CHARLES K. BOWMAN
To the Editor:
I am writing this letter to alert other Princeton area home owners about an unfortunate development in our neighborhood, possibly to prevent it from happening elsewhere.
I live on a quiet, private road with ten homes on it. During the summer, one of the homes came on the market. Shortly thereafter, it was sold to a couple and they moved into the house. They immediately went on a campaign to befriend the neighbors, telling them how much they loved the area and how much they looked forward to being a part of our neighborhood. In October, our neighborhood had a block party and gave an enthusiastic toast to our "new neighbors."
The "new neighbors" said they wanted to demolish the existing home and build a new home on the site (the owner is a land developer), one that was larger than permissible on the 0.8-acre lot. The large home he wanted to build would have required approximately twice the land that he had, including a larger lot width. He asked us, his "new neighbors," to sign a letter of agreement. He then presented this letter to the Zoning Board of Adjustment on October 22, 2003.
Based partially on the fact that there were no objections from other property owners on the block, the new owners were granted the variances from zoning regulations and waivers from land use regulations. Shortly thereafter, they moved out and the demolition began. Trucks, excavators, dumpsters, and mud were all around. After a revealing moment with one of the workmen, I spoke to the new owner and requested that he install a portable toilet. I have three young children and the site is in plain view. He agreed to install one in the next three days. In the same conversation, he told me that he and his wife would not be living in the house once completed; he had decided to build it for speculation. When I asked him about this, he smiled and informed me that he hoped to make about a million dollars profit.
A few weeks went by and the portable toilet was still not installed. While talking with a neighbor, I learned that the new owner had recently completed a similar home on Edgerstoune Road. Curious, I found the other home he had built. Shortly thereafter, I spoke with some Edgerstoune residents and found that their experience with the family mirrored ours. They purchased the home, introducing themselves as the new neighbors, deceiving people on the block and perhaps even the Zoning Board as to their true intent, getting variances, and then moving out, never to return.
Needless to say, it angered and upset people there, and they did not have a nice thing to say about their experience. One Edgerstoune resident told me that since our "new neighbor" has already received his variance for our block, it is too late for us to stop him. It is not too late, however, for other home owners to stop him from destroying their neighborhood in some other section of Princeton. Our neighborhood has a completely different feeling now that a huge new house is being built on a tiny lot.
I believe that variances should be granted in certain situations, such as for a family home to be enlarged for an extra bedroom or larger kitchen, or to build a new family room. It should not, however, be used to tear down an existing home with the sole intent of over-crowding a building lot with too large a structure, changing the entire feeling of the neighborhood for speculative purposes.
"Bigger" is not necessarily better, and I hope that Princeton will continue to be a mix of people and not just a community for the elite.
To the Editor:
I would like to dispel some urban myths. "Deer ticks" were not named for deer. The "deer" tick nickname, for the blacklegged tick that carries Lyme disease, most likely came from its association with the "deer" mouse. Deer cannot transmit Lyme disease bacteria to ticks, and deer don't get Lyme disease.
White-footed mice are the main carrier of the bacterium responsible for Lyme disease, and are also a staple in the diet of blacklegged ticks.
A recent three-year study was conducted by doctors at the University of Medicine and Dentistry of New Jersey. Dr. Steven E. Schutzer, a UMDNJ allergy and Immunology specialist, led the research team. Said Dr. Schutzer, "The single most significant carrier of Lyme disease lurks not in deep dark forests, but in parks, on farms, and even in the tall grass of suburban backyards."
That carrier the one most likely to bring Lyme-infected ticks in contact with human beings is not the white-tailed deer, but the white-footed mouse. Deer, like other animals and humans, are simply hosts on which the ticks may feed. Only the mice can transmit the Lyme bacteria to ticks.
Dr. Schutzer's study found that areas of high suitability for mice had an average of 108.8 ticks per 100 square feet, whereas areas marked by less vegetation and open ground had an average of only 4.6 ticks per 100 square feet. That is why most people become infected in brushy fringe areas where suburban lawns meet woods.
Experts say that being able to recognize and avoid areas where mice flourish is important because few people follow public health recommendations to tuck pants into socks and wear long sleeves while working or playing in their own backyards.
As we enter spring and summer, we can take advantage of the outdoors, but we should take proper precautions against Lyme disease by avoiding white-footed mouse habitats.
DR. CHARLES K. BOWMAN
To the Editor:
Your "coffee drinkers" article (Town Topics, April 14) omitted a fond favorite of many of us: The Cafe at the Princeton Shopping Center. The refreshingly unpretentious atmosphere, congenial staff, well-lit tables, and good food at the Cafe draw a wide range of appreciative patrons.
We look forward to the reopening of a slightly larger Cafe with extended hours, jazz performances, an enhanced menu, and, it is hoped, the same excellent coffee with non-toxic levels of caffeine that you can order using ordinary words.
To the Editor:
I am writing to express my dismay regarding the proposal for Senior Housing by developer K. Hovnanian floated on April Fool's Day at the "concept hearing" before the Regional Planning Board.
Although I found the development plans to be generic boxes for living, I reserve my greater criticism for the Planning Board itself, a government body responsible for evaluating such proposals objectively and rationally, while presenting to the public a balanced view of the situation at hand.
With Hovnanian's Bunn Drive proposal, Princeton will see not only the denuding of vast tracts of mature woodland (over 1,700 trees estimated to be cleared), but the buildings to be placed on the site will tower over all neighboring structures. No one on the Planning Board mentioned the size and mass of these buildings, concentrating instead on such vital issues as where best to place the putting green.
When I predicted this same scheme some years ago, when the overlay ordinance rezoning the property was being debated, I was mocked by members of the board: "we would never allow such buildings." I was told these "barn-like" structures, which I modeled to scale and presented, were not appropriate for Princeton. Well, this same scheme is now deemed appropriate, even admirable.
I want to respect the public hearing process on such matters. There is a legitimate basis for considering dedicated housing for seniors in the context of an environmentally sensitive area, but the public is being misled about both the need and the potential impact. What wasn't discussed at the concept hearing was the recent agreement to build a senior community on Mt. Lucas Road in an even more environmentally sensitive site several hundred yards away. The Township Committee had stated during the ordinance hearings that the rezoning of multiple sites (all in our neighborhood, strangely) was intended to produce only one high-density development.
Now we'll have two, and only time will tell if we actually needed them. Of course, by then it will be too late for Princeton Ridge.
To the Editor:
This is to inform the Princeton community that Borough Mayor and Council will hold a special meeting to discuss the Borough's 2004 annual operating and capital budgets and tax rates at 7:30 p.m. on Tuesday, April 27, in Borough Hall's Council chamber.
The meeting is an excellent opportunity for those interested in learning more about the Borough's budget and tax rate. Among the subjects likely to be discussed are these:
As a member of the Borough government's finance committee, I view the meeting as a means to speak with Borough residents concerning the delivery of municipal services over the short term, and, more importantly, the troubling long-term trends in the Borough's tax rate. That tax rate threatens to continue to rise at multiples of the rate of inflation. What can be done about it?
Through such discussion, the budget process will become more transparent, public confidence in the municipal budgeting process will increase, and we hope there will be a deeper appreciation in the community about the difficult financial issues with which the Borough must wrestle over the long term.
We welcome all those interested in attending, and we hope that representatives of tax-exempt institutions and persons knowledgable about finance particularly government finance will make a special effort to join us.