The Princeton Planning Board approved a settlement with AvalonBay last night that avoids litigation and paves the way for the developer to submit a new application for the development of the downtown hospital site.
The board voted to approve a consent agreement with Avalon Bay. A consent order or consent agreement is a document stating that one party will stop contested actions in order to resolve a lawsuit. It provides information about an agreement mutually reached by the people involved in a legal case. A consent order allows people to settle a case without having to wait for a court judgment. It is legally binding, just like a judgment issued at the end of a trial.
AvalonBay will submit new site plans by the middle of May, and the planning board’s review and public hearings on the proposal would be held in late June and July.
The developer is proposing to build 280 units at the 5.6 acre hospital site, including 56 affordable units. But the company has redesigned its plans for the site to include two large buildings and some townhouses, instead of one monolithic building as originally proposed. The buildings would be taller along Witherspoon Street and lower in height in other areas. An open park is proposed at the corner of Witherspoon Street and Franklin Avenue as part of the new plan. Previously, open space was proposed for the center courtyard of the development. The size of the proposed private pool has also been reduced.
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 Princeton Council approved $50,000 for the litigation fund at the Council’s meeting Monday night.
Several officials and a 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.