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PRINCETON: Town to purchase vacant land that will increase size of Princeton Ridge Preserve

By Philip Sean Curran, Staff Writer
Princeton will acquire 20.4 acres of vacant land between Mt. Lucas Road and Route 206 next month for $4.4 million in a deal that also means a real estate developer will drop plans to build 36 townhouses there.
Mayor Liz Lempert on Monday touted a transaction that will increase the size of the Princeton Ridge Preserve.
“It’s a very exciting and important acquisition for the town on the Ridge,” she told reporters at her regular press conference. “This is one of the most important environmental sites on the Ridge.”
The Princeton Council is due Monday night to vote to introduce a bond ordinance to pay for the purchase, as the town must pay the full amount up front. The town is looking to close on the deal on Feb.16, an agreement in which outside funding sources are covering most of the costs.
Officials said Mercer County is providing a $2.2 million grant; pipeline company Williams is providing $153,000; Friends of Princeton Open Space is giving $100,000; and the state Green Acres grant program is expected to cover the rest.
“This is considered prime, environmentally sensitive property. I can’t stress enough what a great acquisition this is on behalf of the town and our future for the environment,” Mayor Lempert said.
The deal consists of acquiring three lots, all owned by the Casey E. Suchors-Field trust, that are assessed for a combined $2,300 as farmland, records at the municipal tax assessor’s office showed. A source said an appraisal would take into consideration that there is a variance-free application pending before the planning board.
Princeton Land Development LLC, the contract purchaser that was to develop the property, had proposed to build townhouses at the site, a project that once was conceived of as a much larger development for senior housing. As recently as November, the company went before the municipal Site Plan Review Advisory Board to present its concept.
Negotiations to acquire the land heated up within the past few months, Councilwoman Jenny Crumiller said Monday.
“Discussions have led to an agreement whereby the owner of the property has agreed to convey to Princeton this vacant acreage for the sum of $4.4 million and abandon its development application,” assistant town attorney Edwin W. Schmierer wrote in a Jan. 7 memo to Mayor Lempert and the council.

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