July 22, 2015

Judge Halts IAS Plan, Accelerates Hearings

Mercer County Superior Court Judge Mary Jacobson issued an injunction last week which formally stopped all construction activity on the Institute for Advanced Study’s (IAS) faculty housing project until she hears arguments from both sides, culminating in a ruling on September 3.

The Institute had halted the project last month after the Princeton Battlefield Area Preservation Society (PBS) complained that IAS actions would be destructive to the historic site where the Battle of Princeton was fought in January 1777.

The seven acre-site, which is on land owned by the Institute and has been earmarked for seven single-family homes and two four-unit townhouses for its faculty and residential members, is adjacent to the Princeton Battlefield State Park. The Princeton Planning Board unanimously approved the project last November. The Battlefield Society is suing to overturn that approval.

In addition to placing a hold on construction, Judge Jacobson’s court order also agreed to “accelerate its briefing and hearing schedule on the merits of the complaint,” in response to a request from the Institute.

“While we are disappointed with the ruling, we respect Judge Jacobson’s decision regarding the temporary injunction,” reads a statement issued by the Institute. “We welcome her acceleration of the scheduled hearing for the Battlefield Society’s remaining appeal of the Princeton Planning Board’s approval of our project. We remain confident that the project will proceed as planned.”

PBS attorney Bruce Afran had asked for a hearing last month to block further activity at the site, and the Institute signed a consent agreement to temporarily halt construction. “This has turned it from an agreement to a court order,” he said of Judge Jacobson’s ruling. “This is significant because Judge Jacobson said that she finds any activity at this stage will cause irreparable harm to the site, and that’s an important step in protecting the Battlefield site.”

If all goes according to schedule, the court will proceed as follows: PBS will present its arguments for the overturn of the Princeton Planning Board’s approval of the Institute’s plans by August 3 and the Institute will present its counterarguments by August 17. Then, PBS will have a chance to respond to the Institute’s counterarguments on August 24 before the judge hears oral arguments from both sides on September 3.

The suit against the Institute and the Princeton Planning Board is being brought by the Princeton Battlefield Area Preservation Society and the following individuals: Asher Lurie, Kip Cherry, Jerald Hurwitz, Mark Crosby, Sally Crosby, William Marsch, Iain Haight-Ashton, Kim Gallagher, Joe Carney, Mrs. Carney, Rich Patterson, Paul Luane, Bill Meyer, Glenn Williams, Christopher Wren, and Joseph Carney.

“We hope that Judge Jacobson overturns the Princeton Planning Board’s decision,” said PBS President Jerry Hurwitz. “But if she rules against us, we will have a chance to appeal her decision in Appellate Court in front of three judges; this would be a completely new trial.”

Mr. Hurwitz said that the PBS were surprised that the Institute was moving ahead with the project before the appeals process had played out. “After all this isn’t something that can be put back, once disturbed, and that was the argument for the injunction, irreparable harm could be done,” he said, adding his hope that it won’t come to that. “We hope that the Institute will settle this rather than see its reputation besmirched by building on hallowed ground that is the core area of the battlefield.”

PBS has long opposed the Institute’s plans, raising the need to protect “hallowed ground” as well as environmental concerns. In addition to wanting the Princeton Planning Board’s approval overturned, it is also appealing the most recent decision by the Delaware and Raritan Canal Commission (DRCC) to approve the Institute’s plans as amended following the Commission’s requirement that it avoid encroachment into a stream corridor.

A recent archeological study of the site, conducted by the archeological firm, the Ottery Group, over the past year, collected 663 artifacts of which ten are reported as being related to the Battle of Princeton: five musket balls and five pieces of grapeshot. PBS has criticized the survey, which was paid for by the Institute in response to a Planning Board request.

The Ottery Group’s report describes the site, known as Maxwell’s Field, as “a significant archeological site and historic landscape associated with the Battle of Princeton.”

A link to the report is available on the Institute’s website: www.ias.edu/ias-statement-faculty-housing.

Mr. Hurwitz remains hopeful that if enough light is shone on this issue, the battlefield will be saved. “We could raise the money to buy the site from the Institute which it could then use to buy housing for its faculty,” he said.

For more information on the Institute’s long-standing plans for faculty housing, visit: www.ias.edu; for more on the Princeton Battlefield Society, visit: theprincetonbattlefieldsociety.com.