Town Topics — Princeton's Weekly Community Newspaper Since 1946.
Vol. LXII, No. 50
Wednesday, December 10, 2008
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Preservation Commission Studies King’s Highway, Institute Spread

Ellen Gilbert

The Township’s Historic Preservation Commission focused Monday afternoon on creating guidelines for the stretch of Routes 206 and 27 known as King’s Highway, and potential building by the Institute for Advanced Study on ground near Battlefield State Park.

Although King’s Highway, a 10-mile stretch extending from Franklin Corner Road to Raymond Road, is a Department of Transportation (DOT) right-of-way, the DOT has asked the commission to create guidelines for the road, which received national Register of Historic Places status in 2001. Guidelines would address signs, lighting, utility lines, cell towers, curbing, fences, hedges, and other potentially intrusive elements that would compromise the historic integrity of the 66-foot wide road.

“We haven’t had time to do it,” said commission member Robert von Zumbusch, referring to his and other members’ day-to-day obligations. However, he noted, money is available to hire someone to do it, and the commission agreed to hire a consultant to establish basic priorities for the road. While observing that the road also passes through areas of Lawrence, Franklin Township, and South Brunswick, Mr. von Zumbusch said that since “Princeton Township has the best support,” it made sense for them to begin the process, eventually bringing the others on board.

On a related note, Township Committee liaison Chad Goerner described a “culture change” in the DOT’s attitude toward the “vision study” on Route 206 that was supposed to be a collaboration between the agency and the Princetons. Under pressure from the truck lobby, he said, the DOT has “distanced itself” from the project. In the face of funding problems, Mr. Goerner reported, the Route 206 Vision Plan group is now turning to the state legislature and Congressman Rush Holt’s office for support. They seek to curb truck traffic, improve pedestrian crossings, and address trouble spots like “the most dangerous intersection” in the area, Route 206 and Ewing Street. Their concerns extend to Lawrence Township, which has expressed interest in participating.

Battlefield Blues

The commission considered ways of expressing its opposition to the Institute for Advanced Study plans, originally announced in 2003, to build what the commission believes would be visually intrusive faculty residences on Institute-owned land near the Princeton Battlefield State Park. As a result of the Institute’s proposed plan, the National Historic Landmark has been labeled “threatened” by the National Park Service since 2004. Adding to the argument against building is a Princeton Battlefield Society report on archeological evidence that they believe suggests that some of the 1777 Battle of Princeton occurred on the proposed building site. The Institute disputes this claim.

In response to Chair David Schure’s observation that it is time for the commission to be more proactive, Mr. van Zumbusch suggested that the Historic Preservation Commission work with the Township Committee on it. “It’s a very, very difficult situation,” Mr. Goerner observed, adding that the Institute “needs buildings for residences.” While agreeing that he would report to the Township Committee about Monday’s discussion, he suggested that the Township Committee might be “more comfortable with the Planning Board looking at expansion of the site.” He also encouraged the Historic Preservation Commission to continue with its own discussions to produce a formal resolution on the issue.

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