Town Topics — Princeton's Weekly Community Newspaper Since 1946.
Vol. LXV, No. 31
Wednesday, August 3, 2011
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Planning Board Reviews Ordinances But No Vote is Taken at the Meeting

Anne Levin

At a special meeting last Thursday night, the Regional Planning Board continued an ongoing discussion about the arts and transit zoning proposed by Princeton University. No vote was taken at the three-and-a-half-hour session.

A question from a resident during the public comment portion of last Tuesday’s Borough Council meeting prompted Barbara Trelstad, who is a member of the both the Borough Council and the Planning Board, to say that she felt the Board was not prepared to vote on the rezoning. Ms. Trelstad said more information was needed to clarify the vision for Princeton’s future. Other Board members echoed her opinion.

Ms. Trelstad asked why the ordinances on the table, which were from both the Borough and Township, were not compared to Princeton’s master plan. She urged fellow Board members to “take a deep breath and come together as town and gown” as they proceeded.

Borough Mayor Mildred Trotman expressed concern about encroaching development, and the state department of transportation’s plan to eventually limit left hand turns from Route 1 into Princeton to Alexander and Scudders Mill roads. “I think it will have irreplaceable impact on the Princeton community,” she said, adding, “Now is the time for us to really decide a vision for Princeton.”

Not everyone was happy at the drawing out of the issues. Board member Peter Madison expressed frustration at suggestions that the master plan needs additional attention. “We have a master plan review every five years. To say that we suddenly have all of these things happening in Princeton and have to look at the master plan again, I find that totally inappropriate,” he said. “Come on, let’s make up our mind.”

The Board went over technical points of the draft ordinances, focusing on traffic, location of parking garages, building heights, and setbacks. They also considered whether to include land not owned by the University in the proposed new zone.

Princeton University Vice President Robert Durkee spoke near the close of the meeting, saying he was very concerned at the suggestion that arts and transit were not contained in the master plan. He also reiterated that once the former Merwick, Stanworth, and Hibben McGee sites are renovated to provide housing for faculty and staff, the amount of housing units will be the same are the University has now. Consequently, he said, additional traffic is not expected.

The meeting was the second the Planning Board has held to review the proposed ordinances. By 11 p.m., Board members requested an extension from the Township because there is more to discuss. The Board originally had 35 days upon receipt of the ordinances to provide comment to Township and Borough officials. While the Borough has extended that deadline, the Township has not.

Board member Yina Moore commented that the public has not been given enough of a voice in the issue. “The community has not been heard, has been disregarded,” she said. “We have a lot of work ahead of us.”

The next Planning Board meeting on arts and transit will be held in September, at a date to be set.

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