March 11, 2020

Budget and Backyard Chickens Among Topics at Council Meeting

By Anne Levin

An update on COVID-19 took up a large portion of Princeton Council’s meeting on Monday night, March 9. Several resolutions and ordinances were also on the agenda, involving the removal of the canopy at the fuel facility on Mount Lucas Road (see page one story), the introduction of the 2020 budget, raising backyard chickens, and other issues.

“You’re not a hero by going to work when you should stay at home,” said Mayor Liz Lempert after a presentation on the coronavirus by Princeton Health Officer Jeff Grosser and Princeton Board of Health Chair George DiFerdinando, advising those who are elderly or compromised to remain at home. “You’re actually a menace.” (See page one for more on the virus).

Council voted unanimously to approve an ordinance regulating the keeping of backyard chickens on residential property. “I look forward to legally owning my chickens,” said Karen Zemble, a member of the Princeton Environmental Commission (PEC) and an enthusiastic proponent of raising backyard poultry.

The PEC advanced a resolution over a year ago in support of Princeton residents who keep hens and other poultry in their backyards for personal egg production. As part of the resolution, PEC resolved to support an education campaign for the public. Before consolidation of Princeton’s former Borough and Township in 2013, the zoning ordinance of the Township addressed commercial farming, while the Borough’s ordinance addressed domestic animals, but neither defined the practice of keeping backyard chickens.

Information will be provided on the municipal website to help those interested in keeping the poultry. Zemble said someone has offered to give a class on the subject.

Administrator Marc Dashield and Chief Financial Officer Sandy Webb introduced the 2020 municipal budget, stressing that it was the beginning of a multi-step process before a final budget is approved. Dashield said the budget proposes an increase of $70.31 on the average assessed value of a house, and that the municipal portion of the average tax bill would be $4,216.76, an increase of $70 from last year. The total budget figure is $64,894,329.84, up $675,341.03 from last year.

The Citizens Finance Advisory Committee (CFAC) has reviewed the proposed budget. A public hearing is set for April 6. It can be reviewed on the municipal website.

An ordinance approving application for a long-term tax exemption authorizing the execution of a financial agreement with AvalonBay for the development project on Thanet Road was approved by Council 5-1, with Councilwoman Eve Niedergang giving the one opposing vote.