Keep AvalonBay Out

Princeton Planning Board needs to back up its decision against AvalonBay with a strong Resolution. Princeton deserves a better developer for the Hospital site.

To the Editor:

Princeton citizens who want to help ensure that AvalonBay doesn’t submit a new application to build “AvalonPrinceton” (!) should contact Planning Board members right away.

On February 7, the Planning Board will adopt a Resolution that “memorializes” their 7-3 vote against AvalonBay (Board attorney Gerald Muller is drafting the Resolution). Current Board members who voted against AvalonBay (Marvin Reed, Bernie Miller, Gail Ullman, Wanda Gunning, and Jenny Crumiller) have full legal rights to modify any and all language in the Resolution so that it accurately reflects their positions.

Voting members should take care that the final Resolution banishes AvalonBay from Princeton---not simply, Princeton doesn’t like AvalonBay’s specific site plan, but more: Princeton doesn’t want any mark of AvalonBay here at all.

AvalonBay has shown they won’t partner with our community, no matter what the design. As Jenny Crumiller lamented about Avalon’s refusal to negotiate reasonably with the Borough’s ad hoc committee, “The overriding theme was, ‘AvalonBay is a brand and that’s what you get’” (Princeton Packet, December 20, 2012).

Here are other reasons why Planning Board members should make sure the Resolution closes the door on any attempt by AvalonBay to reapply.

Avalon refused to consider local retail stores, desired by many (“We don’t do retail in midrise developments”), and refused to participate in Princeton’s recycling and composting program (“We’re not in the composting business”). Avalon lags its competitors in sustainable building practices and rejected a push by 48.6% of their shareholders to commit resources to significant green measures; any building they did would be already “obsolete,” as Heidi Fichtenbaum noted (PB hearing, 12/19/12).

Avalon cannot be trusted. They tried to cover up difficulties with hospital site remediation—matters of public health. Their urban planner plagiarized work from their architect (who also misrepresented the size of the sliver of park by cropping the illustration). The Avalon team cheated in representing their open space, claiming as “theirs” portions of land they would not even own! Their architect deliberately misunderstood Borough Code so that he could falsely compare Avalon’s “superior” megablock to the existing hospital towers—and chose not to show the monolith in relation to neighborhood buildings so that no one could really grasp its gargantuan scale. Their “plan” for  solid waste involved using both the garage and the Franklin Avenue service drive in ways not legally permitted by Borough Code.

Avalon’s legal representation was “barely legal.” Ron Ladell played both attorney and witness (an “inappropriate” straddling of roles). He tried to halt cross-questioning of their urban planner by the environmental attorney for Princeton Citizens (an unprofessional and almost malfeasant intervention). Attorney Studholme whispered advice to the urban planner while he was being cross-questioned by PCSN’s land-use attorney—virtually a forbidden practice.

With behavior like this, for over a year, who needs AvalonBay at all? They have squandered trust and credibility. Other developers will serve our community better. The Planning Board must insist that their Resolution fully reflects their outright opposition, and the community’s, to AvalonBay’s presence.


Jane Buttars

Dodds Lane

This post is contributed by a community member. The views expressed in this blog are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of Patch Media Corporation. Everyone is welcome to submit a post to Patch. If you'd like to post a blog, go here to get started.

PrincetonIQ January 26, 2013 at 12:40 PM
I think this is absolutely shameful. I am speechless. For those who are reading this and might be underinformed, Princeton isn't really like this citizen. We are fair, open-minded and give people second chances. At a dinner last evening, several of us were discussing how shameful the approach of some of our fellow citizens is, how narrow minded and how dedicated to the status quo without considering the future needs of town. What this is about is keeping out people who rent, making decisions that would ultimately kill our wonderful downtown, and trying to limit affordable housing -- which we desperately need. We don't need to bar Avalon Bay or any other developer. Perhaps we need to put a limit on how many times people like Ms. Buttars can complain and rally 100 people to block progress. She and her ilk have been opposed to the Arts Council building, the Spring Street Parking Garage, and a church's right to build on its own property. Shameful positions.
David Keddie January 26, 2013 at 01:14 PM
The town council has no power to "banish" AvalonBay. The zoning power doesn't remotely extend that far. It would seem from the company's extension of it's option to purchase the property that it intends to file suit once the board memorializes the rejection of the proposal. It seems likely that a judge would side with AvalonBay on the legal merits. In any case, AvalonBay is already very much present in the community in that there are many who commute to Princeton from one of the AvalonBay communities in Lawrence and Plainsboro. I've known many grad students and others who would greatly prefer to live in an AvalonBay community in walking distance of campus but instead pay their property taxes and spend their income at route one businesses but still bring their cars and traffic to town. I think this is a self-defeating policy for the town. I will also say that those folks I've known who live in AvalonBay communities in the area have had found them to be professional landlords. One pair of friends chose to move to another AvalonBay community outside DC when they moved on from Princeton. That professionalism is in sharp contrast to the many exploitative landlords and decrepit apartments that make up much of the Princeton rental market. I and many others in the community welcome AvalonBay.
SFB January 27, 2013 at 05:40 AM
As others have noted, it would be unlawful for the Planning Board to exclude Avalon Bay from future developments in Princeton just because they are Avalon Bay. The correspondent is not able to cite a single instance where Avalon Bay broke any law, but instead writes about things being 'barely legal' or 'almost malfeasant'. None of this adds up to anything. Here's the reality: I have lived in an Avalon Bay community, and although it wasn't perfect, they are fairer and more professional than all other management companies I have rented from. Unfortunately, there was no Avalon Bay community in Princeton at that time, so I had to live in Plainsboro instead. If there had been an Avalon community in Princeton, I would have jumped at the chance to live there.
Alexi Assmus February 04, 2013 at 05:04 PM
Is it nothing that when AvalonBay computed the open space in their plan, they added in the green space owned by the town between the sidewalk and street? Maybe just a mistake …. Anyway, aside from the to-do with all the threatening letters from Avalon, the ruthless tactics that undermined the Princeton opposition’s right to legal counsel, and just-in-time submissions so nobody had time to review, the thing that really gets me are the same baseless accusations that AvalonBay uses against their opponents nationwide in their quest to break into high-barrier-to-entry markets. Their playbook brings pain to people who oppose their massive projects --- they accuse their opponents of being “anti-affordable housing” and say they are “racists.” I saw “You’ve Been Trumped” at the Princeton Environmental Film Festival, and I guess there is just such a thing as developer culture … Trump really said and did a lot of NASTY things to a couple who wouldn’t sell his house adjacent to the golf course Trump was building in the dunes of Scotland, including calling their home a pigsty on television and cutting off his water for a time (!). Well it didn't get quite that bad in Princeton ...


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