The Princeton Planning Council will hold a public hearing at 7:30 p.m. on February 4 to review the plans of the Academy of the Sacred Heart of Princeton to construct two artificial turf playgrounds on the school property located on the Great Road.
Princeton Academy is a private boys’ school for K-8 grades that was founded in 1998. Currently, students at the school play football, lacrosse and baseball, participate in physical education classes and enjoy recreation on two grass fields. The proposed lawn project would convert the existing turf athletic fields in the northeast corner of the Princeton Academy campus to turf fields. Grass fields would be used primarily for soccer, lacrosse and baseball. The Princeton Soccer Association would rent the turf pitches, using them weekdays from 6 p.m. to 9:30 p.m. and weekends until 7 p.m.
At the virtual public planning council meeting on December 10, about 100 people were on Zoom for the public hearing on the academy’s proposed fields, but the council first considered another project, and that review went into effect. took three hours, leaving only half an hour for the school’s application review.
Stuart Lieberman, counsel for a Heather Lane resident who opposes the project due to lighting and noise issues, asked if the planning council had jurisdiction over the project. He argued that the city’s zoning by-law for the site only allows incidental uses that do not create a nuisance. He argued that Princeton Soccer Academy, as a separate organization, offers a separate primary use for the site, not an incidental use.
“The school itself exists based on conditional use,” Lieberman said. “What they are offering is unrelated use. Zoning only allows incidental use, ”said Lieberman. “Under no circumstances is this separate commercial activity an incidental use of the school. He argued that a waiver would be needed from the zoning council to expand the conditional use of the site.
Bob Ridolfi, the attorney for Princeton Academy, said it was common for schools to lease their space to other organizations. “Being a private school is difficult these days, just to survive financially,” Ridolfi said. “Almost every educational organization in Princeton has benefited from sharing facilities with different organizations for fee-generating purposes so that the school itself can survive. ”
Ridolfi said summer camps and sports camps are permitted under the city’s land use ordinance, and the rental of sports fields and facilities has been going on for decades in private schools in the area “as a matter of basic survival”.
Princeton Zoning Officer Derek Bridger has confirmed the school is conditional use on the site, but added that the football academy has presented evidence that it is a goal organization non-profit, which would make their use of the site acceptable. “I think that’s the right advice to hear the demand,” Bridger said. “The key issue in the application is the nuisance factors.”
After Bridger’s comments and discussion between planning board members and planning board counsel, officials decided it would be appropriate for the planning board to continue to review the case. Council reserves the right to deny the application and return the project to the Zoning Board if it is later determined that the Planning Board does not have jurisdiction over the proposal due to zoning issues raised by opponents. to the project.