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The battlefield battle is over: Institute for Advance Study gets approval for housing project


By Philip Sean Curran, Staff Writer
The Institute for Advanced Study last week received permission from the municipality to build eight town houses, in closing the chapter on a disputed faculty housing project that had become a cause celebre in the protection of historic land that was central to the nation’s founding.
At a Princeton Planning Board hearing Sept. 28, the site of so many previous disputes between the IAS and the Princeton Battlefield Society, the two erstwhile adversaries found themselves on the same side. IAS attorney Chris Tarr, at the outset of the hearing, offered “thanks” to Kip Cherry, vice president of the Battlefield Society, who was sitting in the audience.
“And I think, tonight, we’re all friends,” Tarr would offer on an evening when the board heard the IAS testimony and voted unanimously to approve it.
Cherry’s organization had sued to stop the IAS from building on IAS-owned land where fighting took place during the Revolutionary War Battle of Princeton, in January 1777. The victory there by forces led by George Washington is seen as a crucial turning point in the war.
The IAS, however, had approval for faculty housing and was moving ahead. But the Civil War Trust, a land preservation organization that had expanded its mission to protect battlefields of the Revolutionary War and War of 1812, reached a deal last fall with the Institute to acquire around 15 acres for $4 million and turn the property over to the state to expand Battlefield State Park.
The IAS would modify its original 15 unit housing project — originally approved back in 2012 for eight townhouses and seven single-family homes — to construct eight additional townhouses for a total of 16.
“The approval of this revised plan by the municipality represents an important part of our agreement with the Civil War Trust and will help us move forward in the process to bring that agreement to conclusion,” IAS Chief Operating Officer Janine Purcaro told the Planning Board.
The IAS still has to go before the Delaware & Raritan Canal Commission for approval.
It was three years ago that the Civil War Trust had come to Princeton to announce it would expand its mission to protect battlefields of those two earlier wars.
“This is, for us, I’d say our most important opportunity that we’ve come across so far in three years that we’ve been doing Revolutionary War battlefield preservation,” Civil War Trust Chief Real Estate Officer Tom Gilmore told the Board. “It might be our most important opportunity, ever actually, in that sector.”
After the hearing was over, Cherry and Tarr shook hands. The fight to protect a piece of American history had ended in a compromise, with both sides moving off their original positions to find a solution they could live with.
“We’re very satisfied with the outcome,” Cherry said.
State Sen. Kip Bateman, R-16, who had fought to protect the land, issued a statement this week about the matter.
“I am confident that this project will not cause the catastrophic damage that we would have seen with the original plan,” he said. “Although I will continue to keep a watchful eye on the construction, make no mistake – I believe our battle to save the battlefield has been won.”

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