Hearing on Master Plan at Planning Board Meeting Invites Public Comment
By Anne Levin
The online meeting of the Planning Board on Thursday, November 9 at 7 p.m. is a chance for members of the public to comment on the proposed rewrite of the Princeton Master Plan. The draft of the document, which was 18 months in the making, was shared with the public at a Planning Board meeting on October 31, but no public comments were taken at that time.
New Jersey’s Municipal Land Use Law requires the adoption of a Master Plan. Princeton’s had not been updated since 1996.
“A community’s Master Plan articulates a vision for the community, states assumptions that underpin that vision, and provides goals and policies to achieve that vision,” reads a November 1 release from the municipality.
“The development of the Master Plan began with a strategic outreach campaign extending over an 18-month period to include a thorough and diverse range of community input, aimed at capturing the intricate fabric of Princeton’s many voices and perspectives.”
The draft is divided into 18 sections encompassing the land use plan element, the mobility plan element, the utility plan element and stormwater management plan, community facilities, open space, conservation, recreation, economic development, and historic preservation, among other headings.
Members of the Master Plan Steering Committee, the Planning Board, municipal staff, and consultants from the architectural firm Clarke Caton Hintz met with various community groups and neighborhood residents to hear opinions and suggestions for revamping the plan. Two community visioning surveys and economic stakeholder interviews were also part of the process.
“The vision expressed by the community and captured in the plan is one for a vibrant, growing, and welcoming community with recommendations to increase housing diversity and choice for residents, and to create a robust transportation system for car-optional living, while also sustaining and improving Princeton’s
historic fabric and green space, community and educational facilities, and unrivaled quality of life for residents,” reads the release. “Sustainability, resiliency, and equity back all facets of the plan.”
Some members of the public have already expressed concerns about the plan via social media, letters to the editor, and email. The Princeton Coalition for Responsible Development (PCRD) questions “up-zoning,” the changing of zoning regulations “to permit a dramatic increase in the number of homes that can be built on a lot in specific areas, including small apartment blocks and luxury rentals,” reads an email sent Tuesday in anticipation of the meeting. “The plan initially suggested that 1-4 homes would be allowed per lot, but in the final version it has been changed to allowing 2-8 units per acre and downtown and historic districts as being 4-20 units per acre. It may sound less threatening but the intention has not changed.”
The PCRD email questions the level of public input in the process. “It appears to echo the desires of a small pro-density and pro-development group that frequented those meetings,” it reads. “This may not accurately represent the interests of the majority who are unfamiliar with up-zoning and the ‘missing middle’ but are likely to be profoundly affected by these changes. Ultimately, voters should have the opportunity to voice their opinions and influence the direction Princeton takes.”
Should there not be enough time for all public comments, the hearing will likely be extended to the next meeting of the Planning Board. Once all public comment has been heard, the Planning Board will deliberate and vote on adoption of the draft. Visit princetonnj.gov/calendar to gain access to the Zoom meeting.