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Residents Continue to Protest University's Zoning Expansion

Matthew Hersh

Princeton University representatives and Borough residents continued to look for a compromise Monday night as the school sought to increase zoning potential for its engineering quadrangle (E-Quad).

But at the discussion held at the Friends Center on Olden Street, residents remained intent on knowing the University's long-term plans for the area bound by Olden Street to the west, Murray Place to the east, Prospect Avenue to the south, and Nassau Street to the north.

The University is looking for an additional 100,000 square feet of development on that site, zoned in the Borough as the E-3 district. Approval for expansion would create an additional "no-build," buffer zone of 150 feet west of Murray Place, which includes a 50-foot heavily landscaped buffer, and would require the use of a jitney transportation system to shuttle employees and students to the Engineering School.

The University's current strategy is to demolish buildings closest to Murray Place, and move new construction back 150 feet. Proposed razing includes the G Wing and Von Neumann Hall.

Development prospects include expanding the Operations, Research, and Financial Engineering (ORFE) department.

Residents, most from Murray Place and adjacent streets, were more interested in how specific development would impact their neighborhood.

Gordon Griffin of Princeton Avenue expressed concern that while any new zoning would include a jitney, those working in the E-Quad would simply park on surrounding streets. Robert Durkee, vice president and secretary of the University, said that excess street parking has not occurred up to this point, and that students and faculty were comfortable taking the shuttle.

"We have to keep an eye on that and if people are circumventing the shuttle, then we have to do something about it," he said.

Borough Mayor Joe O'Neill said Borough police have been monitoring cars on Murray Place and adjacent streets, noting cars with University stickers on them. "The University and Borough should be partners in making sure that University personnel park where they should."

Murray Place resident Martin Schneiderman said that residents had not yet received adequate responses to their concerns. While the University released a point-by-point response to resident issues that were submitted to the Regional Planning Board of Princeton, Mr. Schneiderman said those answers did not meet the satisfaction of the residents.

Mr. Schneiderman also said that when the E-3 zone was established in 1990, the general thought among the residents was that the zoning would remain unchanged.

"It certainly leaves us with some pause," he said.

At this point, Mr. Durkee refuted the notion that the residents' concerns had not been answered: "I went through them number by number and I answered them." He added that the University cannot "definitively" say how exactly the site will be developed and that's "there's no way to know that."

"All I can do is tell you that it's clear to us that what will be happening in there is the kind of mix of uses that are in there now, just more of it."

Residents also worried about an increase in lighting and noise from HVAC.

The expansion ordinance was originally tabled at Borough Council in May in light of concerns from both Council and residents. The Regional Planning Board is scheduled to revisit the E-3 expansion ordinance on October 6 when they will decide to refer the ordinance to Borough Council, In the meantime, Mr. Durkee said the University intends to continue a dialogue with residents.


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