The Princeton zoning board usually approves, occasionally denies, and once in a while continues an application to a subsequent meeting. An application to build a large single-family house on a three-acre lot in a four-acre minimum zone at 394 Ridgeview Road was heard at the December meeting, a contentious continuation of a hearing that began in November.
This time the board continued the hearing to Wednesday, January 23, but with two twists: First, could the owner contact a neighboring property owner to see if an additional acre of land could be purchased and added to the lot, thereby making it a conforming size and not requiring a variance? Second could the neighbors who oppose the new construction consult among themselves and with Friends of Princeton Open Space and the D&R Greenway Association to see if they could buy the lot from the developer and preserve it as open space?
The neighbors’ opposition is summarized in the letters below:
A new house built at 500 Ridgeview Road is an environmental disaster. A question now before the Zoning Board is whether we can be assured that the same engineer and builder who built at the 500 address will not compound the problems by the proposed new construction at 394 Ridgeview. The new house and the proposed house are on the same wetland, which is at the headwaters of Mountain Brook.
The occupant at 500 has constructed a play set on the wetland, despite the requirement that the wetland not be disturbed or compromised. Shortly before building on the lot, the developer mowed the wetlands grass, which also appears to be against the requirement that the wetlands not be disturbed. I understand that citations have now been served for these violations.
On checking the records with the Princeton engineering department, it appears that storm water runoff was provided for in 2005 by placing two drains across Ridgeview Road and by cutting a channel across the wetland below one of these drains. The new house at 500 was built directly across this channel, and it apparently blocks the flow of water into the wetland. The evidence of the blockage is the pond of water in front of the new house.
In 2005 Princeton Junction Engineering designed the drains under Ridgeview Road. These drains are not used by the storm water run-off because they are not placed at the lowest topographic point. Water now drains across Ridgeview Road at the low point of the road and saturates a remaining fragment of the former wetland, creating the pond in front of the new house.
All of this is clearly seen from Ridgeview Road.
In November the builder of 500 Ridgeview, and the applicant builder for 394 Ridgeview, Blue Crest Builders, testified that grading would fix the problem. I do not see how this problem can be fixed without having the sediment in the exposed new channel be carried downstream to the banks of Mountain Brook.
I have learned that the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) has jurisdiction over engineering for construction on and near wetlands. Princeton Junction Engineering and/or DEP clearly erred in approving the placement of the house at 500, and they appear to be misreading maps of the wetlands in planning for the proposed second house.
The town needs to know how the current storm water runoff problem will be mitigated, and how it will be addressed in the new construction.
The application for building a new house at 394 Ridgeview Rd should be denied until the obvious environmental issues are resolved, if they can be, or until the lot is preserved as open space.
Lincoln Hollister, 437 Ridgeview Road
The concerns of numerous residents regarding the influx of McMansions in the Princeton area voiced at the November 19 Town Council meeting. Over the course of that meeting it was clear that Princeton residents are frustrated by the free rein allowed to developers to build oversized McMansions with no concern for the surrounding neighborhood.
We applaud the attempts by Mayor Lempert and the Town Council to preserve the character of the town from McMansions. Unfortunately, the whole Princeton area is under assault from these out-of-place spec homes. The proposed McMansion on an undeveloped lot at 394 Ridgeview Road, is a microcosm of all issues angering Princeton residents about zoning, with an added layer of environmental concerns for good measure.
The proposed home on 394 Ridgeview Road fails most of the criteria outlined by the council to give homes neighborhood character, in addition to failing any sort of fit test for the surrounding neighborhood.
Jaspal Singh, 376 Ridgeview Road
We, the concerned residents of both of Ridgeview Road as well as some of our neighbors on Drake’s Corner Road, have been fighting this proposed construction at the November and December meetings of the Zoning
This article was originally published in the January 2019 Princeton Echo.