November 18, 2020

Council Considers Creation of Electric Vehicle Charging Station Ordinance

By Anne Levin

At its meeting on Monday evening, Princeton Council heard a report on the creation of an ordinance to allow the installation of electric vehicle charging stations throughout the municipality. The governing body also approved two ordinances and voted to introduce several others, most of which have to do with the continued effort to harmonize codes of the former Borough and Township that existed prior to consolidation seven years ago. Police Chief Chris Morgan delivered a brief report on activities
during September.

A report on electric vehicle charging stations by Anne Soos, a member of the Princeton Environmental Commission (PEC), drew mostly enthusiastic responses from Council members, with a few reservations and suggestions for changes before the charging station concept is brought back to Council for a public hearing, probably early next year.

Because transportation is responsible for almost one third of greenhouse gas emissions, the state of New Jersey has set some ambitious five-year goals regarding electric vehicles and charging stations, Soos said. The PEC has been researching the best way to meet those goals, supporting them in conjunction with Princeton’s climate action plan and master plan. Following the lead of ordinances that have been created in other municipalities, including North Brunswick, the PEC made some recommendations including requiring large retail establishments, office developments more than 2,000 square feet, restaurants, theaters, hotels with more than 50 rooms, and new multi-family buildings to have a certain percentage of available charging stations.

There was some pushback from Council members about an idea to allow charging stations in front yards. The idea of offering incentives to businesses to install charging stations was considered. Mayor Liz Lempert, who will no longer be in office when the ordinance is put together, suggested that members of the PEC consult with Derek Bridger, the town’s zoning officer, to make sure it follows municipal guidelines.

Also at the meeting, Council approved an ordinance to create an affordable housing zone at 375 Terhune Road, for a development of 30 homes, 20 percent of which are affordable. Planning Officer Michael LaPlace reported that the Planning Board reviewed the ordinance and determined it is consistent with the goals of the town’s master plan.

The first of the eight ordinances to be introduced establishes provisions for bicycle parking. The second is focused on lowering the speed limit to 25 miles per hour on a section of Terhune Road, where an increase in bike and pedestrian traffic is expected once the new housing development is in place. Ordinances that had to do with harmonization of the codes were related to salaries and compensations; fees for various licenses; parades and special events; banners and advertising in the public right of way; and other issues. Public hearings for all of them are scheduled for the December 7 Council meeting.

In his police report, Morgan said the pandemic remains a major concern within the department. “Our number one concern is to keep the police department healthy,” he said, adding that four officers are currently quarantined. Protective equipment and self-assessment logs are in place, and the department meets twice weekly with Health Officer Jeff Grosser.

The department has continued to see a rise in applications for firearms. “All municipalities are experiencing the same thing,” Morgan said. “We tend to see a rise during an election year.” Last year, there were 60 such requests; by the end of this year more than 300 will likely have been made. Morgan also reported that recruiting for new officers has begun, with close to 140 applications already logged. The department is hoping to get applications from local people who might be interested. Interviewing should start in the next few months.

Now in its seventh year, the department’s annual coat drive has resulted in almost 1,000 donations to be distributed to local families in need. “This will be the most successful drive we’ve ever had,” Morgan said. “But we still want people to bring coats, hats, and gloves in good condition.”