June 24, 2020

Princeton Council Votes to Introduce Affordable Housing Ordinances

By Anne Levin

At its meeting on Monday, June 22, Princeton Council voted unanimously to introduce three ordinances that need to be in place before the town gets final approval for its affordable housing plan. A second round of ordinances will be up for introduction at the governing body’s next meeting on Monday, June 29.

One of the sites introduced is for a complex at the corner of Terhune Road and Harrison Street. The developer for the  property has not been selected yet, but the owner is the Comfort Company. Another is for overlay zones on Nassau Street, in three separate categories for slightly different density and parking. The third is the service district on Route 206 going toward Montgomery, including a 100 percent affordable building at the site where SAVE animal rescue was formerly located.

In February, Mercer County Superior Court Judge Mary Jacobson approved a settlement agreement between the municipality of Princeton and the Fair Share Housing Center, ending almost five years of litigation in which the town challenged calculations for the number of affordable units it would be required to build under COAH (the Council on Affordable Housing). The next step is a compliance hearing, followed by a final hearing in August. The deadline for having completed plans in place is July 13.

“In putting together our plan, one of our goals was to have it be smart growth,” Mayor Liz Lempert said before the meeting. “That means building in areas that were walkable to services and also have access to transit. Everything going in front of Council tonight meets that. The reason is it makes the town more livable for all the residents who are going to be in this housing, and provides a benefit for the entire community by making transit more reliable and functional. And for businesses, too, it’s important to have customers nearby.”

The three overlay zones on Nassau Street include the site now occupied by Bank of America, a strip closer to the center of town, and a site on a vacant corner of the lot occupied by The Jewish Center of Princeton.

The site on Route 206 toward Montgomery was recently rezoned to encourage mixed use development of housing over commercial uses, for market rate as well as affordable housing. “The ordinance is to look at encouraging mixed use development in the S2 (service) zone toward the bottom of the hill, as you approach the airport along Route 206,” Council President David Cohen said. “We just see it, with other affordable housing going near there, as an area really ripe for encouragement of walkable, multi-use development.”

Also at the meeting, Council voted for a resolution to reject bids for police body cameras and other digital evidence systems. Lempert explained that through a cooperative to which the town belongs, the equipment can be purchased at a lower cost. The body cameras are still on schedule to be used by police in August.

Princeton Health Officer Jeffrey Grosser reported that Princeton Care Center and Acorn Glen are now allowing visitors, in accordance with Gov. Phil Murphy’s most recent ruling on long-term care centers as related to the COVID-19 pandemic.