June 19, 2019

Response to Cohen’s Status Report On Seminary Redevelopment Process

To the Editor:

We take issue with a number of unsubstantiated and inaccurate statements that Mr. Cohen has made.

“Recently, a few neighbors came forward to express their dissatisfaction with the current design.”

The reality is that almost all neighbors have opposed the scale of the development being out of context with the residential neighborhood and the massive disparity with what would be allowed under current zoning guidelines.

“Further benefits to public storm water management and our Affordable Housing Plan are expected if the project moves into the next stage of a Redevelopment Plan.”

The contribution to storm water management is as much a function of the impact of mitigating the impact of 180-plus people. There is a substantial concern that the level of local traffic will increase significantly. If built as proposed the benefits of reduced short term commuter traffic benefits are more than outweighed by relocating 35 families and 41 children to Princeton from West Windsor.

“It is also true that the Redevelopment Statute permits the municipality to require financial contributions in connection with a Redevelopment Plan, an important tool that many municipalities use to benefit the public interest.”

The issue in question is that the town has not been clear on the importance and size of financial contributions related to the approval of this project. It is of substantial concern that the current taxpayers of this area are being overridden in terms of their concerns for a short term, one-time contribution to help the fiscal status of Princeton. Mr. Cohen is also involved in negotiating the Affordable Housing settlement and there is an inherent conflict for him to be driving the zoning decision, and negotiating a payment to an affordable housing fund that is directly tied to the density ultimately approved.

“In light of recent concerns raised by these letter-writers and others, the Seminary has proposed a hiatus in the ad hoc committee process to allow them to redouble their efforts over the summer to find creative solutions which will satisfy the broadest cross-section of Princeton residents.”

It is clear from Mr. Cohen’s last statement that he lacks impartiality and a sense of the interests of the taxpayers of Princeton. His reference to voters and taxpayers as ‘letter-writers’ is simply unforgivable and reflects his dismissive approach in public meetings and his bias toward development over community-sensitive changes that better respect established neighborhoods.

At a minimum, to restore confidence in this process, Mr. Cohen should consider stepping down from his role of chairman of the Ad Hoc Committee. His role, negotiating the COAH settlement, creates an inherent conflict.  This may jeopardize thoughtful planning and result in a payment from PTS to help the town deal with their obligation, at the expense of neighbors and tax payers. We need a person leading this process that will embrace the genuine feedback from residents and is seen to be impartial, to fairly consider this development proposal from PTS. 

John and Ruth Sayer
Library Place

Caroline Cleaves
Edgehill Street

Rakesh & Sophia Kumar
Campbelton Road

Anita Wu
Armour Road

Christopher Rice
Library Place

Lee Hagan & Mimi Mead-Hagan
Armour Road

Michael and Susan Head
Hibben Road

Jim and Jo Butler
Hibben Road

Doug Palmer and Christiania Foglio
Mercer Street

Steve and Shirley Kern
Mercer Street

Justin Taffer
Stockton Street

Dean & Jill Mitchell
Hodge Road

Dorothy and Charles Plohn, Jr.
Hodge Road