October 13, 2021

Noting Problems with Proposed Housing Development at Princeton Shopping Center

To the Editor:

The Princeton Planning Board is close to approving a four-story, 200-unit housing development at the Walgreen’s end of the Princeton Shopping Center. The current Walgreen’s will be torn down and rise again in a new location with a drive-through pick up and an exit onto North Harrison.

We will soon be living with this 200-unit housing development. Are there any problems with it?

Hazards for children: The proposed path from Grover Park baseball fields to the apartments and shopping center stores begins at the only vehicular access to the fields for dropping equipment and supplies off from cars and for maintenance.

Amenity: Elimination of the covered walkway at what is now the Walgreen’s end of the shopping center. (Bad weather exercisers and dog walkers take notice!)

Fire hazard: Will fire trucks have difficulty reaching the new building from the courtyard side given the narrow road access from the south?

Drainage during heavy storms: The drainage plan for parking uses 1986 data. Does anyone find that reasonable, given that we had three rain events in excess of 3 inches this past summer?

Congestion: Trucks will not be permitted at the apartment development’s end of the shopping center. This will bring more truck congestion at the McCaffrey’s end.

Money for schools: The 200 apartments will obviously include some children. The developer has been granted “payment in lieu of taxes” which does not include any funds designated for increased schooling expenses.

Affordable housing: The plan includes 40 affordable housing units. But the affordable housing units disappear after 30 years. None of the concessions given the developer disappear then.

The Planning Board is moving ahead with approval of Avalon’s proposal with remarkable speed and apparently little interest in citizen participation. For example:

No chat permitted: Other Princeton government zoom meetings permit citizen participants to find one another through the chat. In the September 29 meeting of the Planning Board the chat was disabled.

No sharing of phone numbers by attendees allowed: Kept out of the chat at the September 29 meeting, I tried to give my phone number during the Q&A period so people could contact me. I was interrupted and not permitted to share my phone number.

AvalonBay’s architect given permission not to be present at the next meeting: For a major apartment development with citizen interest, this seems remarkable.

No public announcement of the proposed October 14 meeting: As of October 11, no announcement or agenda have appeared on the Princeton government website for the October 14 Planning Board meeting.

I have lived in Princeton for over 40 years. At 80, I do not know how much longer I will be around, but I care dearly about my town, its people, and its future. I know that Princeton needs more affordable housing. I support that with all my heart. But am I wrong to hope for thoughtful development that includes affordable housing and notices Princeton’s other needs?

Dawn Day
Meadowbrook Drive