July 15, 2020

Council Approves Affordable Housing Plan

By Anne Levin

Princeton Council voted Monday in favor of the town’s Third Round Housing Plan and Fair Share Plan. The governing body also approved zoning ordinances allowing for the construction of additional affordable housing, including rezoning of portions of Nassau Street, Route 206, a parcel at Terhune Road and Harrison Street, and Princeton Community Village.

Council also approved the introduction of a zoning ordinance for additional housing at Franklin Avenue and Witherspoon Street, voted in favor of a bond ordinance for police body cameras, and funding for road projects with grant monies attached.

The approval of the housing plan is significant because it is the first that combines elements of plans from the former Borough and Township. Princeton entered into a settlement agreement with Fair Share Housing Center late last year to establish the town’s third round affordable housing obligations. The preliminary compliance efforts were approved by Mercer County Superior Court Judge Mary Jacobson in February. The final hearing before the judge is August 12.

Mayor Liz Lempert called the plan an important milestone. “In our country, unfortunately, your zip code determines your destiny,” she said. “Princeton’s is the kind where if you live here, it can really change your life. We talk about affordable housing in really sterile terms. But every unit is someone’s future home, and in that home is a family, and that family’s life can be transformed. For sure, our community is not perfect, and we have a lot of work to do. And all of us here at the meeting know that. But it is also true that living in a place like Princeton opens up opportunities that are life-changing.”

Lempert said there were three goals in putting together the plan: that it was rooted in smart growth, near schools, jobs, transportation and businesses; that it allowed for growth as a community in a sustainable way; and that the affordable housing was spread throughout the town.

Princeton’s Planning Board reviewed six ordinances at its meeting on July 9. Four of the six were voted on by Council. The two remaining ordinances, which are related to properties at Princeton Shopping Center and were the subject of some objections from some community
members, will be considered and given public hearings at the next Council meeting on July 27.

One of the four ordinances is for three overlay districts located along Nassau Street and a small portion along Wiggins and Tulane streets. One is 100 percent residential, located on the property of The Jewish Center. The other two are sites for possible mixed-use alternatives, with non-residential use on the first floor and residential use above. Those two require the retention of certain buildings that have historic character.

The ordinance that refers to the district along Route 206 as it approaches Cherry Valley Road seeks to transform the corridor from single-use, small scale development into something denser, with a mixed-use framework. Buildings would have commercial use on the ground floor, with residences on the upper floor, 20 percent of which would be set aside for affordable housing.

The ordinance approved for the corner of Terhune Road and Harrison Street seeks to allow for multi-family dwellings with 20 percent set aside for affordable housing. The ordinance pertaining to the existing Princeton Community Village development would require new zoning, and allow for the creation of 25 additional units, making it one campus.

The bonding approved for various infrastructure projects include improvements to Hilltop Park and Witherspoon Street, drainage work at the town’s landfill, and improvements on Rosedale Road. Public hearings for these projects will be held July 27.