Town Topics — Princeton's Weekly Community Newspaper Since 1946.
Vol. LXIII, No. 26
Wednesday, July 1, 2009
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Master Plan Amendment Previewed for Borough, Shade Trees Assessed

Dilshanie Perera

Marvin Reed and Lee Solow of the Master Plan Subcommittee of the Regional Planning Board of Princeton presented a draft amendment to Borough Council last Tuesday outlining general principles for reducing expansion and encroachment of institutions, with specific guidelines directed toward Princeton University.

Mr. Reed characterized the Master Plan document as something that “addresses the whole series of development and growth in our community,” and that gives Planning Board members and the public an idea regarding the community’s future.

“State law anticipates that the Master Plan forms the basis from which you propose ordinances for adoption by the municipal body,” Mr. Reed explained.

While the process began two years ago, with the submission of Princeton University’s 10-year Campus Plan for review, Mr. Reed said that certain conditions applied more broadly to other schools, and philanthropic and non-profit organizations, and that the subcommittee felt it was important to elaborate upon them in an amendment to the Community Master Plan.

Listing diversity, balance, tax-exemption, traffic, conditional uses, community interaction, preservation, alternatives to cars, intersections, housing, the environment, storm water management, global warming, and an accessible and open campus as the 14 general principles to consider in decision-making about the future land uses of institutions, the amendment also details themes by which to gauge University expansion.

Avoiding development north of Nassau Street while locating non-residential buildings elsewhere is essential, Mr. Solow remarked, noting the importance of “Nassau Street remaining a retail and commercial hub.”

Enforcing critical zoning, and smooth transitions between University and community spaces; locating new campus access away from Nassau Street; reducing the number of single-occupancy vehicles coming into campus through Transportation Demand Management (TDM) strategies; and generally reducing greenhouse gas emissions, were all cited by Mr. Solow as key items to consider in future development.

The University expects an increase in its undergraduate population from 4,900 students to 5,200 by 2016, while the resident graduate student totals will increase from 2,087 to 2,400, as will numbers of faculty and staff from 5,268 to 5,400.

Mr. Reed characterized the growth as “not a large increase,” but that the Planning Board and municipalities still “have to recognize any increase regarding the need to mitigate its impact on the community.”

Proposed on-campus development totals 1.5 million square feet in various locations, and a net increase of 317 parking spaces scheduled by 2016. Mr. Solow noted that the parking would be redistributed to both the east and west of Washington Road, and that measures were taken to reduce demand by relocating 328 employees off campus, and by not allowing freshmen and sophomores to bring cars to campus beginning this fall.

Much of the proposed new development is still being negotiated, including the East Campus Garage, which would house 1,364 vehicles, and the Arts and Transit Neighborhood.

As for traffic concerns, improvements are planned for major intersections, and TDM strategies are being implemented.

Council member Roger Martindell suggested adding a residential element to the Arts and Transit Neighborhood plans, and citing an idea by Council member Kevin Wilkes, asked whether a number of smaller garages closer to town instead of “one or two massive garages” could be feasible.

“If you’re going to go in that direction, you have to make some overtures to Princeton University, and to us soon,” Mr. Reed answered.

In other news, Polly Burlingham and Alexandra Radbil of the Shade Tree Commission gave an annual report to Borough Council regarding what their five-person, all-volunteer staff did in the past year and expects to do in the future.

Regarding the commission itself, Ms. Burlingham remarked that the goal is to “keep a diverse variety of trees in the public right of way.” Having put together a five-year plan that was approved by the Borough and State governments, the commission seeks to fulfill its goals, which include doing an inventory of all 3,000 trees in the Borough.

Ms. Radbil called doing such an inventory an “interesting and complicated process” involving assessing the age, condition, and care requirements of every tree, as well as mapping them using a geographic information system (GIS). While such a procedure would normally cost $7,000 if an arborist were hired, Ms. Radbill said that the commission would use trained volunteers to complete the task.

In her concluding remarks, Ms. Burlingham said of the Borough and Township, “eventually, we have to consolidate, if not the municipalities, then definitely the Shade Tree Commissions.”

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