WILLIAM J. HINSHILLWOOD
To the Editor:
Recently Town Topics reported Princeton Borough Council's rejection of the offer by the Concerned Citizens of Princeton to submit the legal dispute over the Borough's $13.7 million construction project the five-and-one-half story parking garage and surrounding development to a mediation and arbitration process. Speaking for Council, attorney Michael Herbert called it a "public relations" ploy, and not a serious offer. This is a reminder that Borough Council is behaving recklessly.
The settlement offer was a good faith effort to resolve this legal dispute as quickly and amicably as possible, thereby to end costly uncertainty over whether this project is illegally being constructed in a rush to completion before an appeals court can rule.
Council is running away from this question: What will it do if an appeals court rules that the development site was not legally "blighted," and, therefore, both the bond sale and the project it is financing are illegal?
For several years a multi-story parking garage stood vacant near the corner of Harrison and Nassau streets. A developer had "gambled" and lost that it would win in court on a zoning board challenge. To avoid a similar result, Concerned Citizens offered to withdraw its legal challenge and to accept the outcome of a mediation and arbitration effort if the Borough would agree to do so as well.
Now comes the Council's rejection. Council prefers to gamble on winning the appeal or completing the project before a court rules against hoping that the court will not dare to enforce the law against the Borough as it would against a private developer.
The recklessness of this attitude is heightened by recent history. Last December the same judge who ruled in favor of the Borough in the first round of the Concerned Citizens lawsuit was reversed by an appeals court for doing what she did again in this case. As a result, it is obvious that the risk of this judge getting reversed again is high later if not sooner.
While private sector developers may choose to run these risks with their own money but seldom do the real stakeholders here are the taxpayers and residents of Princeton Borough.
To repeat: What will Borough Council do if the appeals court rules against it? Does Council believe that if it loses, but the garage is built, the court will allow it to operate an illegal facility? In short, does Council assume that it is above the law? If not, then why did it reject the Citizens' offer to an out-of-court resolution that would avoid these risks?
R. WILLIAM POTTER
To the Editor:
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