CHATHAM, NJ - Betsie Holt Haar, the owner of the Dixiedale Farm property, was an anonymous spectator at the Chatham Township Planning Board meeting on Monday night, listening to the talk of the pending sale to Sterling Properties - the hot topic of discussion.
"I loved it," Haar said after the meeting. "I loved the civic discussion and hearing what people had to say."
The deal to sell the Christmas Tree farm located between Hillside Avenue and River Road to developer Sterling Properties, in partnership with Sun Homes, would call for 25 duplexes to be built on the 30-plus acre property, preserve the mansion, add four other units and a clubhouse. The duplexes planned are projected to sell for $1.2 to $1.5 million each.
The planning board voted, 8-0, to recommend that the Chatham Township Committee rezone the Dixiedale property from single-family to multi-family use. While the residents of Hillside Avenue and Chatham Glen/Sutton Woods townhomes voiced concern about traffic and density that will come from the development, Haar offered that it could be a lot worse.
"Toll Brothers kept calling me," Haar said. "They wanted to build 500 houses. One developer said 500 houses, builders remedy. I couldn't do that to Chatham. I wanted to keep it as a farm, but I couldn't do it."
Haar, who now lives in Pennington, was born in Summit's Overlook Hospital and lived in Chatham until she was one. She inherited the property from her uncle, Sam Averett, when he died in 2012.
"We didn't want to have a big development," Matthew Haar, her husband, said. "What we wanted was a classic development with a lot of open space. People objecting and saying it will become a high density area don't understand that if single-family homes were built, the density would be much worse.
"This developer plants mature trees. It's going to be beautiful."