Princeton Planning Board approves 221-unit Thanet Circle development


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The Princeton Planning Board gave its unanimous stamp of approval to a proposed 221-unit development on Thanet Circle, off Terhune Road, at a special meeting Nov. 5 – the second of two meetings to consider the application.

The Planning Board approved Thanet Road Urban Renewal LLC’s application for the development, which will include 193 rental apartments and 28 townhouses on the 12.8-acre parcel. They will replace two vacant office buildings on the property.

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The development, which is being built by AvalonBay Communities, would be known as Avalon Princeton Thanet Circle. Of the 193 rental apartments, 11 would be set aside for affordable housing, including five units earmarked for residents with special needs.

The housing development is intended to help Princeton meet its obligation to provide affordable housing. The town was sued by the nonprofit Fair Share Housing Center – along with other towns in New Jersey – for allegedly failing to provide its fair share of affordable housing.

Planning Board members encouraged the applicant to install solar panels and more than six electric vehicle charging stations in the parking lots outside of the apartment buildings. Two electric vehicle charging stations are required in the parking lots. Electric vehicle charging stations will be included in the garages of the townhouses.

Planning Board Chairman Louise Wilson said New Jersey requires greenhouse gas emissions to be reduced by 80% in 2050. Since it will mean switching from gasoline-powered cars to electric vehicles, it would save the applicant money by installing electrical conduits now instead of having to retrofit them later, she said.

Attorney Peter Flannery, who represented Thanet Road Urban Renewal LLC, said it is not in the developer’s agreement with the town to install anything “above and beyond” what is in that agreement between the developer and the town.

“I think AvalonBay will be sorry” that it is not installing additional electric conduits for future electric vehicle charging stations, Wilson said.

When the meeting was opened for public comment, several residents called for the developer to address fire safety issues – while the buildings are under construction and in the buildings themselves. They cited pending legislation that is in front of the State Legislature.

A proposed State Senate bill would require wood frame-constructed buildings – such as those proposed by AvalonBay Communities – to have automatic fire sprinklers and noncombustible fire partitions that extend from the foundation to the roof.

The bill would also require a fire watch warden to be on site at all times while the buildings are under construction. The fire watch warden would notify first responders in the event of a fire or other emergency. The fire watch warden also would report fire safety issues to the Division of Fire Safety in the New Jersey Department of Community Affairs.

Grace Sinden reminded the Planning Board of fires in AvalonBay Communities apartment developments in Edgewater Park and Maplewood that displaced hundreds of residents. One of the fires in Edgewater Park destroyed a portion of the development while it was under construction.

Sinden also mentioned a fire at the Griggs Farm townhouse and apartment development in Princeton in 2017 that killed one resident and displaced nearly three dozen residents. The development was not built by AvalonBay Communities.

“I urge the Planning Board to do as much as possible to protect the residents,” Sinden said. Fires are disruptive and many tenants do not have insurance for the losses they may suffer because of a fire, she said.

Flannery said his client was agreeable to some of the measures, and will install cement fire partitions from the basement to the roof.

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