April 30, 2014

Rules for Overnight Parking Among Topics at Council Meeting

A clarification of overnight parking regulations and approval of a Memorandum of Understanding with the Princeton First Aid and Rescue Squad (PFARS) were among the items of note during Princeton Council’s lengthy meeting Monday night. Also on the packed agenda were a budget discussion, and a unanimous vote approving the agreement between the town and Princeton University regarding the schools’ voluntary contribution in lieu of taxes (see accompanying story).

Contrary to information released last week, Princeton Police Lieutenant Robert Currier told Council members that residents of Princeton who have occasional overnight guests can have them park on streets if they call police ahead of time. Mr. Currier outlined the plan  after Councilwoman Heather Howard asked him to explain whether the policy was new or already existing.

There was some confusion among residents after police announced last week that prohibitions of overnight parking would be enforced until the previous ordinances for the former Borough and Township are harmonized. Some complained that those who lived in homes that either have small driveways or no driveways at all would have no place for guests to park.

“We actually do not have a new policy,” said Mr. Currier, who called the plan a work in progress. “We are kind of going off the old Borough policy for Borough streets. We recently noticed that permissions for overnight parking were becoming more and more numerous, with some nights over 40 requests. It was a lot for communications officers to keep up with. It diminishes the number of permit holders that actually do go out and get a permit.”

Chief Nicholas Sutter decided that the policy “could get tightened up a bit,” Mr. Currier continued. “He put out the word that a change was coming, and to put out a notice about a grace period so residents could prepare. Because there might be some different things that happen.”

Ms. Howard said the policy is not a drastic change, and that the town will monitor the situation.

Council’s vote to approve PFARS’ plan for a new headquarters, replacing their cramped facility on Harrison Street, gives the organization the green light to begin fundraising. The new building would be at the site of Princeton’s old public works facility at the intersection of Valley Road, Witherspoon Street and Route 206.

The agreement with Council is a land swap, in which PFARS has a long-term land lease on the former public works site, which the town would continue to own. In turn, the municipality would take PFARS’ current property on Harrision Street, which also includes two houses on Clearview Avenue. That parcel has been estimated to be worth about $1.5 million.

The agreement calls for the town to clean up the land on which the new headquarters would be built, at a cost of approximately $250,000. The municipality will act as the financing entity for PFARS. Resident Scott Sillars, who chairs the Citizens Finance Advisory Committee, told Council that while he supports the idea of getting PFARS a better facility, he has concerns about the financing. “I want to make sure none of this is happening until PFARS is getting their full funding,” he said. “I wouldn’t tear the building down till then.”

Resident Kip Cherry also raised concerns about the funding. “We’ve been through this before with the Arts Council and the pool,” she said. “We’re a wealthy community but it’s not that easy to raise money.”

Mark Freda, PFARS president, said the squad has funds on hand for an architect and other “soft costs,” and plans to hire a professional fundraiser for the project, which is estimated at about $6 million. PFARS had a fundraising feasibility study done before going forward with plans.

Council tabled adoption of the proposed 2014 Municipal Operating Budget until May 12, when a public hearing will be held. The budget, which includes amendment of some revenues that were previously not accounted for, is $59.2 million.