9 November, 1988
Township agrees to land swap; now it’s up to schools
By Barbara Preston
A land swap agreement between Princeton Township and the Princeton Regional Board of Education, in order to build a new firehouse on Witherspoon Street, was approved by the Princeton Township Committee Monday night.
The school board intends to vote on the proposal at a meeting tonight, Tuesday, at 8 p.m. in the Valley Road Building.
Should the school board approve the land swap — which would give the board 14 acres of township-owned land off Rosedale Road in exchange for a site off Witherspoon Street — a new fire-house will be constructed within the next two years.
The Witherspoon Street site would comprise the area needed for a three-bay firehouse that could hold four fire engines. The site is adjacent to the Valley Road Building and is currently used as a parking lot for municipal employees
As part of the agreement, the Township Committee also agreed to lease the Valley Road Building from the school board for the next 25 years. The committee’s 10-year lease, at SI a year, will run out this year.
Under the new lease agreement, an outside consultant would determine the rental value of the building and the township would pay that to the board. However, any capital improvements the Township Committee would make would count as credit toward the rent.
The Township Committee and the school board intend to jointly conduct a study of the Valley Road Building within the next 18 months. They will then decide within the next two years whether all or part of the building should be replaced, undergo major renovations, or simply be maintained over the next 25 years.
The Township Committee would also redesign the 126-space Community Pool parking lot, which is across the street from the Witherspoon Street site. By squaring off the lot and reconfiguring it, the township could gain an extra 28 parking spaces to make up for the 20 it would lose.
During the school year, the parking lot can be used for Community Park School teachers, municipal employees, firefighters, visitors and others. Should the school board decide to accept the agreement on Tuesday night, the township will give it the deed to a 14-acre site next to the Johnson Park School on Rosedale Road.
The tract was left to the town-ship 14 years ago by the estate of the law Gen. Robert Wood Johnson. It is currently a wooded tract used for open space but it could be used as a park with soccer fields, according to board members.
“I believe both parties come out advantageously with this deal.” Committeeman Thomas Poole said.
“The borough and the township come out with a new firehouse and the school will have the opportunity to expand or (have recreation land) if they need it,” he said. School Board member Corinne Kyle said that this agreement is “a model of intergovernmental cooperation.”
A new firehouse is needed to replace the Chambers Street station because traffic congestion in the busy downtown area is hindering firefighting response time. The Mercer Engine Company No. 3 would vacate the station and move to Witherspoon Street. Proceeds from the sale of the firehouse would finance construe-lion of the new firehouse, expected to cost approximately $1.8 million.