December 9, 2020

Urging Community to Join Opposition For Proposed Changes on Ridge

To the Editor:

In 1905, Upton Sinclair wrote The Jungle in a tarpaper shack behind a farmhouse on the Princeton Ridge. This area has been a focus of the NJ Department of Environmental Protection and targeted in the Princeton Community Master Plan: “The preservation and protection of the natural environment must be in integral part of all plans and designs for improvements and changes in land use. Examples include rezoning of the Princeton Ridge.”

This week, Princeton’s Planning Board will be hearing testimony on proposed changes at the apex of the Ridge in a land-lease agreement between Princeton Academy of the Sacred Heart and the Princeton Soccer Academy. In the agreement, the school will remove 4.2 acres of grass and natural surface, 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. 

Zoning prohibits the school from leasing the property for commercial purposes to for-profit organizations. PSA, LLC, a for-profit organization, has been noted by the Princeton Academy of the Sacred Heart, for years, as a partner in this endeavor.  When the school realized this impermissible commercial use, a new application was filed by PSA, Inc., a parallel nonprofit organization just four weeks ago. Clearly, this nonprofit formation is a last-minute attempt to circumvent Princeton’s clear zoning regulations. Allowing an organization that has operated as a for-profit entity for years to suddenly claim they are nonprofit to skirt zoning’s impermissible commercial use sets a dangerous precedent. 

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 of base and infill materials in our wetlands and waterways. The Princeton Environmental Commission went on record to say this impermeable, plastic surface creates “an uninhabitable environment” and added, replacing plant material with “synthetic turf that has far too many negative impacts on the environment, the PEC recommends the variance be denied.”  

Neighbors on Princeton’s Ridge implore the Planning Board to consider the fragile ecosystem in the middle of a quiet, peaceful residential neighborhood. Why would we consider disturbing a delicate conservation zone with many threatened and endangered species who live and migrate on the Ridge? 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?  

Please join us in opposition on the Planning Board Zoom call scheduled this Thursday, December 10 at 7:30 p.m. 

Kristin and Ron Menapace
Heather Lane