December 12, 2012

Citizens for Sustainable Neighborhoods Deserve More Time to Make Their Case

To the Editor:

Clearly the Planning Board (PB) must schedule an additional hearing date beyond December 13 for the AvalonBay application. Due process and the choreography for these legal proceedings can’t be short-circuited, lest their legitimacy be questioned. While I respect the Planning Board’s need to finish work before December 31, additional overtime is needed from a Planning Board that has already labored with exceptional diligence under heavy pressure to complete an unduly burdensome workload.

To the credit of the Planning Board and its chair, Wanda Gunning, and PB attorney Gerald Muller, Ms. Gunning’s memorandum to PB clearly states: “I am not intending to limit testimony or cross-examination other than when it appears that a particular point being pursued is redundant.” She continues, however, that “if it is necessary” to impose “a time limit,” “without limiting the applicant’s and objectors’ right to present a full case, we will explore that possibility” (December 6, 2012).

AvalonBay has now had nearly three full sessions to present its case. Clearly Ms. Gunning and Mr. Muller expected them to be more “efficient” in their use of time and had anticipated that “ample time” would be left to Princeton Citizens for Sustainable Neighborhoods (PCSN) on December 6, but Mr. Simon (for PCSN) was not enabled to begin presenting his case until 10:15 p.m. He commended Ms. Gunning and the Planning Board for trying to set a schedule for the hearings but was obliged to say that it was “enormously, blatantly unfair” to PCSN and the general public to expect them to present and conclude their case in approximately one session.

The truth of this complaint was again evident as Mr. Lang, for AvalonBay, was rumbling through AvalonBay’s ostensible adherence to the Master Plan (in what some people called a filibuster), and was twice urged by Mr. Muller to finish speedily and then address design standards so that PCSN could begin its case. Toward the end of the evening, Mr. Muller agreed that a “colloquy” between Planning Board members might be necessary to set an additional hearing date beyond December 13, and after the lights had dimmed he and Ms. Gunning were seen conversing with Mr. Solow and Ms. Cutroneo. Let us hope they saw light.

The application has a huge reverberation for Princeton’s future; the honoring of due process is, in the long, democratic view, even more important.

Planning Board: Set an additional date. It’s unrealistic and unfair to everyone to expect PCSN to present its case, with witnesses, and deal with AvalonBay rebuttals, and answer questions from municipal staff, and participate in general questioning by the Planning Board — all in two sessions. In addition, Princeton citizens have a right to speak. The public has avidly contributed to the civic discussion about this application since November 2011. We don’t want our time cut short.

Mr. Muller must also demand again that AvalonBay send all official correspondence automatically to PCSN as well as to the Planning Board. AvalonBay’s tactics of withholding information are simply disreputable.

Daniel Brown

Humber Lane