A Mercer County Superior Court Judge has upheld the Princeton Planning Board’s decision to approve a housing project on Institute for Advanced Study property that was part of the Revolutionary War battlefield.
Judge Mary Jacobson delivered her decision on Friday afternoon. The Princeton Battlefield Society will likely appeal. It has 45 days from her decision to do so.
“We are prepared to appeal and will be having a special meeting of our Board this week,” said Princeton resident and Battlefield Society vice president Kip Cherry, who has been a vocal advocate for preserving the land.
The Institute received approvals to build eight town houses and seven single-family homes on property adjacent to the campus in 2012. Bruce Afran, the lawyer for the Battlefield Society, argues that the approvals do not conform with a 1992 settlement between the Institute and the Princeton Regional Planning Board.
“We think the judge is incorrect for a lot of reasons,” he said. “We think the judge’s decision really goes against what the planning board representing the community back in 1992 wanted. You can’t just reverse the 1992 decision without showing there was a change in circumstances. The right to build a clustered subdivision there didn’t exist back then, so they don’t have the right to build one now.”
Battlefield Society advocates argue the project disregards history.
“Not one witness has disagreed about whether the battle took place on that piece of land,” Afran said. “The Planning Board did not have courage to tell the Institute they couldn’t destroy this historic site. What the Institute wants to do is put toilets and car parks on the very place where Americans died fighting the revolution. It really is an outrage to our history.
“I’ve never heard of another town in New Jersey that lives in such fear of institutional developers,” he said. “Most boards try to protect their history and the things their citizens value, but this one rubber stamps everything when it comes to these institutions like the Institute and Princeton University.”
The Princeton Planning Board unanimously approved the project in 2012. The Institute argues the housing is essential for providing residences for scholars, is a good steward of the land and has adapted its plans to address community concerns. More information about the project can be found on the Institute’s website.