To the Editor:
The Mayors and Governing Bodies of the Borough and Township of Princeton are opposed to legislation which would exempt private colleges and universities from municipal zoning.
S-1534 was approved by the State Senate at the end of June. And now, the Assembly companion, A-2586, is projected to be put forth by the Higher Education Committee for a vote by the full Assembly this fall. This legislation passed in the Senate despite the efforts of the League of Municipalities, most of the mayors and elected officials of the impacted municipalities, and the American Planning Association, all of whom strongly oppose the legislation.
If this legislation were to become law, all private colleges and universities would be exempt from municipal zoning. Proponents of the legislation argue that colleges and universities serve a unique public interest and should not be subject to the additional expense of meeting the requirements of the local zoning and planning boards.
On the contrary, there is no justifiable reason why these institutions should be treated differently than other non-profits, such as hospitals, care centers, and prep schools. There is no justifiable reason to exempt private colleges and universities from the same requirements for businesses and our own residents.
A bigger concern with this legislation is that the public, in particular, the residents impacted by the expansion of private colleges and universities, will not have the opportunity to comment on or object to the increased demand for parking, traffic, police protection, fire protection, and the like. As a result of such expansion, the demand on municipal services would increase, perhaps dramatically with little or no input from taxpayers, all of whom will bear the expense of such demands.
Furthermore, the new legislation extends to any property which the private college or university owns or acquires, even if that property is not on its main campus. That situation has an enormous adverse impact on our downtown residential neighborhoods and central business districts. That situation, without proper planning and consideration of infrastructure impacts, allows for the degradation of the fabric of our diverse community and a reduction of the tax base of the municipality, as these institutions are exempt from property taxation.
This misguided legislation is very troublesome. We encourage citizens to contact (via the N.J. Legislature switchboard, 609-847-3905) Jack Ciattarelli and Donna Simon, our State Assembly representatives from the 16th District, as well as our former District 15 representatives, Reed Gusciora and Bonnie Watson-Coleman, to ask them to oppose A-2586. If you haven’t already done so, sign the petition that generates a letter to the governor and Assemblywoman Riley, chair of the Higher Education Committee, by visiting the www.princetonboro.org mayor’s page.
Yina Moore, Mayor
Chad Goerner, Mayor