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Vol. LXIV, No. 26
Wednesday, June 30, 2010
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Planning Board’s Approval of Westerly Road Plan Gets Negative Reviews, Praise for “Local Heroes”

(3 Letters)

Thanks to Library for Hosting Crunch Time, Thanks to PREA for Providing Pizza and Soda

Joyce Turner
Woods Way

Planning Board’s Approval of Westerly Road Plan Gets Negative Reviews, Praise for “Local Heroes”

To the Editor:

I find egregious the recent approval for the building of a church on our Ridge. As a literal tree-hugger, I vehemently protest. Hundreds of trees to be felled so hundreds may pray — what’s wrong with this picture? As a person deeply concerned about catastrophic climate change, I do not see how our community can approve the demise of trees. Although it seems an insult to refer to them as ‘carbon sinks,’ trees perform that function very effectively, returning oxygen without which we would suffocate.

To me, woods and forests are the truly sacred places. Hiking the Sourlands on Sunday (another ridge, nor far away), the first comment of the person I introduced to that dappled trail was, “Why, it’s a green cathedral!” Sourlands silence was earth’s great blessing. Our choristers were the first wood thrushes of this season, Thoreau’s favorite birdsong. Flowers were bonny and abundant — New Jersey natives, shy, strong despite shade, light in the forest. All of these phenomena used to take place on the Ridge.

I deeply thank and applaud Marvin Reed, Janet Stern, and Barbara Trelstad, for voting the courage of their convictions that man-made structures do not belong in that setting. New Jersey stands to become the first state to be completely built out. According to a Rutgers University study, this can happen in a mere three decades. Reed, Trelstad and Stern placed their fingers in the dike, our local heroes.

The holiest thing Westerly Road Church could do, having been denied permission twice in the past on this issue, is to withdraw the plan.

Carolyn Foote Edelmann
Canal Road

To the Editor:

The Planning Board meeting of June 17 was an orderly debacle, with a poor zoning ordinance triumphing over the Master Plan. The Board granted approval for the Westerly Road Church (WRC) application, 8-3, but not without clear messages for the future. The fact that the Board has no voting member from the Environmental Commission is a deficiency that must be rectified. Further, Township Committee should immediately revise current zoning to preserve remaining Princeton Ridge acreage.

As Barbara Trelstad, Marvin Reed, and Janet Stern voted against the application, Board members expressed frustration at being bound by the Office-Research zoning at the developer’s dismissal of the community’s environmental concerns. Audrey Chen was “heartsick”; Ms. Stern said, “it breaks my heart”; Mayor Trotman “would have preferred a different design.” Mr. Reed (echoing Mayor Miller on April 8) chastised the developer for bypassing a concept review and for not cooperating in working towards a compromise plan to avoid slathering terrain with impervious cover.

Yet the Board also dismissed new evidence from engineer Margaret Snyder indicating that more soil borings should be mandated in the detention basin area abutting wetlands; the approved application is noncompliant with DEP Stormwater Regulations (Joe Skupien, municipal hydrologist, confessed as much). Further, the Board declined to impose stricter conditions for pervious cover in parking areas, and Allen Porter (the Board’s counsel) did not instruct Lee Solow (Planning Director) to remind members (as he stated on May 20) of their authority to reduce parking spaces below 226 (a number already 27-38 percent greater than the developer’s maximum needs — using the developer’s own ratios for calculation).

The developer, though “winning,” fared worse. Daniel Haggerty, the developer’s attorney, shamed himself by implying that Mayor Miller might have conflicting interests because the mayor had presided over the visionary Township endorsement of the Princeton Ridge Preserve — many acres off-site, as the mayor pointedly observed in naming Mr. Haggerty’s charge “offensive.” Mr. Haggerty said that the developer had been “unfairly targeted” by the Stony Brook Millstone Watershed Association and Save Princeton Ridge; again he ignored, irresponsibly, the work of both groups during the past three years (reported by three newspapers) to defend all Ridge parcels from inappropriate development. Gail Ullman rightly denounced Mr. Haggerty’s insinuation of “religious discrimination.”

Mr. Haggerty’s behavior clouds the developer’s neighborly relations with the Princeton community in which it claims membership. The developer’s belated promise to be a “good land steward” dismisses the fact that stewardship must emerge in a project’s earliest stages (site-selection, impervious footprint) — not in cheap afterthought protestations accompanying refusals to fully stack the educational and administrative areas of the building or use sanctuary balcony-features of the developer’s Lawrenceville plan (2002) that here would have halved the building footprint while providing equivalent interior space.

The hearing was grim. The Board must restructure and change operations; the Township, redone.

Daniel A. Harris
Dodds Lane

To the Editor:

The Westerly Road Church may gain its overly imposing new facility on the environmentally fragile Princeton Ridge but the cost is in more than money. (“Westerly Road Church Can Build on Ridge,” 6/23/10). The environment has lost and Westerly has lost the respect of many in Princeton who object to their non-consensus manner of dealing with the community, including its official bodies.

While making minimal changes to its original plan, Westerly ignored most of the excellent recommendations that would have avoided much of the severe site destruction now expected. Some of these recommendations were from Planning Board members; some from the three official advisory bodies to the Planning Board, as well as from citizen organizations and individual residents of Princeton. Westerly’s “We want” overrode consensus and community sensitivities.

Yes, the zoning ordinances need to be updated but the church could have gone beyond the outdated requirements if it had had the good will to do so. The mistakes in land use made over the years should not be perpetuated. We have learned much in recent years through the “Sustainable Princeton” program endorsed by the Borough and Township and from the plans of another developer that should have served as a model for Westerly. That model is Robert Hillier’s enlightened, compact site plan including most of the site’s land and forest preservation as well as advanced energy conservation and storm water management for senior housing on the Ridge up the road from Westerly’s Bunn Drive site. The differences are stark.

In addition to unnecessary site destruction, Westerly’s attorney’s heavy handed tactics of threats and innuendos did not enhance his client or the legal profession.

Grace Sinden
Ridgeview Circle

Thanks to Library for Hosting Crunch Time, Thanks to PREA for Providing Pizza and Soda

To the Editor:

On behalf of Springboard [the afterschool homework and tutoring program at the Princeton Public Library], I would like to thank the the library for again hosting Crunch Time. We had about 100 high school students working hard preparing for their final exams. I would also like to thank the 15 Princeton High School teachers and staff who volunteered to help the students. The Princeton Regional Education Association (PREA) generously sponsored the pizza and soda that were provided. It was a great two nights! Springboard and Crunch Time are funded by corporate and foundation support to the library.

Joyce Turner
Woods Way

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

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