January 13, 2016

Land Issues Are Paramount At Recent Council Meeting

Princeton Council voted at its Monday, January 11 meeting to introduce a bond ordinance that would allow the acquisition of a 20.4-acre parcel of vacant land between Mt. Lucas Road and Route 206. The purchase, which Mayor Liz Lempert called “a very important environmental piece,” would be financed by a $4.4 million deal that would be mostly paid for by Mercer County, the Friends of Princeton Open Space, and the Williams/Transco company.

The parcel, which is owned by Princeton Land Development, would add to the size of the Princeton Ridge Preserve. Mercer County would provide a $2.2 million grant for the purchase. Friends of Princeton Open Space would give $100,000, Williams/Transco would pay $153,000, and New Jersey’s Green Acres grant program would cover the rest. “We’re hoping to purchase it with little or no municipal funding,” the town’s administrator Marc Dashield said.

The developer had proposed building townhouses at the site, but the bond would allow the property to be preserved. “I can’t stress enough what a great acquisition this is on behalf of the town and our future for the environment,” Ms. Lempert said earlier in the day. A public hearing on the ordinance is planned for the January 25 meeting of Council.

Property on the Ridge

A work session at the Council meeting was focused on a second parcel that is one of the last pieces of undeveloped land in Princeton. Called the Lanwin Development, the 90-acre tract near Herrontown and Mt. Lucas roads is owned by Bryce Thompson.

Originally requesting a 20-lot subdivision for the mostly wooded site, the developer is now seeking a rezoning that would allow for a cluster of 30 homes. As part of the deal, there would be nearly 50.7 acres of open space and three acres dedicated to affordable housing.

Some neighbors of the site voiced concerns about the request, citing runoff problems, steep topography, and the location of the proposed buffer zone. One resident said he would love to see a mixed use or recreation park at the site, and recommended that the current zoning be maintained.

Wendy Mager, president of the Friends of Princeton Open Space, said the organization supports the concept of a cluster. “It would avoid the entire tract being disturbed during development,” she said, adding that preserving the entire site is unrealistic. Jim Waltman, executive director of the Stony Brook-Millstone Watershed Association, also supported the cluster concept, advocating for an even tighter group of smaller lots.

Councilwoman Jenny Crumiller said the rezoning was a good idea, but cautioned that the municipality make sure the three-acre affordable housing site is buildable. Councilman Bernie Miller voiced concerns about the proposed buffer zone. Council agreed to send the idea to the Planning Board for further investigation.

Campaign Contributions

On Tuesday, Mayor Lempert said she will limit contributions to her 2016 re-election campaign. Individual donations will be capped at $300, and $600 per couple, which is less than the state’s limit of $2,600 per individual and $5,200 per couple. She also said she will be rolling over less than $3,000 from her 2012 campaign account.

Because the state regulates campaign donations for all elections save for those at a national level, municipal governments cannot further restrict contribution limits for local candidates. Putting a voluntary cap on donations “is the next best thing,” Ms. Lempert said in a press release. “I want to run a campaign that reflects true democratic principles — with a small ‘d.’ I would prefer to receive smaller donations from many people of all walks of life rather than large donations from just a handful.”