Activists lose round in Revolutionary War battlefield feud

AP News
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Posted: Jun 28, 2016 12:33 PM

PRINCETON, N.J. (AP) — A federal judge has rejected a legal challenge from activists seeking to prevent the development of a privately owned portion of a Revolutionary War battlefield in New Jersey.

The Princeton Battlefield Society had claimed the Institute for Advanced Study was destroying critical wetlands at its construction site on the Maxwell Field property. They sought a preliminary injunction.

But the judge recently ruled that the group didn't show it was likely to win its case or that it would suffer irreparable harm if the injunction wasn't issued.

The prominent academic institute — where Albert Einstein worked — wants to build a 15-unit faculty housing development on land adjacent to Princeton Battlefield State Park. It says the housing would allow faculty members to spend more time on campus and encourage collaboration with visiting scholars.

A society spokesman did not immediately respond Tuesday to messages seeking comment.

Institute officials have denied the society's claims, noting that they have received all regulatory approvals needed to proceed with their project. They also note their plans provide a 200-foot buffer that will be permanently preserved as open space and have cited a letter from the state's Department of Environmental Protection that stated the project wasn't "encroaching on or otherwise disturbing any regulated wetlands or transition areas."

The department then conducted two site visits in December 2015 and in January 2016 and issued a letter of its findings, which supports the initial finding, the institute said.

Some excavation work started in December at the 7-acre tract on Maxwell Field, which is seen by scholars and preservationists as hallowed ground. The site is where historians believe George Washington's charge first struck British lines during the Battle of Princeton in January 1777.

The Civil War Trust, a Washington-based nonprofit organization devoted to the preservation of America's battlegrounds, has put out a standing offer of $4.5 million to buy the land.