Town Topics — Princeton's Weekly Community Newspaper Since 1946.
Vol. LXIV, No. 13
 
Wednesday, March 31, 2010
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SPRAB Recommendations on Church Site Deserve Endorsement of Planning Board

DANIEL A. HARRIS
Dodds Lane

Pay Cuts, Not Staff Cuts, Recommended As Preferable School Budget Solution

MICHAEL E. MORANDI
Battle Road

Princeton Girl Scouts Offer Thanks To Organizations and Host Schools

RACHELE DE FELICE
Linden Lane
Princeton Girl Scouts Service Unit

Princeton History, Tradition, Identity Outweigh Notion of Replacing Dinky

WILLIAM C. DOWLING
Harriet Drive

Needed Property Tax Relief the Topic At Borough-Township Meeting Tonight

ANNE WALDRON NEUMANN
Alexander Street

Township Snow Removal Crew Thanked for Its “Outstanding” Effort This Winter

MARY STANGE
James Court


SPRAB Recommendations on Church Site Deserve Endorsement of Planning Board

To the Editor: 

The Site Plan Review Advisory Board of Princeton recently considered the application of the Westerly Road Church (WRC) to develop the environmentally sensitive Princeton Ridge at the eastern end of Bunn Drive adjoining Herrontown Woods. Citizens will want to know of the March 17 meeting prior to judicial review by the Planning Board in April.

The WRC plans to clear-cut 44 percent of 18.58 acres (521 trees) with a sprawling one-story structure, surface parking for 220 cars (plus 68 permitted for later building), and a huge detention basin for stormwater management (more than one acre). No nonstructural stormwater measures are contemplated. Despite some reduction in overall disturbance and the use of pervious parking surfaces, this plan showed only cosmetic improvements over the one that the Princeton Environmental Commission likened to a “strip-mall.”

Concerning the ruin of fragile woodlands, WRC refused to budge. SPRAB members repeatedly asked WRC to reduce area of disturbance through two-tier parking and a two-story building for administrative and school purposes (originally proposed by PEC). SPRAB members also noted noncompliance with state regulations for stormwater management, inconsistencies in architectural renderings, inappropriate landscaping choices, and an entryway “waiting for an accident to happen.”

WRC declined to redesign, claiming that it must present its plans to the Planning Board as soon as possible, both because of “excruciating pressure” from the present owner and because WRC fears that an existing Mercer County map of Environmentally Sensitive Areas will rightly hold sway. (The new state legislation has been known since May, 2007. Did WRC planners not know?)

Citizens should protest the wastage of sensitive terrain and habitat that benefit us all. Haste and lack of imagination cannot generate a sound plan for this valuable acreage. To its credit, SPRAB nearly voted to “recommend denial” but finally voted five to one to write to the Planning Board that SPRAB “has reviewed and cannot approve the site-plan as presented,” adding many proposed conditions that significantly expand the environmentally sane recommendations of the PEC.

Citizens must hope that an enlightened Planning Board will fully endorse the SPRAB recommendations, including the charge to redesign both parking and building on two levels. The failure to serve the community through environmental stewardship will otherwise be horrific.

DANIEL A. HARRIS
Dodds Lane

Pay Cuts, Not Staff Cuts, Recommended As Preferable School Budget Solution

To the Editor:

In reading your March 24 front page article concerning proposed school budget cuts, I was disappointed to learn that Superintendent Judy Wilson did not seem to consider across-the-board pay cuts. Instead, she seems to be relying on the timeworn but faulty policy of firing teachers and raising taxes. The net result is we pay more for less service.

This does not make sense. At a time when we should be trying to stem the tide of rising unemployment and its associated decline in property values, cutting salaries by 5 to 10 percent across-the-board would appear to be the preferable policy option. This pay cut option should also be considered in addressing budget shortfalls at the Township and Borough. If negotiated long-term escalating contracts preclude salary reductions, perhaps we should hold our elected officials to account next time they are up for election. The economic environment has dramatically changed, perhaps for decades to come, and the sooner we acknowledge this reality in crafting new solutions the better off we will be.

MICHAEL E. MORANDI
Battle Road

Princeton Girl Scouts Offer Thanks To Organizations and Host Schools

To the Editor:

As Spring Break allows us to catch our breath, the Princeton Girl Scouts Service Unit would like to take this opportunity to publicly acknowledge all the members of the local community who support our activities by donating their time and facilities. In particular we wish to thank Johnson Park Elementary School and principal Robert Ginsberg, for hosting our monthly leaders’ meetings; John Witherspoon Middle School and principal Bill Johnson, for hosting our yearly recruitment night; Stuart Country Day School and headmistress Sister Frances de la Chapelle, for hosting our yearly Thinking Day celebration; Littlebrook Elementary School and principal Anna Gonzalez Kosek, for hosting our yearly Service Night event; all the schools and other sites that allow us to hold our regular troop meetings; the local businesses and organizations that hosted our cookie booth sales, including Palmer Square Management, Arts Council of Princeton, Ace Hardware, WaWa, and Princeton Junction train station; local resident and Olympic gold medalist Anna Goodale, who visited us during our September encampment to share her experiences and achievements; and all the generous adult volunteers who share their talents and time to provide opportunities for leadership and service to all our girls.

The Princeton Service Unit is part of the Girl Scout Council of Central and Southern New Jersey. We serve 275 girls registered in Princeton schools and welcome girls of ages K-12. For more information, email princeton.girl.scouts@gmail.com or visit www.gscsnj.org.

RACHELE DE FELICE
Linden Lane
Princeton Girl Scouts Service Unit

Princeton History, Tradition, Identity Outweigh Notion of Replacing Dinky

To the Editor:

The proposal to replace our 145-year old Dinky with a transit bus isn’t about regional planning. It’s about history, tradition, and life in a civilized setting.

Just beyond Princeton’s town limits lies a nightmare landscape of fast-food joints and shopping malls that the rest of the country perceives as “typical New Jersey.” It’s less an ugly urban sprawl than the expression of a mentality: what happens when people permit planning boards and regional and “Master Plan Subcommittees” to promote projects in the name of efficiency, increased utility, reduced costs, and the like.

The voice of that mentality at the recent Borough Council meeting was, wittingly or unwittingly, Marvin Reed, who just a few years ago was urging consolidation of Princeton Borough and the Township. It never seemed to enter into his calculations then that the Borough, with a history going back to colonial times, might want to preserve its identity for reasons that have nothing to do with greater efficiency and reduced costs.

Among current Council members, the only one to understand that the Dinky issue involves a great deal more than cost efficiency or “regional planning” was Council president Andrew Koontz.

The Master Plan Subcommittee is entitled to its statistical charts and graphs and efficiency calculations. That’s what master plan subcommittees do. But sensible Princetonians will side with Andrew Koontz and the value of traditions that can’t be measured in such terms. The Dinky has been serving residents wonderfully for very nearly a century and a half. Against Mr. Reed’s charts and graphs may be posed the wisdom of an earlier day. If it isn’t broken, don’t fix it.

WILLIAM C. DOWLING
Harriet Drive

Needed Property Tax Relief the Topic At Borough-Township Meeting Tonight

To the Editor:

Revaluation will raise taxes on Borough residents least able to pay and lower them for those who could pay more. It will probably have the same result in the Township.

Some think widespread errors or even conspiracy produced this pattern. How many homes did assessors actually enter and inspect? Have enough lower- and higher-priced homes sold recently to establish comparables? Did tear-downs and re-builds raise values on a street’s unrenovated homes? Have house prices declined more since the appraisal base date, October 2009?

Others say this shift in property taxes from higher- to lower-priced homes reflects market forces: 1) The tree streets and the John Witherspoon neighborhood allow entry into the Princeton housing market, meaning more competition and higher prices. 2) Land is worth more than houses so close to downtown. 3) People now facing higher taxes have heretofore underpaid. 4) People hit hardest by tax increases will benefit from higher house prices when they sell. Or their heirs will when they die.

I say, damn the market. Some redress must be found immediately before more of our neighbors are driven from Princeton. And, no, we can’t tell those who feel unfairly assessed to seek individual reassessments. This inequity is not individual. It’s a pattern too large to ignore.

Here’s a possible remedy. New Jersey offers residents over 65 two substantial tax-relief programs: a “Homestead Rebate” and a “Senior Freeze.” See www.njtaxation.org. But Governor Christie apparently hopes to dismantle these programs.

So could the Borough legally offer its own homestead rebate or senior freeze? Probably not. Then what? Let our mayors and School Board president insist more vigorously that our tax-exempt University pay its fair share. Let those increased payments go to lower our taxes. It may be legal to distribute more tax relief to longtime Borough residents whose property taxes have risen above some percentage of household income.

Meanwhile, concerned Princetonians should attend a meeting with Borough Council, Township Committee, and the appraisers at 7 p.m. tonight (March 31) in Township Hall. Come prepared with questions!

ANNE WALDRON NEUMANN
Alexander Street

Township Snow Removal Crew Thanked for Its “Outstanding” Effort This Winter

To the Editor:

The winter of 2010 brought a record amount of snowfall to Princeton. The residents of The Glen would like to extend a special thanks to the Princeton Township snow removal crew who did such an outstanding job of digging out our neighborhood and keeping our roads safe.

We know that the work was hard and the hours long, and we sincerely appreciate their untiring efforts.

MARY STANGE
James Court

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