To the Editor:
I welcomed the recent letter of Jon Drezner [“Princeton Need Not Waste Time, Money Rewriting Zoning to Stop Tear Downs,” Mailbox, May 11] as the latest installment in the dialogue often represented in these pages and elsewhere about the teardown and mega-mansion phenomenon affecting Princeton for the last decade. Mr. Drezner suggests (as other writers including myself had previously) that the incorporation of some sort of “upfront new construction fee paid at the time permits are pulled for added space” is at least part of the solution if our town is serious about both the promotion of energy efficiency and the provision of additional affordable housing.
At the same time, I have noticed an abundance of letters endorsing various candidates for Princeton Council. The fact that the candidates and their supporters acknowledge the issues emanating from the rampant teardowns in our town is cause for optimism; the prevalence of the teardowns is evidenced by the increasing presence of the ominous orange plastic fencing that signals the bulldozers’ imminent arrival. However, the current incumbents only moved recently to hire a consultant to look at the situation despite the fact that these issues have been well known for years. Vincent Xu wrote in a March study of the situation that the Princeton “municipal construction department has issued more than 220 building permits for new single-family units from 2007 – 2015, with a spike of more than 40 permits in 2015.” While some action was taken on zoning changes last December, the current administration did not accept or enact changes that would have altered “the maximum construction allowed on undersized lots.”
While I respect the sincere encomia offered for those seeking election or reelection in these and other pages, my own decision about whom to support will depend largely upon specific promises made to address this most significant challenge faced by our town. Specifically, I would like to know what each candidate would do to change the current system of variances that favors developers to the detriment of existing neighborhoods. Does a candidate believe that the current zoning system is appropriate or overly permissive? Will he or she commit to specific actions to change the system? Will a candidate promise to introduce at the very first meeting after their election a motion for upfront new construction fees that would go to a fund to construct additional affordable housing?
These are not the only questions that should concern us in Princeton, but they are important ones that demand specific answers and in the case of those officeholders who have thus far failed to act credible explanations.