Town of Princeton Reaches Agreement with AvalonBay
Thee Princeton Council agreed in closed session last night to settle the dispute with developer AvalonBay out of court regarding the redevelopment of the downtown hospital site, several sources have confirmed.
The governing body gave the go ahead for the town to enter in to a consent agreement with AvalonBay, sources said. A consent agreement is a document stating that one party will stop contested actions, which will, in turn, resolve a lawsuit.
AvalonBay is still proposing to build 280 units at the 5.6 acre site, including 56 affordable units. But the developer has redesigned its plans for the site to include two buildings and some townhouses, sources said. The buildings will be taller along Witherspoon Street. The project will include less open space overall, sources said, but an open park is proposed at the corner of Witherspoon Street and Franklin Avenue as part of the revised plans.
AvalonBay will still be required to present the revised plans to the Princeton Planning Board for approval. If the board delays a decision on the plans for too long, AvalonBay can return to court.
In February, AvalonBay filed a lawsuit in Mercer County Superior Court against the town of Princeton and the Princeton Planning Board for denying its application.
The Council voted Monday night to approve $50,000 for the AvalonBay litigation fund. Money from the fund will be used to pay the lawyers representing the town and Planning Board in the case, Miller, Porter & Muller, P.C.
Several officials and a large group of residents opposed the original plan, arguing the scale of the proposed project did not fit with the surrounding neighborhood. Residents also raised concerns about environmental issues and open space designs. Many of the residents wanted to see a reduction in the number of apartment units to be built at the site. A task force recommended reducing the density, but then some Council members and the Mayor said the number of units should be kept the same.
Wow. What a development. I’m sure everyone will agree that this is a reasonable compromise.
(ducks for cover)
280 units. In many cases, 2 cars per unit. Somewhere in the area of 500 additional cars trying to squeeze through the downtown streets of Princeton every day, most at the same time of rush hour. I have heard absolutely no mention of how this additional surge of traffic will be dealt with. When this Avalon colossus is done, everyone will wonder why it takes over half and hour to get across town. Ridiculous.
A formal traffic survey was done and concluded that the traffic from a 280-unit apartment complex would be less than the traffic servicing the former hospital.
Residents’ traffic concern: the hospital traffic was distributed throughout the day and a 280-unit apartment complex will see heavier traffic in the rush hours than did the hospital. Of particular concern is the morning rush hour when elementary schoolchildren are walking to school and crossing Witherspoon Street. Parents and the crossing guard have reported difficult traffic conditions for quite awhile, and still report them even with the hospital gone. FURTHERMORE, Maser’s traffic study performed for AvalonBay Communities quite possibly underestimated the traffic from Avalon’s 280-unit apartment building. THE MASER STUDY FAILED TO TAKE INTO ACCOUNT THE FACT THAT SEVERAL HUNDRED HOSPITAL EMPLOYEES PARKED OFFSITE AND WERE BUSED TO WORK. Instead, Maser used a standard Institute of Traffic Engineer estimate for the number of cars generated by hospital traffic and ignored the special circumstance of the Princeton Hospital — the fact that employees parked offsite. So when Maser subtracted the hospital traffic from their total manual traffic count they had measured and added in an estimated traffic number for the 280 apartments to come up with a final estimated traffic number for Avalon Princeton plus medical office buildings, THEY SUBTRACTED TOO LARGE A NUMBER FOR HOSPITAL TRAFFIC, thus coming up with TOO SMALL A NUMBER FOR THE FINAL ESTIMATED TRAFFIC for the former hospital site with Avalon Princeton. In any case, the situation could be clarified by performing a manual traffic count now with the hospital gone — and by Avalon providing actual traffic counts from their Avalon NJ apartment complexes. Avalon declined to provide such actual traffic counts for their apartment buildings at the Planning Board Hearings.
I have a lot of sympathy for parents and the school crossing guard. We all care about kids being able to get to school safely (and, indeed, all of us being able to walk/bike around safely). But this new apartment development is unlikely to lead to crushing traffic, just like the new apartments / condos at Spring Street and Palmer Square haven’t caused crushing traffic.
Despite all the apocalyptic warnings, walkable apartments produce less traffic than expected, because many journeys can be taken on foot. For people who work in Princeton and live elsewhere, as is the case for many Princeton University employees who have been priced out of the Princeton market, the availability of apartments in central Princeton offers the possibility of leaving their car at home in the morning. These apartments therefore offer the possibility of *reducing* traffic, by allowing people to switch their commuting from cars to walking.
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