AvalonBay has filed an appeal in Mercer County Superior Court, claiming that the planning board's denial of its development at the former hospital site was unlawful and done mostly because AvalonBay was a "corporate outsider" and its plan did not comply with "the Princeton way."
The complaint, filed Wednesday, asks the court to declare the Princeton Regional Planning Board's denial "arbitrary, capricious and unreasonable." The developer is asking the court to award courts costs and fees and attorneys fees.
AvalonBay filed an application to build 280 apartments at the former hospital site on Witherspoon Street, plus a fitness center, clubroom and leasing center. Apartments would be located in one 367,808 sq. ft. building, ranging between three to five stories tall. Fifty-six of the units would be designated as affordable housing, meeting the required 20 percent set aside.
"To AvalonBay's knowledge, the Planning Board has never approved a multi-family development within the former Princeton Borough with a twenty percent (20%) set aside for affordable housing, and the Affordable Housing Overlay Zone has only resulted in the construction of six (6) affordable housing that comply with the requirements of the New Jersey Council on Affordable Housing ("COAH") in over twenty years, out of 184 units built. Avalon Bay's proposed inclusionary development will provide nine times that amount of affordable housing," the complaint reads in part.
AvalonBay's application was denied in December, and earlier this monththe planning board finalized its denial. The board claims that AvalonBay failed to meet Princeton's design standards and did not adequately connect the project to the surrounding neighborhood.
But AvalonBay's appeal defends their plan, saying it complied with Princeton's standards, which the planning board should have recognized were unenforceable because they are too vague, subjective, cost generative and not authorized under Municipal Land Use Law.
Under a contract between the developer and the University Medical Center of Princeton at Plainsboro, for every month that passes in 2013, AvalonBay must pay non-refundable, non-creditable payments of $175,000 to the hospital, plus make payments for the May and June, 2013 real estate tax extension periods. The contract expires on June 30 2013, at which time AvalonBay must close or walk away.
AvalonBay claims it has spent more than $1 million on the Princeton proposal thus far and expects to exceed $2 million by June.
"As a result of these financial and time pressures, if this Court does not reverse the Planning Board's denial no later than May 1, 2013, AvalonBay intends to terminate its contract and will effectively walk away from this commitment," the complaint reads in part.