Town Topics — Princeton's Weekly Community Newspaper Since 1946.
Vol. LXIII, No. 2
 
Wednesday, January 14, 2009
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Elm Court Thanks Many in Community for a Memorable “Best Christmas Ever”

RHONA W. PORTER
Social Worker, Elm Court

Tax Breaks and State Funding Needed for Smart Municipal Growth in State

ALISON MILLER
Windsor Drive
West Windsor

Town’s Budget Difficulties Unrelated to Tax-Exempt Status of University

WILLIAM STEPHENSON
Governors Lane


Elm Court Thanks Many in Community for a Memorable “Best Christmas Ever”

To the Editor:

I want to thank the greater Princeton Community for making the holiday season at Elm Court such a joyous time.

The season always begins with the Stony Brook Garden Club providing gorgeous wreaths and table decorations for Elm Court. Couple this with our enormous Christmas tree decorated by residents and Christmas, Chanukah, and Kwanza decorations lovingly created by an Elm Court resident and the magic of December begins.

The Johnson Park School community and its Make a Wish Program under the leadership of teacher Bonnie Walker is another magical December happening. Each year generous parents fill the gift requests of Elm Court residents. Due to difficult economic times, this year more residents than ever asked for gift certificates to local grocery stores or to the movies. When a budget is already strained, what a difference a gift certificate can make! But there were also toiletries, music, clothing, and gift baskets. Thank you so much, Johnson Park families, for making the people at Elm Court very happy.

Christmas Eve at Elm Court is truly wonderful. There is a festive air of elegance, warmth, and community as residents gather for a delicious home cooked dinner in our Community Room. Volunteers prepare and serve the dinner. Thank you to Pauline Brown, Allen Porter, Mary Ann Jensen, Sheila and Jerry Berkelhammer, Marsha and Charles Rojer, Ruth and Bernie Miller, Charlie Bender, The Germond family, Nancy Rubinstein, and the Just family for making this all possible. Richard Just played the piano and carols were sung. Residents have told me “This was the best Christmas ever.”

What would Christmas be without Santa Claus? At Elm Court we have two Santas, aka Caroline Philhower and Rachel Gittleman. They did a great job distributing the gifts from the Johnson Park community. We also had the “real” Santa Claus on Christmas Eve who distributed wonderful gifts donated by generous community members Diane Johnson and Paula Norwood.

The holiday season is beautiful at Elm Court. Thank you to everyone who makes it a time to remember.

RHONA W. PORTER
Social Worker, Elm Court

Tax Breaks and State Funding Needed for Smart Municipal Growth in State

To the Editor:

Land use reform without tax reform? It isn’t going to happen. And it shouldn’t.

Smart growth requires reform of New Jersey’s land use regulations so that the present single-use suburban sprawl pattern of development will be replaced with dense, mixed use centers. This change is frequently touted as a necessary part of the solution to the problems of pollution, over-reliance on fossil fuels, traffic congestion, and the lack of affordable housing.

Proponents of reform deplore the widespread local opposition they encounter. Why would anyone oppose smart growth? Because proponents of smart growth need to be more honest and accurate in selling their product. They have to admit there are disadvantages to dense development, as examination of police reports will show. They have to admit that without access to jobs, or public transportation, or shopping, dense residential development alone is not an improvement over sprawl. And they have to admit that even the smartest of smart growth development can be expensive to the host community, and that without financial assistance, dense developments do not make fiscal sense in most municipalities.

If dense development brought with it state-funded bicycle and pedestrian-friendly roads, state funding for new police officers and teachers, and state funding for sewer and water infrastructure, then municipalities would welcome density and developers would be able to charge less for their products, thus incidentally helping to ease the affordable housing crunch. Rural and environmentally sensitive municipalities could help the state fund this dense development in appropriate places and in return stay rural, preserve the environment, and stop contributing to sprawl.

But without such tax reform, true land use reform is impossible in New Jersey.

Political courage, anyone?

ALISON MILLER
Windsor Drive
West Windsor

Town’s Budget Difficulties Unrelated to Tax-Exempt Status of University

To the Editor:

The January 7 Town Topics contains another in a series of letters debating the impact of the University on the financial structure of the Township and Borough.

I would like to submit the following for consideration by fellow residents who seem to believe that the University is not an adequate financial contributor to our municipalities.

1. Most arguments start out with the comparison of the University’s voluntary contributions to what the tax revenue would be if the University property were occupied by entities contributing to the ratable municipal tax base. But Princeton University is tax-exempt — a fact of life. Local churches, the Seminary, etc. are also tax-exempt by law. Let’s move on.

2. If the property now occupied by the University were occupied by condos or tract homes, would this offer a quality of life similar to the one we now enjoy? There are few residents who don’t benefit directly from the ability to attend University lectures, audit classes, or attend sporting events. Those who don’t benefit directly do so indirectly. Our residential property values are greatly enhanced because people want to live here and are willing to pay a higher price to do so.

3. Often, candidates for municipal office run on the platform that they will be able to extract more financial support from the University than was previously the case. It would be refreshing to hear from candidates for municipal office that many of our financial difficulties have nothing to do with the University. If you build a larger library or Township Hall than you can afford, or if the School Board budget seems to be out of control, this should merit some attention.

Finally, the duplicated municipal administrative expenses are another source of potential tax relief that doesn’t seem to warrant serious attention, and have nothing to do with the fact that Princeton University is a tax-exempt institution.

WILLIAM STEPHENSON
Governors Lane

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