December 7, 2016

Council Approves Amendment Request For Waxwood Condominium Agreement

Princeton Council voted on Monday, December 5 to approve an extension to March 31 of a developer’s agreement requested by architect J. Robert Hillier (a Town Topics shareholder).

Mr. Hillier had asked the governing body at its November 28 meeting to modify an amendment to the original agreement for the Waxwood, a former school for black children in the Witherspoon-Jackson neighborhood that he converted to 34 rental units over a decade ago. The agreement dictated that eight of the 34 rental units would be sold after a period of five years. Mr. Hillier would like to keep them as rentals.

Though intended as a condominium, the building’s units were rented instead of sold. Three of the units were designated for low or moderate income, while another five were for neighborhood residents who didn’t meet state income requirements for affordable housing. They were assisted by the Waxwood Foundation, created by Mr. Hillier to assist direct descendants of longtime residents or people who had lived in the neighborhood for at least 10 years.

The agreement was amended in 2010 to keep the units as rentals because of the economic downturn at the time. The units were supposed to be converted to for-sale condominiums as of October 2016. Mr. Hillier told Council at last week’s meeting that he wanted to keep them as rentals because residents likely could not afford to purchase them if they were put up for sale. But one man who lives in the building said he had been looking forward to making that purchase since he moved in 12 years ago.

Councilwoman Jenny Crumiller said at this week’s meeting that she wanted to make sure the requested amendment only applied to the three units that were designated as affordable, as well as the five from the Waxwood Foundation. Attorney Trishka Cecil said that the developer’s agreement refers only to those eight units.

Mayor Liz Lempert recommended that some Council members work with municipal administrator Marc Dashield and Mr. Hillier on coming to a solution that will serve those who want to buy, and those residents who want to continue to rent. Ms. Crumiller and Councilman Bernie Miller agreed to help. “There’s a desire by some residents who were under the impression they’d be able to purchase, and others who wouldn’t and are worried about losing their housing,” Ms. Lempert said.

Mr. Dashield said he hoped to bring the issue back to Council prior to March 31.

Council also approved a resolution for the Adopt-a-Park Policy, which seeks to encourage volunteer maintenance of parks and open space in partnership with the municipality. The policy is designed to provide a framework for these partnerships and applies to small and large parks.

The objective is to encourage these kinds of volunteer efforts, document the expectations of volunteers and scope of the projects, and promote safe practices. The partnership agreements will provide the guidelines for what is expected in maintenance of public lands. Mr. Dashield said he would come back to Council with sample agreements at a future meeting, each of which will be individualized to different parks.

Council meets next on Monday, December 19 at Witherspoon Hall.