Town Topics — Princeton's Weekly Community Newspaper Since 1946.
Vol. LXIV, No. 19
 
Wednesday, May 12, 2010
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Township Committee Approves Revised Ordinance for Senior Development Tract

Ellen Gilbert

“This will be a model that we can well be proud of,” said Mayor Bernie Miller after Township Committee passed an ordinance amending the residential senior community-2 (“RSC-2”) overlay zone regulations at its Monday evening meeting.

Adoption of the ordinance means that architect and developer Bob Hillier (a Town Topics shareholder) can proceed with a proposed development for a 55-and-older housing project on the Bunn Drive tract known as the Lowe property.

“Princeton was losing a resource when people in their golden years downsized and found that they had to leave Princeton because it was unaffordable,” observed Mr. Miller.

Acknowledging the cooperation of members of People for Princeton Ridge, Township staff, and Mr. Hillier, Mr. Miller described passage of the “much-improved” ordinance as “an extraordinary effort by extraordinary citizens.”

Not everyone was pleased with the ordinance as it was originally presented on Monday evening, and the final, approved version included language added at the meeting to further refine a 2008 ordinance providing guidelines for land development on Princeton Ridge.

Highlights of the new ordinance include diminishing the maximum number of units permitted from 158 to 143; requiring 80 rather than 60 percent of the developed area to be preserved as open space; the proviso that any construction must be environmentally responsible, satisfying, to the greatest extent possible, LEED standards; and that development must conform to detailed storm water management guidelines. This “tightening up” of the 2008 ordinance, Township Attorney Ed Schmierer explained, was at least partly in response to a lawsuit filed by People for Princeton Ridge, advocates for maintaining open space in that area. Although they were not against senior housing, Mr. Schmierer noted, they were concerned with the ways in which it might be developed.

Among those expressing concern about the impact of the development was Mt. Lucas Road resident Chuck Di Santo, who described himself as the “primary party concerned with the visual impact of this thing.” Mr. Di Santo worried about the ability to provide screening between his property and the new development, and expressed concern about the nature of a proposed emergency access road.

“This is not a huge boulevard — just an appropriate safety valve to get out to Mt. Lucas Road,” said Mr. Schmierer in response, adding that the Planning Board would be dealing with specific details about screening.

Stony Brook-Millstone Executive Director Jim Waltman commended Township Committee for “the action being taken tonight,” noting that it makes “substantial improvements to the RCS2 overlay zone. Our concern,” he added, “is what happens if someone other than Mr. Hillier is the developer? This was prepared with the fact that Mr. Hillier would be developer in mind. We believe that Mr. Hillier’s plan admirably clusters development; another developer might not.”

Mr. Schmierer acknowledged that the new provisions do not apply to the larger office research zone, but that it “would be a major undertaking” to do so. He indicated the Township’s willingness to address Mr. Waltman’s concerns in the future, adding, however, that “I’ve never seen an ordinance that is this tight in terms of site disturbance as this one.” 

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