Application for Princeton Academy faces pushback; planning board hearing in December

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Princeton Academy of Sacred Heart’s application for the proposed construction of a turf athletic complex will now be heard by the planning board in December.

The independent boys school is seeking to construct 4.2 acres of synthetic turf playing fields on its campus at Great Road and convert the existing grass field space that adjoins Varsity and Radvany fields. The upgraded fields will be used primarily for soccer, lacrosse and baseball, according to application documents.

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The hearing for the application, originally scheduled for Oct. 15, had been carried to a new date of Dec. 10, after a request from attorney Robert Ridolfi, who is representing Princeton Academy of Sacred Heart before the board. Ridolifi stated that the applicant wanted to submit additional data for the application and unexpected unavailability of one his witnesses as the reasons for the request.

The application currently faces pushback from neighbors along the the area site of the proposed construction and residents in the Princeton Ridge area. The site abuts the boundary line near residential homes off of Heather Lane.

Residents in the area of Princeton Ridge have voiced concern over the removal of the 4.2 acres of natural surface and trees to make way for the artificial turf fields. Their concerns also included the 11 proposed portable light towers, stormwater management, and potential issues of toxic runoff from the site.

“We had submitted our application package for conditional use approval, minor site plan approval and one small bulk variance variance. The application materials were reviewed by Site Plan Review Advisory Board (SPRAB) and recommended by SPRAB with conditions on Sept. 9,” said attorney Robert Ridolfi, representing Princeton Academy of Sacred Heart, during the Oct. 15 meeting. “Since that time, I was recently contacted by an attorney representing several neighbors, who plan to object to our application. Rather than proceed tonight, I am going to ask the board to take jurisdiction and carry this matter to the next scheduled meeting when you can schedule us.”

For the carried hearing, new documents are to be posted by Dec. 1, according the planning board.

“We would like the opportunity to supplement our application with additional data and environmental friendly mechanisms that we feel would facilitate the hearing at a later date,” Ridolfi said. “I firmly believe that this will not be completed in one hearing and I think for continuity sake I would like for you to see all the data we submitted and then begin our presentation in an orderly fashion.”

A variance is being requested by the applicant to increase impervious coverage of the fields from the existing 11.2% to 21%.

According to a letter by Princeton Environmental Commission (PEC) Vice Chair Heidi Fichtenbaum, the PEC’s view is that the synthetic turf and required base compacts soil and creates an uninhabitable environment for living organisms in the soil.

The commission’s greatest concern is stormwater management and recommends the variance for impervious coverage be denied, according to documents.

If approved by the planning board, the turf fields will also be used by the Princeton Soccer Association (PSA). Princeton Academy of Sacred Heart will lease the fields to PSA for use after school programs are concluded during the weekdays and weekends.

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