March 16, 2016

Residents Request Rezoning For Former Butler Tract

Residents of the neighborhood near the 33-acre Butler Tract want Princeton Council to reconsider rezoning the nearly demolished site from educational to residential. A group of homeowners spoke at the meeting of the governing body on Monday to express their concerns about the future of the property, which for several decades served as housing for Princeton University graduate students and their families.

Demolition of the barracks-like buildings on the tract has been underway since December. Because the property is currently zoned E-1, for educational purposes, it could conceivably be used for new school buildings. While the University has indicated that the site will most likely be used for housing, neighborhood residents want to make that official by having the zoning changed.

“Rezoning Butler would ratify the University’s own statements that residential is the best way to use the land,” said Sally Goldfarb, a Sycamore Road resident. “It also fits Princeton’s master plan, which recognizes a commitment to controlling development along the edges of the University campus to ensure a smooth transition between the University and the community.”

Built as temporary housing after World War II, the Butler Tract ended up serving nearly 70 years as a home for graduate students. The property is bordered by Hartley Avenue, Sycamore Road, Longview Drive, and South Harrison Street. Graduate students and their families are now housed at Lakeside, a new complex on Faculty Road.

A total of 304 bungalow houses stood on the property that was previously the University’s polo field. The small frame buildings first served as home to married returnees from World War II, but from the 1960s they became graduate student housing. Last summer, the University indicated the site would be used short-term for event parking. No definite plan for the future has been announced.

Ms. Goldfarb was one of several residents urging the Council to consider a rezoning. Anne Neumann, who is a candidate for Council, also expressed her support for the idea. Ms. Neumann called on the governing body to handle the issue in a transparent manner, in public.

Some members of the Council said they would support the rezoning. Jo Butler suggested that the town also consider rezoning the Springdale golf course, which the University owns. The process of rezoning the Butler Tract will have to involve the Planning Board at some point, said the town’s administrator Marc Dashield. Council members will return to the issue at a future meeting.

Also at the meeting, Councilwoman Heather Howard reported that she, Councilmen Lance Liverman, and Patrick Simon, who make up a working group on the subject of earned sick pay, met last week to begin the process of talking about the issue to members of the community. Several people spoke on the topic at the Council’s March 10 meeting. While most are in favor of an ordinance that would require employers to provide paid sick time, some local merchants expressed concerns that the ordinance serve the particular needs of the local community.

Members of the Princeton Merchants Association (PMA) said they support the type of ordinance currently in practice in New Brunswick, which provides for full and part-time workers in that city getting paid sick time unless they work less than 20 hours a week, among other specifications. Ms. Howard said the working group will meet with different stakeholders including the PMA, and report back to the Council at the next meeting.