Council Votes for Ordinance With New Zoning Standards
By Anne Levin
On Monday night, Princeton Council voted unanimously, with modifications, in favor of an ordinance establishing new neighborhood residential zoning standards. The final ordinance requires review by the Zoning Board of Adjustment for houses being torn down on non-conforming lots. Tear-downs on conforming lots that meet all other bulk requirements for the zone in which they are located are not required to obtain variance relief.
The vote came after significant public comment and discussion among Council members, who worked to reword the section of the ordinance that was in question. Originally introduced by Council last month, the measure went to the Planning Board for review before coming back for a final vote.
The ordinance was a response, in part, to community concerns about the impact of development on existing neighborhoods, and the teardowns of homes that are then replaced by houses considered to be oversized and out of scale. Consultants have spent the past two years working on the issue. Council members said they had received numerous letters from residents about the issue. Mayor Liz Lempert said she had received more emails on this issue than any other, including consolidation.
“There was a fear that we’re letting anyone knock down a dwelling without coming through zoning,” said Councilman Lance Liverman. “So the neighbors would have no say-so.”
Ed Truscelli, head of Princeton Community Housing, updated Council on the state of reconstruction at the Griggs Farm complex, where a fire last December killed one resident and caused heavy damage one of the buildings. A total of 24 people were displaced by the fire.
“There has been a great outpouring of support from the community, and we have been able to temporarily house residents who want to return,” Truscelli said, noting that the Griggs Farm Condominium Association was leading the restoration effort. “The process is moving along pretty well.”
Truscelli said work is expected to be completed by April. “Much of the major systems have been replaced at this point,” he said, adding that the roof, windows, and siding are replaced. Interior work is planned for the next few months. Truscelli said 19 of the 24 will be returning to the newly reconstructed building.
Municipal Administrator Marc Dashield updated Council on the state of new parking equipment that has been installed throughout the town. New meters and pay stations were launched November 5. Reporting some 46,208 coin transactions, 20,739 credit card transactions, and over 2,000 by app, he said the consultant who has worked on developing the new system “has indicated that’s a very high response.”
Dashield said several problems have been raised by residents, and some of them have been resolved. American Express and Discover cards are now accepted at meters, and pre-payment beginning at 7 a.m. is now possible at all meters except those that only allow 30 minutes. An update to the Park Princeton app is to be released next week.
Council will hold a series of goal-setting meetings, open to the public, starting on Tuesday, November 27 at 8 a.m. in the Community Room at Witherspoon Hall. The first meeting is on affordability and budget savings. Next, on December 4 at 7 p.m., the focus will be on sustainability and wellness as well as inclusion and social justice.
On December 11, the issue will be user-friendly government. “I would welcome anyone who feels there are issues that Council should be working on for 2019,” said Lempert. “This is the time to send us emails.” Lempert also mentioned that there are several openings on municipal boards, committees, and commissions. “We are always looking for candidates to represent the town,” she said.