Letters: Thank You From Dem Slate, AvalonBay Opposition

Democratic Slate Thanks Supporters

To the Editor:

We are writing to thank voters for nominating us for the new Princeton Council.  The unusually high primary turnout and tremendous volunteer engagement are testament to the historic nature of this election for Princeton.  We appreciate your confidence and look forward to working together as a team to achieve the promise of consolidation.

Jo Butler
Jenny Crumiller
Heather Howard
Lance Liverman
Bernie Miller
Patrick Simon

AvalonBay’s Revisions Not Enough

Dear Editor:

Do AvalonBay’s revisions to their plans for a 280-apartment complex on Princeton’s hospital site comply with Borough Code or Master Plan?  Not yet. I write to inform residents about AvalonBay Communities’ revisions, presented at Borough Council, June 6 .

Other than the reduction in height of the complex to four stories, the revisions were fairly minor.  The height reduction was not a concession, according to the SPRAB chair, but was required because a six-story wood-framed complex violates international building codes.  Wood-framed buildings can be dangerous — a wooden apartment complex that AvalonBay built (and subsequently sold) burned to the ground in Quincy, Massachusetts.  A state-ordered investigation called because similar fires had occurred in other large-wooden apartment complexes determined that in Avalon’s building “draft stopping was not built in accordance with the State Building Code and the sprinkler systems were not installed according to the accepted standard” (Department of Fire Services, Mass, Nov 1 2011).

The driveway from Witherspoon into the complex has been moved slightly north to create a green area of about 15,000 sf.  This is less than half the size of the 34,000sf park that was part of the concept plan resulting from two-years of meetings between the community, town officials, and the hospital. Also resulting were a Master Plan for the site and new Borough Code to which AvalonBay is in non-compliance — and is bullying the town by threat of lawsuit so that officials will not enforce Code.  In the concept plan (as opposed to Avalon’s current plan), there is no driveway interfering with the park along the Witherspoon side of the block, which is meant to be a pedestrian- zone; the other two entrances to the garage were deemed sufficient.

A 25-foot wide arch has been added into the smaller of two interior courtyards (the other private courtyard has a swimming pool). This arch was described by Avalon’s architect as the “main entrance” to the complex.  This one passage into the complex does not change AvalonBay’s “Community” from a closed one to an open one. Still missing is the open space that provides “linkages between and through the development,” and  the “public walkway system” “crossing the site,” — required by Borough Code.  Nor can the front lawn between the apartments and the sidewalk, with walks up to individual units and Avalon’s signage, be considered usable public space.

Asked about green building construction, so necessary to the public well-being, the AvalonBay SVP Ladell said that he would comply with “zero” LEED standards.

Towards the meeting’s end, the citizen’s representative and the chair of SPRAB, both on the ad hoc subcommittee which has been negotiating with the developer out of sight of the public, tried to speak about the revisions to MRRO-zone Code that the Planning Board had requested (vote of 9-1) and were shut down by Ladell and his lawyer, with the acquiescence of Council.

Please join Princeton Citizens for Sustainable Neighborhoods and help us achieve  a better solution:  princetoncitizensfor@gmail.com.

Alexi Assmus