May 17, 2023

Witherspoon Street is the Wrong Place for a Coffee Roastery

To the Editor:

Next Wednesday’s [May 24] Zoning Board of Adjustment meeting will be the third time Sakrid Coffee Roasters will present their case to install a coffee roastery at 300 Witherspoon. In the last two meetings nothing has changed other than their acknowledgment that the amount of roasting will increase in the future. The proponents have yet to explain why nearby residents, pool and park users, and parents of Community Park students should risk diminished air quality for the luxury of witnessing coffee being roasted.

While we are excited and supportive of a cafe nearby, there is no compelling need to roast coffee where they are proposing, much less to change township statutes to enable this kind of use. A prior letter of opposition pointed out that other coffee shops in town roast their beans outside residential neighborhoods in industrially-zoned areas.

The smell of roasting coffee is far different than the aroma of a freshly-brewed cup. Roasting produces air pollutants and particulate matter, including VOCs and other chemicals that pose health risks to workers and neighbors — which is the reason Sakrid proposes installing technologies to limit most of these pollutants. However, there is good reason to be especially cautious in areas so close to hundreds of residents and school children. Making an exemption for a use that has the potential to be unhealthy or a nuisance — and has become so in other places — is foolish.

Meanwhile the town is in a growth phase and trying to create affordable housing and find acceptable ways to incorporate higher density development. Along this section of Witherspoon, future development could include new shops, restaurants, and accompanying kitchen exhaust, A/C condensers, increased traffic, laundry, etc.

The town should be mindful of cumulative impacts with each new project that is proposed, especially in this neighborhood. For example, noise and municipal traffic often begins in the wee hours of the morning when the street cleaner heads towards other sections of town. Additionally, non-resident parking and traffic is steadily increasing, and includes the several-ton municipal trucks.

These issues go beyond this proposal, but are important for context. The quality of life of Princeton residents, including this neighborhood, should be more forcefully safeguarded when permitting new amenities and meeting township planning goals. The localized impact to air quality of increased residential and commercial development, and associated traffic in the Witherspoon corridor is already consequential to residents. Unnecessarily adding new emission sources that may impair air quality should not be allowed.

So while we are excited by the prospect of a cafe, granting a variance to roast coffee in this setting is unwise.

Birch Avenue