000 a month because of rent practices by prior owners.

To fight the changes, residents of about 170 units have formed a tenants association, run primarily by retirement-age adults, and tried to get the township to pass a rent-control ordinance. They plan to walk picket lines. Some are paying rent at their former rate, saying they signed renewals under duress. Others are putting their rent in escrow. Some say they might go to court.

"I'm angry for all of us," said Jane Schwedes, 81. "I'd be willing to do almost anything to fight this."

Management has been negotiating with a committee appointed by the association, but both sides say talks are all but stalled. Each side blames the other for not wanting to compromise or see the opposing point of view.

Panco, whose rate increases ranged from nominal amounts to more than $170 a month, says it wants to improve the property and bring long-discounted rents closer to market value while maintaining as much of the Tenby Chase community as possible.

"We don't want to displace anybody," said Mary O'Donnell Dowd, vice president of Panco, which owns several other complexes, including Ramblewood in Mount Laurel.

The company, based in Saddle Brook, will wait until negotiations break down before taking anyone in Tenby Chase to court, she said.

Last week, revised lease renewals went out to tenants. The top increase for renewals through next summer is about 15 percent. Discounts of up to $50 a month will be offered to longtime residents and up to $35 per month for older adults, Dowd said.

The tenants are cool to the discounts. They say Panco wants to empty the complex by attrition so new tenants will move in and pay higher rates. Because Tenby Chase was last assessed in 1991 at $10.3 million, about half the purchase price, they say the company is trying to make up the difference in just a few years.

Panco representatives say that the previous owners deferred maintenance responsibilities for years, and that Tenby Chase is a good investment in need of some work.

Deferring maintenance helped keep rents low and annual increases to about 2 percent or 3 percent, but it skewed the residents' perspective of the market value of their apartments, Dowd said.

"It was run like a mom-and-pop operation," she said.

Mick Sussman, 76, looked around his apartment, which shows off his interior-design handiwork.

"I did all this assuming I'd spend the rest of my life here," he said. "If this goes through, I'm out of here."

It is unclear how many tenants are 65 or older, but some say the changes are challenging both their budgets and their way of life.

Schwedes said she had moved to Tenby Chase to be closer to her family after her husband died. After putting four sons through college (and medical and law schools), she said, she would like to give some money to her granddaughter, a student at Princeton University. Now she is having second thoughts.

"I daren't offer any," Schwedes said. "I might need it myself."

Jack McCusker, 73, has put his German shepherd on a diet; if the dog exceeds the new 40-pound limit for pets, it will cost McCusker more than the $35-per-month standard pet fee.

Jack Harrington, 76, a retired school superintendent, has lived in a one-bedroom townhouse with his wife, Lone, for 29 years. They were originally told that their rent would increase 24 percent, he said, from $714 per month to $885. That would have meant cutting back on travel, including visits to his wife's native Amsterdam, Harrington said.

The fight has prompted Delran to hold a public hearing on a possible rent-control ordinance, and has spurred widespread discussion in the township.

Mitchell Kahn, vice president of the New Jersey Tenants Organization, said that the Tenby Chase tenants' association was a tight, well-led, passionate group, and that renters in Tenby Chase and the Hunter Glen apartment complex across the road would find they had new influence in Delran politics.

"Those two large complexes will, from now on, be a political force in town," Kahn said. "They're going to elect the next council person, and that council person will be for rent control."

Lauren Mayk's e-mail address is

At Delran's Tenby Chase, it feels 'just like a home' Townhouses and apartments, ranging from small to spacious, create a diverse mix.

Source: Posted: February 15, 2002

This Burlington County rental community may be called Tenby Chase Apartments, but there's more to it than its name implies - the complex offers not only apartments, but townhouses.

Adding yet another dimension, studio and some one-bedroom apartments have finished basements, and one-bedroom townhouses have lofts.

The property is now undergoing a $2 million-plus renovation.

Alma Crennan, who says she is retired from "raising children," has lived in a townhouse at the complex for 16 years. "I like everything about it. I like the location. I love my townhouse. It's just like a home, not a rental. It's spacious, I use my fireplace, and it's very quiet here," she said. "And I have good neighbors."

John Kovach, 33, said that his neighbors seem nice, and that the location is convenient.

"I grew up in Burlington County, and this is in good proximity to everything - Routes 295 and 130, shopping, entertainment, my friends," he said. A New Jersey state investigator, Kovach has lived at the complex for almost three years, after hearing about it from friends.

"My friends' parents lived here and had nice things to say about it. One thing in particular I like is that it's nice and quiet, and that's the way I am."

Built in the early 1970s, the 20-acre community has been under new ownership and management since June, and they have been busy renovating and upgrading units as they become available.

Included in the renovation are refinished cabinets; new hardware, appliances, countertops, flooring, interior railings and room dividers; window blinds and heating/air-conditioning systems; updated exterior signs; exterior painting; new lighting in interior and exterior common areas; enhanced exterior architectural features, such as door surrounds; new concrete; and upgraded landscaping and topography.

A wide variety of floor plans - 10 in all - are found in the 15 buildings, made of brick and siding and distinguished by varying rooflines and setbacks. A personal touch found in each unit is a private front entrance with mail slot. Fireplaces and hookups for washers and dryers are in many units of all sizes. There are coin-operated laundry facilities on-site.

Heat and hot water are included in the rent, as is use of the tennis court and swimming pool, in season. Some dogs and cats are permitted, for a fee.

Studio apartments with basements (1,000 square feet) rent for $795. One-bedroom apartments (700 to 1,271 square feet) with 1 to 1 1/2 baths and some with basements, rent for $775 to $1,035. Two-bedroom, two-bath apartments (1,331 to 2,662 square feet), some with basements, rent for $1,250 to $1,450. One-bedroom, 1 1/2-bath townhouses, with lofts and basements (1,243 square feet), rent for $1,150. Two-bedroom, 1 1/2-bath townhouses with basements (1,944 square feet) rent for $1,400 to $1,425.

Of the new management, Kovach said, "They've been very responsive."

Crennan agreed. "If I need anything, they're right there," she said. "I have no complaints, although I have very little that needs to be done."

In Delran, unlikely activists stage rent strike Tenby Chase tenants face litigation and eviction as they refuse to pay a new owner's higher rates.

Source: Posted: April 14, 2002

The residents of the Tenby Chase Apartments in Delran are not prime candidates for the activist lifestyle.

Many are nurses, retirees and elderly grandparents on fixed, middle-class incomes.

But over the last year, these suburban renters have entered into a legal battle with their landlord that could end in a raft of eviction notices.

When Panco Management of Bergen County bought the 15 buildings off Route 130 last June for $20 million, the company began raising rents when leases came up for renewal. Tenants in the 327-unit complex reported increases of as much as 24 percent.

Panco vice president Mary O'Donnell Dowd would not provide a complete list of rental prices, but said her firm is charging fair-market rates.

"Increases vary because the rents in place [under the old ownership] for virtually the same apartments were vastly different," she said.

Some tenants consented to sign new leases. But after the formation of a tenants' association last August, at least a dozen refused and began placing the difference between their old rent and the renewal rates in escrow accounts.

Panco has offered discounts for elderly and long-term residents. But members of the tenants' association say the discounts are selective and don't go far enough.

Some say they were pressured into signing the renewals, and have also decided to withhold rent.

Tenants also say that maintenance services have declined since Panco purchased the complex.

Panco has sued to evict four residents who did sign leases, for failing to pay all of their rent. One case was settled out of court in February, and the tenant has agreed to pay the new rent rate. The remaining three cases are pending. The next hearing is scheduled for Friday.

Tenants who refused to sign the renewals expect to be taken to court soon, said lawyer George Saponaro, who is representing the residents.

Gary Jackson, 59, a medical equipment repairman who is on disability, and his wife, Josselyne, 58, a property accountant, decided not to sign the new lease after Panco raised the pet fee from $10 to $50 a month for their Yorkshire terrier, Muffin, and cat, Emerald. Their rent will increase from $882 to $1,042 when their lease expires in June.

"We just made a decision we're not going to pay it," said Gary Jackson, who has lived in Tenby Chase since 1980.

"They just don't care whether you're disabled, whether you're on a fixed income or not."

In response to complaints about maintenance, Dowd said, many tenants did not request maintenance services under the old ownership and flooded the office with repair requests when Panco took over, causing a temporary slowdown in service.

Contact Angela Valdez at

Camp-out for new housing cut short A dozen couples lined up eight days in advance for 23 homes in Delran. Police intervened. The wait will resume Saturday.

Source: Posted: July 15, 2002

DELRAN — Police yesterday disbanded a group of two dozen hopeful home buyers who had been sleeping in cars and tents in front of a Delran leasing office since Friday.

The group had intended to stay until Saturday so that, at 10 a.m., they could be first in line for 23 available single-family homes in the Liberty Trail section of the Grande at Rancocas Creek.

Before the dozen couples left, agents from Grande Realty Inc. recorded their names and order of arrival, promising them first dibs.

The wait will not resume until 12:01 a.m. Saturday. A security guard will hand out numbers to others who arrive at that time.

Grande Realty had already put up a portable toilet for the group.

Since Friday, the Police Department had received complaints from a couple of residents in the neighboring Glenbrook development, which has 62 homes.

Traffic was bad, and the tents looked tacky, they told police.

The new development abuts the homes in Glenbrook, and in spots wraps around it. Both are on Creek Road.

The fervor was to be expected, sales manager Bethanne Franco said as she ran down the Grande's offerings: tennis courts, pools, a clubhouse and two-car garages - all for about $220,000 to $265,000.

"For that price, the home and the features they're getting are of great value," Franco said. "In Moorestown, you couldn't touch a [comparable] single-family home for less than $700,000."

When it is completed, the Grande will include 171 single-family homes, 187 townhouses and 156 condominiums. So far, 73 single homes have been sold.

Delran Police Sgt. Howard Davenport said the campers seemed relieved when he asked them to leave about 10 a.m. yesterday.

"They were thrilled they didn't have to stay there for the week," he said.

The decision to disband the group had been made out of fear that the number of people would grow, he said.

"It's somewhat flattering to us as a police department that people want to live here so much. We don't want to discourage people from moving to town," Davenport said.

Contact Sara Mancuso at 856-779-3877 or

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