Town Topics — Princeton's Weekly Community Newspaper Since 1946.
Vol. LXII, No. 26
Wednesday, June 25, 2008
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Regional Planning Board Discusses Flooding, Zoning, Preservation

Dilshanie Perera

The Regional Planning Board of Princeton met last Thursday to discuss pending issues, recognize former Borough Council member Wendy Benchley’s service to the Planning Board, and to assess the findings of a report by Dr. Richard Olsson regarding a geologic survey of the Random Road segment of Harry’s Brook.

Board member Marvin Reed expressed concern regarding a master plan committee meeting to discuss the University’s campus plan vis-à-vis traffic patterns. With half of the Planning Board taking vacation leave in July and the other half in August, Mr. Reed worried that there would not be enough participants to constitute a quorum and that a traffic consultant would not be found in time. He cited timeliness as paramount since the University would be engaging in construction projects over the summer. “My concern with whether we proceed now is that the University seems to proceed anyway whether we do or not,” he noted.

The board approved the minor subdivision of Princeton Soccer Fields, and the request for an extension on the period of protection by Chatham Capital Investors, L.P. before moving on to presentations.

The first was a recognition of Ms. Benchley’s service to the board from January 1999 to March 2008. Chairman Peter Madison praised Ms. Benchley for her “unwavering vision to provide a jitney to the Princeton community,” as well as her civic dedication, her expertise, and her commitment to sustainability. Mayor Mildred Trotman echoed Mr. Madison’s sentiments. Expressing equal gratitude, Ms. Benchley thanked the board and urged them to consider sustainability as a key issue for Princeton.

Richard Olsson gave a geologic report regarding the Random Road segment of Harry’s Brook to the board, which they had previously requested after he presented his findings to the Flood and Storm Water Management Committee in September 2006. He detailed the effects of erosion and deposition along the flood plain of Harry’s Brook, which is a wetlands area. Mr. Olsson also explained that the clay in the soil as well as the creation of natural levees accounts for the poor drainage.

Township Engineer Robert Kiser said that he “doesn’t anticipate the flooding to become worse.” He noted that the “impact of development is assessed by engineers, and future development takes into account the wetlands, so it’s not a big problem.”

After Mr. Olsson’s presentation, the floor was opened for topics of discussion. Planning Director Lee Solow summarized the Borough ordinance to create a mixed-use zone (MX Zone) on the 32 acres of land comprising the Stanworth, YMCA, YWCA, and Merwick properties. The issue was voted on in yesterday’s Borough Council meeting (after Town Topics press time). The new zoning would be a change from R1 and R4 to MX, meaning that the space would be both residential and non-residential. The non-residential institutions would include the non-profit organizations and nursing home which already exist on the property. Mr. Solow disclosed that the “ordinance was crafted to try to get the property owners to work together” and asked the Planning Board to endorse the ordinance and recommend it to Borough Council. Mr. Reed acknowledged that the ordinance is consistent with the master plan of the board. The motion to endorse the plan carried. Council members Wanda Gunning and Ms. Trotman abstained from the discussion.

Borough’s Zoning and Housing Coordinator and Development Enforcement Officer, Derek Bridger, presented the University’s annual shuttle report for 2007. He noted that in the previous year 722,000 rides had been documented. Mr. Bridger said that “the shuttle appears to be working well and it complies with ordinance requirements.”

He recommended the continued monitoring of the shuttle and parking supply on campus, and exploring alternative fuels for vehicles to increase energy efficiency. The university anticipates a 10 percent reduction in car usage. The board accepted the report.

The last item on the agenda for discussion was a request for the Planning Board’s endorsement of a $750,000 grant for the Mountain Lakes Dam restoration project, which the board approved.

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