The Princeton Battlefield Society has filed an appeal in the ongoing battle to prevent the Institute for Advanced Study from building a faculty housing development on land the group maintains was key to the Revolutionary War. The appeal was filed on September 21 in Superior Court, to try and reverse an approval given to the project by the Delaware and Raritan Canal Commisson on August 15.
The Institute had sought a waiver from the Commission because part of the development is in stream corridors, according to the Battlefield Society. But because they lacked a quorum, the Commission could not act on the proposal. They gave default approval, due to a rule that a project gets automatically approved should the Commission be unable to act on it within 45 days.
“We’re questioning the constitutionality of it,” says Jerald Hurwitz, president of the Battlefield Society. “If you don’t have a quorum, it automatically gets approved? How does that work? That means that all somebody needs to do to sabotage a process is simply make sure they can’t be heard within the 45 days. There’s something wrong with that.”
The project, which was approved by the Regional Planning Board last March, would include homes on seven acres, with 14 acres left open for use by the public. The Battlefield Society filed a lawsuit in July appealing the approval. They are preparing an additional lawsuit involving the use of wetlands, maintaining that the project would violate the Clean Water Act.
Additionally, the group filed a complaint in Chancery Court in April, asking for a judicial determination on various site limitations created by a 1992 agreement between the Institute and Princeton Township.
While he doesn’t believe that the recent ruling by the Canal Commission was intended to automatically grant the Institute a waiver, Mr. Hurwitz doesn’t think the process is fair. “We don’t get our day in court because there is no hearing. How is that? We felt we had to do or say something,” he said. “This is a gray area and I think there are some serious problems with it.”
The Canal Commission has had several vacancies recently, and there have been no recent appointments by Governor Chris Christie. But several new members have been nominated and are awaiting legislative approval.