Council Will Not Rescind Designation Of Buildings on Seminary Campus

Council Will Not Rescind Designation Of Buildings on Seminary Campus

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By Anne Levin

Responding to a request from the Princeton Coalition for Responsible Development (PCRD) to rescind the designation of the Princeton Theological Seminary’s Tennent-Roberts-Whiteley campus as an Area in Need of Redevelopment (ANR), Princeton Council has opted not to take that action.

The underlying zoning is in place until a redevelopment plan is proposed, reviewed, and accepted, said Mayor Mark Freda. “Removing that designation would likely, not for sure but likely, end us up in court, because removing that designation could remove value from the property,” he said. “The town could be sued by the
developer. So at this point, we have decided not to take action on the request.”

Neighbors whose homes border the campus and other members of the community have been opposed to the Seminary’s plans to tear down the three buildings in question, which form a kind of gateway into town along Stockton Street. Even though representatives of the Historic Preservation Commission and the Mercer Hill Historic District Association have urged that the buildings be saved, they do not have any historic designation that would protect them.

Among those speaking after Freda’s reading of the decision was former Councilwoman Jo Butler, who lives near the campus on Hibben Road. “Are we really going to sacrifice the town’s historic properties, the right to zone, the responsibility to residents, due to a fear of litigation?” she asked. “Apparently we are.”

Tom Chapman of the Mercer Hill Historic District Association said, “We urge the town to withhold any demolition permits and engage an independent historic preservation consultant to evaluate these buildings.”

The letter written in response to PCRD representatives Butler and Brad Middlekauff, from attorney Francis Regan, is included in the agenda packet from the meeting and can be viewed on princetonnj.gov.

Council voted to ratify the budget of the Special Improvement District (SID) from July 1, 2022 through June 30, 2023, in the amount of $379,244. The nonprofit Princeton Business Partnership (PBP) will oversee the SID, which was voted in last February. “Marketing and events are a big priority,” said Aubrey Haines, president of the PBP. “The board will carefully steward the resources of this organization.”

Councilwoman Mia Sacks commented that she hoped sustainability would be a priority. “It is not only the right thing to do, it is also good business,” responded Haines. Council voted in favor of a resolution to dissolve the town’s Economic Development Committee, which enables the SID to get underway.

Councilwoman Michelle Pirone Lambros praised those who have served on the committee, calling them “crucial to help resolve and troubleshoot issues these past few years. This is just moving on to the next phase.”

Council voted in favor of several ordinances having to do with sewer connection fees, accessory dwelling units, loading zones on Chambers Street, and the acquisition of scooters for parking enforcement officers.

The next public meeting of Princeton Council is July 11.

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