To the Editor:
For the current hospital site, any building permitted by Borough Ordinance 2012-05, as introduced, will result in a megablock. Such a monolith is specifically disapproved by Borough Code Sec. 17A-193B.a.6.
The draft ordinance should be withdrawn now — either that, or the Planning Board must vote against it to prevent folly: the ruin of the hospital neighborhood, the historic character of Princeton, and the diversity of our newly consolidated community.
I have read the proposed ordinance in light of the Borough Code, and have examined plans proposed by AvalonBay. Did Borough Council members really write this ordinance, or did they take dictation from AvalonBay?
When Borough Code was rewritten some years ago, in contemplation of the hospital’s eventual (now imminent) move, virtually all phrasing aimed to get any new construction back down into scale with the neighborhood (one- and two-story houses — rarely three, as incorrectly stated in Sec. 17A-193B.c.1). The text allows for “up to” 280 housing units but also wants those units to blend with the neighborhood. Some of many samples: residential “uses” (plural) means a variety of building types, not an Avalon monolith (Sec. 17A-193B.a.2. New construction should “help soften” its own presence (17A-193B.a.4). People should be able to walk through the site (17A-193B.d.1). Site plans must show “how the public and residents will circulate in and through the site” (17A-193B.e.3) — currently impossible according to AvalonBay’s design.
The Council ordinance disregards all these stipulations and their specific intent. If a code is not written to be honored, then what is its use?
With the increased density bonus it would permit, it allows for a completely closed, gated community (AvalonBay’s standard format). A closed “community” should be anathema to Princetonians, and to our officials who have vaunted so highly the values of diversity. Where will the contradictions and “inconsistencies” of judgment stop?
And what of signage for this gated community? The ordinance permits AvalonBay to turn Witherspoon Street into our local Route One: a facade sign can be ten feet square (the writers of the ordinance did not think in three dimensions); a free-standing sign (also ten feet square) “shall” (not even “may”!) jut out into open space within five feet of the sidewalk.
I do not want my Princeton to look like this. I also want our hospital, which has achieved such outstanding regional excellence, to take some responsibility for its choice of buyers, even in this tricky market.
Borough Council members should have the good sense to withdraw the draft ordinance. Additions to residential housing stock can be gotten without selling out Princeton downstream.