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Christian Union Seeks Zoning Waivers for Historic Beatty House on Vandeventer Avenue

Beatty House

The Christian Union, an independent Evangelical group that has ministries on several Ivy League campuses, is purchasing the historic Beatty House on Vandeventer Avenue in the heart of Princeton.

The house, located at the corner of Vandeventer Avenue and Park Place, has been on the market since 2010. The original asking price was $2.2 million. The selling price is still not known. Originally built on Nassau Street in 1780, the house was moved to its current location in 1887.

Many of the residents in the neighborhood are upset about the group moving to the residential neighborhood. They oppose requests for variances and waivers and don’t want the residential character of the neighborhood to change.

The Princeton Planning Board will hold a public hearing about plans for the property at 7:30 p.m. tonight in the main meeting room at 400 Witherspoon Street.

The Christian Union, a nonprofit, is seeking approval to use the building for non-profit and educational use. About nine staff members will work in the building. The group wants to put a four-foot wide sign on the front lawn, and is also seeking waivers for parking, buffers, and setbacks the town normally would deem necessary for the property.

Krystal Knapp

Krystal Knapp is the founding editor of Planet Princeton. She can be reached via email at editor AT planetprinceton.com. Send all letters to the editor and press releases to that email address.

  • Zing!

  • Alexi Assmus

    Princeton Univeristy students aren’t able to walk to a location in the Hoagie Haven vicinity? College life allows the time and schedule for walking.

  • Nat Bottigheimer

    @show_up:disqus — then what was the point of @PrincetonResident pointing out the religious agenda of the tenants?

    The point is the zoning policy question, and the point @djkeddie:disqus made was that the users were more likely to have a low neighborhood impact — with walking access to town and University destinations — than to have the kinds of impacts that a commercial property in a residential neighborhood would have, with paved parking spaces and frequent car trips/parking turnover.

    I agree with @jim_jenson:disqus — and also maybe with @Show Up! — that highlighting an organization’s religious tenets should have no part in the public discussion about the building’s ultimate use.

    @PrincetonLover — are you really advocating fiscal zoning? As a way of sustaining the town’s character?

    Respectfully, the questions are a lot more complicated than that. If they’re not, then the logical conclusion is resistance to affordable housing and support for tearing down all the low-value homes in town and replacing them with $2 million, high tax-generating homes. To me, that doesn’t sound like loving Princeton, it sounds like loving a very much changed Princeton.

  • PrincetonResident

    Great figures. Also, please note that none of the PILOT payments go to the schools. The PU students are not making the same contributions as the rest of the community.

  • Eduquest

    Yes they are!

    5,275 = # of undergraduates at PU
    $2.750 mil = PU’s annual Payment in Lieu of Taxes(PILOT)
    $521 = annual PILOT per undergrad
    $33.135 mil = P’ton’s ’15 muni. budget excluding schools
    $30.385 mil = remaining P’ton tax burden after PILOT
    24,825 = P’ton’s est. population excluding PU undergrads
    $1,224 = remaining P’ton tax burden (excluding schools)
    per non-PU-undergrad community member

    $521 for PU students. $1,224 for other community members. Hmmm! I don’t think we need another property off the tax rolls to serve PU students.

  • Dixie Weinblatt

    Lol. Quality burn on Fresh Air.

  • Princeton Long-Timer

    Well, the distance in question is about the same as the distance that the University deemed irrelevant & inconsequential to residents (whether pressed for time, owning of intense work schedules, elderly or disabled, etc) when moving the Dinky, and the Dinky serves a more diverse population in terms of age & ability than the student body population, so its a fair point.

  • FreshAir

    Alexi, Re. the comment you posted above ” Americas have to learn how to walk” Americans definitely know how to walk. People in this region are pressed for time, have very intense schedules, are elderly, are disabled, are fearful of walking under big unmaintained trees & poorly maintained walkways, are unable to navigate over ice & snow safely on foot, and more. Your lack of sympathy is as clear as your lack of understanding for the many reasons people can’t walk here with ease. Not everyone has the luxury of having the time to walk, although many dream of having that kind of time some day. Up there on your high horse, sitting in your prime location, maybe your feet ever have to touch the ground. If they did touch the ground, you’d understand the obstacles.

  • FreshAir

    If one followed your logic, any home with Route 206, Nassau Street, Witherspoon Street, Paul Robeson Place, Harrison Street, Bunn Drive, or Mt. Lucas at the end of the road would qualify for conversion from residential to commercial. Should commercialism on Princeton’s main arteries metastasize into the homes behind them? Or, do you just not care about the residents on Vandeventer? Vandeventer has a residential look & feel. A big sign doesn’t belong in the middle of it.

  • reality

    “I don’t see that the nonprofit contributes to the Princeton community as it is targeted at Princeton undergraduates.”

    Reminder: Princeton University is in Princeton (the name kind of gives it away). Princeton University undergraduates are very much part of the community.

  • Alexi Assmus

    Wow. I don’t have sympathy for this. Americans have to learn how to walk.

  • FreshAir

    Let;s hope the reduction or exemption from parking requirements stops for all commercial enterprises downtown. I don’t really care who is applying for the variance. The codes are determined by certain standards that are well researched. It’s inappropriate for businesses, be they profit or non-profit, to shift the parking burden onto residential taxpayers by monopolizing parking spaces on residential streets. Those profiting from their buildings need to take full responsibility for the provision of access & parking for their businesses.

  • I think their experience is that students think of it as a little too far out, whereas Vandeventer is just close enough. My own experience when we lived at 11 Vandeventer was that students actually thought of it as close and were happy to go there for regular meetings.

  • Alexi Assmus

    Church and Garden Theater front Nassau, a commercial street. I respect that neighbors in the residential area want to prevent further encroachment of non-residential into their neighborhood.

  • Alexi Assmus

    Students don’t walk to the Hoagie Haven vicinity?

  • PrincetonResident

    All religious organization should follow the law. This particular group is asking for the law to be waived. If they wanted to, they could have bought a property that permitted their intended use.

  • PrincetonResident

    The reason these are variances is that the requested use is not permitted by existing law. There should be a compelling community reason for granting a variance. A non-profit that contributes to the community may have a compelling reason why the variance should be granted.

    In this case, I don’t see that the nonprofit contributes to the Princeton community as it is targeted at Princeton undergraduates. For that reason, I don’t see that the variance to waive parking requirements and use the building for commercial purposes should be granted.

    There’s no discrimination here. It’s a judgment as to whether granting the variance would serve the community.

  • Show Up!

    What’s to stop other non-profit tax exempt entities from requesting conditional use variances on Vandeventer Ave. and Park Place? Imagine if their applications were to be turned down by the Planning Board. They would scream “discrimination”. The precedent has been set.

  • Show Up!

    That’s not the point at all.

    One issue is that the property in question is in a residential zone. It is questionable that a conditional use variance to waive parking requirements was granted.

  • Jim Jenson

    That’s a interesting point and goes way beyond this one property. Probably requires a bit of a change at the SCOTUS

  • Jim Jenson

    Using the multiple powers of local govt to prevent religions we disagree in to practice their mission seems like a perversion of democratic govt to me. Most of us could walk up/down Nassau St. and disagree vehemently with some of teachings at the various houses of worship (wine = Jesus’ blood?). That’s no reason to prevent them from existing or buying property.

  • Alexi Assmus

    Krystal — what variances were granted at the PB hearing? Was a use variance for a non-residential use needed and granted?

  • Show Up!

    Is anyone aware of the appeal process regarding Planning Board decisions? (Time frame? Notifications? Procedures?)

  • PrincetonResident

    I hope a variance is not granted to a group that discriminates against our gay and lesbian friends. The group is “non-profit” but is really a conservative, religious group that seeks to push their political agenda by recruiting future policy leaders (current Princeton students) at an early stage. Their website is very interesting. They claim that there positions are only the ones that all true Christians agree on. Apparently, you are not a true Christian according to them, if you are pro-life or believe in same-sex marriage.

  • PrincetonLover

    Why don’t we just convert all homes in Princeton to offices owned by non-profits and see who’s left to pay the property taxes. And the website shows this organization is basically a right wing cult. Check it out.

  • PrincetonLover

    ALMOST 40k in property taxes now on the backs of the rest of us, as a homeowner sells their $2m property to a non-profit. When will this all end?

  • I work for a different group, the Princeton Evangelical Fellowship (PEF). I’ve never had any connection with Christian Union though I’m certainly friends with their staff.

  • Princeton Rez

    Do you work for them or is it another Christian group at Princeton?

  • PrincetonResident

    Doesn’t this remove the expensive house from the taxrolls?

  • Nat Bottigheimer

    Good points, David. This seems like a perfectly reasonable use.

  • It won’t be much of a “commercial” use, it will be a ministry center for undergraduates to walk to. They’re keeping the existing offices at Wilson House near Hoagie Haven. The whole point of purchasing a property so close to campus is to allow students to walk. Even their staff live almost entirely within a one or two block radius of that house. I would rather that historic home be a center which is open to many, rather than continue as a luxury mansion of one wealthy family.

  • Jim Jenson

    And isn’t there a well-regarded funeral home, that gets plenty of traffic during evenings and weekends, down the street? Seems like everyone can get along fine without taking away reasonable use from property owners.

  • FreshAir

    Not disagreeing with you about the liberal variances, but, perhaps, the relaxation of zoning ordinances & code requirements started before consolidation. What a nightmare for those who have invested their whole life savings here believing what they purchased was protected by zoning, codes, & considerate leaders …. not so.

  • Pat Palmer

    The current zoning board has been way way way too liberal in granting variances for parking, setbacks, tree removals, you name it. And the size of structures. I don’t care who owns it, but turning it into a commercial property is likely to result in their being a fully paved yard, if not the birm itself, in my own neighborhood’s experience. This is why I voted against consolidation, and why I still hate consolidation, because of the detrimental relaxation of zoning limitations in the remaining residential areas within the center of town. It’s a real shame.

  • Tomas Torquemada

    Zoning variances!?!?!? BURN THEM AT THE STAKE!

  • Show Up!

    Interesting that someone should mention 16 Vandeventer which for some odd reason had a conditional use variance to allow an office on the first level. The rear yard of this property had been a parking lot eyesore. The neighboring property, 12-14 Vandeventer, which is to the south actually, not to long ago, appropriately experienced a conversion back to a quite lovely residential condominium. The movie theater is on the corner of Nassau and Vandeventer. The “subject” property, 19 Vandeventer, which is surrounded by residences, has also been used as a residence for quite some time which is in keeping with the neighborhood and residential zoning.

  • Tom O’Neill

    I had a 5-person office at 16 Vandeventer for more than 15 years. The large house to the east was also in part an office. The Garden Theater to the east of that building has been there for many, many years. Across the street from that is a busy church and its ancillary meeting spaces. True, the Beatty house is an historic beauty, but Vandeventer Avenue is hardly a residential enclave.

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