From Mayor Hsueh: Potter Got It Wrong##M:[more]##
As the Mayor of West Windsor, I was disappointed by the article written by Bill Potter, a Princeton lawyer, who recently lost his case against Princeton Borough’s downtown redevelopment project.
Throughout the article, (The News, November 18,) Mr. Potter engages in scare tactics by stating that the proposed transit village will somehow result in the “siezing non-blighted homes or businesses simply to improve local land use and tax revenues.” Nothing could be more inaccurate.
At no time has West Windsor Township contemplated condemnation of any properties within the 350-acre redevelopment site. An attempt to frighten the public by promoting disinformation is certainly not a constructive approach to dealing with a very serious endeavor being undertaken by the West Windsor community and so many others. In fact, the redevelopment area designation is only the first step to providing greater accessibility to mass transit and developing residential and commercial growth in accordance with smart growth concepts.
It is apparent that Mr. Potter did not read the 55-page report prepared by Maser Consulting, P.A. Nor did he attend the public (Plannign Board) hearing to consider that report on November 2. For example, Mr. Potter states that “there may not be an acre of blight in the 350-acre site plan for the new downtown.”
In fact, the report identified contaminated sites comprising approximately 30 acres within the 350-acre area in need of redevelopment. These contaminated sites include the present 7.8-acre compost station on Alexander Road and the contiguous 10.8-acre site that the township was forced to reacquire and remediate. Those lots abut the former Princeton Polychrome Press site, an abandoned 3.7-acre site that was used to process printing press waste water and is now contaminated.
Mr. Potter would also have read that 29 of the 66 parcels comprising the 350 acre development area are currently vacant and that 77.35 acres comprise surface parking lots owned by public agencies. If Mr. Potter had read the Maser Consulting report, he would have learned how the development area will facilitate the construction of the new Alexander Road bridge, which is now a regional bottleneck for traffic, as well as the Vaughn Drive extension, which will connect Alexander Road with Route 571. He would have also read about the plans for a bus rapid transit system to reduce the traffic impact on the Transit Village area. The area designation is intended to facilitate long contemplated road improvements while concentrating on corresponding improvements in mass transit.
I also believe that Mr. Potter’s reference to the late Princeton Borough Mayor Joseph O’Neill and the downtown Princeton redevelopment project was unfortunate. Mayor O’Neill endorsed the transit village concept and fought hard for the Princeton redevelopment project. Mr. Potter knows that the 2.13-acre Princeton Borough redevelopment project did not involve the use of eminent domain or condemnation.
Rather, that project was undertaken on borough-owned land and allowed for the construction of a 500-space parking garage, a landscaped public plaza and 77 housing units, 12 of which were designated for moderate income families. In fact, the Princeton project involved the elimination of a contaminated site that was covered by a Borough owned unsightly surface parking lot.
As the redevelopment process for West Windsor unfolds, the township will prepare the development plans for the area with ample opportunities for public input and discussion. Potential developers will be required to present their ideas for redevelopment to township officials and the public through regular and special township meetings. It is also important to point out that a phased approach to redevelopment will provide maximum benefit to the public sooner as opposed to later.
Some of the phases have already been identified in the New Jersey Transit Vision Study. For example, it is critical that we establish the Vaughn Drive extension to support any redevelopment of the area. We will also need to move forward with the Brownfield remediation of existing township properties, including the 30 acres of contaminated land, so other types of productive development can occur.
It is my understanding from the last Planning Board meeting that a consortium of property owners has already formed and is in the process of developing a recommended plan for redevelopment from the “property owners” perspective. I applaud and encourage this initiative and look forward to incorporating their vision with that of the Township. All stakeholders must be included in this major undertaking: property owners, local businesses, commuters, and residents throughout West Windsor.
There is no question that the redevelopment process may have been misused in other communities, as we have all read in the newspaper headlines, letters, and editorials. However, I can assure the public that it certainly will not be misused in the Township of West Windsor.
As we move forward with the development of a transit village in West Windsor, we as elected officials must engage in a full and open dialogue with the public and respond thoughtfully and honestly to public comment and criticism. However, I would respectfully ask that the skeptics and/or self proclaimed experts give the process time to unfold and take the time to gather correct facts before complaining about and criticizing one of the most important projects in West Windsor history.
West Windsor Mayor
Re-Thinking 08550 Process
Concerns are being raised that the West Windsor Township Council caved in to a vocal minority on November 21 when it voted against the 08550 zip code name change. Other concerns are being raised that the four week delay in considering the redevelopment zone was detrimental to making progress on the transit village.
The vote on the West Windsor name for the 08550 zip code was not about changing the name. The vote was about the process: the absence of a legitimate process for putting the question of the name change on the table.
West Windsor does not need to compete with East Paterson, Hamilton, Hillsborough, Monroe or anywhere else. Building the transit village is not a race to be run. West Windsor needs to find its own way and go at its own speed.
Serious, legitimate questions are being raised about the process to be used with respect to the redevelopment zone and the transit village: Will we be autocratic? Will there be secret “deals” with developers? Will we make unrestrained use of the power of eminent domain? Will affected people get the chance to have their say?
Opinions are being expressed that it is “particularly troubling … what the council didn’t do.” Those opinions have it backwards.
The Council was confronted with a flawed process. The question “what name?” never was asked directly. The public, even those people who were surveyed on zip code consolidation, never had the opportunity to provide input on the choice of name. And those people who were most directly affected by the name change were excluded from the consolidation survey altogether.
The name West Windsor presented itself as a “fait accompli.” The Council refused to endorse that seriously flawed process.
That is not a criticism of Mayor Hsueh. He merely sought to complete a process that began in 1998. Those flaws became obvious only upon close examination of the historical record.
Anyone who cares about how we will handle the transit village should have been troubled if Council had blessed this handling of the zip code name change. We need to approach the redevelopment zone and the transit village with all due deliberate speed. We must neither rush nor short-change the process in our enthusiasm to reach the finish line.
We can construct a transit village legacy that will stand the test of time for generations, but only if we do it right. And we will most assuredly not get it right if we pursue a hurried, autocratic, and exclusionary agenda.
The special meeting of Council on the redevelopment zone scheduled for Wednesday, November 30, was not derailed. Council approval of the redevelopment zone on December 19 rather than November 21 is inconsequential on a time-line stretching decades into the future.
The entire West Windsor community can take great comfort in knowing that the vote on the zip code name change sends the strong signal that this Council similarly will insist on a public, fully-inclusionary process for the transit village that will not abuse the eminent domain power.
Charles C. Morgan
26 Birchwood Court,
President, West Windsor Council
I am writing this letter to all in the community who responded to our request and gave Halloween costumes, candy and money for the youngest victims of Hurricane Katrina, the children. The Halloween costume drive was a great success and I ended up sending about 400 costumes to Keesler Air Force Base in Mississippi. My contact sent out the word that the donations had arrived, and in no time folks had selected costumes for their kids to wear for Halloween. As you know, many of these families lost everything in the hurricane.
The donations were especially appreciated because they helped the parents let their children know that despite disaster and tragedy, life goes on, and so do the holidays. Our recipients used the candy at a base event where the kids went around in a party setting and trick-or-treated as a group.
During this holiday season please take time to know what you did made a difference to many, and I want to thank you for your support in this project that meant so much to me. Happy Holidays to all! Mary Alden
Suslak at NJPAC
On page 9 of the November 18 West Windsor-Plainsboro News, you wrote an article about the All State Orchestra. You left an excellent musician out of the article. The group played at NJPAC on November 20, and the solo pianist was Joshua Everett Andrew Suslak, a 10th grader, from West Windsor-Plainsboro High School South. He performed the solo piano parts for the four movements of Pini di Rome by Ottorino Respighi. Joshua was the only High School South student to make the 2005 All States Orchestra.
We are very fortunate to enjoy a show at ringside every day. The performers are a combination of birds, squirrels, ground hogs, raccoons, rabbits, an occasional deer, even a skunk. We witness all the action on or near the patio adjacent to our eating nook with glass sliding doors providing excellent visibility.
Our favorite performer is a blue jay, a very proud actor named Charlie; his choice food is a peanut. The moment I open the door and scatter bird seed, all my friends are alerted and when I whistle, Charlie will come within a foot of me. If a peanut is not on the menu, he squawks like a spoiled child.
The cardinals are decorative in every scenario, particularly the male species, black birds are very wary, finches are lightning quick, mourning doves are the fast eaters, robins keep their distance, mocking birds are versatile, and sparrows are the most abundant.
Our star among the squirrels has an orange colored tail; we named him Dennis. He is the ring leader, picking fights with his buddies, has great agility with no fear to approach me. The squirrels would shame any trapeze artist — each leap from tree to tree is deftly performed to perfection. Due to housing developments, deer are becoming extinct. We only had one skunk “grace” our patio but he was given the utmost respect. We did not breathe until his “majesty” was out of sight.
The climax of our show occurs in late November or early December as small flocks of Canadian Geese land on 998 acres of preserved land adjacent to our back yard. All day these flocks keep multiplying, filling every available space with thousands of honking geese. The following day, the huge armada takes flight, blanking the sky, a magnificent spectacle to behold.
Old Trenton Road, West Windsor