October 14, 2020

Encouraging Residents to Weigh In on Proposed Changes at Princeton Ridge

To the Editor:

“How many Princetonians does it take to change a light bulb? 

Three. One to change the bulb and two to wax philosophically about how great the old one was.”

This was a joke told to us when we first moved to Princeton nine years ago. We’ve come to realize this sentiment is based on the careful and thoughtful consideration made to proposed changes in and about town. We appreciate Princeton’s Planning Board and their commitment to evaluate all regional planning, ensuring, “that all permitted development is designed so as to be as harmonious as possible with the surrounding neighborhood.” 

Residents of the Princeton Ridge have long appreciated the balance of nature, the unique geography and geology.  Upton Sinclair wrote The Jungle here. This area has been a focus of the NJ Department of Environmental Protection and targeted in the Community Master Plan: “The preservation and protection of the natural environment must be an integral part of all plans and designs for improvements and changes in land use. Examples include rezoning of the Princeton Ridge.”

This is why our community was rocked when we were informed of the proposed changes at the apex of the Ridge in a land-lease agreement between Princeton Academy of the Sacred Heart and Princeton Soccer Academy. In the agreement, the school will remove 4.2 acres of grass, including 46 mature trees and replace it with nonpermeable artificial turf. PSA is looking to lease this complex and conduct practices, games, and tournaments, year-round, every day and every night until 9:30 p.m. 

Eleven diesel operated light towers are included in the proposal; loudly rumbling, belching smoke, and illuminating the night sky. Stormwater runoff is certain to cascade down the Ridge into adjacent properties and disturb environmentally sensitive lands. No evaluation of toxic runoff has been conducted to assess the impact to our wetlands and waterways.  The Princeton Environmental Commission states this plastic surface creates “an uninhabitable environment … that has far too many negative impacts on the environment, the PEC recommends the variance be denied.” 

What the residents cannot understand is the rational for such draconian measures in such a fragile ecosystem in the middle of a quiet, peaceful residential neighborhood. With no shortage of soccer fields in Princeton, why would we allow an out-of-town, non-tax-paying organization upend our quality of life with blinding lights and diesel generators running every night at the expense of Princeton residents?  Why would we consider disturbing a delicate conservation zone with many threatened and endangered species who live and migrate on the Ridge?

The Planning Board is holding a hearing this Thursday, October 15 via Zoom. We encourage Princeton residents to weigh in on this egregious overreach that negatively impacts the quality of life of Princeton residents. 

Instructions for how to access the meeting are posted on the home page of Princeton’s website and included here: https://princeton.zoom.us/j/92317363217. Webinar ID: 923 1736 3217.

You voice is critical. Please join us Thursday at 7:30 p.m.

Menapace, Bibro, Bannett, and Chan Families
Heather Lane