A Superior Court judge Tuesday ordered AvalonBay and the town of Princeton to seek the help of a mediator to resolve their dispute over the development of the former hospital site in downtown Princeton.
Mercer County Superior Court Judge Mary Jacobson questioned whether the town could require AvalonBay to conduct extra environmental tests at the site on Witherspoon Street, and said she had concerns about the governing body’s vote this spring to approve a developer’s agreement that required AvalonBay to do extra testing beyond state requirements. She indicated that AvalonBay would likely win the lawsuit against the town.
AvalonBay, which plans to build a 280-unit apartment complex at the site, had also requested an injunction asking for permission to demolish the hospital building, but Jacobson rejected the request.
In June, AvalonBay challenged the town’s decision to hire lawyer Neil Yoskin to serve as co-counsel and to handle the environmental issues raised by the litigation, accusing the town of trying to stall. AvalonBay also accused Yoskin of having a conflict of interest in the case because he often represents developers in environmental matters and allegedly had spoken with a representative of AvalonBay about environmental maters on several occasions, including discussing issues regarding the Princeton project at the Atlantic Builder’s Convention in Atlantic City this March.
The governing body and AvalonBay reached an impasse regarding environmental testing at the hospital site at a public meeting in April after a consultant hired by the town to evaluate environmental concerns issued revised recommendations regarding environmental testing, recommending that more samples be taken to test for volatile chemicals and metals.
A citizen group previously filed a suit regarding the project, but lost in Mercer County Superior Court and decided not to appeal the decision.
A contractor currently is removing materials from the inside of the hospital buildings such as carpets, ceiling times, lighting fixtures, copper water pipes, and electrical wiring. The work is expected to take a few more weeks. The hospital’s emergency generator was removed from the building on July 19.
Approximately 29 100-cubic-yard dumpsters full of recyclables have been removed from the site. An environmental firm has removed all of the underground fuel storage tanks that were located on the property. Soil testing has been completed for four of the six tanks and no soil remediation is necessary for those tanks, town officials said.
A second round of testing was conducted in the area surrounding two oil tanks and benzo(a)pyrene was identified at a concentration above the state Department of Environmental Protection’s soil remediation standard. Test results from the second round of samples showed that additional soil needs to be removed from the area where one of the tanks was located. After the removal and proper disposal of these items, town officials said a monitoring well will be installed and sampled in accordance with state regulations. The removal of the additional soil from the location of the 6,000 gallon tank and the installation of the new monitoring well is anticipated to be completed by the end of the month.
A contractor also is removing asbestos from the inside of the hospital buildings. The asbestos removal from the interior of the buildings is expected to continue until the second week of August.