Town Topics — Princeton's Weekly Community Newspaper Since 1946.
Vol. LXV, No. 16
Wednesday, April 20, 2011
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Joint Meeting to Hear Update on Arts and Transit

Ellen Gilbert

Although University Vice-President Bob Durkee expressed optimism early Tuesday morning about receiving the municipalities’ blessing for a revised Arts and Transit proposal at this Wednesday’s joint meeting of the two governing bodies, the delivery of a new draft of the agreement, including “provisions [added by the Borough] that we have never seen before,” appeared to throw a damper on his optimism.

Borough Council and Township Committee are scheduled to a hold a joint meeting at 7 p.m. in the Council Room in Princeton Borough Hall. The stated purpose of the meeting is “discussion of the Princeton University Arts and Transit proposal” and “Joint Municipal Budgets.” The Borough’s announcement of the meeting indicated that “formal action may be taken.”

“I don’t know what this means about where we are,” Mr. Durkee observed later in the morning after receiving the Borough’s latest iteration of the agreement. “One of the challenges of working with the Borough is that these things happen: they just unilaterally make changes in an agreement that I thought we had all come to an agreement on.”

The “we” he was referring to is a subcommittee created about two months ago, in the wake of the failure to endorse an earlier Arts and Transit proposal at a joint meeting of the governing bodies on January 31. In addition to University representatives, the team included Township Mayor Chad Goerner, Township Committee member Bernie Miller, Borough Council President Kevin Wilkes, and Borough Council member Roger C. Martindell.

Even before the release of the Borough’s new version of the agreement, however, Mr. Goerner did not anticipate any formal Arts and Transit action at the Wednesday evening meeting. “As far as Arts & Transit is concerned, we would plan on giving an update on the progress of the subcommittee,” he said. “The main area of focus will be the joint budgets (both operating and capital). Specifically, there will be a focus on library and fire departmental budget requests.”

Borough Council member Barbara Trelstad similarly reported that “it was my understanding that the Joint Negotiating Team from the Borough and Township will be updating Borough Council and Township Committee on where those talks stand, but that we will not be discussing Arts and Transit much more. The primary focus of the meeting will be joint budgets and I hope that we can all come to consensus on those and approve them.”

Township Committee member Lance Liverman reported that although he will be unable to attend the meeting, he endorsed Mr. Goerner’s points of view.

Mr. Durkee said that he was not at liberty to talk about the specific changes — most having to do with transportation issues — that had been agreed upon by the subcommittee, nor could he say what the Borough’s latest provisions were. “There were some unanswered questions about how some aspects of the transport part of the agreement would work,” he commented. The subcommittee’s revised proposal would try “to answer some of these questions,” as well as look at “longer term options” in an effort “to clear the way to move ahead with discussions about zoning and allow us to take the project to the Planning Board.”

“That’s what we were trying to do on January 31,” he added. “We certainly went into that meeting hoping that that’s what everybody thought would happen that night: that we would get a signal from the governing boards that they would move toward putting zoning in place.”

“We are going to develop this area,” he added. The “key question” is whether or not the Alexander Road site will be approved as an Arts and Transit neighborhood. If not, he said, the University will develop an arts hub elsewhere. “We wanted a signal by the end of April; obviously we’re getting very close.”

Public support for for “the University’s plan for an enhanced Arts Neighborhood and improved Transit District which involves moving the Dinky 460 feet” was reflected in a full-page ad in last week’s Town Topics, bearing the names of approximately 250 Borough and Township residents. “We urge the Borough Council and Township Committee to amend the existing zoning to permit this project to move forward in a timely manner,” the ad noted.

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