Race Relations, Affordable Housing, Flooding Targeted By Township in 2005
Immigration, race relations, affordable housing, and flooding all took center stage Friday morning at Township Hall as municipal department heads and Township Committee convened to target what would serve as its top priorities for 2005.
Several members of Committee suggested that instead of creating a list of problems, each department should also offer solutions or paths to solutions in the course of identifying various issues.
"Rather than create plans, I'd suggest that we implement plans," Committeeman Bill Hearon said. At the top of the list was race relations. With race- and gang-related violence becoming dramatically evident throughout the community, several department heads said their primary objectives would be to ease an increasingly hostile situation.
Township Police Chief Anthony Gaylord said his department has been in contact with members of the Princeton Regional Board of Education, the Borough, the Mercer County Prosecutor's Office, and state representatives to address the violent outbreaks in recent months. Additionally, he has been sending officers from the Township force to monitor schools during the morning and afternoon. Officers from the department are reaching out to inform teachers and other people in the school system as to what to be aware of when it identifying gang or other threatening forms of behavior, Chief Gaylord said, adding that his officers were working with county-sponsored programming created to address in-school violence.
Leslie Burger, director of the Princeton Public Library, after noting that the library is one of many places where teenagers congregate, said that the library would do its part in addressing problems with violence in the community. Saying certain library programming "complemented" initiatives taken by the schools, Human Services Commission, and the Township police, she pointed to the immigration forum that took place at the library this past Monday night. "The idea is to provide for members of the community to come to the library and learn about the situations of the last few months."
Ms. Burger also noted the library's receipt of a $50,000 grant from the state to hold community forums like Monday's event, adding that the major issues addressed in those meetings should reflect the issues put forth by the community and the various Township agencies.
Committeeman Lance Liverman, who was vice-chair of the Human Services Commission before his election to the governing body, said he would like to see a mechanism mobilized to address the "fringe element" of teens who become involved in crime. Mr. Liverman said he had met with four Princeton youths who identify with area gangs and said they would like to talk to the police on a number of issues.
"Instead of beating around the bush, and including 3,000 people, let's get to the core and see what we can do."
Chief Gaylord said the police department and the schools have a list of identified individuals "causing the trouble," and expressed interest in reaching out to parents and trying to get those individuals turned "in the right direction."
The meeting also addressed the affordable housing obstacle faced by every municipality in the state. The state's Council on Affordable Housing mobilized its third round of affordable housing requirements, putting more of a burden on towns to create housing as development occurs. Under the new COAH provisions, at least one of every eight market units built has to be affordable, and "growth share," where a certain amount of affordable housing units have to be provided per square-footage of non-residential development.
"We've been working on a projection where we know what is coming in the pipeline," said Lee Solow, planning director for the Princeton Regional Planning Board, a joint-municipal agency. He said his office will provide an estimate of what potential development could look like over the next 10 years, and how the municipalities will handle expansions built by not-for-profit organizations, and educational facilities, including Princeton University. Mr. Solow said that the burden of affordable housing throughout the community could be eased by several projects "in the works," such as the planned expansion of Elm Court on Elm Road that will provide 58 affordable senior units.
But Mr. Solow said that until his office gets a handle on what the communities' obligation numbers are, it's "hard to say what we think we'll need to do," adding that a significant "unknown" is how much Princeton University will build.
The flood issue that has created soggy yards, flooded basements, and, in some cases, serious damage to Township residents' homes was also high up on the Township's list of goals. Following the introduction of the Township's flood mitigation plan last week, Mr. Solow said his office would examine how to address the issues, possibly by creating an impervious surface restriction for new development and looking at drainage basins. He was guarded in his presentation, however, saying he wanted to see "some science" behind the problem before asking residents to address stormwater runoff caused by property design. "That's a big expense to the homeowner," he said.
Bill Enslin, Township Committee's liaison to the Princeton Flood Control Committee, was a bit more direct. An advocate of changing development patterns in the Township, Mr. Enslin said the developer should also share some responsibility in curbing flooding.