Princeton Battlefield Society files suit to block housing project

Opponents have filed suit to block a plan by the Institute for Advanced Study from constructing a faculty housing project on the site of Washington’s counterattack in the Battle of Princeton, the location of Washington’s counterattack that changed the course of the American Revolution.

The suit, filed in the Superior Court in Trenton by the Princeton Battlefield Society, states the project would destroy the Battlefield site and is barred under the terms of a 1992 settlement agreement between the institute and the Township of Princeton.

“The development, intended to provide housing for 15 faculty members, will completely obliterate the battlefield site that has remained untouched for the last 235 years,” said the group’s attorney Bruce Afran. “The institute housing plan will destroy what is probably the most significant Revolutionary War site left in the United States along with critical archaeological and historical evidence.”

Opponents allege the faculty housing project will destroy the battle site, bury its artifacts and archaeological remains under a massive 10-foot high artificial plateau and destroy valuable wetlands.

“The proposed cluster housing project will destroy one of the most valuable archaeological sites in the U.S.,” said Princeton Battlefield Society President Jerald Hurwitz.

Hurwitz also said the 1992 agreement denied the institute the power to build any cluster housing on the site since cluster housing was not in the E-2 zoning code at the time of the settlement.

“Under the settlement agreement, the institute’s zoning rights were limited to zoning rules in force in 1992,” Hurwitz added. Cluster housing was not approved in E-2 zones until 10 years later – and is not permitted on this site, the complaint states.

The project was given initial approval by the Princeton Regional Planning Board earlier this month, but the Princeton Battlefield Society said it plans to separately appeal that decision.

The Battlefield Society also plans to move forward with legal action regarding unreported wetlands on the site that the institute did not disclose when it sought permission from NJ DEP to construct housing on the site.

“These wetlands were mapped by the institute itself in 1990,” Afran said. “But they were not disclosed by the institute when it applied for permission to build the current housing project. If the institute had disclosed these wetlands, it almost certainly would not have received state wetlands approval.”