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PRINCETON: IAS calls police on what it claims were Battlefield Society people taking unauthorized soil samples (Updated)

By Philip Sean Curran, Staff Writer
People reportedly working on behalf of the Princeton Battlefield Society allegedly went onto Institute for Advanced Study property on Sunday to take “several” soil samples from the area of a planned faculty housing project, the IAS said Wednesday in announcing it had gone to Princeton police about the matter.
“This activity was unauthorized and is illegal, and we are very surprised and disappointed that it took place,” said the IAS in a statement.
This is but the latest in a long-running fight between the Battlefield Society and the IAS over a 15-unit faculty housing development that is tied up in court. The society contends the housing is being built on wetlands and would destroy a section of the battlefield where fighting occurred during the Battle of Princeton in January 1777.
A source familiar with the matter said Sunday’s incident occurred in late afternoon, with an IAS patrol officer approaching a man in a truck. When questioned, the individual said he was there for the Battlefield Society, the source said. The source said there were “several” people out there, with photos taken of what was going on.
“When asked by an institute public safety officer, one of the individuals replied that he was there to collect additional soil samples for the Princeton Battlefield Society. It was later determined that several samples had indeed been taken from the building site and did not relate to any prior documented and authorized sampling,” the IAS said.
Bruce I. Afran, the Battlefield Society lawyer, said Wednesday that a representative of the society and a hydrologist were out there looking for wetlands plants, along with some other neighbors who live in the area. He said no soil samples were taken, and noted that the area was open to the public.
“I can assure you that no one put holes in the ground or took soil samples,” he said.
The IAS said in the statement that it had filed a report with police regarding the incident. Police Lt. Jon Bucchere said Thursday that so far, authorities have been unable to identify suspects. He said the IAS reported to police that it found holes in the ground.
Kip Cherry, a vice president of the society, directed questions to Mr. Afran.
“The public has a right to know if they’re destroying environmentally sensitive areas,” Mr. Afran said. “It just amazes me that the institute has descended to the level of invoking the police in their effort to destroy a historically and environmentally valuable site.”

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