The town of Princeton’s plan to redevelop the Thanet Circle office park (map) has become the subject of a court challenge in Mercer County Superior Court. A company known as “375 Terhune Road, LLC” is suing the town, alleging that the process used to redevelop the site did not meet legal standards, and should be overturned. If successful, the case could delay or prevent the proposed redevelopment of the site with 300 new apartments.
The case centers on actions taken by Princeton Council earlier this year to put in place a process for redeveloping the disused Thanet Circle office park as housing. The proposal is part of the town’s affordable housing settlement, which is required to comply with state fair housing laws. The new homes would be split between a new Avalon Bay apartment development, and a separate senior housing complex. The Princeton Planning Board designated the site a “non-condemnation redevelopment area”. This allows the site to be redeveloped using more flexible standards, according to New Jersey land use law.
Attorneys representing 375 Terhune Road, LLC allege that the report used by the Planning Board during this process was deficient, and therefore the town has no legal basis to allow the redevelopment to go ahead (link to full court filing). They have named the municipality of Princeton as a defendant in the case, along with the Mayor, the Council, the Planning Board, the owners of the Thanet Circle site, and also Avalon Bay.
375 Terhune Road, LLC is the registered owner of a house with the same address (see photo above) , which is situated on the other side of Terhune Road from the proposed Thanet redevelopment site. The 5-bedroom home was constructed in 1996, and last sold for $940,000 in 2016. The company has a registered address of 152 Witherspoon Street, the same address as RB Homes, LLC, founded by the well-known Princeton-area builder, Roman Barsky. RB Homes did not respond to a request for comment.
The 375 Terhune Road site was originally named as a potential location for affordable housing, as part of a draft plan presented by Council on May 17, 2018. At that time, the town was proposing to upzone the site to allow new homes to be constructed at a density of 10 dwelling units per acre, which is much higher than the existing RH-8 zoning allows. According to this plan, 25 homes would have been built at 375 Terhune Road, of which 5 would have been affordable homes contributing to the town’s fair housing requirements. However, when the town’s affordable housing plan was finalized late last year, 375 Terhune Road was not among the designated sites. The court filing challenging the redevelopment plan for Thanet Circle followed soon after.
The Princeton Planning Board attorney, Gerald Muller, will defend the town against the suit. Princeton Council awarded him a contract for $25,000 for the case at their meeting on July 13. According to the town’s Third Round Fair Share Housing Plan, as presented in June, a settlement in the case is under consideration, which would potentially add 375 Terhune Road as an additional site for affordable housing in Princeton.