Planning board hearing to review Princeton Academy’s plans for turf athletic fields delayed until February

Princeton Academy turf plans

The Princeton Planning Board will hold a public hearing at 7:30 p.m. on Feb. 4 to review the Princeton Academy of the Sacred Heart’s plans to build two artificial turf playing fields on school property located on the Great Road.

Princeton Academy is a private boys’ school for grades K-8 that was founded in 1998. Currently, students at the school play soccer, lacrosse and baseball, participate in physical education classes, and enjoy recess playtime on two grass fields. The proposed turf project would convert the existing grass athletic fields in the northeast corner of Princeton Academy’s campus into turf fields. The turf fields would primarily be for soccer, lacrosse, and baseball. The Princeton Soccer Association would lease the turf fields, using them on weekdays from 6 to 9:30 p.m. and on weekends until 7 p.m.

At the planning board’s public virtual meeting on Dec. 10, about 100 people were on Zoom for the public hearing on the academy’s proposed fields, but the board reviewed another project first, and that review took three hours, leaving only half an hour for the review of the school’s application.

Stuart Lieberman, a lawyer for a resident of Heather Lane who opposes the project due to concerns about lighting and noise, questioned whether the planning board has jurisdiction over the project. He argued that the town’s zoning regulations for the site only allows for accessory uses that do not create a nuisance. He argued that the Princeton Soccer Academy, as a separate organization, is proposing a separate primary use for the site, not an accessory use.

“The school itself exists predicated on a conditional use,” Lieberman said. “What they are proposing is a completely unrelated use. Zoning only allows for accessory use,” Lieberman said. “No way is this separate business activity an accessory use to the school.” He argued that a variance would be needed from the zoning board to expand the conditional use at the site.

Bob Ridolfi, the lawyer for the Princeton Academy, said it is common for schools to rent out their spaces to other organizations. “Being a private school is tough these days, just to survive financially,” Ridolfi said. “Almost every educational organization in Princeton has taken advantage of sharing facilities with different organizations for fee-generating purposes so the school itself can survive.”

Ridolfi said summer camps and sports camps are permitted under the town’s land use ordinance, and that sports field and facility rentals have been going on for decades at area private schools “as a matter of basic survival.”

Princeton Zoning Officer Derek Bridger confirmed that the school is a conditional use on the site, but added that the soccer academy has presented evidence that it is a nonprofit, which would make its use of the site acceptable. “I think this is the right board to hear the application,” Bridger said. “The key question in the application is the nuisance factors.”

After Bridger’s feedback and discussion among planning board members and the planning board lawyer, officials decided it would be appropriate for the planning board to continue to review the case. The board will reserve the right to reject the application and refer the project to the zoning board if it is determined later that the planning board does not have jurisdiction over the proposal because of the zoning issues raised by opponents of the project.


  1. It is not permissible for the school to lease the land to a for-profit entity. PSA has been operating as for-profit for years and suddenly applied for a parallel non-profit status. While the Mr. Bridger noted that PSA is officially non-profit, it might not have been abundantly clear that they filed this shell organization 31 days ago. How does this newly-formed non-profit differ from the for-profit PSA that has enjoyed it’s long-standing for-profit status? This is an obvious attempt to skirt around zoning regulations. Unfortunately, this is trickery aimed at gaming the system. If allowed, it would set an inauspicious precedent.

    For Mr. Ridolfi to assert that facility rentals have been going on for decades at area private schools “as a matter of basic survival” and “Being a private school is tough these days, just to survive financially,” is not germane to this proposal. The zoning regulations for a R4 residential property is clear: Zoning only allows for accessory use to the school…not outside for-profit entities.

  2. This is not maximizing the facilities for the school. These fields may be used by gym classes, yes. However the Soccer Academy’s Plans call for use from 3:30-9:30pm. That is not for the school.

    This is a building agreement with Princeton Soccer Academy and the school. Not just the Academy renting facilities that are already in place.

    These fields are 50 feet from neighboring property lines. There will be noise, light and air pollution daily from 11 diesel powered lights. There will be traffic issues with plans for frequent tournaments. There will be artificial turf which is increasing their impervious coverage by 50% which will cause greater water/flooding issues on Drakes Corner Road, Great Road and Heater Lane and could also impact motorists. This turf is said to be safe and good for the environment. We heard that in the 80s when they used tires which have now been found to have cancer causing agents. This ridge is a safe haven for many wildlife and those who use this area for migration patterns. They will cut down 46 mature trees, some 3 feet wide. When looking out your back window, would you like to look out of 5 acres of artificial turf, where there used to be a plush forest? Would you like to hear whistles and screaming when there used to be birds singing and leaves crunching from running animals? Would you like see 11 diesel powered light towers where there used to be darkness and stars?

  3. The non-profit convo should not be permitted in the U.S.
    Princeton U = not a non-profit. Our non-profits have more money than our small businesses. The whole idea that some people pay taxes and some (usually rich) people do not is wrong and should be eliminated in the U.S.

    Non-profits are really just tax shelters for rich people.

  4. There are many sides to most stories. What are children to do in our community for fresh air and exercise? Children need 60 minutes of fresh air and exercise daily. If not here, where and by whom? A lot of people are getting paid and not paying taxes and looking at the stars and this is maybe fine and maybe not fine… and the military industrial complex of sports it not solving the problem of how to fight for our kids by making sure they get 60 minutes of fresh air and exercise especially now… especially when their physical and mental health being strong and resilient is more important that ever.
    Too much noise and light is not great… How can everyone win ? Why are the people w money non profit an the people without for-profit? Where can they play ? Why cant they play … doesnt Princeton U already have tons of empty fields no one is using and the townspeople we are already subsidizing ?

  5. The public schools own a lot of land next to the Valley Road building that is marked as toxic.. open fields empty… are these turfs toxic? Why cant they just play on regular grass like the famous soccer players of other countries..

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