Princeton Council purchases Lanwin tract for open space preservation


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Princeton officials have agreed to purchase the 90-acre Lanwin Development Corp. property on the Princeton Ridge for $9.1 million, ending the developer’s years-long effort to build single-family homes on it.

The Princeton Council introduced an ordinance to buy the tract from the developer at its March 14 meeting, and followed up with a $9.1 million bond ordinance to pay for it. The bond ordinance was introduced at the Council’s March 25 meeting.

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The Lanwin Development Corp. property is on the Princeton/Montgomery Township border. The land is bounded by Montgomery Township, Mount Lucas Road, Herrontown Road and Herrontown Lane.

The money for the purchase will come from several sources, including a $3.2 million grant from the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection’s Green Acres Program.

Also, Mercer County approved a $2.1 million grant from its Open Space Assistance program. Private funding and donations are expected to total $1.8 million.

The Lanwin Development Corp. has been seeking approval to subdivide the 90-acre parcel into 29 building lots for single-family homes for many years.

The latest plan showed development on 23 acres in a cluster design. The rest of the heavily-wooded property would be preserved as open space. It was the latest in a series of proposed developments for the parcel.

Previous applications before the Princeton Planning Board included luxury housing developments, a country club, light industry, a shopping center and an elementary school, according to Ann Matthews, who lives nearby.

The Lanwin tract is adjacent to the Herrontown Woods and Autumn Hill Reservation preserved properties, which form the last great forest in Princeton, Matthews said.

The Lanwin tract and adjacent lands to the south were also part of New Jersey’s first orphanage, Matthews said. She has researched the tract and nearby properties.

The Mount Lucas Orphans and Guardians Institute was founded by Princeton reformers and abolitionists in 1842, she said. It was chartered by the State Legislature in 1845. It was the first orphanage to shelter children of all genders and races.

The developer’s consultant, however, disputed those claims. His research revealed that the orphanage and the subsequent Princeton Township “poor house” were nearby, but not on the Lanwin Development Corp. property.

The former Princeton Township acquired the land in 1866 after the orphanage closed, consultant Randy Kertes said.

The poor house was created for the indigent poor, the elderly and the physically and mentally disabled, he said. It also sheltered unwed mothers and their children.

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