February 26, 2014

Judge Rules in Favor of AvalonBay In Lawsuit Filed by Residents

A lawsuit filed by a citizens’ group seeking to block AvalonBay’s plan for a rental community on the site of the former Princeton Hospital has been dismissed. On Tuesday, Mercer County Superior Court Judge Mary Jacobson ruled in favor of the developer.

The residents group, Association for Planning at Hospital Site LLC, filed the five-count lawsuit last December in an effort to overturn the Princeton Planning Board’s approval of the developer’s plan for a 280-unit rental complex. Judge Jacobson initially threw out one count of the suit, saying the statue of limitations had run out on the issue. The remaining four counts were dismissed Tuesday, less than a week after a hearing in which Judge Jacobson heard two hours of testimony by attorney Steven Griegel, representing the group, and Gerald Muller, representing the Planning Board. AvalonBay attorney Robert Kasuba was also present at the hearing.

The citizens’ group listed concerns about public safety, health, and welfare issues during demolition, which Mr. Griegel said have not been sufficiently addressed. He also raised procedural concerns. Mr. Griegel said the consent order that the Town entered into with AvalonBay last April, to suspend litigation and allow the developer to submit a revised plan after their initial plan was rejected, was unfair because it left the public out. Mr. Muller countered that there is no requirement for the public to review a consent order.

On their website, the Association for Planning at Hospital Site LLC has said they are exploring their next steps. “We have 45 days to appeal this decision and will be meeting with our lawyers in the coming days to understand what options remain,” the website reads.

After hearing concerns from several residents, Princeton Council voted last month to hire an independent licensed state remediation professional (LSRP) to help ensure public safety during the demolition process. At this past Monday’s Council meeting, municipal engineer Bob Kiser said that an incinerator formerly located at the hospital, which AvalonBay officials asserted was used only for incinerating paper records, was in fact used for medical waste.

 The Council hopes to hear from the LSRP at its March 10 meeting before taking another look at the developer’s agreement.