April 10, 2019

New Zoning Approved for Affordable Housing at Former SAVE Site

By Anne Levin

At a meeting Monday night, April 8, Princeton Council voted unanimously to approve the creation of a new affordable housing zone on the site where the SAVE animal shelter was formerly located. The property is bordered by Herrontown Road, Mt. Lucas Road, and Old Orchard Lane.

Introduced at a previous Council meeting in March and then sent to the Planning Board for review, the ordinance came back to Council with some revisions for the three-acre property, which is to be devoted 100 percent to affordable housing in 65 one-,two-, and three-bedroom units for low-and-moderate-income households.

The vote came after testimony from numerous neighbors of the site, nearly all of whom were opposed to the plan. Each person who spoke said that while they support affordable housing and realize that Princeton has an obligation of a certain number of affordable units to create, the proposed complex is too big and out of character for the largely wooded area.

“These buildings are totally inappropriate for our neighborhood,” said Charles McVicker, who has lived on Old Orchard Lane since 1957, when Mt. Lucas was an unpaved road, he said. “There are very tall, mature trees on the property. I stopped counting when I got to 50,” he said. “They will have to be cut down, and that’s a shame.”

Another resident who lives on Mt. Lucas Road said she did an informal study of traffic between 5 and 5:30 p.m. On Mt. Lucas, she counted 144 cars going north and 45 going south. “Most of them ignored the stop sign at Herrontown and Mt. Lucas,” she said. “Please make this project a lower density. It’s simply too large.”

Princeton resident Steven Gilbert, a city planner who is unaffiliated with the plan, said he supports the plan, though he understands the concerns of neighbors. Carol Golden, Scott Sillars, and Ed Truscelli also spoke in favor of creating the new zoning. Truscelli, who is executive director of Princeton Community Housing but said he was speaking independently, noted that the municipality had been in this position in the past, with the creation of the Elm Court and Harriet Bryan affordable communities.

“It can happen again if it’s done sensitively,” he said. “There are 1800 households on the waiting list for affordable housing in Princeton.

Developer Charles Yedlin had previously planned to create an office building on the site. He was approached by the town about changing to affordable housing, and he agreed. Neighbors have been opposed to the height of the buildings, which would be three and four stories, depending on the area.

Council members sympathized with the neighbors’ concerns, but felt the new zoning was necessary.”I’m not seeing any alternatives to create a better solution,” said Dwaine Williamson. Eve Niedergang said, “Change is coming to us all. I urge you to work with the developer.”

“We really don’t have the option to appreciably reduce the density and keep the project,” said David Cohen. “I wish we did.” Tim Quinn said, “Yedlin has a strong record of developing affordable housing. It feels like your neighborhood is being picked on, but that’s because you’re first.”

Also at the meeting, the Marquand Park Foundation was given an award of recognition for their work preserving and beautifying the park on Stockton Street and Lovers Lane.

A presentation by the Princeton Fire Department detailed results of a report by The Rodgers Group consultants about the transition from an all-volunteer to a combined volunteer and paid department.