Town Topics — Princeton's Weekly Community Newspaper Since 1946.
Vol. LXII, No. 39
Wednesday, September 24, 2008
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Regional Planning Board Approves Application for New Building

Ellen Gilbert

The Regional Planning Board approved an application from Kathleen Casey, Inc. for a Preliminary/Final Major Site Plan with variances for a new building to be constructed at 44 Spring Street, after a prolonged discussion of the proposal’s problems and merits at its meeting last week.

Plans for the building, which is owned by Kathleen Jamison and now houses Judy King Interiors, include demolishing the rear portion and creating a four-story commercial building with a basement. The original plan called for nine-and-a-half-foot ceilings. In response to Planning Board members’ objections to the discrepancy in size between the one-story carriage house that will remain in front and the larger structure proposed behind it, and Board member Yina Moore’s question about the need for two feet to accommodate “mechanicals,” Ms. Jamison agreed to change the height of the ceilings to nine feet.

On the advice of the Site Plan Review Advisory Board and out of concern for its size in relation to other buildings in the area, the Regional Planning Board had declined to endorse an earlier application for the building’s expansion. Site Plan Review Advisory Board Chair William Wolf said that the applicant’s earlier presentation was “deceptive in scale” and that the disparity between the size of the front and rear portions of the building were inconsistent with the Master Plan.

In addition to presentations by her lawyer and architect, Ms. Jamison herself addressed the Board. Describing herself as a well-regarded Haverford antiques dealer she said, with some emotion, that “We have tried to please everybody.” She said that the proposed building was intended to support her daughter, who lost her husband on 9/11.

Board members agreed that the building’s location, at the corner of Spring and North Tulane Streets, being both a residential neighborhood as well as the beginning of the Borough’s central business district, was problematic. While home-owner and neighbor Jim Donahue complained that the proposed “65-foot edifice will block our sunlight in perpetuity,” it was noted that the building is, ultimately, in compliance with local zoning laws. “It’s our fault,” observed Mayor Trotman, noting that improvements in zoning laws would help with similar discussions in the future. Board members Barbara Trelstad and Wanda Gunning both voted no in the final vote.

During its “Findings of Fact” portion of the meeting, Board Members voted to accept Tenacre Foundation’s “compliance of conditions,” as requested at the Board’s July 22 meeting. At that time the Board found Tenacre’s expansion plans insufficient in protecting neighboring residents from potentially dangerous patients who strayed from the Christian Science Ministry campus, as happened in January of 2003 when 24-year-old Jaleni Manigault left the compound and stabbed Great Road resident William Sword. Mr. Sword recovered from his wounds, and Mr. Manigault was killed by police officers responding to a 911 call.

Princeton University’s Master Plan will be the topic of the Planning Board’s next meeting on October 2. Board Chair Peter Madison noted that the University had revised its earlier plan for a “mirror campus” across Lake Carnegie, choosing instead to focus on a “more walkable campus on this side of the Lake.” He said that he expected the University to respond to questions about traffic and parking from the Planning Board’s traffic consultant at the meeting.

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