On Monday, a Philadelphia Inquirer article was published, citing a proposal for Cherry Hill Township to move its municipal building to the Kingston Estates neighborhood.
In the article, the author, Kevin Riordan, quotes township officials to say it is a, “very preliminary” plan to replace the 1960’s Colonial building which is currently on Mercer Street.
Riordan interviews Mary Beth Neiman, who expresses troubled feelings that neighbors of the Kingston neighborhood have been approached to sell their homes. Other testimonies cite legitimate concerns about increasing traffic flow in an already busy, cut-through neighborhood.
As a resident of Kingston Estates, I share the same concern of my neighbors, even though I have not seen any concrete plans. A new municipal building on Kings Highway, possibly creeping into the inner neighborhood, would bring more parking lots and flooding from run-off rainwater. We already struggle greatly with flooding, and the township knows this.
What I find to be most troubling about this proposal is that it is the priority of the township government to replace the 1960’s building due to rising costs of repairs, all while setting zero initiative to address the aging 19 school buildings in the public schools system.
For example, and while we’re talking about the Kingston Estates neighborhood, Kingston Elementary School was built in 1955. Also worth noting, is that Cherry Hill High School West was built in 1956, and the newest buildings were built in 1970. The public schools system has 9 buildings which were constructed before 1965. I’m certain that each and every one of these school buildings are experiencing the same issues of rising costs for repairing old infrastructure as the current Municipal Building.
To be frank, if I were Mayor of Cherry Hill right now, I would feel ethically obligated to put my new office on hold until the children of my township got new and state-of-the-art facilities.
I do believe that the township’s municipal building should be in a more accessible location than Mercer Street, but Kingston Estates is not that place. Perhaps the township officials would be better off placing the new building on the site of one of the several businesses which have agreed to ditch Cherry Hill and move their operations to Camden, like the Subaru headquarters, thanks to tax incentives created by the state government.
In fact, I think Brace Road would be a fine location, since the Coastline is now vacant, and the Cooper Health offices will soon be vacant thanks to those tax incentives. The best part? The township wouldn’t need to buy anyone’s home.
I encourage township officials to reconsider their priorities, and I also encourage the Greater Kingston Civic Association to keep talking to residents.