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Opinion: Bank Street residents support Graduate Hotel, but object to variances

The 20 Nassau Street building in Princeton has been sold to Graduate Hotels.

All of the homeowners on Bank Street in Princeton who shared comments and objections with the Princeton Zoning Board of Adjustment and the hotel group in the meetings leading up to the vote on Feb. 8 have something in common: we all agree that the proposed Graduate Hotel will positively impact the Central Business District. Our intent was never to stop the project.

However, we did object to four of the seven variances sought by GPNJ Owner LLC. Those variances dealt with the structure’s height, which will increase from 32 to 65 feet, the 10-foot setback required in a residential (and historic) zone, excessive floor area ratio, and not meeting parking space requirements. Each separate variance was related to the other. If one variance were denied or changed, it would have brought the other two or three variances closer to compliance with town ordinances. And the Bank Street neighbors would have supported the changes.

Zoning ignored Bank Street testimony, including a proposal to step down the north portion of the building. They ignored the SPRAB and the Princeton Historic Preservation Commission recommendations for Bank Street impacts, as well as traffic, sun, parking and noise studies. Insignificant was the message from GPNJ, and the board accepted.

During the executive session, some board members expressed concern for the neighbors, and for a brief moment, it seemed that they might press the developer for changes. But when the vote came, the Zoning Board of Adjustment unanimously chose not to make adjustments.

As I said before, we all support a hotel in the Central Business District, and our objections, as they were, still stand.

William Gray

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