Town Topics — Princeton's Weekly Community Newspaper Since 1946.
Vol. LXI, No. 48
 
Wednesday, November 28, 2007
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Zoning, Pricing, Environmental Impact Among Issues in Senior Housing Debate

(3 Letters)

Food Baskets Donated to HomeFront Served Thanksgiving Dinners to 6,000

CONNIE MERCER
Executive Director
HomeFront

McCaffrey’s Thanked by Junior School for Thanksgiving Turkey Contributions

PETER Y. RAPELYE
Headmaster
Princeton Junior School

Borough Police Sponsoring Toy Drive Benefiting Foster and Adopted Children

DET. MICHAEL BENDER
Princeton Borough Police Department


Zoning, Pricing, Environmental Impact Among Issues in Senior Housing Debate

To the Editor:

In reference to your article “Senior Housing Talks” (Town Topics, November 14), I understand that the total number of units Mr. Hillier proposes to build or design on the Ridge is 170, not 149 as stated in the article. Together with units approved elsewhere in Princeton, Mr. Hillier’s project would bring the total of age 55+ units to three times more than the number that was set as a goal by the Princeton Regional Master Plan in 1996 (with amendments as of September 2006).

Why is such excess needed, anywhere? There’s no reason to add to destruction of the northeast Princeton Ridge, designated “environmentally sensitive” since 1959. Disruption of the Ridge already causes flooding in the floodplain below. Builders like Mr. Hillier cannot pretend to be “green” — or even civic-minded — if they ruin natural habitat for threatened and endangered species and if they risk harm to human beings and their property.

Princeton Township Committee has yet to demonstrate that there is a need for such a plethora of 55+ living units. To my knowledge, it has conducted no studies that support such a need; instead, it has relied on hearsay comments by individuals. By comparison, the fragility of the Ridge has been documented since 1972, with the Mercer County Soil Survey and, most recently, the maps and commentary engendered by the Delaware Valley Regional Planning Commission.

Readers should note that Lawrence Township has recently approved two developments for ages 62+ and 64+ and has evidently felt no need to make an exception to these standard age restrictions by lowering the age to 55+. Thus, I understand that there is a regional glut of 55+ housing in the greater Princeton area and therefore no urgent need to pursue a zoning change prior to appropriate study.

When Township Committee begins to look at existing scientific studies and/or to commission its own examinations of issues central to intelligent planning, that will be the time for citizens to believe in their government, and not before. Such research should be required before we violate our own master plan.

People opposing the location and size of the proposed Hillier development may register their objection by signing the petition, “Save the Princeton Ridge,” at www.gopetition.com/online/15329.

SARAH HOLLISTER
Ridgeview Road

To the Editor:

The apartments and common areas of Stonebridge and Windrows are filled with former Princeton residents who would have elected to remain in town had suitable housing been available to them. Every nearby town has provided market-rate senior housing to their residents. Our governing bodies and zoning and planning boards have recognized the need through the provision of overlay ordinances. In 2008 the oldest baby boomers will be 62; a need today merely recognized will in a very few years become a critical necessity.

Seemingly suitable sites for senior housing, such as the Shopping Center, are unavailable or, in the case of the hospital properties, far-off possibilities. Much of the remaining available land comes with legitimate environmental concerns attached. In particular, Princeton Ridge engenders solicitude and has become an almost sacred part of our landscape. Yet this ridge was not so sacred when PDS and Stuart were built on it; it was not so sacred when the Campbell Woods townhouses were built on it; it was not so sacred when hundreds of single-family houses, some of them of remarkable dimensions, were and are still being built on it. We hear of the “sensitivity” of the ridge. Many former Princeton residents who have been very active in serving this community are sensitive to the fact that they have been or soon will be forced to remove themselves from it because they no longer wish to bear the responsibility of a large house and yard.

Mr. Hillier is a busy and successful architect. It is to his credit that he is willing to devote as much time as he has to the betterment of the community in which he was raised. He has shown an awareness of environmental issues, and I believe he has the desire and resources to create a development with minimal impact on the environment and surrounding area.

Cities and towns are established by people for people. Protected lands can add to their quality of life and serve other important purposes. We have done well by nature in the Princetons; the list of preserved lands is a long one. Now is the time to preserve the ability of senior residents, many of whom have lived the greater part of their lives in this town, to remain a part of their community.

JERRY BERKELHAMMER
Allison Road

To the Editor:

Why does Township Committee want to approve Robert Hillier’s building development on Princeton Ridge to benefit those wealthy enough to downsize for $650,000 per unit? No building should be allowed on the heavily forested Ridge, least of all a 146-condo “Italian Villa” enclave for the well-to-do.

Why is Township Committee considering a draft ordinance permitting such a development that is the most egregious example of “spot-zoning” I have heard of in years? Spot-zoning is illegal. Look at the ordinance, crafted with architect Bob Hillier’s own specifications in mind — including a change in permitted building-height from 49 feet to 54 feet and added phrasing reading, “a 4th story may be added to any building(s) constructed within 300 feet of a public park.” By any chance did anyone have Hilltop Park in mind when redrafting the existing ordinance?

The draft ordinance says, too, that mandatory “affordable housing” will be made available only to those of “moderate income.” No low-income people may apply — certainly not seniors who need affordable housing anywhere. Is this the Princeton that values “diversity?” If the proposed ordinance is passed, there will be a minimum of seven and a maximum of 17 units not made available to people who would otherwise be able to apply for affordable housing on this site — at least 12 percent less affordable housing than the existing ordinance stipulates. Obviously, Princeton Township would gain from an ordinance mandating more rather than fewer market-rate condo units, because taxes on market-rate condos will be higher than on “affordable” units. But if Township Committee passes this ordinance in favor of market-rate housing, it would be blatantly discriminating against people without deep pockets.

So Mr. Hillier has committed himself to building 12 “affordable units” for moderate-income people on the north side of Bunn Drive. While Princeton Community Housing is reportedly overseeing the building of the 12 affordable units on the south of Bunn Drive, nothing has been announced about his project. And while Mr. Hillier has offered to design those 12 additional affordable housing units next to Princeton Community Village, there’s no guarantee that any other builder who comes in the future to “finish” Mr. Hillier’s project would use Mr. Hillier’s designs. Indeed, the additional 12 “affordable” units might never be built — and then even the “moderate-income” people might squawk.

Why is the revised ordinance being pushed through Township Committee with the speed of light?

KAREN FLICKER
Jefferson Road

Food Baskets Donated to HomeFront Served Thanksgiving Dinners to 6,000

To the Editor:

This generous community has outdone itself this year. HomeFront and the hundreds of homeless and very low income families we serve extend our warmest thanks to you all. You have allowed us to help make Thanksgiving special for over 1,500 needy families in our community. More than 60 local businesses, 15 schools, 20 churches, and hundreds of individuals donated Thanksgiving food baskets to HomeFront. We estimate that through this community-wide effort over 6,000 parents and children enjoyed a turkey dinner with all the trimmings this year. And best of all, they were able to do this at home!

My staff and I appreciate the caring and compassion of our community. We are always thankful and amazed at the outpouring of generosity from our neighbors and friends. Again, on behalf of all the families we serve, thank you. We hope that everyone — especially all the people who donated their time and effort — have a wonderful and warm holiday season.

CONNIE MERCER
Executive Director
HomeFront

McCaffrey’s Thanked by Junior School for Thanksgiving Turkey Contributions

To the Editor:

On behalf of the faculty, staff, parents, and children of the Princeton Junior School, I would like to express our gratitude for the generous donation by McCaffrey’s Supermarket of twelve turkeys to our Thanksgiving Basket Drive last week. Our school community collected an assortment of food items to assist a dozen needy families in the Trenton area through Mercer Street Friends. McCaffrey’s generosity helped make a wonderful statement about helping others in our community, especially at Thanksgiving time.

The delivery of the baskets followed the School’s traditional ceremony of songs and words of thanks presented by the children, honoring the spirit of Thanksgiving and acts of kindness throughout the year. Princeton Junior School children also made their own bread to accompany a special turkey soup prepared by PJS “soup dads.”

McCaffrey’s thoughtful contributions to our community service project are greatly appreciated.

PETER Y. RAPELYE
Headmaster
Princeton Junior School

Borough Police Sponsoring Toy Drive Benefiting Foster and Adopted Children

To the Editor:

The New Jersey State PBA is sponsoring a holiday toy drive, and Princeton PBA local 130, which I represent, is taking part in it. We are looking for donations from the public that will benefit the New Jersey Foster & Adoptive Family Services.

The PBA is looking for donations of new unwrapped toys. Anyone interested in donating new toys for this drive is asked to drop them off at the Princeton Borough Police Department by Monday, December 10. The toys will be delivered to the New Jersey State PBA office on December 11.

Thank you.

DET. MICHAEL BENDER
Princeton Borough Police Department

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