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Council Balks, For Now, at Code Geared Toward Further E-Quad Development

Matthew Hersh

An ordinance aiming to expand the development rights of Princeton University's Engineering School Quadrangle had been slated for introduction last Tuesday by Princeton Borough Council, but will instead return to a subcommittee of the Regional Planning Board for further review.

The area the ordinance targets is the Borough's E-3 zoning district, which is bound by Murray Place, Prospect Avenue, Olden Street, and Nassau Street. The changes, first proposed to Council earlier this year, would allow for an additional 100,000 square feet of development; create a "no-build" buffer zone of 150 feet west of Murray Place; and require the use of a jitney transportation system to shuttle employees and students to the Engineering School.

The building height restrictions would remain as they are now, with buildings closest to Murray Place having a height not to exceed 39 feet.

But Council decided to put off introducing the ordinance, at least not yet, citing philosophical differences with the ordinance and certain "ambiguities" in the code's fine print.

The ordinance will now likely be referred to the Planning Board's Zoning Amendment Review Committee (ZARC) for further examination.

"What we decided, was rather than continue with their application to the Zoning Board, that we would take a look at rezoning E-3," said Borough Mayor Joe O'Neill in an interview Friday. In 1990, when the E-3 zone was established to accommodate the expansion needs of the University's's Engineering School, the University still envisioned building a "mirror campus" on vacant lands across the canal in West Windsor. Those plans have since been scrapped in favor of a "smart growth" campus that aims to place Frist Campus Center at the pedestrian focal point of campus, with students on the periphery of campus using the University's jitney system, P-Rides, to get around.

Because of those changes, Mr. O'Neill said the entire E-3 should be re-examined.

"With their new concept of 'academic neighborhoods' and the shuttle, we thought it was time to revisit it," Mr. O'Neill said.

And while the mayor was confident that the ordinance would again appear before Council, he added that a distinction needs to be made between zoning‹what may be built in an area, and an actual application.

Regardless of zoning, he said, all applications have to appear before the Planning Board before anything can be built.

"I expect this to go forward, it's just that people get caught up in the moment," he said.

Borough Administrator Robert Bruschi said many of the Council's concerns were largely "philosophical," focusing more on why the E-3 was being revisited, rather than technical zoning issues.

There was also some concern about the jitney route and how many shuttles would drive through the area. Additionally, there were concerns about how many new employees any new development would end up producing.

ZARC has yet to specify a date to review the E-3 ordinance.

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