Town Launches Website For Neighborhood Study
Two months after hiring a consultant to take a hard look at residential zoning in Princeton, the town has launched a website to keep citizens abreast of efforts to stem the speed of teardowns in local neighborhoods and the buildings that replace them. The site, princetonneighborhoods.org, also invites residents to provide comments on zoning issues.
The website is part of a community planning effort created in response to citizens’ concerns about residential development and the changing character of the town. All of the four candidates in this month’s Democratic primary election stressed these issues as priorities in their campaigns. Republican mayoral candidate Peter Marks has also focused on zoning and preserving neighborhood character.
Princeton Council voted April 25 to hire the RBA Group, which recently headed a similar project in Haddonfield, for the project. It comes at a time when efforts are being made to harmonize the zoning ordinances of the previous Borough and Township. “We see on the ground, in almost every neighborhood, the motivation for why we need to take a step back and review what the laws are on the books,” Mayor Liz Lempert said last month. “We need to know whether they are in line with the vision we have for our community.”
A subcommittee from the town’s Planning Board including Mayor Lempert, Jenny Crumiller, Wanda Gunning, Tim Quinn, and Gail Ullman is leading the initiative with a goal of creating strategies, policies, guidelines, and regulations to shape future development so that it better complements the character of Princeton’s neighborhoods and streets. The fact that each of the town’s neighborhoods has its own character adds to the challenge for those involved. Residents are encouraged to participate by adding their comments on the website.
The site includes a list of Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ) that links to research on studies carried out in other communities. Questions range from how long the study will take to whether a moratorium on residential development will be considered in New Jersey.
The website indicates that one of the first and most important steps in the project is to collect data in order to understand the geography and scale of residential expansions, demolitions, and development in Princeton. Short-term changes expected to be adopted within the next four months could include “quick fix” revisions to site plan review and zoning standards “that will lead to improved outcomes from the demolition of older houses and the siting, design, and construction of new houses and yards,” the website reads.
Mid-term changes are identified as possible master plan amendments or additional zoning adjustments that set the stage for more significant changes that could be adopted in the long-term, and could be implemented in six to eight months. Long-term, substantive changes, which could go into practice within a year, might include substantive changes to the structure of residential zoning.
The RBA Group, formerly Brown & Keener Urban Design, was previously involved in developing the concept for Princeton’s Hinds Plaza and Spring Street Garage. Architects, planners, and landscape architects from the firm will participate in the project, partnering with Urban Partners. Both firms are based in Philadelphia.
To provide comments, write to the email address firstname.lastname@example.org or mail comments in a sealed envelope to Neighborhood Character and Zoning Initiative, care of Princeton Planning Department, 400 Witherspoon Street, Princeton, New Jersey 08540.