Town Topics — Princeton's Weekly Community Newspaper Since 1946.
Vol. LXII, No. 15
 
Wednesday, April 9, 2008
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Borough Zoning Board Should Reject Greenview Avenue Building Proposal

STEVE GATES
Greenview Avenue

Legal Fees for Princeton Ridge Lawsuit Would Be Better Spent on Preservation

SUSAN B. LOEW
Overbrook Drive

Borough’s Negotiations With Township Need to Be Tougher, Says Councilman

ROGER MARTINDELL
Prospect Avenue
Member, Borough Council

Candidates Bliss, Haughton Endorsed for Election to Regional School Board

Two Letters

Residents Offer Reasons for Urging Approval of School Budget April 15

Three Letters


Borough Zoning Board Should Reject Greenview Avenue Building Proposal

To the Editor:

I am writing about an application for zoning variances by Hillier Properties, LLC that involves tearing down three houses on Greenview Avenue and building a block of condos in their place. The Borough Zoning Board of Adjustment is scheduled to review this application on Wednesday, April 9 at 8 p.m. in Borough Hall.

At present Greenview Avenue/Humbert Street is a neighborhood of unique one-, two-, and three-family houses. The project would destroy three of these houses and erect in their place a blocky edifice that is totally out of proportion to the rest of the neighborhood. The design calls for its residents to park their cars in an underground garage and take an elevator to their apartments. The unwitting effect is to cut them off from contact with the rest of the neighborhood. Yet the application letter enthusiastically describes this structure as “seamlessly blending into the neighborhood.” In reality this design would change its character for the worse by introducing a level of big city anonymity.

The letter also argues that a need for senior housing justifies the condo project. But Princeton has an equally important need for reasonably priced rental housing. The project would make the rental housing need worse by destroying six good rental units.

The letter further tries to claim the three houses are “in serious disrepair” and the six rental units they contain are “substandard housing units.” In fact the houses are perfectly sound and presentable, as the Borough Housing Inspection records from the past ten years make plain.

There is one building on the block in truly serious disrepair — an abandoned warehouse behind one of the threatened houses. The owners can’t tear it down because they believe any building, even a dilapidated one, makes their property more valuable. This is a tough dilemma. But a remedy that calls for tearing down three perfectly good houses in order to make it profitable to remove one eyesore is a poor answer. Finding a solution that leaves the three houses intact would give a creative architect a chance to “meet a community need” and demonstrate “architectural design excellence,” to borrow the language of the application.

Those who are troubled by this project should attend the Zoning Board meeting on Wednesday, April 9. Your simple presence will show your opposition. Anyone who wants to can speak against the project or ask questions of the developer. It is an opportunity to stand up to the latest in a series of ill-conceived assaults by powerful developers on the fabric of our community.

STEVE GATES
Greenview Avenue

Legal Fees for Princeton Ridge Lawsuit Would Be Better Spent on Preservation

To the Editor:

In these perilous economic times, it seems totally frivolous to waste taxpayers’ money on a lawsuit that seems to have its basis in soothing the hurt feelings of “disappointed children.” The People for Princeton Ridge, who are suing the Township Committee, include Sierra club members from as far away as New York, and folks from surrounding local communities who wish to indicate that they know what is good for Princeton better than those who live and vote here. Their dedication to principle is admirable. But if their true cause is protection of a tract of land that has already been surrounded by development and is zoned for more of the same, why not put their money in real protection? Instead of wasting money on legal fees and the possibility of not succeeding in their suit, why not use the money to purchase the land and keep it pristine forever?

The Bunn Drive site is for sale, and negotiation is far less confrontational than a lawsuit. Please, people, put your money where your principles are.

SUSAN B. LOEW
Overbrook Drive

Borough’s Negotiations With Township Need to Be Tougher, Says Councilman

It’s good news that the Princeton Borough and Township administrations apparently have agreed to settle their joint agency bond accounts, with the Township to reimburse the Borough for a net $1.2 million of bonds issued by the Borough on behalf of the Township for such joint agencies as the fire and recreation departments.

These inter-municipal accounts have not been reconciled since the early 1990s. In the collegial atmosphere of Princeton municipal finance, perhaps the lack of rigorous accounting was based on the thought that the Borough and Township are two peas in the same pod and that the Township would pay the Borough back sooner or later.

Later, it turns out. Consequently, since the 1990’s the Township has had the benefit of using Borough money for the Township’s portion of bonds issued on behalf of joint agencies. It is not unreasonable to estimate that the delay in reimbursement has cost Borough taxpayers between $100,000 and $200,000.

That means that the Township has used Borough money for all these years, and that has increased Borough residents’ tax bills. Looking to the future, if the Borough will not ask the Township to reimburse the Borough for the use of cost of the Borough money used by the Township, the Borough will once again give away a bargaining chip in the inter-municipal relationship.

Such a gifting program does not bode well in the long-stalled negotiations between the two municipalities on a wide variety of other issues. Last December, the Borough gave the Township joint title interest in the SOC lands for nothing in return. Now the Borough is apparently willing to give to the Township a Borough claim for $100,000 to $200,000. What’s next? (Note that there is an irony here: the Township has twice the tax base of the Borough.)

As our municipal governments consider negotiating a wide variety of up-coming issues, such as library parking and the Township’s sole use of joint Northridge sewer connection fees at Borough expense, it is legitimate to ask: how well is the Borough prepared to rigorously negotiate with the Township on issues of mutual concern?

ROGER MARTINDELL
Prospect Avenue
Member, Borough Council

Vote for “Conservative” School Budget Would Ensure Educational Excellence

To the Editor:

Everyone who runs for the school board deserves applause; I believe Walter Bliss deserves election again.

Walter has a firm grasp, hard won through 25 years of parenting children in the Princeton schools and service as a board member, of what makes a classroom and a school succeed. All, including the strong students, learn best when every student is being challenged and learning.

Magnificent facilities have been constructed. The budget is under control. Now, as the schools can focus on educational success, we especially need Walter at the table.

JOHN L. POWELL
Snowden Lane


To the Editor:

I encourage all Princeton Township residents to come out and vote for Dan Haughton for school board on April 15. Dan and his wife Nell have been residents of Princeton since 1982, and their three daughters have attended the Princeton pubic schools since kindergarten.   

A graduate of Vanderbilt and Harvard Business School, Dan has a long history of volunteer service in Princeton. He has served on the board of Trinity Counseling Service, The Crisis Ministry of Princeton and Trenton, the Princeton YMCA, Hi-Tops, the June Opera Festival, and the vestry of Trinity Church. He will bring the perfect mix to the Princeton Regional School Board — experience with the schools, experience in the business community, and experience with the role of the board member. I have been privileged to work with Dan in several capacities and have found him to be a thoughtful, articulate problem solver. He does his homework, shows up prepared, and is always willing to help move a project forward. I believe that students, parents, teachers, and community members will find Dan to be a responsive and responsible advocate for public education. On April 15, please vote yes for the budget and yes for Dan Haughton.

ANNE BURNS
Baldwin Lane


Residents Offer Reasons for Urging Approval of School Budget April 15

To the Editor:

This year’s school budget is conservative. The school board has gone to great lengths to focus on savings, conservation, and cost containment in areas such as energy, insurance, and benefits brokerage.

The two expenses that impact an increase in the budget this year are areas over which the administration and school board have no control, because they are determined by state mandate. One is a $1.8 million increase in charter school tuition, which is added this year because more Princeton students are projected to attend the independent Princeton Charter School next year. The other is the $428,000 in additional contributions to the state pension fund for support staff. Despite these two costs, the school budget increase is only 3.3 percent, which is conservative.

We should not let the increase for two state mandated programs result in our school’s operating budget getting defeated. Vote “Yes” in support of the school budget on April 15. It is the right thing to do.

JACKIE REA, PETER REA
Southern Way


To the Editor:

We are asking Princeton residents to vote “Yes” for the school tax levy on April 15. Good schools help create and maintain high property values. In spite of the current real estate market uncertainty, properties in university towns nationwide outperformed the market. Education spending not only pays for itself, but produces profit as well.

This year, the school board is asking for $56,965,650, a rise of $1,822,257 (3.32 percent) in addition to the $4,883,272 needed to pay off the facilities bonds already approved by the voters in 1990 and 2001.

Real estate values rose by more than 9 percent in the Borough and 5 percent in the Township last year. Since real estate values rose almost twice as fast in the Borough as in the Township, $1,091,421 of the tax increase will fall on the Borough while $730,836 will be paid by the Township.

The school budget supports facilities for the entire community, not just children. Princeton High School hosts the Adult School. The swimming pool at John Witherspoon Middle School is open three nights a week to all Princeton residents, regardless of age.

The district has a rich educational program, far in excess of minimum state standards. In contrast to neighboring districts, Princeton Regional Schools provides a full-day kindergarten plus limited pre-school. Studies show early education, as opposed to child care, pays dividends for decades.

John Witherspoon Middle School has the seventh highest percentage in the state of eighth graders who are advanced proficient in Language Arts.

Princeton High School is ranked 94th of the nation’s top 100 by U.S. News and World Report, and has the second highest average Scholastic Aptitude Test scores of any general admission high school in New Jersey.

This is a record that taxpayers can be proud to support. Polls will be open from noon to 9 p.m. Don’t forget to vote.

JOSHUA LEINSDORF, DOROTHY BEDFORD
Members, Princeton Regional Board of Education Finance Committee

To the Editor:

We are writing to remind voters why it is important to vote “Yes” in the school board election on April 15.

Princeton Regional Schools provide what most surrounding districts do not: a model K-12 world language program, full day kindergarten, elementary science lab instruction, middle school Tech Prep and Modern Living, 19 Advanced Placement high school courses, and musical programs for choir, band, and orchestra.

In the past six months, PRS has been awarded two of the nation’s most prestigious awards for education. U.S. News and World Report ranked Princeton High School 94th of the nation’s top 100 schools and PRS received the prestigious Siemens Award for best high school in New Jersey (public and private) for performance and depth of participation on math, science, and technology AP tests.

Voting “Yes” for the school budget preserves these wonderful programs in our schools, as well as good class size and excellent PK-12 programs that will consistently deliver results.

Continue the pride and vote “Yes” in support of the school budget on April 15.

THERESA PRICE
Ridgeview Road

ANNIE YOUSSOUFIAN
Dodds Lane

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