Town Topics — Princeton's Weekly Community Newspaper Since 1946.
Vol. LXIII, No. 6
 
Wednesday, February 11, 2009
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Ridge Development Plan Sees Changes

Dilshanie Perera

While development on Princeton Ridge has been a subject of discussion since 2007, plans for the proposed age-restricted senior housing have seen some revisions over time.

The Princeton Environmental Commission held a special meeting last Wednesday to discuss the environmental impact of the proposed development on the Lowe property on Bunn Drive designed by Architect J. Robert Hillier (a Town Topics shareholder). Mr. Hillier was in attendance as a member of the public.

In a telephone interview, Mr. Hillier elaborated upon the details of his proposed development. Comprised of approximately 143 units of housing in either three, four, or five buildings, the senior housing is age-restricted for persons aged 55 and above.

Of the total number of units, 12 will be affordable, 21 will be moderate income, and the rest will be market rate, Mr. Hillier reported, adding that there is a “Princeton preference” element of the development, meaning that it can only be marketed to residents of Princeton, or those who have lived in Princeton until the final building permit is obtained.

The rationale for setting the minimum age at 55, explained Mr. Hillier, is that “all the competing projects within 25 miles of Princeton are 55 plus” and that if the age was restricted to 62 and over, the project would take about 30 months longer to sell out, which he estimates would cost $61,000 more per unit.

“Nobody wants to see development on the ridge, but at the same time, there just aren’t sites left for senior housing,” Mr. Hillier observed.

The organization People for Princeton Ridge filed a lawsuit against Township Committee in March of last year to protest building on the Ridge because of the environmental damage it would cause. Trustee of People for Princeton Ridge Daniel Harris has written a letter to Town Topics that appears in the Mailbox section of this week’s issue.

Environmental Commission Chair Wendy Kaczerski said in a telephone interview that the Commission “remains opposed in principal to building on the fragile Princeton Ridge tract,” though it does recognize that Township Committee voted in 2008 to proceed with development there.

“Given that development is likely to proceed, we feel that Mr. Hillier’s proposal is significantly more benign environmentally than his previous proposal,” Ms. Kaczerski noted, adding that the Commission will ask the Regional Planning Board to require the plan to meet certain conditions prior to approval.

Those conditions include the minimization of building footprints, impervious cover, storm water runoff, and tree cutting. The Commission would also like to see an arrangement for the permanent preservation of parts of the Lowe tract, Ms. Kaczerski added.

Mr. Hillier said that the buildings would sit above an underground parking garage that could house over 200 cars, and that the structures, each about three to four stories tall, would be “designed like an Italian hill town.”

If approved, the development would comply with the silver Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) standards, Mr. Hillier remarked, listing features like the sod roofs to absorb rainwater, and a cistern to collect additional stormwater to be used in the toilets.

Regarding the specific green design elements, Ms. Kaczerski said, “We’re pleased to see that parking is underground, though we’re not in favor of blasting” adding that the Commission is “delighted to see sod roofs and cisterns, and that further efforts have been taken to minimize trees lost, but we would like to see a definitive count on the trees.”

The proposed development on Princeton Ridge will come before the Regional Planning Board in a public meeting on February 19 at 7:30 p.m.

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