The Princeton Academy, a private school for boys in grades K-8, has withdrawn its controversial proposal to replace grass playing fields with artificial turf. A lawyer for the school said new plans will be resubmitted at a later time.
The Princeton Planning Board was scheduled to hold a hearing regarding the school’s proposed project on Thursday night, Feb. 4.
Bob Ridolfi, the lawyer for the school, told the board during that meeting that the school was not moving forward with the application. The school had requested the approval of a minor site plan and bulk variances.
“After meeting with my clients over the last few days, we have come to the conclusion that it would be in the applicant’s best interest to withdraw the application at this time,” Ridolfi told the planning board. “This will give us more time to take a second look at our plan and to spend more time thinking about the more global issues. We look forward to coming back to reapplying at the most appropriate time. We will let you know what that schedule is as soon as we’ve determined we are ready to move forward again.”
Ridolfi acknowledged that the proposal, which generated numerous letters to the editor, was very controversial. “We’ve learned a lot and we look forward to coming back with a renewed application at the appropriate time,” he said.
Students at the school, which was founded in 1998, play soccer, lacrosse, and baseball, participate in physical education classes, and enjoy recess playtime on two grass athletic fields. The project would have converted the existing grass athletic fields in the northeast corner of the campus into turf fields for soccer, lacrosse, and baseball. The plan was for the Princeton Soccer Association to lease the turf fields, using them on weekdays from 6 to 9:30 p.m. and on weekends until 7 p.m. A revised proposal featured permeable artificial turf and 16-foot-high portable light towers.
Neighbors of the school, which is located along the Great Road on the Princeton Ridge, objected to the plans, citing environmental concerns and issues regarding nighttime lighting and noise at the fields.
At a planning board meeting in December, Stuart Lieberman, a lawyer for a resident of Heather Lane who opposed the project due to concerns about lighting and noise, questioned whether the planning board had jurisdiction over the project. He argued that the town’s zoning regulations for the site only allow for accessory uses that do not create a nuisance. He also argued that the Princeton Soccer Academy, as a separate organization, was proposing a separate primary use for the site, not an accessory use. Ridolfi counted that it is common for schools to rent out their spaces to other organizations. During that December meeting, Princeton Zoning Officer Derek Bridger confirmed that the school is a conditional use on the site, but said the soccer academy had presented evidence that it was a nonprofit, which would make its use of the site acceptable. Neighbors have questioned whether the creation of a nonprofit was done to work around zoning regulations.