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Borough Council Votes On Housing Settlement, Candidates for Council

Candace Braun

A landmark in Borough history occurred Tuesday night, as the Borough Council held a public hearing and vote on the Palmer Square Housing Settlement. The Council meeting took place after press time.

Mayor Joseph O'Neill said he anticipated the discussion of the housing settlement to last between 30-45 minutes. However, given the 13 years the housing project has been debated, it is quite possible a much lengthier debate ensued.

The 97 to 100 housing units in question could provide $60 million in new rateables for the Borough. If the Council votes to approve the housing, the units will be built within the next five years, with 10 units of affordable housing as part of the agreement.

A discussion between developer Oded Aboodi, Mayor O'Neill, and former Mayor Marvin Reed took place during Mr. Reed's last six weeks in office, the goal being to reach an agreement between the Borough and the developer.

While Palmer Square Management will only provide 10 affordable housing units rather than the 20 units requested by the Borough, Mr. Reed said he was satisfied with the settlement because it would mean that the housing units would finally be built.

Sheldon Sturges, co-chair of the community-based organization, Princeton Future, is one disgruntled resident who voiced an intent to speak on the issue at the meeting.

Princeton Future has voiced several concerns in the past with the housing units, one of which is the placement of the affordable housing. The current agreement allows Palmer Square to "scatter" the affordable housing units downtown, rather than make them part of the new construction.

Other concerns of Princeton Future include a possible "barrier effect" that could take place between the new housing area along Paul Robeson Place and the John-Witherspoon neighborhood.

"This is a very important site, and if it were to become a 'millionaire site,' I don't think that's what the Borough residents would wish," said Mr. Sturges.

A change in traffic patterns along Paul Robeson Place has been another concern of the group.

Mr. Sturges said he would have liked a fuller community discussion on the housing settlement, however he is afraid it may be too late at this point to change the minds of Council members.

"The train may have already left the station," he said.

Councilman Roger Martindell, a self-employed lawyer in Princeton and a Council member for 14 years, has shown concern for how the settlement document has been laid out. Mr. Martindell presented a list of 58 questions about the settlement to the Borough attorney, Michael Herbert, Esq., whose answers have been made available to the public.

However, Mayor O'Neill voiced concern that Mr. Martindell would bring up some of these same issues at the public hearing on Tuesday.

"Councilman Martindell has a whole set of issues he wants to raise," he said. The mayor said he has asked Mr. Martindell to limit his questions and hopes that the answers he was given in the past would be satisfactory.

New Council Member

Along with voting on the Palmer Square Housing Settlement, the Council also voted on which candidate would fill Mr. O'Neill's seat on Council at last night's meeting.

Council decided among Jenny Crumiller of Library Place, Mark Freda of Fisher Avenue, and Andrew Koontz of Spruce Street. The candidates were chosen by the Princeton Democratic Committee on Wednesday, January 7, out of a pool of four interested residents.

The fourth candidate, Anne Waldron Neumann of Alexander Road, was unavailable for comment.

Before the meeting, the Council was split between choosing two of the candidates, said Mayor O'Neill. He said he was unable to comment any further as to how the Council would vote.

Mayor O'Neill, who was sworn in at the Council's reorganization meeting on January 4, would only vote on a candidate if there was a tie.

All three candidates have been active in the community, with Mr. Freda serving on Borough Council from 1986 to 1999. Mr. Koontz has also been involved in local government, and currently serves as the chairman of the Princeton Democratic Committee.

Ms. Crumiller has worked on various political campaigns in Princeton, including a community group that helped stop University Medical Center at Princeton from expanding their parking garage into residential areas in the Township.

The new Council member will be sworn in on Tuesday, January 27, at the Council meeting.

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