May 1, 2013

AvalonBay Agrees To Hold Public Session On Revised Hospital Site

The public will have a chance to examine plans that AvalonBay has revised for the former Princeton Hospital site at a date that is yet to be determined. The developer, whose initial plan for the Witherspoon Street property was turned down by Princeton’s Planning Board last December, filed suit against the town of Princeton and the Planning Board but has since entered into a consent agreement with the town to try and find a compromise outside of court.

“We have gotten AvalonBay to agree to the public information session so that the plan can be seen and reviewed by the public prior to it being unveiled at the Planning Board,” Princeton Administrator Bob Bruschi wrote Tuesday in an email. “It needs to be stressed that it is not a hearing. All of the formal hearings will be at the Planning Board meetings.”

AvalonBay’s proposal to tear down the existing hospital building and replace it with 280 rental units, 56 of which would be designated affordable, was rejected by the Planning Board based on design standards. The complex, which many called “monolithic,” was determined to be not in keeping with the surrounding neighborhood. Litigation on the design standards is currently on hold, but a hearing regarding jurisdictional issues is scheduled for May 15. It has been argued that the  Zoning Board of Adjustment, rather than the Planning Board, should be ruling on the AvalonBay proposal.

Two consent orders were submitted to the court, one signed by AvalonBay and the municipality, and the other signed by Rob Simon, who is the attorney for the group Princeton Citizens for Sustainable Neighborhoods (PCSN). Members of PCSN and other town residents have complained that the agreement with AvalonBay gives unfair advantage to the developer (see this week’s Mailbox).

According to the consent agreement, AvalonBay has until May 15 to submit a new application. Princeton’s engineer would then have another 15 days to determine if the application is complete. The staff would have 15 days to review the application, and the Planning Board would get 75 days for review. The Board would have to rule on the new application by August 15.