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(Photo by M.B. Hersh)

SHADOWS AND TALL TREES: Springdale Golf Club, which plans to build a new 16,000 square-foot clubhouse, has abandoned redevelopment plans that once included the removal of approximately 1,200 trees. New plans, which were recently approved by the Princeton Site Plan Review Advisory Board, now call for the removal of 210 trees. However, Springdale will mitigate the tree removals by planting 181 new trees.
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Springdale Golf Club Revises Development; Trees Are Preserved

Matthew Hersh

In response to sharp criticism and environmental concerns, the Springdale Golf Club has offered the Princeton Site Plan Review Advisory Board (SPRAB) an alternative to improvement plans that had once called for the removal of approximately 1,200 trees.

In the current proposal to improve the clubhouse, driving ranges, and parking lots, the amount of trees removed has been reduced to 210.

The original development plan introduced to SPRAB in August of last year outlined a project that included a 24,750 square-foot clubhouse, a driving range approximately 900 yards long, parking lots, and a limited-use access road reserved for emergency vehicles along Springdale Road.

However, that plan was withdrawn by the golf club after SPRAB raised the issue of the amount of trees removed in the process of the improvements – including 689 trees with trunk diameters of eight inches or more – a caliper that is now more stringently protected under Princeton's new Shade Tree regulations.

Springdale planners returned to the advisory board of the Princeton Regional Planning Board last Wednesday with a new plan that would reduce tree removal in the eight-inch caliper class to 180.

The new re-planting plan was under the supervision of Princeton Horticulture Services owner Rick Henkel. He presented SPRAB with the club's proposal that delineates plans for replacing the removed trees with 181 new trees.

The clubhouse, which had originally been intended to cover 24,750 square feet, has been reduced to 16,000, and the driving range has been made narrower, also reducing the number of trees removed. The golf club has abandoned plans to re-route the layout of its courses as well.

Also eliminated from the original application was a detention basin for the clubhouse. Springdale planners have re-engineered the drainage so all water will flow to the basin of the nearby Lawrence Apartments and also into Stony Brook wetland areas.

"[Springdale] looked at it from an environmental impact perspective, showed sensitivity, and came up with a great plan," said Greg O'Neil, Princeton Township open-space manager and arborist. "It worked out just beautifully."

At the time of the original application, SPRAB representatives said that the golf club did not provide a mitigation plan to compensate for the tree loss. Township Engineer Robert Kiser had recommended that the club submit a plan similar to what Princeton University had proposed when it removed a large number of trees to build the extension of the Lawrence Apartments.

However, SPRAB expressed concern at the time that even if Springdale were to comply and devise a new mitigation plan, residents would be upset by any tree removal.

"I'm concerned that Springdale will do all that work and that we still will not be happy they are cutting down all those trees," SPRAB member Louise Schiller said.

While the number of trees with trunks eight inches or larger has been reduced to 180, not all of the 181 trees re-planted by the golf club will be of that caliper. This raised concerns with members of SPRAB.

Member Barbara Trelstad said she would like to see "at least" as many trees eight inches in diameter planted as are removed.

Springdale Golf Club leases its 201 acres from Princeton University.

In November, Princeton Township moved to protect trees on both public and private properties. Under the new ordinance, the municipality imposes more stringent regulations regarding tree removal. The general purpose of the "shade tree" code is to preserve the Township's tree canopy cover of 38 percent, and to prevent clear-cutting trees, which is described as cutting down more than 20 percent of trees on a single property.

The measure also created a permit process on proposed tree cutting outside the planning and site review processes, with penalties for illegal tree destruction as high as $1,250.

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