Letters: Princeton Should Not Be Stonewalled by AvalonBay

To the Editor:

Why does AvalonBay oppose LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) for Princeton? LEED is a far more thorough certification program than Energy Star.  It differentiates between better and poorer degrees of sustainability achieved by any project; Energy Star does not distinguish degrees. Further, the Energy Star program has been found deficient by the Inspector General of the EPA and the American Council for an Energy-Efficient Environment.

Ron Ladell, AvalonBay’s chief promoter at Borough Council and the Planning Board, stated, “We don’t do LEED on stick-buildings.” Why such a blunt push-back on “stick-buildings” when AvalonBay’s corporate headquarters is certified LEED-Silver and its webpage devotes 13 pages to sustainability? One of the AvalonBay attorneys, Jeremy Lang, took a tough stand at the Planning Board (4/19/12) and stated, “We have successfully litigated against efforts to impose LEED certification standards.” At the same meeting, former Princeton Township mayor Bernie Miller asked Ladell “Is there anything to stop a developer from volunteering to seek LEED-certification?” Ladell’s non response speaks volumes. Why such opposition to the environmental health of our community? Why such belligerence on a matter concerning the public good?

Princeton should not be stonewalled—especially on what will surely be the most massive building in town if constructed.  New Jersey municipal land use law is thirty years out of date on environmental matters such as LEED and frowns on anything that is “cost-generative” for the developer with no consideration for the future health costs to be incurred by an entire population in consequence of unsustainable building practices. AvalonBay may hide behind outdated state law, but when they refuse to do better, they don’t look good.  It is evident that their intentions are out of sync with Princeton, a state certified Sustainable Municipality.  Our public policy may be beyond Avalon Bay’s desire to comply.

AvalonBay’s intentions are outdated, counterproductive, and dangerous to Princeton’s municipal and environmental health. Any development must have an energy performance that is a minimum of 30% better than ASHRAE 90.1-2007 (American Society of Heating, Refrigeration, and Air-Conditioning Engineers) or be equivalent to IECC 2009 (International Energy Conservation Code) improved performance.  We don’t need another development that is not LEED certified, another hotspot in our downtown, another massive development with flat roofs and no solar panels.

The Planning Board must do what it can to impose conditions and/or entice this reluctantly green, presently grey developer to do a better job. If Avalon Bay wants to build here, they must learn something about Princeton community values. The market-rate and affordable rental units Princeton needs should not be built by a developer who has little to no respect for Princeton values.

Roz Warren