February 13, 2013

Chamber’s Revamping of Kiosk Design Receives Mixed Reception From Council

A proposal to revamp the information kiosks located on Nassau Street at Witherspoon and Vandeventer streets got a lukewarm reaction from members of Princeton Council on Monday night. But the Council agreed to hold off voting on the plan, which was presented by Princeton Regional Chamber of Commerce President Peter Crowley, until after the Traffic and Transit committee takes a look at it.

“I feel like this is appropriate for a mall,” said Council member Jenny Crumiller, citing the portions of the kiosks that would display advertisements from local businesses. “Advertising is an assault. I’d rather not see it. Let’s not have it on our street corner. You have definitely improved the design, but advertising is what I object to.”

The Chamber has spent nearly a year developing a plan to upgrade the kiosks, which have been a fixture in town since the 1980’s. Used by the public to post notices of apartment rentals, meetings, cultural events, and other information, they are cluttered by multiple postings often layered on top of each other. “The kiosks have so much information on them that nobody gets the information,” Mr. Crowley said.

In addition to advertising, the proposed improvements include free tourism information, maps, and at least two cork panels for the public postings at the kiosk outside the Garden Theatre at Vandeventer Street. The other kiosk at Witherspoon Street would display the maps and municipal information along with advertisements, but not the public postings.

Each of the kiosks would cost about $20,000 to refurbish. The Chamber would maintain the kiosks, leasing them from the town. They would be designed with low-energy LED lighting. As much of the existing structures as possible would be maintained. Information posted on the kiosks would be limited to a certain size, for a specified length of time.

Mr. Crowley said he didn’t know yet how much businesses would be charged to advertise in the kiosks, but said that those prices would be tiered among Princeton businesses and Chamber members. Council member Jo Butler asked if Route 1 businesses would be included, and Mr. Crowley said that local organizations are preferred. Council member Lance Liverman questioned whether non-profits would be allowed to advertise. Noting that the Chamber has more than 100 non-profits as members, Mr. Crowley said their notices would be posted on a rotating basis, in a locked glass case.

Some Council members said that limiting the number of public notices could impinge upon the kiosk tradition of free speech. Mr. Crowley said the new design, while allowing less room than is currently available for such postings, is not intended to discourage putting up public information. When Ms. Butler expressed concern that the advertisements on the kiosks not face Nassau Street, where they could cause a distraction for drivers, Mr. Crowley replied that the ads would not face the road.

In a press release from the Chamber, Traffic and Transportation committee chair Anton Lahnston expressed support for the initiative. “The kiosks are a mess, they contribute to sign pollution in general. Anything you can do to help with that would be great.”

Princeton resident Chip Crider commented that the proposal has advantages and disadvantages. “It’s important that we don’t make our town too sterile,” he said, referring to the loss of some of the public posting space.

In other actions, the Council voted to approve an ordinance introduced last month to charge $107.60 an hour to pay police officers for extra duty at school events, parties, and other functions. They also voted to introduce an ordinance establishing fees for dog licenses at $12 for neutered pets, and $15 for un-neutered. A public hearing for that will be held at the February 25 meeting of Council.