Town Topics — Princeton's Weekly Community Newspaper Since 1946.
Vol. LXIV, No. 47
Wednesday, November 24, 2010
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Weather Forecast

Environmental Commission Focusing on Land Use, Protection, Stormwater

Dilshanie Perera

Over the past few months the Princeton Environmental Commission (PEC), a joint municipal advisory body, has been shifting its focus toward land use and land protection, according to Commission Chair Matthew Wasserman.

Impervious surface coverage and related stormwater management issues, as well as stream buffering, various residential and commercial land uses, and protecting environmentally sensitive spaces are all included in the PEC’s purview, with the agency making recommendations to the Planning Board and municipalities, which in turn can lead to new ordinances and new uses.

A new Township stormwater ordinance coincides with the PEC’s consideration of flag lots, which are properties that owners divide to make room for another home behind the existing one. The edifice is accessible via one long driveway, hence the name “flag lot.”

“The new stormwater ordinance says that if you’re going to put more than 500 square feet of impervious surface on your property, the Township Engineer has to okay it,” Mr. Wasserman reported. “The PEC didn’t take a position on flag lots … and this at least puts some rules and regulations in place,” he said, adding that “it makes the right people know about it.”

PEC discussions revolved around whether there were particular environmental reasons that flag lots might be detrimental to the town, including increasing the likelihood of flooding in the immediate area. The PEC has endorsed the new stormwater ordinance.

Mr. Wasserman said that many of the key environmental issues the PEC is currently analyzing are those that have come before the Planning Board in previous development applications, including that of the Westerly Road Church.

The commission is beginning to work more closely with members of the planning board and municipalities, the goal being that “in the long haul, it will make for better ordinances, which happens when multiple committees and commissions are working together.”

Looking at development and land use is compatible with the PEC goals set out at the beginning of the year, which include preserving the environment by creating and implementing a framework for development application review; reducing Princeton’s impact on climate change by putting together a green building checklist for architects and contractors; and working with the Planning and Zoning departments to promote green building and environmentally-savvy decision-making, among many other things.

“We’re looking at a lot of data from the Planning Board on the residential side, and you can’t forget about the commercial side either,” Mr. Wasserman said. Other projects include monitoring the 50 leaf corrals that have been installed in residences in the Borough and the Township to assess their material impact on the towns, and putting together the green checklist for builders.

This work, combined with creating “ordinances that have been vetted by a supporting body and governing body” are what can contribute to improving “the face of Princeton” in a sustainable way, Mr. Wasserman suggested.

Currently, the Environmental Commission has two vacancies, with the positions available for one resident from the Borough and one from the Township. For more information, or to apply, contact the PEC at (609) 921-1359 or e-mail Mr. Wasserman at

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