May 25, 2022

Development Decisions Should Benefit Entire Community, Not Just Developers

To the Editor:

I grew up in Princeton, and I remember when it was a quiet country town. It’s changed, of course, and some changes have been for the worse. The traffic problem is out of control, and the air, along some busy streets, reeks of fumes. Lately, water has become a problem. Water levels have risen along creeks and ponds, and many homeowners complain about water in their basements.

It’s easy to blame our problems on global warming and Washington politicians. But many of our water problems are caused by something closer to home: the financial and political clout of local developers. Years ago, the Route 1 area was mainly farmlands and wetlands. Most of that land has been built over. As empty land becomes scarce, developers have moved in on wetlands, like the many acres near Quaker Bridge Mall now slated to become a vast network of warehouses. This sort of development — paving over wetlands and farmlands — is happening throughout central New Jersey. 

When natural drainage systems are disrupted, stormwater remains stagnant, or seeps into our basements, or forms little ponds in our backyards. The air becomes contaminated with mold and bacteria — a health problem for many people, but also a potential economic problem since contaminated air is a threat to the laboratories run by local pharmaceutical firms. If the flood problem persists, our insurance bills will get higher, and the resale value of our homes will get lower. In other words, if our natural drainage systems are destroyed, then nature will punish us by creating new and unhealthy ones.

Some development is inevitable and even desirable, but we need to make sure that development decisions are made for the benefit of our entire community, and not simply for the benefit of developers. For this reason, I would hope that our elected representatives, both in the town of Princeton and in the state legislature, would reject donations from developers planning to build in our communities. And, if they do accept such donations, I would hope that they would recuse themselves from promoting any developments planned by their donors. This would avoid any conflict of interest, and it would help to keep New Jersey a Garden State.

Betsy Brown
Edgehill Street