PRINCETON: Judge rejects Battlefield Society’s latest attempt to block Institute for Advanced Study’s housing proposal

By Philip Sean Curran, Staff Writer
A Mercer County judge on Friday rejected the Princeton Battlefield Society’s latest attempt to block the Institute for Advanced Study from building faculty housing on Institute-owned land that the Society says is historic.
Judge Mary C. Jacobson, sitting in Trenton, upheld the approval the Princeton Planning Board gave the Institute last year for an amended version of its 15-unit project. The Society will appeal, Society attorney Bruce I. Afran said immediately afterward.
“Obviously, we respect the judge’s decision, but we respectfully disagree with those conclusions,” he said by phone. “We are confident we will win.”
In a statement, IAS spokeswoman Christine Ferrara said the Institute “is very pleased with Judge Jacobson’s decision to uphold the Princeton Planning Board’s approval of our amended plan for faculty housing and we look forward to moving ahead with the project.”
This was but the latest but not last step in a running legal battle between the two sides over faculty housing that the Institute wants to build on land where British and American forces fought during the Revolutionary War battle of Princeton in 1777.
The Institute has approved plans for 15 units — seven single-family homes and eight townhouses. The project received Planning Board approval on its first go-around in 2012, only to see the Delaware & Raritan Canal Commission block the project because it encroached in a stream corridor buffer.
As a result, the Institute redesigned the project to make the overall footprint slightly smaller and avoid the encroachment. The IAS went back before the Princeton Planning Board last year with what was considered an amended application.
The Society had argued then that the project should be considered as new and that the IAS should have to start all over. The Planning Board disagreed, a decision the judge said was correct.
In her ruling Friday, the judge said the new design was “substantially” similar to the previous one and that the changes were “minor.”
For about 90 minutes, she went point by point rejecting the Society’s legal arguments and concluding they had no “merit.”
But as part of her ruling, the judge issued a stay, or a temporary delay on construction starting, until Nov.6 to prevent any work until the Society goes to the appeals court.