Opinion: Princeton Soccer Academy proposal will negatively impact residents of Princeton Ridge

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“How many Princetonians does it take to change a light bulb?
Three: One to change the bulb and two to wax philosophically about how great the old one was.”

This was a joke told to us when we first moved to Princeton nine years ago. This quip stuck with us and we can now appreciate the sentiment based on the careful and thoughtful consideration made to proposed changes in and about town.

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In the Princeton Master Plan, published on the municipal website, the Planning Board references all that we hold dear: community character, quality of life, scenic aesthetic quality, preservation and protection of the natural environment. The Planning Board is committed to evaluate all regional planning, ensuring that it conforms to their core values, “that all permitted development is designed so as to be as harmonious as possible with the surrounding neighborhood.”

Residents residing in the area known as the Princeton Ridge have long appreciated the balance of nature, the unique geography and geology of The Ridge, which supports high levels of biodiversity. Upton Sinclair wrote “The Jungle” in a tarpaper shack behind a farmhouse on the Princeton Ridge. This area has been a focus of the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection and targeted in the Community Master Plan: “The preservation and protection of the natural environment must be in integral part of all plans and designs for improvements and changes in land use. Examples include rezoning of the Princeton Ridge”.

This is why our community was rocked when we were informed of the proposed changes at the apex of the Ridge in a land-lease agreement between The Princeton Academy of the Sacred Heart and the Princeton Soccer Academy (PSA). In the agreement, the school will remove 4.2 acres of grass and natural surface, including 46 mature trees and replace it with non-permeable artificial turf. PSA is looking to lease this complex and conduct practices, games and tournaments, year-round, every day and every night until 9:30 p.m.

Eleven diesel operated light towers are included in the proposal; loudly rumbling, belching smoke, and illuminating the night sky. Stormwater runoff is certain to cascade down The Ridge into adjacent properties and disturb environmentally sensitive lands. No evaluation of toxic runoff has been conducted to assess the impact of base and infill materials in our wetlands and waterways.

The Princeton Environmental Commission (PEC) went on record to say this impermeable, plastic surface creates “an uninhabitable environment” and added, replacing plant material with “synthetic turf that has far too many negative impacts on the environment, the PEC recommends the variance be denied.”

What the residents cannot understand is the rational for such draconian measures in such a fragile ecosystem in the middle of a quiet, peaceful residential neighborhood. With no shortage of soccer fields in Princeton, why would we allow an out-of-town, non-taxpaying organization upend our quality of life with blinding lights and diesel generators running every night at the expense of Princeton residents? Why would we consider disturbing a delicate conservation zone with many threatened and endangered species who live and migrate on The Ridge?

The Planning Board is holding a hearing this Thursday, Oct. 15 at 7:30 p.m. via Zoom. We encourage Princeton residents to weigh in on this egregious overreach that negatively impacts the quality of life of Princeton residents.

Instructions for how to access the meeting are posted on the home page of Princeton’s website and at https://princeton.zoom.us/j/92317363217 Webinar ID: 923 1736 3217

The Menapace, Bibro, Davies, Bennett, Chan, Levine, Peck and Hollingsworth families
Princeton

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