Princeton Academy’s proposed construction of turf fields still faces concerns from residents


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Princeton Academy of Sacred Heart’s application for the proposed construction of a turf athletic complex will be heard this week before the Planning Board.

When the planning board convenes on Dec. 10 for a public hearing on the proposed project, additional data and testimony will be presented by representatives of Princeton Academy, as the applicant seeks to ease concerns regarding the project and receive minor site plan approval from the planning board.

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The project would construct 4.2 acres of synthetic turf playing fields on Princeton Academy’s campus at Great Road and convert the existing grass field space that adjoins Varsity and Radvany fields. If approved, the upgraded fields will be used primarily for soccer, lacrosse and baseball, according to application documents.

However, the application faces pushback from neighbors in the Princeton Ridge area, as the project site abuts the boundary line near residential homes off of Heather Lane.

There are five main points of issue for those residents: lighting, noise, ecological and biological impact, increased traffic and the actual need for the upgrade.

“First of all with the lighting, the proposal shows there would be 11 diesel generated light towers on the property. These lights are going to be 50-feet to the closest property,” said Ron Menapace, who is part of the group of residents concerned with the project. “They have not done a lighting assessment to evaluate the negative impact. We all purchased properties up on the ridge for a quiet and beautiful residential neighborhood.”

He added that the other significant impacts include the noise not only from the generators.

“Whistles, blow horns, screaming parents and coaches are going to have a significant impact. There has also been no soil erosion or sediment control review analysis undertaken at all,” Menapace said. “Even when they calculated the runoff quantity from the site they were inaccurate by outdated information that was identified by the Princeton Environmental Commission.”

For Menapace, he added that the additional data and testimony that will be presented won’t ease his concerns.

In a statement, Princeton Academy’s Director of Marketing and Communications Joanna Dugan said that Princeton Academy prides itself on being one of the most sustainable campuses in Princeton.

“With more than 700 solar panels, geothermal heating and cooling, and a fully functioning geodesic dome, the school makes intentional campus planning decisions with the environment in mind,” she added. “The installation of eco-friendly turf athletic fields is no different. The school is confident that the updates to the plan will enable Princeton Academy to provide state of the art, environmentally sustainable, outdoor athletic playing fields for our students, along with the girls and boys of our surrounding community to enjoy.”

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.

According to application documents, the two turf fields have 11 proposed portable diesel LED light towers, and remove 44 trees to make way for the project and replace them with 67 trees. A variance is also being requested by the applicant to increase impervious coverage of the fields from the existing 11.2% to 21%.

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