August 26, 2020

Council Amends Definition of Accessory Dwelling Unit

By Anne Levin

At a virtual meeting Monday night, August 24, Princeton Council voted in favor of an ordinance  amending the definition of an accessory dwelling unit. The vote was unanimous, though Councilman Dwaine Williamson said he was “51 percent in favor, 49 percent opposed.”

The governing body voted after listening to numerous comments from the public. While many expressed support for the amendment, several were opposed.

The amendment goes back to an ordinance that Council adopted in June, allowing that a primary unit and an accessory unit on a property can be owned separately instead of by one owner. Council introduced the amendment at its previous meeting. The Planning Board reviewed it at a special meeting on August 20, and determined that it was consistent with Princeton’s Master Plan, the town’s Planning Director Michael LaPlace told Council.

Some members of the public urged Council to delay voting on the issue, saying it needs more research. Others expressed concerns that it would cause problems with traffic, density, and parking, and would motivate developers to build more multi-unit condominiums. Yina Moore, Kip Cherry, Michael Floyd, Shirley Satterfield, and Joseph Weiss were among those opposed.

Those in favor called the proposed measure “progressive,” saying it would help the “missing middle” class afford to live in Princeton. Homeowners financially unable to remain in Princeton would be able to stay and age in place, they said. It would also help create a more walkable community, they said.

The meeting also included a detailed report from the Princeton Fire Department, updating Council on the state of the department since paid career firefighters were brought on eight months ago to augment the volunteer staff. While COVID-19 has brought numerous challenges, the addition of career staff has had an overall positive effect on the department and the improvements in the time it takes to reach a fire scene, said Fire Chief T.R. Johnson.

Councilwoman Leticia Fraga commented that she hoped there would be more emphasis on diversity in future recruitment, and suggested the department
participate in next month’s annual Welcoming Week, which will be held virtually.

Another report was given by the Princeton Environmental Commission (PEC). Chairman Sophie Glovier spoke about the importance of electric vehicle charging stations, and suggested an ordinance be adopted to accelerate the process of getting more of them installed throughout the town. The vehicles are becoming increasingly important as the transportation sector represents the largest individual chunk of greenhouse gas emissions, she said. “The number of electric vehicles in Princeton is rising, but it’s still quite small. So we have a lot of work to do,” she said.

The topic of single use plastics, especially bags, was also presented. Plastics are clogging stream banks and storm drains, and each person consumes about five grams of plastics a month from water, salt, and other sources, members of the PEC reported.

At the beginning of the meeting, Councilwoman Michelle Pirone Lambros reported that the Princeton Small Business Resiliency Fund has approved a total of 72 applications for funding from local businesses affected by the pandemic, and that the Princeton Regional Chamber has matched the full $100,000 in a challenge grant provided by Princeton University. The University made an initial donation of $250,000 to establish the fund. Firms will get $5,000 each.

“It is very exciting to get this out to the small businesses in our town,” she said.