To the Editor:
The town council is considering an ordinance that has significant financial implications to property owners in the proposed Witherspoon Jackson Historic district as well as to all taxpayers in Princeton.
This neighborhood has been in disrepair for many years secondary to two decisions made by our local government. First they designated this district to be included in the R4 Zone, making EVERY home non-conforming. Property owners are forced to incur added costs to conform to these new standards that are totally opposite of the character of the existing properties. Secondly, town council approved the Clay Street projects that eviscerated the Witherspoon District, cutting it right down the middle and altering it so far beyond what any current “gentrified” property owner has done.
This ordinance will significantly reduce the value of homes in this district, especially for homes currently in disrepair (i.e. the majority). Between the cost of obtaining zoning approval — and now historic preservation approval — easily $15,000 to $20,000 will be spent without ANY guarantee that a building project will be approved. Bringing a home up to existing codes or even the simplest alterations will not be done because it inherently creates a conflict between the building department, zoning, and historic preservation. It is no wonder that when the Historic Preservation committee proposed the same ordinance restrictions in the western section, the property owners did the obvious: hired a lawyer and told the bureaucrats to get lost. They knew it would bring down the value of their property and impose many new oppressive regulations. I feel this proposed regulation will reduce the sale value of the unimproved properties involved by at least 1/3rd or more.
Taxpayers who live outside this district are equally affected. Using my recently purchased property in the district as an example, I added $450,000 in improvements that would not be allowed if this district becomes historic. Using the data from Wise Preservation Consultants, there will be 281 properties that will not be improved in this way, taking away from our tax rolls $126,450,000 ($450,000 X 281) in potential improvements permanently from the town’s tax base, year after year!
Lowering the value of homes, preventing improvements, and freezing the condition of blighted properties is not the way to make a neighborhood affordable. I bought my house in this neighborhood because I love the people IN it. It is a phenomenal neighborhood that will remain so if our local government starts making decisions that prevent long standing citizens from having to move out because they cannot afford their taxes. Our town council should start enforcing rental laws that prevent multiple families from living in a single family house, revise the R4 zone to allow property owners to make improvements without spending a fortune on approvals, and stabilize the taxes of senior citizens that live in this neighborhood. The Wise Preservation Consultants found ONLY three homes in the District that are classified as “anchor” properties. Make these three historic and that’s all. This proposed ordinance will increase house vacancies and slum lord properties, prevent improvements, and financially decimate property owners. Hey, but that’s the Democratic way!
Anthony J Vasselli, MD