To the Editor:
After this year of shenanigans (2012) that we endured at the hands of AvalonBay, the former UMCP and their collective leadership, Princeton needs to find a good neighbor who will be open and honest in their business dealings to develop a world-class addition to OUR town. Why these two selfish and self serving entities attempted to take advantage of a lovely little neighborhood in the heart of Princeton is obvious: money.
Almost as obvious is the need for the Planning Board to formally memorialize the wise 7-3 vote to reject Avalon Bay’s proposed monolith cast by former Board members. This is a procedural matter, but it has to be done the right way. The former members still on the new Planning Board must send a clear message to AvalonBay that it is not welcome to return under any circumstances, even if it submits a new site plan. Their corporate practice stinks. So does their mismanagement of both property and tenants after construction: too many high fees for new renters, too many fees for daily tenant life (especially in a development with a 20 percent affordable housing component).
A lot of effort---hundreds of hours—went into the discussions that formed the decisions of each individual Planning Board member. Even the three members who voted in favor of the proposal did so with reservations and out of fear of legal repercussions and the potential costs of a lawsuit to the municipal budget. The public didn’t rebel against AvalonBay for nothing, and they didn’t hire lawyers for nothing (pun intended). The Planning Board should make sure the memorializing document is worded strongly against AvalonBay.
Princeton desires and deserves a world-class addition to a beautiful town. Not some cookie-cutter design that is dumped on us out of fear of a vacant hospital property and potential lawsuits. As Ron Ladell (senior vice president of AvalonBay Properties, a New York Stock Exchange traded REIT worth over 16 billion dollars) said himself “this is a once in a generation opportunity.” Right. But it has to be done by a developer who takes the time to understand Princeton, the hospital neighborhood, and the mistake of adding 540 people to only five-plus acres.
The future of a very important and valuable piece of central New Jersey is at stake the way I see it Princeton has dodged a bullet. Please make sure that we now remove the gun from the hand of the potential killer and, first, memorialize the overwhelming vote to reject AvalonBay as a potential “neighbor” with vigorous language. Princeton Council is already working to create a new ordinance that will make it impossible for any developer to come in and thumb their nose at OUR Master Plan or our need for reasonable, not irrational, density. The Planning Board should support the Council in keeping AvalonBay away.
We deserve better!