October 27, 2021

PCRD Calls on Council to Protect Residential Neighborhoods From Parking Spillover

To the Editor:

The Princeton Coalition for Responsible Development, or PCRD, is a nonprofit organization that was formed to advocate for and enable a more effective and collaborative approach to land use development and redevelopment in Princeton.  A significant element of land use development relates to parking in support of the community and development being undertaken in town.  For this reason, PCRD supports the efforts of sensiblestreets.org to make all Princeton residents aware of the negative effects of the Princeton Parking Task Force’s proposed plan to lease commercial parking spots in residential neighborhoods.

We are concerned that the town has granted variances to real estate developers without requiring the developers to assume the responsibility and bear the costs of addressing the transportation and parking demand created by their projects. The planned development of the former Post Office into a 300-seat restaurant, with no associated parking, is but one glaring example. Another is the 80–space garage for the 180-room Graduate Hotel planned for Nassau Street.

We call on the Princeton Council to protect residential neighborhoods from bearing the burdens that current and new development projects create.  We are concerned that commercial parking for the new developments at the Princeton Shopping Center, Griggs lot, Graduate Hotel, Franklin lot, and Princeton Theological Seminary, to name a few, will create significant parking spillover into the adjacent neighborhoods.  The proposals recommended by the Princeton Parking Task Force will set a precedent that makes this outcome all but certain.

The good news is that it doesn’t have to be this way.  Thousands of town councils around the country have protected residential neighborhoods for residential use through zoning and parking regulations and have required developers to pay their fair share to ensure tenants and customers have ready access to their buildings.  One method that has proven successful is to grant a parking variance, but require the developer to set aside a certain amount of land in the form of a park, to be converted into parking if the project’s transit management plan fails to control spillover.  These are ideas that can help Princeton maintain its sense of identity as a highly desirable town in which to live, work, and visit.  There are undoubtedly other approaches that would be effective as well.

In short, Princetonians need to educate themselves and participate in planning the town’s ongoing and future community-wide parking plans, lest they wake up one day to find their street converted into a town parking lot.

Jo Butler
President, Princeton Coalition for Responsible Development
Hibben Road