Meet the Candidates in the 2017 Cherry Hill Township Council Election: Week 2

In the second week, the council candidates answer questions about the township’s master plan and open space.

Editor’s Note: This is the second week of The Cherry Hill Sun’s four-week Meet the Candidates series.

Carole Roskoph

  1. Cherry Hill Township is preparing for a master plan reexamination. What is your vision for the township’s master plan?

A Master Plan should be the community’s vision for the future, and I look forward to working with our neighbors in Cherry Hill to develop a Master Plan that will keep Cherry Hill a livable and desirable place to raise our families and celebrate our diversity.
Our focus will continue to be to preserve open space that will provide parks and recreational places for residents of all ages; continue to improve the infrastructure, specifically the roads, throughout town; and continue to provide multi-modal transportation systems, specifically adding more bike and walking trails throughout the town.
Cherry Hill has many different and unique neighborhoods that should be celebrated, but we are one town, one community. The Master Plan will insure that Cherry Hill moves forward while preserving this identity

2.) How would you grade the township’s efforts in preserving open space over the past four years?

I will continue to work with Mayor Cahn and council to preserve open space in Cherry Hill.

Joseph Rodi

1.) Cherry Hill Township is preparing for a master plan reexamination. What is your vision for the township’s master plan?

Changes are met, oftentimes, with skepticism. If we are not willing to embrace change we might still have cords attached to our phones. But with change comes inherent responsibilities, risks and consequences. A municipality undertakes a reexamination report to review previously adopted Master Plans for the municipality. A critical examination must be undertaken to determine the major problems and objectives relating to land development in the municipality at the time of the adoption of the last reexamination report.

We must, however, confront the issue of how to repurpose vacant properties to best serve the community. The people of Cherry Hill must have a say in the planning giving them ownership. What is the best use of vacant land to redevelop? What will the community look like if we proceed to develop more housing vis-à-vis other land use goals? What would likely be the direct impact on traffic, infrastructure, the environment, school districts, utilities and the overall character and charm that is Cherry Hill?

If we are open-minded and thoughtful in our decision-making, then we might just find that there are viable alternative uses. Jimmy Dean once said: “I can’t change the direction of the wind, but I can always adjust my sails to reach my destination.”

2.) How would you grade the township’s efforts in preserving open space over the past four years?

Cherry Hill is the 13th largest municipality in a very densely populated state. Open space is at a premium. I would assess a grade B. I am very familiar with the Maria Barnaby Greenwald Memorial Park on the “West” side of Cherry Hill. It is well kept and beautiful. A place I frequent with family and friends. Decou Fields are on the “East” side and they too are a place I frequent well kept and beautiful. Although the fields seem to sit within its own microcosm with the way in which the wind blows and swirls over the field. That being said there are several parks and recreation sites that have over time fallen in disrepair and require attention. We need to protect land for natural resource conservation, agriculture, parks and recreation.

We should examine whether and when we ought to bring the community closer rather than identifying “East” and “West” us and them. These are the task before anyone who undertakes implementation of a master plan examination.

John Papeika

1.) Cherry Hill Township is preparing for a master plan reexamination. What is your vision for the township’s master plan?

We need a master plan that represents the vision of the citizens of Cherry Hill, not the vision of a political machine or the businesses in town. Additionally, the master plan needs to be realistic, unlike the current one which has been more of an ignored ceremonial document than an actual plan. A review of the goals and objectives from the 2007 plan shows that many goals involving traffic, development, and land use were completely ignored or modified beyond what was originally intended.

My vision for a 2017 master plan would include plans on repairing the school infrastructure, alleviating the traffic on main roads and laying out a resident friendly commerce development/repair plan. The plan needs to take into account existing ordinances and be developed with following them in mind rather than ignoring them.

2.) How would you grade the township’s efforts in preserving open space over the past four years?

D. Open space is a place to enjoy nature and relax rather than a pawn in a political chess game. In my time living in Cherry Hill, I have seen existing open space abused and dollars set aside for future open space misused. It wasn’t long ago that the township was backed into a corner over the masonic lodge property and had to buy it for open space rather than face other legal battles. The Still Park development discussion is one where the development of the land would involve turning open space over to the developers. Why is that even on the table?

Any time the potential elimination of open space is considered, it should automatically be a failure; however, the reason that I give it a D and not a F is that I have seen some nice remodels of some of the playgrounds around town and despite the limited budget the volunteer trail crew manages to keep on top of the network.

Carolyn M. Jacobs

1.) Cherry Hill Township is preparing for a master plan reexamination. What is your vision for the township’s master plan?

I believe that the reexamination of the Master Plan is an opportune time for Cherry Hill to look back on the last 10 years of its history and take steps to plan for the future, not in short-term mode, but with an eye towards what we would like Cherry Hill to be 10 years from now. I encourage everyone in town to take the opportunity to give feedback to our planners and community leaders to help guide the process and influence the outcome.

We value our Cherry Hill community as a unified collection of neighborhoods, each having its own characteristics and “flavor” and we should seek to maintain that character. As a community, we should continuously be looking for every chance to improve the lives of our residents by expanding parks, playgrounds and recreational opportunities; preserving available open space; protecting and buffering our neighborhoods; redeveloping long-vacant and deteriorating properties; preserving our historical treasures; lengthening and strengthening our trails; and encouraging the use of public transit to alleviate the pressures on our roadways.

2.) How would you grade the township’s efforts in preserving open space over the past four years?

This is and will always be a top priority for me as we seek to keep Cherry Hill a desirable and livable community.

Cherry Hill should work hard to preserve every parcel of open space available in town and increase opportunities for recreation for our residents in those undeveloped spaces. We should also be working very closely with Camden County and the state of New Jersey to increase our financial capacity to protect those open spaces.

Over the past few years, we have a proven history of improving the many parks throughout the town and we have been successful in preserving two large parcels of open space for future generations by protecting them from future development: the Woodcrest Country Club and the land formerly belonging to the Masonic Home on Haddonfield-Berlin Road adjacent to Route 295 and adjoining the Cherry Hill Atlantic Little League Field.

David Fleisher

1.) Cherry Hill Township is preparing for a master plan reexamination. What is your vision for the township’s master plan?

Our neighborhoods are — and always will be — our greatest strength as a community. Our master plan should reflect this priority and ensure that future growth is secondary to the needs of our neighborhoods. By working with the community, we can balance the need to revitalize struggling properties, while protecting the quality of life we enjoy living here in town. The master plan reexamination should therefore focus on managing land use and zoning in a way that provides the foundation for maintaining Cherry Hill’s sense of community. This should emphasize creating and maintaining open space and recreational facilities, ease of transportation throughout town, and limited, smart redevelopment of underperforming commercial sites.

2.) How would you grade the township’s efforts in preserving open space over the past four years?

I would give the township strong grades for preserving open space, but we can and will do even better. Town hall and the budget are managed very efficiently. This arms the mayor and town council with the resources to preserve open space when the opportunities present themselves. am committed to ensuring that both the taxpayer and the environment win when we save open space!

Sangeeta Doshi

1.) Cherry Hill Township is preparing for a master plan reexamination. What is your vision for the township’s master plan?

My vision for the township’s master plan depends on what the residents of Cherry Hill want for our future. We need to have an open and inclusive process so that we can preserve the integrity of our neighborhoods and open spaces.

A priority will be to expand our parks, recreational facilities and natural areas. For many years now, I have spent countless hours at Cherry Hill’s fields and recreational facilities watching my three boys play sports. The master plan reexamination should focus on the creation of new recreational facilities, as well as enhancements to our existing facilities so that we can provide recreational opportunities for residents of all ages, all across town. The master plan should include enhancing and renovating public parks, trails, fields and streets. It should provide for places and spaces for residents to meet and play. Protecting our historic sites and preserving our diverse cultural resources is essential.

The reexamination should guide the use of lands in Cherry Hill by focusing on preserving Cherry Hill’s unique character, its history, and its culture, while managing growth and development wisely.

2.) How would you grade the township’s efforts in preserving open space over the past four years?

I would grade the township’s efforts in preserving open space over the past years as excellent. Cherry Hill is a growing diverse community that values and protects its natural environment and resources while preserving the unique character of the town. There have been numerous examples of directing development away from open spaces and instead reusing already developed land and vacant buildings.

In the past few years, the township has preserved nearly 170 acres of open space, identified vulnerable properties, added trails and upgraded parks. The township has valued and prioritized its historical areas and open space.

The township is doing a great job and should continue working with community groups and environmental agencies to preserve and safeguard our open spaces.

Scott J. Cohen

1.) Cherry Hill Township is preparing for a master plan reexamination. What is your vision for the township’s master plan?

First if you look at the Cherry Hill Master Plan’s Redevelopment section at the bottom on the Cherry Hill Township’s website; all of the plan proposals listed are at least 10 years old. I believe a real, thought out, comprehensive survey via email, the Cherry Hill Township website, and mail should be conducted in the township to understand what the wants and needs are of its residents, not what the county may want for Cherry Hill.

2.) How would you grade the township’s efforts in preserving open space over the past four years?

Preserving open space can be improved in Cherry Hill. Our current parks and recreational areas need improvement. For example, look at Brandywoods Park, it was a beautiful park when I was growing up in Cherry Hill. Today, the entrance from Clemson Road looks like a back alley, the ball field has branches hanging down to the backstop, paths are overgrown, the pond which used to have fish is now bright green and stagnant, deep tire tracks from police cars are in the park path. Where are the tax dollars going?

Andrew H. Behrend

1.) Cherry Hill Township is preparing for a master plan reexamination. What is your vision for the township’s master plan?

I believe that the township’s master plan should account for several different scenarios. While the plan must put into actionable terms the outline for development/redevelopment within the township, it also must take into account the best interests of not only the business owners/developers, but more importantly the homeowners/residents of the township. It also must include the impacts of further development on our already stressed school system.

While businesses/ratables are crucial to funding and running the township, the impacts to the residents of overdevelopment need to be avoided. Currently, I believe we can all agree that Cherry Hill Township is a traffic nightmare, which is going to be made exponentially worse with the completion of the Evans Mill and senior housing developments on Brace Road, the rezoning and development of the Costco on Route 70, and the addition of the Super Wawa on Haddonfield Road. I’m sure we can add the 300 units of housing that are part of the Still Park (Hampton Road) redevelopment to the list after the November elections.

The residents of Cherry Hill who have invested in the purchase and maintenance of their properties, should have some level of protection against having their investments lost to the desires of “for profit,” developers. As it stands today, the township has stretched the current master plan to its breaking point, rezoning areas at will to fulfill the desires of wealthy developers.

The current master plan’s language calls for the township to “preserve and protect the character of established neighborhoods,” including adding where possible open space areas. “The goal of the plan was to facilitate the safe and efficient movement of people, goods, and services throughout the township and region with minimal conflict.” The plan was also meant to “encourage alternative transportation,”

As we have seen in the case of the Costco Development plan, none of these principles or mandates were applied. We have seen that the residential apartments in the Garden State Park, which were meant to be self-sustaining, including a transportation hub, and open space, being turned into a commercial zone, with 19 gas pumps mere yards away from residential units. No open space, just retail space. This is not the vision that these homeowners bought into a few short years ago.

My vision’s very simple, to provide opportunities to preserve for the next generation not just the historic buildings in the township, but the personality of Cherry Hill as well. The master plan should allow for the addition of businesses in the established business corridors while not infringing on the residential areas. We should not add high density housing in existing neighborhoods with single-family residences, nor should all of this type of housing be concentrated on one side of the township. All projects under consideration must not have a negative impact on the current level of traffic in the township, which has already reached critical mass.

2.) How would you grade the township’s efforts in preserving open space over the past four years?

I would give the township’s preservation of open space a D- at best. There has been little done to purchase any of the larger open parcels, which have become available. The township did purchase the “Masonic Property,” as open space at a cost to taxpayers of over $1.7 million, to avoid a costly lawsuit, and public relations fiasco due to the lack of transparency (and communication) of the current administration. The Still Park redevelopment plan, where the township is planning to turn over (at no cost to the developer) township land that is currently labeled as open space. There’s much more that can and should be done to ensure that we remain a charming and desirable township, and do not become just another large, faceless New Jersey city.