Trotman to Announce University Fiscal Deal; Council Presidency Open

Matthew Hersh

Signaling what appears to be a reconciliation of sorts between Princeton Borough and Princeton University, Borough Mayor Mildred Trotman is expected to outline a financial agreement resulting in an increase in voluntary University contributions at tonight's Princeton Borough reorganization meeting.

In other news, it appears as though two-term Democrat Peggy Karcher has enough support to clinch a spot as Borough Council President, a seat vacated by Ms. Trotman when she became mayor.

The University agreement, whose numerical details will be elaborated in Ms. Trotman's first state-of-the-town address as mayor this evening, is expected to nullify the current financial agreement between the town and school, which would have expired December 31, 2006.

Prior to the new arrangement, the University would have donated $809,000 to the Borough this year: $400,000 as voluntary; $159,000 as payment in lieu of taxes for McCarter and Berlind theaters, and an additional voluntary sum of $250,000 for capital expenses.

"I'm going to be prepared to outline what I think will be an improvement for the Borough," said Ms. Trotman Tuesday, stopping short of revealing the specifics of the new arrangement.

The agreement, which will be addressed tonight at Borough Hall at 6:30 p.m., falls on the heels of recent concern expressed by various members of Borough Council and the community about the in lieu payments offered by the University. The debate, recently stoked by the University's desire to increase development capacity in the Borough zone that houses the school's Engineering Quadrangle between Olden Street and Murray Place, has caused some Council members to encourage a reevaluation of the University's annual gift.

The last time the agreement between the town and University was tweaked was in 2004, when the late Mayor Joseph O'Neill brokered an arrangement to increase the contribution by $250,000 to offset various capital costs.

But with the University's recent request to increase on-campus expansion rights, some members of Council saw an opportunity to adjust the annual amount. This new arrangement appears to have been decided after Council's December 13 approval of the University's request to have 100,000 more square feet of developable space on the E-Quad.

Councilman Roger Martindell was a primary proponent of establishing a formal "Town/Gown Commission" to deal with issues expressly concerning the University and the Borough. There had been a so- called TAG (Town and Gown) team in place, but that alliance ostensibly dissolved when Mr. O'Neill became the primary negotiator between the two entities.

In addition, University representatives are expected to appear before Borough Council sometime this coming year to outline the school's master plan, as indicated by several members of Council.

Other issues Ms. Trotman said she plans to address this evening are future zoning on the current hospital site and affordable housing,

Council Presidency

Ms. Karcher, who was first elected to Borough Council in 2000, seems to have the votes to become Council President, succeeding now-Mayor Trotman.

"She's got the time, the interest and the capabilities to be Council President," said Councilwoman Wendy Benchley. "She'll be superb."

Councilman David Goldfarb, a Democrat entering his sixth term on the governing body, had once been thought as a possible candidate for the post, but cited occupational time constraints as to why he would not go after the opening. "It's not something that I'd pursue," he said Tuesday.

Out of the four members of Council surveyed Tuesday, only Ms. Karcher expressed a significant desire for the Council Presidency. The fifth member, Andrew Koontz, was not available for comment.

The Council President fills in for the mayor in the mayor's absence, and has, in the past, partnered with the mayor in negotiations with outside entities.

Within the next month, Council is also expected to fill a vacancy for a special one-year term. That seat, previously held by Barbara Trelstad, was initially vacated by Ms. Trotman when she became mayor following Mr. O'Neill's death. However, Ms. Trelstad's term only carried out the remainder of Ms. Trotman's term, which expired December 31.

The Princeton Community Democratic Organization will submit a list of candidates to Borough Council from which to choose. That list will likely include Ms. Trelstad's name.

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