June 26, 2019

Seminary and New Eatery Among Council Meeting Topics

By Anne Levin

Princeton Council passed a resolution at its meeting Monday, June 24 to expand the boundaries of an investigation into whether properties owned by the Princeton Theological Seminary and the Center for Theological Inquiry should be included in a designation as areas in need of redevelopment. The Seminary wants to consolidate its operations onto the Princeton campus, necessitating some additions and renovations.

The proposed redevelopment has been the subject of several public meetings since the Planning Board recommended the property be declared a non-condemnation area in need of redevelopment in September, 2018. The concerns of some neighboring homeowners have put the discussions on hiatus. But Council voted at the meeting to award a professional services agreement to LRK Inc., which has been working on the project, for additional planning services.

The meeting at Witherspoon Hall also included discussion of an ordinance introduction that would permit Jack Morrison, president of the JM Group, to have outdoor seating for 24 patrons at Kristine’s, a restaurant he plans to open next to his Witherspoon Grill on Hinds Plaza. The ordinance would also allow Morrison to install an emergency generator for tenants of 55 Witherspoon Street, the apartment building he owns on the plaza.

Some Council members expressed concern that the generator, which would be located in an enclosure on Hinds Plaza, would be too noisy, and suggested installing it instead on the roof of the Spring Street Garage. Council opted to bring the measure back at a later meeting as two separate ordinances — one addressing the generator and the other the outdoor seating.

Princeton Recreation Department Director Ben Stentz delivered a report on the financial aid program that has been underway with several community organizations including Corner House, Griggs Farm Association, Housing Initiatives of Princeton, Princeton Public Schools, Send Hunger Packing Princeton, the Koko Fund, Parker Bear Fund, Princeton Community Housing, Princeton Children’s Fund, and J. Seward Johnson Charitable Trust.

Over the past four years, the program has sent children to summer camp. This summer’s program includes 500 children. “The growth is something we’re really excited about,” Stentz said. “It is only possible because of these partnerships with other agencies. The partners are absolutely critical.”

The initiative also provides 160 lunches per day, with no additional cost to the families of campers. Princeton Public School has provided buses, which has saved the program $2,500, in turn allowing 40 more children to participate. The admission process, which often involves language barriers, has been streamlined and simplified, making it easier for families to register their children, Stentz said.

“It’s the relationships that are really where it’s at,” he said. “We see so many young adults working for us who were little kids in the program. And that’s so important.”

Mayor Liz Lempert reported that the New Jersey Department of Transportation’s all-pedestrian crossing trial at the intersection of Nassau Street, Vandeventer Avenue, and Washington Road, has been extended. The town has received more than 100 responses to a survey about the trial, “most really positive,” she said. “This is a huge victory for the town, and our hope is that it will be made permanent. We have a wish list of more intersections we hope to include.”

Lempert also reported that the closure of Alexander Road for bridge replacement and culvert improvements will begin November 6 and hopefully be completed by April 20. Since the closure will seriously impact traffic between Route 1 and the downtown, the municipality is hoping NJ Transit will allow additional trips on the Dinky train linking Princeton with Princeton Junction.

At some point in the future, the bridge on Washington Road will also be replaced. Lempert said she has had early meetings with NJ Transit and hopes the road, which is wider than Alexander, will be kept open during the project. “But it’s not for several years,” she said.

Municipal administrator Marc Dashield read a statement updating Council on the firing of Robert Hough, the town’s director of infrastructure and operations, as a result of illegal dumping at the River Road sewer facility (see story on Page 1). Lempert requested that the Whitman company, environmental consultants hired to test the site for contamination, report to Council following its preliminary investigation.