The Plainsboro Township Committee has authorized a Payment in Lieu of Taxes agreement with the congregation of the Mission of St. Vincent DePaul, which operates the St. Joseph’s Seminary site on Mapleton Road.
Under the agreement, the congregation will pay $65,000 to the township in 2011. Each year the payment will increase — up to $100,000 in 2016. After that, the payment will remain at $100,000, plus the amount equal to the yearly tax increase. So, for example, if taxes increase in 2017 by 2 percent, the payment would be $102,000.
Because the Township Committee adopted two ordinances last month that rezone the St. Joseph’s Seminary property to allow for educational and cultural arts uses, as well as for a cemetery zone — the site became legally untaxable. The PILOT agreement is voluntary on part of the congregation.
The process of rezoning of the property began in August, when the Planning Board adopted a Master Plan amendment that designated the zone as an educational and cultural arts area. The ordinances adopted by the Township Committee in November enact that amendment.
The first ordinance preserves the grassy area in front of the stone buildings, known as the "great lawn" and provides a generous setback from the right-of-way on Mapleton Road to the buildings. The goal of the setback is to preserve the front area of the property.
The buildings on site will be zoned for educational and arts type uses, including for schools, performance areas, practice areas, dormitories, eating space, and other uses associated with a school. In the area behind the buildings, there is a smaller setback that would allow for possible building expansions for dormitory space or other space.
The second ordinance creates a zone for cemetery uses that allow things like headstones, mausoleums, and burial places for human remains.
The seminary will continue to be owned by the Eastern Province of the Congregation of St. Vincent de Paul — known as the Vincentians. The idea is to preserve the buildings and the grounds, and officials said the best way to do so was to bring back the use of the property as it was once envisioned, which was for educational purposes.
St. Joseph’s was built in 1914, when it served as a high school and college seminary for the Vincentians.
The seminary attracted attention this summer when the Princeton International Academy Charter School tried to obtain a variance to operate at the seminary — a necessary step in the state approval process that was halted when a discrepancy in notice requirements was found by the West Windsor-Plainsboro school district and recognized by the Zoning Board. The discrepancy prevented the charter school from opening in September.
However, officials say that the Master Plan amendment and ordinances apparently have nothing to do with PIACS. Rather, it is indicative of the seminary’s goals and plans for the site, as well as officials’ desire to preserve the site and its historical architecture, officials said.
The 44-acre site has reportedly attracted interest from a variety of area institutions, including the Princeton-based American Boychoir, which is exploring the possibility of relocating to the site.
In other business during the December 8 meeting, the Township Committee unanimously adopted a redevelopment agreement with Trammell Crow Company and an application with the Princeton Medical Arts Pavilion Urban Renewal, LLC, for the development of the 150,000 square foot medical office building adjacent to the new hospital site off Route 1.
Township Attorney Michael Herbert said that the township had a broad redevelopment agreement with Princeton HealthCare System, but that in order for developers to come in to develop individual pieces of that 160-acre site — like the medical office building — individual developer agreements would have to be passed.
Trammell Crow Company was selected to develop the new Medical Arts Pavilion at the site of the new hospital campus in Plainsboro, Princeton HealthCare System announced in July.
The 146,971-square foot medical office building will be physically connected to the new University Medical Center of Princeton at Plainsboro. The project is owned by Partners Health Trust, a venture of Trammell Crow Company and a public pension fund advised by Kennedy Associates.