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Princeton Township built municipal complex on preserved open space and now officials have to make things right

The Princeton Council will hold a “public scoping hearing” at 7 p.m. tonight, April 3, at the municipal building at 400 Witherspoon Street regarding Princeton Township’s diversion of public parkland. Land that was originally preserved under the state’s Green Acres Program was instead used by the township for a new municipal building at 400 Witherspoon Street.

The municipal complex, now known as Witherspoon Hall, opened in 2002. Previously, municipal offices for the township were located across the street at the Valley Road building, which is now owned by the Princeton Board of Education.

Local officials caught the issue when a new map of preserved land was created as part of the 2023 environmental resources inventory for the municipality.

The township used about three acres of land that were supposed to be part of Community Park South to build the Princeton Township municipal building and parking lot, a controversial project that some residents referred to as Princeton Township’s “Taj Mahal.”

Municipal officials notified the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection about the “oversight” and the town must now have the diversion of the preserved land legalized by the state. The municipality will have to make up for the diversion of the land by finding three acres of land elsewhere in the municipality to preserve.

Princeton’s governing body will accept public comments about the issue at the public meeting tonight. But those residents who can’t make it to the meeting can send feedback to engineering@princetonj.gov or mail comments to Cindy Taylor, Open Space Manager, Municipality of Princeton, 400 Witherspoon Street, Princeton, NJ 08540. Send a copy of comments to the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection by emailing Maude Snyder at maude.snyder@dep.nj.gov or sending comments by mail to Maude Snyder, NJDEP, 401 East State Street, 7th Floor, Box 420, Trenton, NJ 08625-0420.

Public comments will be accepted until April 17.

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