Town Topics — Princeton's Weekly Community Newspaper Since 1946.
Vol. LXIII, No. 5
 
Wednesday, February 4, 2009
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Environmental Commission Hears Public Comment, Develops Goals

Dilshanie Perera

The Princeton Environmental Commission (PEC) heard a presentation by residents concerned by synthetic turf in Barbara Smoyer Park and another presentation by Daniel Harris from the People for Princeton Ridge, as well as discussing their goals for 2009 at the meeting last Wednesday.

During the public presentation portion of the meeting, residents, many of whom have young children who play in Smoyer Park, voiced their opposition to the Recreation Department plans to create a synthetic turf field at the site. Nicole Wilkins Bergman had compiled a list of questions presented to the Commission regarding environmental and health concerns about the artificial surface.

Park neighbor Siobhan Darrow opposed the plans for a turf field on philosophical grounds. “So many children are suffering from nature deficit disorder as it is,” she said, adding that more green space, not less, is needed for children to understand the beauty and necessity of nature. Her five-year-old twins frequent Smoyer Park.

Assistant Director of the Recreation Department Ted Ernst explained the rationale for installing a synthetic field stems from a general dearth of usable athletic fields. When grass fields are torn up from overuse, they become unsafe for the children playing on them, he said.

Assuring the assembled residents that the Recreation Department has asked similar questions regarding environmental and health concerns about synthetic turf fields, Mr. Ernst said that they would not move forward until those questions were answered, adding “We’re not going to go anywhere until we discuss the plans with the neighborhood.”

According to Mr. Ernst, of the 1,200 acres of parkspace that exist in Princeton, only 83 acres are athletic fields. Thus, field space for organized sports is a commodity in short supply.

The second presentation of the evening was an overview of the Princeton Ridge case and environmental implications for development along that corridor. People for Princeton Ridge has sued Princeton Township because of an ordinance passed last year that allows high-density building on Bunn Drive.

Citing high-density development on the ridge as contrary to the Princeton Community Master Plan, People for Princeton Ridge oppose the proposal by J. Robert Hillier (a Town Topics shareholder) of RMJM to build age-restricted condominiums on the “Lowe Tract” along Bunn Drive.

PEC Chair Wendy Kaczerski noted that on the “density issue,” the Commission has been “vehemently opposed” to it in prior cases, while Vice-Chair Peter Wolanin observed that “we would like there to be no construction on this site as a policy position.” The Commission put further discussion about Princeton Ridge on hold for another meeting.

Determining goals for the upcoming year was the last item on the agenda. The proposed draft goals ranged from general desires to specific action items, all of which fall under or correlate to the six broad goals outlined in the Sustainable Princeton Community Plan. Reducing the community’s energy consumption, climate change, and waste reduction were all discussed.

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