August 24, 2022

Council Adopts Housing Development Ordinances

By Anne Levin

Following a presentation on financial agreements related to two inclusionary housing developments at Princeton Shopping Center, Princeton Council voted at its meeting Monday to adopt four ordinances having to do with the issuance of bonds for public improvements, an easement agreement, and PILOTs (payments in lieu of taxes).

The ordinances, which were introduced by Council at its last meeting, are for the 125-unit The Alice Princeton, at Harrison Street and Terhune Road, which will have 25 set aside as affordable housing; and the 200-unit AvalonBay Princeton Shopping Center project, at the southern end of the center, which will have 40 designated affordable (including four group home units). Council also approved redevelopment agreements for the two projects at its last meeting.

The two projects are part of Princeton’s court-mandated affordable housing obligations. Winn Companies is developing The Alice, which will include such public amenities as a neighborhood public park on Terhune Road with a native plantings garden, walking and cycling paths, a tot lot, dog park, and bike racks. The AvalonBay development includes a $1.2 million contribution for upgrades to Grover Park, and a $500,000 contribution to support the Municipal Sustainable Transportation Fund.

Princeton’s affordable housing attorney Kevin van Hise outlined the redevelopment process, with details on how the site was designated as an Area in Need of Redevelopment. Focusing on the PILOTS associated with the projects, he said there is a misconception that they are a windfall for developers. “Since PILOTs are based upon a percentage of revenue, the agreements have a provision prohibiting excess profits,” he said. “The developers must submit audited financial statements annually to confirm compliance.”

The presentation, which is available on the website, reads, “In lieu of paying property taxes on the improvements created by the project, the redeveloper makes annual service charges known as ‘payments in lieu of taxes’ or ‘PILOTs,’ which are based on a percentage of annual rental income generated from the project. As rental income increases, the payments made to the municipality increase.”

According to the presentation, the first-year PILOT is estimated at $792,413 with $760,716 to Princeton. “A traditional tax scenario would yield the municipality approximately $242,366,” it says. “The total 30-year PILOT is estimated at $30,960,000, $20,930,000 more than Princeton would receive under a traditional tax scenario over the 30-year term.”

During the public comment period, Princeton resident Dale Meade objected to the terms, while former Councilman Lance Liverman spoke in favor. Council’s voted unanimously to adopt the ordinances.

Also at the meeting, Council agreed to pay $2,500 for new signs directing motorists to downtown parking garages and surface lots as requested by the Princeton Merchants Association (PMA). Road closures related to continuing construction in the central business district have negatively affected local businesses, and PMA President Andrew Siegel urged Council to also arrange a traffic study to help come up with a way to mitigate the problem.

Siegel, whose family owns Hamilton Jewelers, pointed out that six of the seven streets in the central business district are currently in a one-way northbound configuration because of construction of the Graduate Hotel on Chambers Street. Only Palmer Square West funnels traffic southbound.

In addition to confusing patrons about how and where to park, the configuration has created problems for vendors trying to make deliveries. “The current situation is not tenable and demands your action,” Siegel said. The decision to make Witherspoon Street one-way was not one that was supported by most local merchants, he added, since it was based on situations that no longer apply — the traffic study that was done did not include Palmer Square streets, it assumed a two-way Chambers Street, and was considered using pre-pandemic traffic data “that does not represent current patterns, including on weekends and holidays,” he said.

The campaign for new signage is called “Pop into Princeton.” Signs will be placed at various locations around town, as well as Washington and Harrison streets, to direct people to Princeton University’s garages and Williams Street lot, plus the garages on Spring, Chambers, and Hulfish streets.

Princeton Council’s next public meeting is Monday, September 12.