Martindell: Proposed Legislation Benefitting Private Universities Could Lead to Uncontrolled Growth


To Planet Princeton:

At least two of Princeton’s largest institutions, Rider University and Princeton University, are supporting proposed legislation now in the State Assembly that would empower them to build whatever they want, wherever they want, regardless of local land use controls.

The legislation, known as Assembly Bill 2586, would exempt private institutions of higher learning in New Jersey from the Municipal Land Use Law, including oversight by planning and zoning boards.

In Princeton, passage of A 2586 could embolden Rider to place a multi-story parking deck on its property behind Linden Lane, Princeton University to build a 15-story tower in the Engineering Quad along Murray Place, the Seminary to build a multi-story student center along Mercer Street, or the Institute of Advanced Study to build any number of housing units wherever it chooses.  In each such case, the development could be built totally independent of any zoning control.

Were A 2586 to pass, the consequences of uncontrolled growth — on traffic, the environment, and the quality of life in individual neighborhoods and the community as a whole –- could be horrific, but there would be no legal basis to challenge that growth.  Princeton would become the quintessential “company town”, even more dominated by the four institutions.

And there’s lots of opportunity for each of the institutions to grow: in Princeton Borough and Township, the four institutions control the following acreage, according to the municipal tax assessor: Princeton University – 440.73; Rider University – 25.31; the Seminary – 96.1; and the Institute for Advanced Study – 359.42, for a total of 919.56 acres of developable land.

With passage of A 2586, the homeowner with a one-quarter acre lot will have to follow the zoning rules but the private educational institutions in the community, with 919 acres and multi-million or –billion dollar endowments, will not.

Princetonians who care about the future of our community might usefully contact their Assembly representatives to oppose A 2586. Residents might also contact those whom they know in the administrations of the four institutions to urge those institutions to think in terms greater than their narrow institutional goals — to think of the consequences of A 2586 on the community as a whole!

Roger Martindell

Editor’s Note: Mr. Martindell is a longtime Borough Councilman. A public forum on the proposed legislation he refers to will be held at Borough Hall tonight at 7 p.m.