AvalonBay is too big for the neighborhood

Residents of Harris Road
To the editor:
With the merger of the borough and township, the preservation of the Witherspoon Street district as one of Princeton’s most central and vibrant neighborhoods is more important than ever.
   AvalonBay’s most recent proposal to develop the former hospital site will drastically alter the quality of this historic neighborhood and surrounding area. This is contrary to the goals of Princeton zoning boards, which for decades have demanded that homeowners comply with standards that maintain the character of its neighborhoods. People owning homes in the Witherspoon Street neighborhood are frequently obliged to apply for variances to change or build additions to their homes. The reason cited is that the Witherspoon Street district is a dense neighborhood and what we do impacts our neighbors.
   So why should a developer not be held to the same standards as homeowners and taxpayers? The proposed AvalonBay development’s addition of 280 units more than doubles the number of units for the entire neighborhood. This big rental housing project is being injected into a small town environment. The scale of its design is equivalent to courtyard motels on highways or mega-developments on the outskirts of a town where there are no real neighborhoods to impact negatively. Two main buildings, which are the bulk of the AvalonBay plan, are 5 stories (60 ft high), with one enclosing a huge courtyard and swimming pool. These massive structures hug the property perimeter, dwarf nearby homes, and create a nonintegrated community which does not belong in the heart of Princeton.
   Major concerns about appropriate affordable housing still go unresolved. The 5 story private courtyard building creates a narrow, 30 foot wide passage way against the existing parking garage. It’s almost the length of a football field. This is where most of the affordable units will be concentrated. Do people really want to live in a location overlooking a parking garage with limited sunlight? The very purpose of affordable housing is to provide people with lower incomes the opportunity to live in different locations throughout an entire community.
   Our concern about the total number of units must be addressed to ensure that any future apartment complex is built to enhance/compliment the Witherspoon Street neighborhood, not loom over it. If this massive number of units is permitted, any amendments to the AvalonBay plan will be superfluous. An overcrowded development will seriously damage the quality of life not only for the Witherspoon Street neighborhood, but as a main entrance to town, it will adversely impact Princeton as well.
   Please attend the first Planning Board Hearing on June 27 at 7 p.m., Municipal Hall and speak in public comment. Subsequent hearings are scheduled July 11, 18 and 25.
Paul and Yoshie Driscoll
Lorene Lavora
Drina and Harry Duryea
Residents of Harris Road