Town Topics — Princeton's Weekly Community Newspaper Since 1946.
Vol. LXIV, No. 24
 
Wednesday, June 16, 2010
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Borough and Township Municipalities Must Act on Cyclists Using Sidewalks

ALAN RYAN
Pine Street

Runner-up in Borough Council Election Challenges Its Members on Key Issues

ANNE WALDRON NEUMANN
Alexander Street

Witherspoon Neighborhood Will Fight For Fairness in Property Revaluations

LEIGHTON NEWLIN
Birch Avenue

Thanking Voters, Primary Winners Vow Continued Stewardship When Reelected

Three Leters Follow

Supporters of Westerly Road Church Respond to Its Building Plan Critics

Six Letters Follow


Borough and Township Municipalities Must Act on Cyclists Using Sidewalks

To the Editor:

As an enthusiastic cyclist I was pleased to read your article promoting cycling as good for the health of both cyclists and the environment. But as an equally enthusiastic walker, I was sorry not to see anyone suggest that it is time for the Borough and the Township to use their authority to get cyclists off the sidewalks.

In the more civilized parts of this country, such as New Haven, the police hand out tickets to the thirty-somethings who not only cycle down the sidewalk, as they do even in downtown Princeton, but give the impression that they have a God-given right to harass pedestrians as they do it.

Cycles are treated as wheeled vehicles by the NJDoT, except in one crucial matter: the state leaves it to municipalities to get them off the sidewalks, and onto the pavement where they belong. May we have some action?

ALAN RYAN
Pine Street

Runner-up in Borough Council Election Challenges Its Members on Key Issues

To the Editor:

Having missed election to Princeton’s Borough Council by 25 votes, I congratulate my opponents, thank my supporters, and express affection for Borough residents. The goals I would have pursued if elected I now ask Borough Council’s members to initiate.

First, the environment. Princeton can’t require green building until the state does. But Council could help turn our Master Plan’s “wouldn’t-it-be-nice” request into a “here’s-what-you’ll-get” incentive. If developers save trees or build in water and energy savings, could they be given faster approvals, waived application fees, appropriate variances, or property-tax abatement? Will some Borough Council member consult the Environmental Commission, address the Planning Board, and lobby the state to ensure green development in our town?

Second, municipal spending. The incumbent among my opponents was the sole “Nay” on hiring three new Borough patrolmen. Might he have been more persuasive if someone on Council had first ascertained how many on the current force would welcome overtime, and how much time-and-a-half three new salaries, benefit plans, and retirement packages would cover? Who on Borough Council will share this busy incumbent’s burden by running the numbers before financial matters are voted on?

Third, social and economic well-being. Tree street neighbors have been brainstorming how to use the vacant Olive-May/Westcoast Video site. One option they hope the current owners will find attractive is several stories of apartments and offices above a farmers’ market combined with local restaurants and shops. What an opportunity this could be for a business incubator to nurse hatchling enterprises into fledglings! Which Borough Council member will make job creation and public gathering places a priority?

Fourth, municipal income. Who on Council will keep trying to remedy shifted property taxes long after all remedies seem exhausted? Which Council member truly believes that taxes should shift again, not necessarily from denser streets back onto spacious neighborhoods but instead onto the University, which drains so much from every Borough homeowner? Who on Council will loudly lament that Whitman College cost $136 million to build but was assessed at $64 million? Why lament the low evaluation when the University pays no property taxes anyway?

Someone on Council should.

ANNE WALDRON NEUMANN
Alexander Street

Witherspoon Neighborhood Will Fight For Fairness in Property Revaluations

To the Editor:

In Boston in 1773 there was a situation that ignited a series of events leading to the American Revolution, and ultimately America’s independence. The issue was “Taxation without Representation.” That is precisely what we now have in the town of Princeton.

Only Roger Martindell among our elected officials has asked the tough questions, “Why has the John Witherspoon neighborhood been hit so hard?” And “Why are Princeton University land values lower than expected?” Kudos to Mr. Martindell. The next question is where do the Mayors and their colleagues on Township Committee and Borough Council stand on this critical issue.

During community-based meetings that have taken place to discuss the issue of the 2010 property revaluations, we have heard elected officials say the following. “I don’t want to tell you I can do something that I cannot do.” “We met with Mercer County Tax Administrator Martin Guhl to discuss the situation and his response was he thinks highly of Appraisal Systems and has no problem with their assessments.” “As elected officials we are taken out of the process.” “We hear what you are saying and understand your concerns, but our hands are tied,”

All that is just a bunch of rhetoric. Now that the revaluations are complete and the data are in, and the John Witherspoon neighborhood and others are sharing a greater portion of the tax burden, are they still going to tell their constituents there is nothing they can do?

Politicians always have a great deal of energy when they are trying to get elected. Then they get into office and try to rock you to sleep. What we as a community want to hear our elected officials say is, “We will fight for you; we feel your pain; we understand your situation, and no, it is not our intention to move people of color out of Princeton or to systematically remove all cultural diversity from our town.”

That is not going to happen. Thanks to the lackluster attitude and approach of our so-called representatives we are well organized and we will get even better. We will hold accountable each and every elected official in both the Township and Borough. We will ask tough and probing questions of all candidates who run for office. We will use any means necessary to let the world know that the university is not the only historic institution in this town. We will tell the story of Princeton’s institutional racism, its racial and systemic prejudice, neighborhoods and people under siege, and the fear and feeling of cultural duress.

You want a revolution … you’ve got one!

LEIGHTON NEWLIN
Birch Avenue

Thanking Voters, Primary Winners Vow Continued Stewardship When Reelected

To the Editor:

I’m writing to thank everyone who voted in Tuesday’s election. It has been a privilege to serve on Township Committee for the past year and a half, and I hope you will elect me to a full three-year term in November.

Princeton Township has been dealing with one of the most difficult financial climates in recent history. Putting the brakes on spiraling property taxes is critical to maintaining our diversity and making sure we don’t become a town where only the ultra rich can afford to live. I plan to continue advocating for responsible budgeting not just for this year, but with an eye towards future years.

I backed the formation of the consolidation-shared services study commission, and will work to facilitate community involvement as the process moves forward.

I am passionate about sustainability and will continue to promote a more walkable and bikable community, and the acquiring of open space through public-private partnerships.

As your Committeewoman, I am committed to listening, researching solutions, and addressing your concerns. You can reach me at (609) 468-3317 or llempert@princeton-township.nj.us.

LIZ LEMPERT
Princeton Township Committee

To the Editor:

I thank the voters of Princeton Borough for supporting my successful bid for re-election in the June 8 Democratic primary. I look forward to working with my running mate in the November general election, Jo Butler.

I thank Anne Waldron Neumann, an energetic and talented member of our community, for her continued interest in public service, and I hope she will remain active in civic affairs.

ROGER MARTINDELL
Prospect Avenue
Princeton Borough Council

To the Editor:

Thank you, thank you, thank you for voting for me during this primary. I feel honored and privilege to represent the wonderful citizens of Princeton Township. I do not take my job as your representative lightly.

During these difficult financial times I am proud to introduce a budget that is the lowest in years. Critics have said that I am not in the reality world by introducing a budget that has an increase. Let me say to them that Princeton Township is one of the best run municipalities in the State of New Jersey. Most of this has to do with the Township Committee making important decisions that affect the financial outcome years from now. As long as I represent Princeton Township I will not vote or stand for any unfair financial political games. I am hoping to continue to be available and approachable to all Township citizens. I do this job because I am truly convinced it is my duty to give back to this great community. I am raising my three daughters to understand how important giving back to our community will be in future years. As someone born in Princeton Township I feel a special need to make sure we treat all of our community members the same. I would like to continue to enhance and welcome the diversity that has been the fabric to Princeton’s success. Township Committeewoman Liz Lempert and I will continue to fight and represent the least among us, as well as the middle and affluent sectors in Princeton Township. I ask that you continue to support us in November.

Thanks again for the show of support.

LANCE LIVERMAN
Princeton Township Committeeman

Supporters of Westerly Road Church Respond to Its Building Plan Critics

To The Editor:

I am writing to encourage the Princeton Regional Planning Board to allow the Westerly Road Church to build according to the plans it has submitted. I know the pastor and church to be a great blessing and benefit to the Borough and Township. I believe the church has worked hard to meet all the required regulations.

I encourage the Board to treat the Westerly Road Church with fairness, respect, and courtesy.

RICHARD D. LINDERMAN
Senior Pastor
Nassau Christian Center
Nassau Street

To the Editor:

As a relative newcomer to the Westerly Road Church community, I consider it a privilege to be a part of the family. What drew me, and what prompted me to become a member, is their genuine love for God and their neighbors.

We’ve all heard the saying “Love your neighbor as yourself.” We take that very seriously and work hard to do just that in our current location. On Sunday mornings, we have the joy of worshiping with our Princeton neighbors, and invite others to join us at any time. But that’s not the only time we want to serve families. We open our doors to the many children who flock to the church every summer to attend Vacation Bible School. We have vibrant ministries to encourage area university students and young adults. Neighborhood parents trust their teens with us, and we honor that by providing a safe environment for them to grow spiritually. They have a lot of fun, too.

Nations from all over the world are represented in our membership; our new neighbors will love getting to know these people. Our service to the Princeton community includes WomanSpace, the Trenton Area Soup Kitchen, and the local food bank, as well as many other outreach organizations. We serve the community in these ways because God desires that we do justice and love mercy, and it’s a joy to serve Him in these ways.

This is what we are able to do at our humble little church now. But what service, what neighborliness, we hope to share in the future, when we settle in at the new location! You see, we want to be a part of your community. Your welfare will become our welfare; your struggles our struggles; your joys our joys.

Please consider these things as you consider our relocation to your neighborhood. We hope, and pray, that you’ll let us be the good neighbors we long to be.

LINDA MAXWELL
Kingston Terrace

To the Editor:

Much of the debate surrounding Westerly Road Church’s development plan ignores the vast amount of acreage that the church plans to leave undisturbed. Westerly Road Church has contracted to buy land on the Ridge that is zoned for “office and research.” The church would be one of many commercially developed sites on the Ridge, including sites for Goldman Sachs, the Institute for Defense Analysis, the Bunn Drive Medical Arts Building, and the Princeton Care Center. Despite the allowances of this commercial zoning, Westerly Road Church has proposed a development plan that stops well short of the allowed development.

The church’s site is 18.6 acres, but 11.9 acres will be undisturbed, almost 2/3 of the site (64 percent). Even if all of the banked parking is eventually built, 11.6 acres will still remain undisturbed (over 62 percent). To put this 11+ acres of undisturbed land into perspective, it is helpful to compare it to some of the well-known parks of Princeton, as described in the Princeton Recreation Department’s catalog. Westerly Road Church’s proposed undisturbed area is the size of Hilltop Park (11.8 acres); it is larger than the portion of the D&R Canal that lies in Princeton (11.0 acres); it is larger than the Turning Basin Park (9.8 acres); and it is larger than Grover Park (7.4 acres).

The undisturbed acreage is both large as a percentage of the total site, and large in an absolute sense. Any evaluation of Westerly Road Church’s development plan should keep the value of this undisturbed acreage in mind.

BRIAN DORINI
Loomis Court

To the Editor:

The key topic at the recent Princeton Township Planning Board meeting was the Westerly Road Church (WRC) application to replace its Princeton facility with something of more suitable size at a new location. Meeting turnout was considerable. “Public comments” were lengthy, forcing the board to postpone a decision to next month. I was simultaneously inspired and discouraged, but I urge the planning board to approve this application.

I was inspired by speakers on both sides. Almost without exception, they conducted themselves professionally and civilly. I was also inspired by the planning board members, who have an impossible job. No decision on the WRC application will make everyone happy.

My concern is this: Many of the speakers lost sight of “the community.” WRC is part of the community. So are its neighbors. So too are the trees and wildlife that exist on the chosen site. All speakers stated their positions eloquently. But no one really spoke for the poor in Princeton, for those who will be in pain, for those who will suffer loss, for those who will be at risk of joining gangs. I believe it is the members of the board who should and who must speak for these people.

With all due respect for the potential impact of stormwater run-off and tree cutting, this pales compared with the needs of Princetonians who do not attend meetings because they have real problems with which to contend. These people are the ones who will eventually become unpleasantly apparent in our police reports, jail, ER, or morgue.

Westerly Road Church will not ignore them. It will serve and help them preemptively. Any unbiased third party will attest to WRC’s deep commitment to community service, as even those opposed to WRC’s application have acknowledged.

My appeal to the board: take into account the entire “environment” as you deliberate, and include the added hundreds per year WRC will be able to serve with adequate facilities. Approve the application without additional stipulation, so WRC can proceed without delay and glorify God through service to Princeton and her related communities.

JOHN G. OWEN
Skillman

To the Editor:

Perhaps I am in a unique position on the Westerly Road Church relocation issue, because I have a foot in each camp. On the one hand, I am an active member of the church. On the other hand, environmentalism has been part of my life since 5th grade, when for Earth Day one of my teachers at a Catholic school in Manhattan got us on the street corner asking passers-by not to buy individually wrapped slices of American cheese. I’ve been at various times a member of the Sierra Club, Greenpeace, New Jersey Audubon Society, and the Delaware & Raritan Greenway Land Trust.

As I see it, the church has tried very hard to respect the sensitive nature of the Princeton Ridge. On nearly every count, the WRC proposal matches or is better than the office buildings on Bunn Drive in terms of FAR, tree removal, etc. It seems that what the town may really want is for the lot to remain wooded, with no building at all. If that is the case, and the Planning Board denies WRC’s application, then I urge the town not to put any other applicant through the same ultimately pointless and expensive process, and rezone the remaining tracts on Princeton Ridge as permanent Open Space.

Bottom line: Let there be no hidden agendas. If the town has permitted building in this zone, the planning board should approve WRC’s application. If not, let’s call a spade a spade and rezone this and the adjacent lots.

CHRISTOPHER BALDWIN
Moore Street

To the Editor:

The Princeton Regional Planning Board must be fair and just in its dealings with Westerly Road Church.

For the past two years, Westerly has acted in reliance on the zoning regulations, knowing that we wouldn’t be asking for any variances and trusting that we would be allowed to build within these stated constraints. The church has already spent an extraordinary amount of money in complying with not only the zoning regulations, but also seeking to address all concerns and complaints that have been raised in the process.

Westerly is requesting no variances at all in its proposal to build on this parcel of private property. If the Township would like us not to build on this land, it could use its power of eminent domain to prevent this parcel from being developed. If other citizens want the parcel to remain as it is now, they could purchase the property and do what they wish with it. But to use a zoning decision to prevent a private landowner from developing its property, when its development proposals are well within the constraints of the applicable land use regulations, would be an unjust administrative taking. It is inappropriate for the Planning Board to attempt to force Westerly to comply with sensibilities that are not encoded in its regulations, especially given that the church’s proposal is well within all of the zoning requirements.

I would also like to make the somewhat obvious point that Westerly is a church. We’re not a corporation seeking to build a new office complex. Rather, we’re a group of area residents seeking to gather together to enjoy the free practice of our religion. And our current facility has long been woefully inadequate to provide a space for all of those within our community who wish to worship together. The federal and state constitutions recognize the importance of our right to gather together and to practice our religion. And federal statutes specifically protect religious land use, applying the strictest scrutiny to the implementation of zoning regulations that impinge upon religious free practice.

I urge the Planning Board to act in accordance with the principles laid out in state and federal law.

CHRISTINA KEDDIE
Lowell Court

For information on how to submit Letters to the Editor, click here.

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