To the Editor:
Some highlights of AvalonBay hearings at the Planning Board on December 13 (final hearing tonight, 7:30):
First, Peter Steck, urban planner for Princeton Citizens for Sustainable Neighborhoods, argued that AvalonBay requires multiple variances which AvalonBay hasn’t sought---permissions to deviate from zoning. “This application,” he stated, “is really not ready to be heard.” Some variances, he said, can only be requested from the Zoning Board of Adjustment (beyond Planning Board jurisdiction).
He also argued that AvalonBay’s open space for “both public and private use” (the MRRO zone definition) falls short of the 20% minimum required—17.5% at best, since AvalonBay counts the public municipal sidewalk as its own open space (!), and more likely 14.1%, since open space between downstairs apartments and Witherspoon Street and Franklin Avenue is private (with private walkways to raised private patios). With this shortfall on public open space, the application violates Borough Code. Design Standards have special applicability because AvalonBay, choosing not to reuse the hospital, redesigned from scratch, with all options available (not just its figure-8 stumblingblock without publicly usable open space).
Robert Simon, PCSN’s land-use attorney, questioned Jeremy Lang’s Planner’s Report. He said it was “not independent work,” since Mr. Lang had quoted extensively—without attribution—the report submitted by architect Jonathan Metz. “The words are his,” Mr. Lang admitted, “but “I agree.” Messy: draw your own conclusions.
Public speakers gave new environmental information. Vincent Giordano, an environmental attorney with extensive experience in “due diligence” for major corporations, noted carcinogens in onsite groundwater, 2-4 times above state quality standards; soils have not yet been properly tested. Heidi Fichtenbaum, noting minimal costs associated with LEED-certification, said AvalonBay’s building was already “obsolete.” Holly Nelson unfurled a dramatic streetscape showing FortressAvalon as a wedge in the surrounding neighborhood.
Anne Studholme, AvalonBay’s attorney, risked her reputation, whispering to Mr. Lang while Mr. Simon questioned him—and should have been called out of order.
Come speak. Princeton doesn’t need FortressAvalon.