November 7, 2018

Princeton Council Should Reject Planning Board’s Deceptive Recommendation on Seminary Campus

To the Editor:

An article entitled “Planners Recommend Redevelopment Zone for Seminary Properties” [Town Topics, October 3] describes the proposed designation of the Princeton Theological Seminary campus and surrounding residential area as “an area in need of redevelopment” (ANR) without disclosing that this is a public relations euphemism for “blighted area” pursuant to the New Jersey Constitution, Blighted Area Clause, Article VIII, Section 3, paragraph 1.

The Planning Board’s consultants conveniently failed to mention this important fact, despite more than a decade of case law in New Jersey courts, including Gallenthin v. Bor. of Paulsboro, 191 N.J. 344 (2007), in which the unanimous court emphasized that the designation is intended to apply only to properties “that were causing an economic domino effect devastating surrounding properties … Although the meaning of ‘blight’ has evolved, the term retains its essential characteristic: Deterioration or stagnation that negatively affects surrounding properties.”

Nothing in the consultants’ report remotely suggests that any of these properties meets the test of being blighted.  Instead the consultants paint a fairytale portrait of the ANR/blighted area designation as just a “different process than traditional rezoning … It gives greater control over design.  You can engage a qualified [re]developer, which you can’t in traditional zoning.” And then comes the big whopper: “there is a great protection of community interest.”

Our law firm has represented many a property owner scattered across municipalities all around the state who were lulled into complacency by these misleading consultant reports, only to find themselves stuck in a blighted area limbo for decades, unable to sell, develop, or enhance their property once it is disclosed to banks or potential purchasers that their property is blighted.

The Princeton Council should reject the Planning Board’s deceptive recommendation. There is nothing remotely blighted about the beautiful Theological Seminary campus or the historic and upscale residential properties located nearby.

R. William Potter
Nassau Street