Neighbors claim school’s proposed artificial turf field plan attempts to circumvent Princeton zoning standards –
“Preserving and protecting the natural environment must be an integral part of all plans and designs for land use improvements and changes. Examples of this are the rededication of Princeton Ridge ”
-Princeton Community Master Plan
We all live near one of the most polluting and ecologically diverse habitats in the region. Princeton Ridge is home to many threatened and endangered species and plays an important role in Princeton’s fragile ecosystem. Measures have always been taken to protect this important land.
At the top of the ridge is the 48 acre campus of the Princeton Academy of the Sacred Heart. It is a jewel of a property surrounded by forests and open fields. Understandably, their R4 zoning prevents commercial use by for-profit companies. Similar to a residential area in Princeton, a 7-11 cannot be built next to your property.
A few years ago the Princeton Academy signed a partnership agreement with the Princeton Soccer Academy (PSA) for a land lease with exclusive rights to the PSA. In the deal, PSA, an organization outside Princeton, will tear up 4.2 acres of grass, including 46 old trees, and replace it with impervious plastic turf. Aside from the devastating exploitation of the environment and community, it’s important to expose the unsavory tactics the school and PPE use to circumvent zoning regulations.
PSA was founded in 1975 and has been operating as a profit-oriented unit for years. How can PSA, a for-profit company, lease land in a residential area that is prohibited from operating? Miraculously, PSA formed a parallel not-for-profit just days before the December planning committee meeting. What is the difference between the for-profit PSA, a status they have enjoyed for years (including PPP loans / grants for hundreds of thousands of dollars as for-profit), and the newly formed PSA nonprofit PSA with no assets or operations?
Princeton Academy’s Headmaster Rik Dugan and PSA President John Newman later changed their contract, stating that the school was leasing the land to PSA’s newly formed nonprofit branch, not the for-profit PSA in which it had been involved for years are . If allowed to do so, it would set an unfavorable and dangerous precedent.
The Princeton Academy of the Sacred Heart is a commendable school and produces good young men. Your education goes far beyond the classroom. These guys are watching. Will our community leaders, sports organizations, and schools show them the importance of following the rules? Integrity is important.
Let Princeton Planners know that nonprofits should not change status to nonprofit in order to evade Princeton laws while benefiting our environment and quality of life. The Princeton Environment Commission has already recommended “denying the deviation,” adding that the plan “has far too many negative effects on the environment.”
Your voice is critical. Thursday, February 4th at 7:30 p.m. via Zoom, Webinar ID 859 4464 8915.
Kristin and Ron Menapace