A classic “NIMBY” is developing in the borough of Haddonfield concerning the site of the former Bancroft School. What is a NIMBY? A NIMBY is a land use dispute in which residents of a neighborhood oppose a proposed development or construction project because they perceive it to be harmful to the neighborhood. The acronym stands for “Not In My Back Yard.” In this case, the proposed NIMBY is a drug and alcohol rehabilitation facility that would be located next to the local high school.
The developer is a nonprofit corporation that wants to convert the Bancroft school to a drug and alcohol rehabilitation center. The building was formerly used as a school for children with developmental disabilities, but the school has moved to a larger facility in another suburb. The proposed center would include detoxification, inpatient and outpatient treatment facilities, living space for recovering addicts, and meeting rooms. The plan will probably require the approval of the citiy’s zoning board. The land is currently zoned residential, and the Bancroft school was a non-confirming use. This means that the proposed site for the center would require rezoning or similar approval before the project can move forward.
A public hearing on the proposed project was held on April 22, 2015, and the neighborhood appeared to be unanimous in its opposition. The proximity of the treatment center to the high school appeared to be the main reason behind the neighborhood’s opposition. Although opponents of the project conceded a general need for more such facilities, they remained firm in their opposition.
Developers can sometimes avoid or minimize the effect of these disputes by retaining an attorney experienced in the zoning process. Such an attorney can provide advice on the existing zoning and whether the proposal must obtain the approval of the zoning board or city council. In addition, an experienced real estate lawyer may be able to suggest project modifications that will simply and expedite the approval process. Weighed against the cost of litigation, the cost of an early legal evaluation of the project will be money well spent.
Source: Philadelphia Courier-Post, “Haddonfield grapples with Bancroft site plans,” Phaedra Trethan, April 25, 2015