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Limit McMansion Size, Board Says

Matthew Hersh

The Regional Planning Board of Princeton has updated its recommendation that Princeton Borough create a law limiting the size of homes on single lots.

In the most recent step as a means to curb large development, or "McMansions," for residential and non-residential uses, members of the Planning Board said the regulations, which now await review from the Board's Zoning Amendment Review Committee, are not intended to keep residents from expanding or developing on their properties, but to ensure that any private development be in keeping with the character of the surrounding neighborhood.

When the proposal was first weighed by Borough Council, some residents complained, saying that the standards, as proposed, would preclude certain aspects of development, and could limit property values in future transactions.

Proposed changes to the ordinance include limiting house size in the Borough's western section, the R-1 residential district, to 8,000 square feet with a 25 percent floor area ratio (FAR); the eastern section, or the R-2, would be limited to 4,500 feet, with a 30 percent FAR.

The board went on to recommend that the Borough's R-3 zone increase FAR to 40 percent of lot size for single-family homes and 45 percent for two-family dwellings. The board recommended that for one-family homes, the maximum building size be 3,500 square fee with two-family homes capping out at 2,500 square feet.

Finally, the R-4, which comprises largely the John-Witherspoon Street neighborhood, and the "tree streets," should be limited to 3,000 square feet for single-family homes and 2,000 square feet for two-family homes, according to Planning Director Lee Solow, with FAR fixed at 40 and 45 percent, respectively.

At Thursday's Township Hall hearing, where the Planning Board looked at the ordinance after being referred back by the Zoning Amendment Review Committee last month, residents for and against the ordinance were largely split according to which section they lived in.

Fernando Guerrero, a Hodge Road resident, worried that restrictions on building size would have a negative fiscal impact on the Borough, while hindering future property values by not allowing future residents of that section to build up to the properties' potential.

"No one's making any more land in the Borough," he said.

But Mary Ellen Merrino, who lives on the denser Horner Lane, supported the measure, saying that the ability to build "megamansions" would "destroy the character of our neighborhoods.

"I don't want someone to have the right to put a megamansion on our street," she said.

The issue was left open-ended, however, when a motion was raised by Planning Board member and Township Mayor Phyllis Marchand to refer the issue back to ZARC for further review on the potential caps placed on the R-1 western district. A date for that hearing has yet to be set.


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