Haddon Township board grants approval to Reunion Hall in Westmont


American flags fly above the streets, the homes and even the Delaware River in Burlington County borough of Riverton.

Cherry Hill Courier-Post

HADDON TWP. – Dave Welsh cleared plenty of hurdles running track at Haddon Township High School in the early 1990s.

On Monday night, he cleared one more — and it came after a marathon.

Welsh won planning board approval for a proposed beer garden, Reunion Hall, that’s expected to occupy a former auto parts store at Haddon and Glenwood avenues.

Reunion Hall patrons also could mingle year-round in an outdoor area with a firepit on what is now the property’s parking lot.

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But the proposal, which first went before the planning board on Jan. 2, needed four meetings over nine months to get the board’s OK.

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Dave Welsh, right, stands at Monday night’s socially distanced meeting of Haddon Township’s planning board. (Photo: Jim Walsh, Courier-Post)

Among other challenges, the project faced opposition from neighbors concerned with possible noise and parking problems.

It also was slowed by the pandemic, which caused the cancellation of several meetings. The board met Monday in a socially distanced setting in the cafeteria at Welsh’s former high school.

Critics raised concerns that Reunion Hall — like many bars and restaurants along Haddon Avenue — would rely heavily on street parking.

As part of its approval, the planning board required the business to provide at least 35 parking spaces for its customers.

Reunion Hall has agreed to lease those spaces from the owner of an adjacent property, although critics noted the parking will be available only after 6 p.m. and the lease will expire after five years.

Among other conditions, the board directed Welsh to erect a fence to keep his patrons from straying onto a neighbors’ property.

And it said the project could not hold a games area initially proposed by Welsh.

“I don’t think it’s an unreasonable ask,” said Greg Wells, the board’s vice chairman.

“We have a row of homes not that far away,” he observed, noting the change could reduce noise and the demand for parking.

“I’m not saying he could never happen. I’m just saying right now it’s not something we want to do,” Wells added before the board voted 6-2 for approval.

He noted Welsh could seek to revive the games area in the future “under changed circumstances,” such as a more comprehensive parking arrangement.

Welsh, who spent years scouting locations before buying the former NAPA Auto Parts store for $700,000 in March 2019, described the board’s vote as “good.”

He also predicted he’d seek at some point to salvage the games area.

“It bothers me,” he said of the board’s restriction. “The games would really be for children.”

Welsh offered no immediate outlook for Reunion Hall’s arrival, citing the pandemic’s ongoing impact.

“I’ve got to look at my finances,” said Welsh, who runs four stores that cater to runners and The Mile pub in Runnemede.

Jim Walsh is a free-range reporter who’s been roaming around South Jersey for decades. His interests include crime, the courts, economic development and being first with breaking news. Reach him at [email protected] or look for him in traffic.

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