To the Editor:
I have been following the application of AvalonBay to develop the former hospital site on Witherspoon Street with great interest. I am disappointed that the Planning Board chose to reject the application knowing full well that it was within the parameters of the zoning ordinance. This rejection opens the municipality to a likely lawsuit from AvalonBay that would probably be decided in AvalonBay’s favor. I do not agree with Mayor Lempert that there was “widespread opposition” to the plan. The opposition by a small group of people under the guise of sustainability was vocal but not widespread. In some cases, members of that group are living in houses exceeding their needs with swimming pools and other improvements that are far from sustainable.
One may not like the developer or the development as proposed; however, one should consider the following before rejecting it.
If the plan meets the zoning ordinance, it is likely to stand up in court.
Lawsuits (which Princeton people seem to love) are costly to the municipality and I do not believe that is the best use of our tax dollars.
An empty hospital building will soon become derelict and the real estate taxes received from it will be reduced due to the lack of occupancy.
The sale of the building was part of a large and carefully considered financial plan for the hospital. It has already been reported that the hospital is losing thousands of dollars each month that the building is vacant. Those funds will never be made up.
If the density on the site is lowered, the value of the property will also be lowered. Previous potential buyers have not appeared given the uncertainty of the future possible zoning. And, of course, the number of affordable units will be decreased.
Private property developed in accordance with zoning ordinances should not be subjected to the whims of vocal objectors. I doubt that those objectors would make changes to their own properties based on what others think would be appropriate. One does wonder why these very vocal people who are so opposed to the AvalonBay development haven’t assembled the resources necessary to purchase the hospital site and develop it in accordance with their own plans for sustainability.