Witherspoon Street Site for New Firehouse Draws Protest from Neighborhood Residents

Town Topics
21 October, 1987

Witherspoon Street Site for New Firehouse Draws Protest from Neighborhood Residents

Residents protested the proposed Witherspoon Street firehouse Site at the Planning Board meeting last Thursday evening.

“We have a hospital, police station, and municipal building,” said Robert Sinkler, 307 Witherspoon Street. “Nobody is saying that you don’t need the firehouse. Do you need this particular spot?”

The concept review for the new fire station was the second presentation at the special meeting of the Planning Board. It followed an application by Princeton University for construction of additional housing units in the Butler tract. While the university’s application received mostly favorable response from the site’s Riverside neighborhood, the firehouse site drew negative neighborhood response.

The fire station site under consideration by the Planning Board is across from the Valley Road building on Witherspoon Street. The firehouse would be constructed where the current entrance to Community Park Pool is located and would extend onto what is now parking lot and grass. This is the third site under consideration in the Witherspoon/Valley Road area.

“Community Park was given for recreation,” Mr. Sinkler continued. “There was not even supposed to be a school there. We’re the ones filet have to put up with the traffic and the noise.” Mr. Sinkler presented a petition against the firehouse site signed by 45 area residents.

Sue Rodman, 293 Witherspoon Street, echoed Mr. Sinkler’s concerns about traffic. She questioned the fire company’s plan to use Witherspoon Street as an easy access into town. “People who live on Witherspoon Street don’t use Witherspoon Street to get up-town. They go around.”

Opening the general discussion of the site, Princeton Fire Company Chief Ken Rendall explained that the Route 206 Valley Road area and the corner of Stuart Road and Hardy Drive were identified is the two best spots for the firehouse in the Shand Report, a study conducted by consultant Thomas Shand. He explained that the Stuart site was abandoned because of the high cost of land and because volunteers are drawn from the central business district area, not the neighborhoods near Stuart Road. “What we don’t want to do is lose our coverage,” he said.

The new firehouse will replace fire station number three on Chambers Street because heavy traffic and a lack of parking for firefighters has severely delayed response time from that station. It will not be equipped with the loud honker alarms located on the other fire stations.

Short and Ford architect Charles Farrell explained that the firehouse would be phase one in a plan that would create a municipal complex including the Valley Road Building, the new firehouse, and a new police station/court house building.

One of the major concerns about locating a fire station in the Valley Road area has been the safety of children. The former Township Traffic Officer, Lt. Musso, reported that 18 children from the Mt. Lucas, Terhune, and Valley Road areas pass the firehouse site go-ing to Community Park School. Crossing guards at Witherspoon and Valley Road and at Valley Road and the school would direct the children to walk on the opposite side of the street from the firehouse. He described the area as “heavily congested.”

Recreation Director Donald Barr and several neighbors from the area emphasized the safety problems in the area 1 during the summer when there are no crossing guards and the pool is in use. “My main concern is not the trucks pulling out. The firefighters in a rush to get there are my main concern,” said Mr. Barr.

The architects tried to address these safety concerns in designing a system of pathways through the municipal area to the swimming pool, that would direct pedestrian and bicycle traffic away from the firehouse.

Both Planning Board members Aristides Georgantas and Margen Penick voiced concern about the site location. “I would feel very hesitant to vote for this without a traffic study, commented Mrs. Penick. If the Township didn’t own this property would this be a first choice?”

Although everyone who wanted to speak about the firehouse during the public hearing was accommodated, the Planning Board did not have time to discuss the project and decided to continue the concept review of the firehouse at a later date, ending the meeting shortly after 11:00 without a final discussion of the project or a vote.

At last Monday’s Township Committee meeting, Committee Woman Carol Wojciechowicz, who heads the Facilities Study Committee, said the Committee had taken seriously the comments of neighbors and the Recreation Department. The Committee will be meeting this Thursday morning “to regroup,” Mrs. Wojciechowicz said.

The firehouse concept review followed an application by Princeton University for construction of additional housing units in the Butler tract, the […]

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