The fireworks came to Princeton a few weeks late this year, and in an unlikely setting. A proposal that would allow a 30-home residential development in the Princeton Ridge incited one unnamed and unruly attendee at the July 18 Princeton Planning Board meeting to shout at board members and attorney Gerry Muller, demanding to know why a letter in opposition to the development was to be stricken from the record and concluding, “I want the fact that this hearing is bulls–t to be on the record. Thank you.” He left under threat of being forcibly removed by the police.
And that was all within the first 15 minutes of a hearing that stretched on for more than two hours. The drama continues when the planning board reconvenes on Thursday, September 19, as residents opposed to the idea —represented by public interest attorney Bruce Afran — make their case for the proposal to be voted down.
For the record: the letter writer, Princeton resident Daniel Harris, published a letter in area media that week that stated, in part, that the proposed development “is environmentally unsustainable; it pulls Princeton into economic discrimination against those who can only afford ‘affordable housing,’ not the estimated $1.5M for a stand-alone house in what was once woodlands.”
The developer at the center of the fight is Lanwin Development Corp., a company owned by the children of the late Princeton-based real estate mogul Bryce Thompson IV. Lanwin wants to create a cluster subdivision of 30 lots for single-family homes along Herrontown and Mount Lucas roads. The project, encompassing about 18.52 acres of an overall 90.6-acre property, is dubbed “Thompson Woods.”
In addition, three acres facing Mount Lucas Road would be “dedicated” to the town for future affordable housing, with the rest of the 67.4 acres left as open space, according to documents in the municipal planning office.
The proposal predates the merger of the two Princetons, going back to discussions that then-Township officials had in 2011 with Thompson. In more recent years,Princeton officials, including Mayor Liz Lempert, have endorsed the concept of a cluster as a way to keep as much of the property from being developed.
Thompson, the owner of large tracts of land in New Jersey during a long career in the real estate industry, bought this parcel in the late 1950s and subsequently sold it to his children. He died on June 21 at age 87.
Lanwin President Bryce Thompson V, the late developer’s son, said in an interview that the first attempt to develop the land called for 20 lots, based on the zoning, and would have incorporated the entire property. But to preserve as much of the forest as possible, a cluster subdivision was seen as the best option “instead of having houses all over the place and driveways all over the place,” he said.
“We believe that the development will provide a much needed additional tax revenue for the community,” he said. “And we’ve made every effort to mitigate the environmental impact in any way, shape, or form and provide affordable housing on the property for Princeton, which it needs and in the way that Princeton deemed appropriate.”
He said Lanwin would not be building the homes. “Someone will purchase the property from us and build the homes themselves,” he said.
Yet if Lanwin gets its subdivision approved, he left the door open to selling the property, minus the three acres for the town, at “fair market value” to a buyer, like the state of New Jersey, that would be willing to preserve it.
“And if we get fair market value for the property, we would be absolutely open to doing that,” he said.
But Thompson Woods faces opposition from nearly 20 residents who live near the property on Herrontown Road and Herrontown Lane. They turned to attorney Afran, who has battled the likes of Princeton University and the Institute for Advanced Study in high-profile cases, to help them fight the project.
Afran said in an August interview that putting a 30-unit “dense development” in the heart of the Princeton Ridge would spoil a natural area that has remained mostly untouched. He spoke of the consequences of introducing human activity into the area, as well as the loss of trees and other environmental side effects that a development would cause.
“Pets, garden refuse, exhaust fumes, extensive noise will all be introduced where none exist now,” he said. “And so basically this is an intrusion into the heart of a totally undeveloped place, or least as undeveloped as Princeton gets, in a very sensitive environment. And it will be destroyed forever.”
He said the town’s master plan said this area should be used for preservation.
“The development itself is going to have serious impacts on what’s left,” he said. “It will no longer be an untouched, unspoiled area.”
For his part, Thompson called the concerns of the neighbors “fake news.”
“It’s made up stuff so that a piece of property next door to them doesn’t get developed,” he said. “It’s on a flat, open piece of land that used to be farmed … many years ago.”
Zoning Board updates
The Zoning Board of Adjustment was scheduled to hear two applications at its August 28 meeting, after the Echo went to press.
133-135 John Street, Bi-Hwa & Theresa Huang, owners; and Alexander Masiuk, applicant. C1/C2 variances to permit the installation of parking area in exception to the required parking setback and impervious coverage requirements. An additional rear yard setback variance is required to permit a small gable roof that has already been constructed.
21 Battle Road, Albert E. and Jenny G. Internoscia, owners and applicants. D4 and C1/C2 variance for floor area ratio to permit the construction of a new home and secondary residence. Additional variances are requested for lot area to permit the secondary residence, height to setback ratio, impervious coverage ratio, length of front facade and the distance permitted between the openings of a U shaped driveway.
The next Zoning Board meeting is scheduled for Wednesday, Sept. 25.
Word from Windy Top
Separately, the first two single-family homes of the Windy Top subdivision on Snowden Lane are now on the market. Overall there are seven lots on the site, though there was no timetable available for when all the homes will be constructed.
The five-bedroom, five-bathroom home at 1 Windy Top Court is listed for sale at $1,699,000; the five-bedroom, four-bathroom home at 3 Windy Top Court is listed for $1,649,000.
Windy Top, named for a farm that once stood there, is directly across the street from Smoyer Park and had until recently been undeveloped. In fact, a 2004 letter to the Town Topics celebrated the continued, undisturbed land at Windy Top in the face of a proposal to remove multiple trees in order to install sidewalks on parts of Snowden Lane:
“Windy Top in the distance reassures me that all is not yet the tract housing of the Windsors, nor the Belgian-blocked McMansions of Brooks Bend,” wrote Fairfax Hutter.
But times have changed.
The following listings of residential home sales are based on public records and tax files. The number in parentheses after the closing price indicates the amount it was above or below the original listing price.
121 Winfield Road. Seller: Hobart and Linda Sichel. Buyer: Craig and Jeannette Lamb. Two-story Colonial. 4 bedrooms, 5.5 baths. $1,753,089 (-$142,000).
52 Mason Drive. Seller: Salwan Almashat and Kathriel Brister. Buyer: Hongmiao Zhou and Eva Dong. Two-story Colonial. 4 bedrooms, 2.5 baths. $935,000 (-$44,000).
8 Foulet Drive. Seller: Howard and Susan Schrayer. Buyer: Mingming Yu. Colonial/Contemporary. 4 bedrooms, 3.5 baths. $1,150,000 (-$189,000).
24 Deer Path. Seller: Aylin Tugcu. Buyer: Janet Gardner. Ranch. 3 bedrooms, 2.5 baths. $1,084,000 (-$41,000).
210 Birch Avenue. Seller: Bridget Carnevale. Buyer: Christopher Fruendt and Barbara Downey. Twin/semi-detached. 3 bedrooms, 1 bath. $450,000 (-$39,000).
48 Benjamin Rush Lane. Seller: Arthur and Christine Siemientkowski. Buyer: Shodeinde and Modupe Coker. Townhouse. 3 bedrooms, 2.5 baths. $618,000 (-$22,000).
142 Mercer Street. Seller: Hope Cobb Estate. Buyer: Lucas and Lauren Bento. Three-plus-story Colonial. 4 bedrooms, 2.5 baths. $837,000 (-$48,000).
16 Charlton Street. Seller: Trefor and Nancy Williams. Buyer: Frances Lee. Twin/semi-detached. 3 bedrooms, 2 baths. $635,000 (-$60,000).
724 Princeton-Kingston Road. Seller: Grosso Homes. Buyer: Kwangjin Suk. Two-story Colonial. 4 bedrooms, 4.5 baths. $1,500,000 (-$99,000).
44 Park Place #2. Seller: Susan Beshel. Buyer: Mark and Daria Pettus. Condo. 2 bedrooms, 1 bath. $418,500 (-$31,500).
49 Palmer Square West, Unit O. Seller: Michel Merle Estate and Nicole Merle. Buyer: Carol Ann Boyle. Condo. 1 bedroom, 1 bath. $431,000 (-$24,000).
238 Witherspoon Street. Seller: Chuang Wen Jung. Two-story Colonial. 4 bedrooms, 2 baths. $708,000 ($8,100).
25 Haslet Avenue. Seller: Lucas and Nancy Visconti. Buyer: Halil and Serpil Soner. Two-story Traditional. 4 bedrooms, 3.5 baths. $1,750,000 (-$450).
2 Morven Place. Seller: Tobin and Susan Levy. Buyer: Theological Inquiry Center. Two-story Colonial. 4 bedrooms, 4.5 baths. $1,732,000 (-$163,000).
621 Lake Drive. Seller: Roger and Theresa Liao. Buyer: Sandeep and Anita Gupta. Ranch. 4 bedrooms, 2 baths, 2 half baths. $1,600,000 (-$350,000).
64 David Brearly Court. Seller: David and Lisa Rossbach. Buyer: Yuhan Li and Hui Yang. Condo. 3 bedrooms, 2.5 baths. $360,000.
36 Paul Robeson Place. Seller: George Hansen and Susan Rhoda. Buyer: John Van Scoter II. Condo. 3 bedrooms, 3.5 baths. $1,975,000 (-$25,000).
156 Spruce Street. Seller: Peter Wolanin and Karen Sisti. Buyer: Michael Dahl. Condo. 3 bedrooms, 1.5 baths. $585,000 (-$10,000).
52 Dodds Lane. Seller: Carl Schulze. Buyer: Guy and Ilanit Fuchs. 2.5-story Traditional. 4 bedrooms, 4.5 baths. $1,213,000 ($228,000).
25 Linden Lane. Seller: Karen Loomis. Buyer: Joshua Seufert and Nannan Liu. Three-story Victorian. 4 bedrooms, 1 bath. $690,000 ($15,100).
207 Riverside Drive. Seller: Peter Ramadge and Selina Man. Buyer: Nicholas Vossbrink and Rosina Lozano. 2.5-story Contemporary. 5 bedrooms, 2.5 baths. $899,000.
268 Stockton Street. Seller: Viquar Parvaaz. Buyer: Peter and Elizabeth Meggitt. Two-story Traditional. 4 bedrooms, 4 baths, 2 half baths. $1,225,000 ($126,000).
44 Southern Way. Seller: Mark Stern and Rita Nannini. Buyer: Laura K. Doctor Living Trust. Two-story Traditional. 3 bedrooms, 1.5 baths. $685,000 ($36,000).
51 Maple Street. Seller: Anthony Perna Estate. Buyer: Harold Dibble and Claudine Collins. Three-story Colonial. 3 bedrooms, 3 baths. $725,000 (-$74,000).
21 Richard Court. Seller: Peggy Dewolf and James Bogart. Buyer: Yi Bao and Yan Gao. Townhouse. 3 bedrooms, 2.5 baths. $850,000 (-$35,000).
101 Linden Lane #B. Seller: Walmat Linden LLC. Twin. 2 bedrooms, 3 baths. $465,000 ($54,000).
37 Pheasant Hill. Seller: Nancy Synderman. Buyer: Eric Shroff. Two-story Cape Cod. 5 bedrooms, 4 baths, 2 half baths. $1,935,947 (-$260,000).
152 Cedar Lane. Seller: Mark Killingsworth and Wendy Young. Buyer: Nir Eyal and Leah Price. 4 bedrooms, 2 baths, 2 half baths. $1,100,000 (-$100,000).
46 Terhune Road. Seller: Harvey Rosen and Marsha Novick. Buyer: Yang Ren. Two-story Colonial. 4 bedrooms, 2.5 baths. $721,000 (-$48,000).
22 Stanley Avenue. Seller: John Dilworth. Buyer: Ronald Meier and Anil Perez. Two-story cottage. 3 bedrooms, 2 baths. $616,700 (-$2,300).
420 Mount Lucas Road. Seller: Andrea Filla and Brett Bonfield. Buyer: Lekha and Herman Tull. One-story cottage. 2 bedrooms, 1 bath. $482,000 (-$42,900).
14 Edgehill Street. Seller: John, David and Silvia Garretson. Buyer: Princeton Theological Seminary. Two-story Colonial. 4 bedrooms, 3.5 baths. $1,375,000.
61 Adams Drive. Seller: Mark and Sarah Antin. Buyer: Jonathan Mummolo and Lauren Wright. Two-story Contemporary. 4 bedrooms, 3.5 baths. $2,195,000.
1 Van Marter Court. Seller: Anubhai and Kalpana Mehta. Buyer: Anil Nadiminti and Sailaja Muvva. Two-story Colonial. 4 bedrooms, 2 baths, 2 half baths. $865,000 (-$85,000).