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Snowden Alternatives Hardly a Compromise, Residents Maintain

Matthew Hersh

When Snowden Lane residents opposed to a stretch of proposed sidewalk along their street were presented last week with a compromise design proposal, many who live along that bucolic stretch of roadway agreed that it was a proposal, but did not see it as a compromise.

The contested sidewalk proposal, a 1,300-foot stretch to be built along the western side of Snowden between Hamilton and Franklin avenues, was heard before Township Committee Monday night. It was only the latest chapter in an ongoing saga that began in September when some residents appeared before Borough Council to complain that they did not want to have a sidewalk in front of their houses.

Council decided it would not review the matter until it was addressed by Township Committee. Seven of the 12 residences that lie on that western portion of Snowden are within Borough city limits, but the actual right-of-way, which includes the area where the proposed sidewalk would be, is controlled by the Township. About 400 feet from Franklin Avenue to the Princeton Borough line affects Township properties, and the 1,000 feet from the municipal line to Hamilton Avenue would abut Borough properties.

Since then, those living in the residences affected by sidewalks and the Township, meaning the Township Engineering Department, have been involved in a back-and-forth that has allowed for little compromise.

Until 12 days ago.

On January 20, Township Deputy Mayor Bernie Miller, Committeeman Bill Hearon, and Township Engineer Robert Kiser issued a memo to the other members of Township Committee announcing a suggested solution to what had once appeared to be a stalemate.

Meetings held with Snowden residents resulted in seven alternatives to a sidewalk, the memo read, adding that those compromise designs were reached with "some, but not all the neighbors."

Those designs included, as an alternative to a traditional sidewalk, a winding four-foot-wide blacktop path similar to the pathway along Springdale Golf Course on the western side of Alexander Road. The purpose of this "meandering" feature would be to spare the lives of some trees that would have otherwise been torn down to make way for a conventional concrete sidewalk. Other suggested alternatives include: using cement concrete curbing instead of the Township "Belgian block" curb standard; removing diseased trees, while working to establish a replanting plan; and rebuilding the road's storm sewer while reconstructing Snowden with two 11-foot wide car lanes, resulting in a 22-foot-wide roadway, down from the once-proposed 26-foot-wide road.

Residents have long favored repaving the road and more stringent enforcement of the 25 m.p.h. speed limit, but have all along opposed installation of sidewalks, saying it would take away from the road's rural charm. Contrary to reports by Princeton Township Police, installing sidewalks would not, residents say, make pedestrians safer. In fact, the presence of sidewalks would invite cars to surpass 25 m.p.h., they said.

According to the Township's Mr. Kiser, however, installing sidewalks at that location is consistent with the objectives put forth in the Community Master Plan and would enhance pedestrian mobility.

The master plan does not specifically target Snowden Lane for sidewalks, but does express a commitment to providing "a pedestrian and bicycle pathway network for maximum recreational and circulation use between neighborhoods, recreational areas, schools, and shopping areas."

As far as use by schoolchildren is concerned, the stretch is not a common route for students attending nearby Riverside and Littlebrook schools. Nevertheless, the Princeton Regional Board of Education drafted a resolution supporting sidewalks along that segment of Snowden.

But Catharine Raphael, who has been a vocal opponent of sidewalks, asked Committee why concessions were made with Olden Lane and not with Snowden. Olden Lane on the opposite side of the Township faced similar issues with sidewalk installation. Resident resistance there succeeded, however, largely because Olden is so remote and not subject to an abundance of pedestrian through traffic.

"I don't know why you're being so rigid about this part of Snowden," Ms. Raphael said to Committee members, adding that the proposal is a "huge incursion" on the residents.

As part of the entire reconstruction of Snowden Lane, Township Committee gave the green light to a $1 million project for roadway work from Princeton-Kingston Road to Braeburn Drive.

The sidewalk discussion prompted Committee to vote in favor of drafting an ordinance reflecting the plan's revisions. The issue is expected to be revisited sometime this month.


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