By Kevin Whitehead
A group of Princeton residents have filed an appeal of Mercer County Court Judge Linda R. Feinberg’s February ruling that allowed Rider to build a new parking lot at Westminster Choir College (WCC).
Residents of Linden Lane filed their appeal on April 11, within the 45-day deadline of the Feb. 18 ruling allowing plans for the lot to proceed.
The space for the new 91-space lot resides in an open area between the existing parking lot and a relocatable building, according to Rider’s Vice President of Facilities and Auxiliary Services Mike Reca. The lot is at the edge of Rider’s property, which is adjacent to homes nearby on Linden Lane.
“[They] filed in the time frame they were allotted,” said Reca. “[Rider] now has to defend at a higher level court.”
The case will now be taken to the New Jersey Superior Court Appellate Division to make the final call. According to the Appellate Division website, they are the “final judgements of the Law Divison and the Chancery Division of the Superior Court, in addition to the final decisions of State administrative agencies.
Despite the residents’ acknowledgment of the need for additional parking on the WCC campus, they are unhappy that a master plan for the WCC campus was not disclosed. According to a series of YouTube videos made by associate professor of the Mathematics Department, Dr. Kenneth Fields, many also fear the market value of their homes will decrease, specifically in regard to drainage problems the residents forsee arising with the addition of the parking lot.
Approval for the lot has been a three-year process and now the planning process for the lot is in the latter stages of its development, according to Reca.
For construction to occur on Rider’s WCC campus, they must have internal approvals, design approval and professional documentation to municipality for final completion.
The college, which former WCC SGA president Anthony Baron described as having “half a population of commuter students,” does have its parking problems. Westminster’s parking lots have a 285:300 space-student ratio, a number that is not conducive to the amount of space needed. The ratio does not include the faculty, staff or visitors that frequent WCC’s campus.
Senior Matthew Kennedy added that the parking spots are especially challenging to find during the peak hours of classes.
“If I don’t get to school at least an hour before my classes I end up having to park 3 blocks away to be able to get a space,” he said. “This is not only an inconvenience but has caused me to be late to classes, because the streets near and around campus are completely full of cars belonging to Westminster students.”
“We always had parking issues in Princeton because there was parking on the roadways adjacent to the high school,” Reca said. “Parking has never been [at] Princeton Bureau’s adequacy level and it was always a struggle to find parking.
This [construction] is for students to have that flexibility to be able to come and go for academic needs.”
Reca said that Rider is now waiting for documents to be exchanged with the New Jersey Superior Court and eventually there will be a court date set “hopefully in the next 90 days.”
“I’ve been optimistic since we’ve gotten our approval from the Princeton Bureau,” Reca said. “We put a very, very strong case together for the student parking, and also in the appeal process. We won that handedly and we want to see this done.”