Town Topics — Princeton's Weekly Community Newspaper Since 1946.
Vol. LXI, No. 26
 
Wednesday, July 4, 2007
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Completion Bond Should Be Demanded From Developer to Protect Taxpayers

MARK G. ALEXANDRIDIS
Princeton Avenue

Legislature's Action on Cottage Club Violates Common Sense, Constitution

NICHOLAS R. KARP
Boudinot Street

Donation of Body to Medical Science Urged as Gift to Living After Death

SARA DAVIES
College Road

NJDOT Impact Study on Bypass Sought by Traffic and Transportation Committee

CHARLOTTE O'CONNELL
Chair, Princeton Traffic and Transportation Committee

Many Community Programs Benefitted From YWCA's 5K Fun Run Fund-Raiser

JUDY HUTTON
CEO, YWCA Princeton


Completion Bond Should Be Demanded From Developer to Protect Taxpayers

To the Editor:

Based on disclosures at a recent Princeton Borough Council meeting, the Borough is considering accepting personal guarantees from the principals of the downtown developer as a condition of approving Phase 2 of the development. Accepting the personal guarantee in a public project poses serious and unwarranted risks to Borough taxpayers, and therefore the Borough should not accept the developer's personal guarantees, but instead require the developer to post a proper completion bond issued by a highly-rated insurer, as is standard in public projects.

It's easy to understand why the developer's principals want to post a personal guarantee and not a bond. The personal guarantee costs nothing; but it's axiomatic that what costs nothing is worthless. Conversely, a completion bond will cost the developer some small percentage of the value of the project while protecting the taxpayers against a potential financial catastrophe.

Typically, before municipalities authorize the commencement of a public project, they require the developer to purchase a completion bond from an insurance company. Then if the developer does not complete the project for any reason, including financial insolvency, the insurer is obligated to finish the project. It would be irresponsible from a fiduciary perspective for Princeton Borough to depart from this well-established practice.

Yes, Phase 2 of the project is a building that will be wholly owned by the developer, not the Borough. So it might be argued that Phase 2 of the project is a private development, not a public development, and it should therefore be exempt from the general rule that public projects be bonded. But that argument ignores the reality of the situation: (1) the Borough owns the land on which the Phase 2 building is to be built, and if the building is not finished by the developer there will remain a big hole in the ground that could blight the downtown for years; and (2) the inadequate past performance of the developer warrants additional, independent protection for the Borough.

The Borough would take many unquantifiable risks if it were to accept a personal guarantee from the developer's principals in lieu of a bond. For example, the principals may not financially survive any collapse of the project, and in that case their guarantees are worthless.

In all events, if the downtown developer were to default in Phase 2, the developer's lender will certainly act more quickly than the Borough in making claims against the developer's principals, leaving the Borough in a subordinated position at the creditor's table, which is likely to lead to an unsatisfactory resolution.

There is no apparent reason for the Borough to accept a personal guarantee from the developer as a condition for authorizing Phase 2 of the project, unless, of course, it's simply to enhance the developer's returns, while saddling the Borough taxpayers with all the risk.

MARK G. ALEXANDRIDIS
Princeton Avenue

Legislature's Action on Cottage Club Violates Common Sense, Constitution

To the Editor:

The underlying principle of the recent Cottage Club legislation makes perfect sense: historic designation should not grant tax exemption unless historic preservation is an entity's "primary mission."

Several aspects of that law and the Borough and State's handling of the matter trouble me, however.

1) The current legislation is retroactive, anathema to the rule of law. How can citizens know their responsibilities and plan for them if obligations change retroactively? This principle is both common sense and explicit in the U.S. Constitution ("No State shall…pass…any ex post facto law") and in the New Jersey State Constitution ("The Legislature shall not pass…any ex post facto law").

2) Cottage Club sought tax exemption in 2001. Six years later the current legislation is unlikely to resolve the matter, but only lead to more lengthy and expensive litigation. With all due respect to the new law's sponsors and the Borough's legal counsel, their confidence that an eccentric interpretation of state revenue law will trump unambiguous language in the U.S. and New Jersey Constitutions seems wishful thinking at best.

3) The Borough apparently presumed victory from the start, failing to reserve against loss even as adverse decisions accumulated. There is no indication that this attitude has changed or that reasonable provision will be made going forward, despite the Borough's dubious legal position.

4) Senior Borough officials are now publicly threatening to selectively enforce underage drinking laws if Cottage Club continues to fight back. I'm not sure which implication of such tactics is the most disturbing: that the Borough at present is willfully failing to enforce the law, thereby making it accessory to any future tragedy; that the Borough is prepared to use extortion to reverse undesirable judicial outcomes; or that the Borough is so corrupt it's OK to publicly offer to continue to look the other way if Cottage Club forfeits the $326,000 in dispute.

I have no association with Cottage Club. As a Borough homeowner I certainly don't like the idea of paying higher taxes to cover their exemption. The long-term price will be far higher, however, if this confrontation weakens the Constitution and encourages future abuse of power.

NICHOLAS R. KARP
Boudinot Street

Donation of Body to Medical Science Urged as Gift to Living After Death

To the Editor:

When my husband died many years ago the New Jersey College of Medicine and Dentistry picked up his body from Princeton Hospital and used it for teaching medical students for two years. After that they returned his ashes and there was no cost.

I'm on the same program now and my son called the College to see if organ donations (on your driver's license) make any difference. They do not.

Those wishing to join the program may call (800) 443-8211.

SARA DAVIES
College Road

NJDOT Impact Study on Bypass Sought by Traffic and Transportation Committee

To the Editor:

On June 11, the Princeton Borough Traffic and Transportation Committee approved the following request that the State conduct impact studies on how a Route 206 Bypass would alter safety and quality of life south of Hillsborough:

"Princeton Borough's Traffic and Transportation Committee requests that the New Jersey Department of Transportation delay construction of the so-called Route 206 Bypass until such time as thorough current impact studies can be conducted, as required under law, for the current configuration of the road.

"We feel strongly that those impact studies should include impacts on communities in Mercer County that surround Route 206 as well as on communities in Somerset County. It is our understanding that previous studies — even more thorough studies conducted many years ago that examined a different configuration of the road — did not examine the impact of this highway on Princeton and Lawrenceville. We are also concerned that even today residents of these communities in Mercer County are not considered by the NJDOT to be "key stakeholders" in the Route 206 Bypass project.

"Because of its location on a primary connector between two interstate highways, it seems to us that Princeton Borough would immediately feel the impact of a new highway segment of Route 206. Our streets would be called upon to move more traffic more quickly between those interstates. But more crucially, because Princeton is an historic community, what NJDOT considers a highway in Hillsborough becomes a main street in Princeton Borough with residences and historic structures built in close proximity to the road and many schools with children walking across Route 206 daily. Bayard Lane and Stockton Street in Princeton Borough are heavily used by people on foot and on bicycles as well as by local drivers, and their health and safety must be our primary concern.

"Thus, it becomes absolutely crucial to Princeton for the State to consider whether making one part of Route 206 much wider and much faster will attract more vehicles traveling from the interstates through Princeton, and whether creating a new development corridor in Hillsborough that connects directly to the road that travels through the center of Princeton will have adverse effects on the safety and quality of life for residents and visitors to Princeton.

"Furthermore, the Federal Transportation Equity Act of 2003 emphasizes that new highway projects preserve a community's environmental, scenic, community, and/or historic values, provide for consideration of the context of the locality, and encourage access for other modes of transportation, all of which would be threatened in Princeton Borough by this new highway project. For example, a high percentage of Princetonians walk to work and current levels of traffic on Route 206 have already been shown, in the State's own Route 206 study, to be a barrier to pedestrians.

"We urge NJDOT to take strong action to protect Princeton Borough and its residents from this highway project. It is essential that a current EIS be undertaken. A road should not be built based on outdated information. It is imperative that the EIS include information about the impact of the Bypass on communities south of Hillsborough."

CHARLOTTE O'CONNELL
Chair, Princeton Traffic and Transportation Committee

Many Community Programs Benefitted From YWCA's 5K Fun Run Fund-Raiser

To the Editor:

Despite 90 degree temperatures and near 100 percent humidity, more than 400 determined women and men ran or walked the ETS Firecracker 5K Fun Run and Walk on Tuesday evening, June 26, and we are most grateful.

Proceeds of approximately $25,000 will benefit YWCA Princeton programs, which improve the lives of area residents — child care and summer day camps, aquatics (including rehabilitative programs), the Breast Cancer Resource Center, English as a Second Language and ESL Literacy, women's health initiatives (weight loss, strength training, yoga, special programs designed for seniors), dance, arts and crafts, adult education, massage, and martial arts — and keep these programs affordable.

Thank you to race organizer Kristin Appelget, to race director Jerry Fennelly, and to our generous sponsors: ETS, NAI Fennelly, Bracco Diagnostics, Packet Publications, Tyco, Yardville National Bank, Capital Health System, Covance, WithumSmith+Brown, Janssen, Mercadien, Bank of Princeton, Brown Dog Marketing, McCaffrey's, Nexus Properties, Sound Choice, Wegmans, and UBS.

Everyone was a winner at last Tuesday's race.

JUDY HUTTON
CEO, YWCA Princeton

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