Citizens Opposed to Redevelopment Plan File Appeal to New Jersey Supreme Court
Princeton Borough's $13.7 million downtown redevelopment project is at the heart of an appeal submitted to the State Supreme Court seeking to reverse two court rulings allowing the construction to continue.
Concerned Citizens of Princeton, a community group formed in opposition to the current downtown development projects, said the essence of the appeal lies in the state's determination of what areas can be labelled as "blighted" according to the state's redevelopment law. In this case, two parking lots, the former Park 'n' Shop Lot on Spring Street and the Tulane Street parking lot, were determined to be in need of redevelopment.
In an effort to overturn two previous court rulings, plaintiffs involved in the case are asking the members of the State Supreme Court to hear their argument. The previous rulings handed down from the Mercer County Superior Court sided with the Borough in determining that the municipality did not misuse or misinterpret New Jersey's Local Redevelopment and Housing Law.
"If these parking lots are blighted, then every parking lot in the state could be considered blighted," said William Potter, attorney for Concerned Citizens. Such determination, Mr. Potter added, "is a huge risk and indicates that anything goes."
"In this case, what we presented was very strong evidence that the Borough had wrongly decided that the parking lots were the equivalent of blighted areas," he said, adding that "it's incredibly important for the State Supreme Court to address these issues."
The ultimate aim of the appeal is to halt construction downtown. Phase I of the project, which includes the completed 500-car parking garage, and a soon-to-be-completed five-story, mixed-use building and plaza would most likely not be impacted by a ruling in Concerned Citizens' favor. Phase II, which consists of a five-story apartment building with a convenience store on the first floor, received final approval from the Princeton Regional Planning Board on May 12. That project, according to Robert Powell, principal of developer Nassau HKT, could start as early as September.
This is only the latest attempt by Concerned Citizens to halt construction. The community group first filed suit against the Borough in January 2003.