November 22, 2023

To the Editor:

I support the concepts and intent of the Master Plan draft, but there should be corrections made before approval. I hope the Planning Board will take the time to listen to public comments and make appropriate adjustments. The Land use consultants Clarke Canton Hintz is the firm that prepared our “Affordable Housing Overlay” zones where Jugtown Historic district was overlooked in the AHO-2. This document was released without public input in the depths of COVID and did not benefit from public scrutiny. Let’s do a better job this time.

My concerns are as follows:

Reduce density in the “Greenway Neighborhood” (p. 41,43) from proposed 1-2 units/acre. This should be adjusted to 1-2 units per lot ,which would increase single family homes by allowing a second residence on each lot. Currently property owners in this neighborhood are limited to adding a modest sized ADU (Accessory Dwelling Unit).

Reduce density in the “Neighborhood areas” (p. 41,43) from proposed 2-8 units/acre. This zone often has 1.25 acre lots but varies wildly. Again, one to two dwelling units per lot would be a generous expansion in number of potential houses. Why allow 10 units on some typical 1.25 acre lots on Cleveland and Hodge roads? more

To the Editor:

The new Princeton Master Plan has been shared with the public (see princetonnj.gov).

The plan focuses on growth. In fact, it is a core statement in the 1996 plan that continues unchanged in this draft. The plan’s vision is that “Princeton will be a vibrant, growing, and welcoming community.” The very first assumption is that “Princeton will welcome new growth.”

The plan proposes increasing density in several single family residential areas to 2-8 units per acre and in some areas near the central district to 4-20 units per acre. The plan hopes that these changes will make us a better community with more opportunities for diversity in housing.

It is time to think about deleting “growth” as one of our goals. The growth that is envisioned in this new plan is not one that is good for the town. Neighborhoods closest to the center of town will be open to high density development. Traffic; pressure on our infrastructure and schools; increased demands on our police, fire, and social services; and the financial stress on our municipal government can all be anticipated. Growth is not a goal — it is a cost. more

November 15, 2023

To the Editor:

The League of Women Voters of the Greater Princeton Area (LWV-GPA) has been working steadily this past year to remind folks that the League is still here, and we thank Don Gilpin for helping us reach more voters in one day, via his November 1 article [Election 2023 is in Home Stretch; Vole Early or on Nov. 7,” page 1], than we reached  over months. 

We also found unexpected and very welcome support this fall from the J.McLaughlin store on Witherspoon Street. They donated a percentage of sales to our nonprofit LWV-GPA on October 21, and I would like to publicly thank them for their generosity and support of our organization.

Community spirit is strong in Princeton.

Jean Nitzberg
Convener-Spokesperson, LWV of the Greater Princeton Area
Tally Road, Hamilton

To the Editor:

On behalf of the board of directors of Experience Princeton, I am pleased to submit the following findings of our Economic Development Team:

Experience Princeton supports the Master Plan presented by the Master Plan Committee to the Planning Board last Thursday. We are pleased to see that many of the general themes that our teams have included in their work plans for the coming year are also a part of the various components recommended in the report. We look forward to working with the municipal staff and any future committee charged with implementing the various aspects of the Master Plan to bring about positive changes which will encourage innovation, experiential retail, expanded outdoor dining, affordable housing for the employees of local businesses, new parking opportunities including the utilization of underused lots and preservation of the unique character of Princeton.

We would like to note that on page 24 of the plan, recommendations No. 69 and No. 70 encourage economic development goals of expanding Princeton’s role as a regional destination. We would ask for the prioritization of more specific initiatives. There is a need for the infrastructure to accommodate workforce housing, reasonable traffic grids which facilitate smooth in and out automobile movement, wayfinding, and informational signage.  more

To the Editor:

1. It is clear that the Princeton Master Plan and Reexamination Report leans heavily in favor of development and to its credit uses every opportunity to recommend against sprawl. What many Princeton residents may not know however, is the emphasis on creation of new housing is the direct result of needing to meet affordable housing creation.

2. Despite allowing the affordable housing shortage to become a critical situation, there is a common sentiment around town that adding affordable units is the correct thing because there is real appreciation for the social and cultural benefits of mixing in more residents that qualify for affordable housing. more

To the Editor:

The members of the Planning Board, the planning staff, and the steering committee deserve our thanks for their efforts on the Master Plan, which has many good components. However, the preservation provisions are surprisingly weak and in some places confusing and inaccurate, and they need adjusting to appropriately balance the anticipated new growth with Princeton’s unique historic character.

The weak presentation of preservation starts in Outreach Section 1.2 with the heading “Historic preservation is important and should be easier.” Easier reads pejoratively, as if there is something wrong with preservation here, and it belies findings in the Plan’s community survey wherein a total of 54 percent of respondents agreed that preservation efforts “should be expanded” or “strike the right balance between preservation and development.” Only 14.5 percent thought that preservation is a “hinder to growth and development.” An appropriate vision for Princeton’s historic resources in the Master Plan is “Historic preservation is important and should be improved.”  more

To the Editor:

We recently learned that the current PPS superintendent will be taking a leave of absence until next August. I am writing to recommend that the PPS Board of Education select one of the current PPS school principals to be the next superintendent. We have tremendous talent locally, so there is no need to do another nationwide search with the associated cost and expense.

The current principals understand the school district and are very well known to us. Selecting a local principal would also avoid the potential downside of doing another nationwide search only to select someone else who isn’t able to serve their full term. Our current school principals are fantastic. Let’s select one to be the next superintendent.

Charles Larsen
Overbrook Drive

To the Editor:

This past week, I narrowly avoided a car accident on Snowden Lane. A massive leaf pile obstructed my lane near a bend in the road. A car came round the curve just as I pulled into the oncoming lane to avoid the illegal leaf pile. I hit the brakes, and was nearly rear-ended by a car following too close behind.

I reported the road hazard to the police, and also to Princeton’s compliance officer, hired two years ago. The leaf pile was soon pushed back to the 3-foot limit from the curb. Danger averted, one might say, but an accident almost happened, and hours of town staff time were used to deal with one leaf pile. more

To the Editor:

After a year of effort, Princeton has a proposed new Master Plan (MP), setting forth the vision and policies for land use and addressing the manner and locations in which development, conservation, and preservation occur. The new MP becomes the basis for land use ordinances, such as zoning. Despite the year-long process, with input from a town survey, a variety of interested citizen groups, business interests, and at open meetings, the draft Master Plan was first released to the public on October 30, just 10 days ahead of its consideration by the Planning Board on November 9. Spirited and extensive public comment at that meeting delayed a vote until the next Planning Board meeting of November 30.

The cost of living in Princeton is a real concern for all of us and is a theme in the MP. Making housing affordable for the “Missing Middle” and expanding Affordable Housing are laudable goals of the MP. The new MP proposes markedly increased housing density believing it will decrease the cost of housing. I predict the opposite, that our taxes will ultimately rise, and that the housing goals will be unmet. There is a tremendous demand for housing in Princeton, and our property values are high as are our rental costs. In new developments, 80 percent of new units are market rate. Princeton is a desirable address for many reasons, including schools, history, and livability. It will take a long time for the pent-up demand to live in Princeton to be filled before market prices perhaps decrease. In the meantime, denser housing throughout town will primarily increase development of market rate housing to the benefit of developers but to no benefit of the town at large. Why would we want this at the expense of traffic, increased school costs, and a more urban environment?  more

To the Editor:

After listening to the Planning Board meeting held virtually on November 9, I am writing to not only highlight concerns of the Master Plan, but also to express my confusion and disappointment with the purpose of the forum.

As many residents did, I too participated in the public input process leading up to the draft Plan’s actual publication on October 30. I also read the draft Plan, all 237 pages, in the 10 days provided. Upon review, the priority of the Plan is undoubtedly focused on allowing for growth by easing land use zoning to allow for significant incremental density — primarily focused in the neighborhoods within, or abutting, the former Borough. What I heard in the far majority last Thursday, however, highlighted many other priorities by residents, some of the very same themes I heard in abundance at the Listening Sessions. Themes that have been minimized in the draft, or wholly ignored. How will the dramatic increase in density accommodated by this Plan impact our already congested schools, an issue that will become even more apparent after the Shopping Center housing is complete? How will a new school(s) be funded? What about the accompanying demand on emergency services and infrastructure such density will bring? Where is the Land Use Goal included that looks to protect our treasured neighborhoods, including our historic districts, ensuring development is compatible in scale and form?  more

November 8, 2023

To the Editor:

One often hears only from those voicing discontent. However, I wish to instead elevate the awesome work of Princeton Recreation in serving special needs community members.

Princeton Recreation is an exemplary model of what true inclusion can and should be. The township’s commitment to providing adaptive and inclusive recreation opportunities has been a game changer for so many children and young adults in our community.  more

To the Editor:

Corporations, businesses, and professional associations often promote from within to fill positions that become available. Why? Because existing employees are loyal, have proven their capabilities, and have knowledge of the company culture, staff, and the issues that need to be addressed.

When qualified Princeton teachers and staff respond to a superintendent posting, the BOE should consider this when soliciting a new superintendent. Procuring someone from the outside with the right credentials and fresh ideas that may not mesh with our schools situation and has not always been effective.

From my recollection of previous years, we now have two superintendents who were either terminated or resigned, with payment of their salaries well beyond the date of their service, a situation that should be addressed in future contracts.

Peter Madison
Snowden Lane

To the Editor:

Princeton’s Draft Master Plan, a substantial 270-page document, was shared with the public on October 31, and a Zoom meeting is scheduled for November 9 to review it, followed by a Council meeting for potential adoption, all within an aggressive timeline. This timeline is concerning because it signifies more than a routine update; it’s a transformative plan poised to reshape Princeton’s identity for years to come.

At its core, this plan assumes that Princeton’s stable population of 30,000 should be significantly increased through up-zoning, which involves changing zoning regulations to permit 1-4 dwelling units in specific areas. The document acknowledges that downtown Princeton already has a density exceeding 10,000 people per square mile, on par with Newark and surpassing New Brunswick. The plan aims to intensify this density by allowing taller buildings, reduced setbacks, and fewer parking restrictions. more

To the Editor:

Those of us who live in Princeton truly value open space and trees. The proof is all around us. But lately, when the subject comes up, we are referred to Princeton’s “Emerald Necklace,” which is well outside of town. While preserving this land, and hopefully adding to it, is laudable, it should not come at the expense of preserving our old growth, in-town trees.

Those who drafted our new Master Plan are looking at our town with an obvious appetite for infill development. The plan calls for rezoning so that each home could be replaced by four. What will we lose when density is gained? Trees and natural beauty. more

To the Editor:

The Township is entering the final stages of updating its Master Plan. As noted in a letter in Town Topics by the Planning Board chairs [“Proposed Master Plan Suggests Way for Town to Grow Responsibly, Incrementally, Equitably,” Mailbox, November 1], the document “presents a vision, assumptions, and guiding principles” that addresses community priorities. That includes land use. The land use map presented in the Master Plan shows up to 20 units per acre on small lots in neighborhoods outside of downtown. However, we’ve been reassured by the Planning Board that the Master Plan does not rezone Princeton or lay the foundation for uncontrolled population growth. “It is a policy document that does not by itself transform local laws and practices.”

Concurrent with the formulation of the Master Plan over the last year or two has been the construction of three 4-story housing developments abutting the Princeton Shopping Center. These will consist of about 650 units, and house perhaps 1,500 people, representing 5 percent of the present population of Princeton, within about a six to nine block square area. This will significantly change the complexion of the neighborhood. A development of 250 units is contemplated for the TRW Campus off Stockton Street. While I have not read it, I can’t imagine that the previous Master Plan envisioned this current development. more

November 1, 2023

To the Editor:

Recently, the Princeton community was invited to a presentation at Town Hall to learn about Herring Properties’ concept plan for the development of the former Princeton Theological Seminary (PTS) property. The concept plan reflected the efforts by Herring and team of engaging with stakeholders in smaller discussions to solicit input and learn concerns. The plan was truly the culmination of what was heard and reflected genuine responsiveness to much of the feedback. One might attribute this thoughtful approach to Herring’s own tenure as a Princeton resident.

The graduated heights of the buildings will create visual harmony with the heights of the surrounding structures. The exterior style of the project reflects the traditional look of the neighborhood and much of Princeton. Placing the majority of parking underground reduces the impact of street parking in the neighborhood. The number of parking spaces, just over one car per residence, reflects the properties’ proximity to the Dinky, the town, the University, and local employers and will allow residents to walk or bike. The lot layout and design locates the buildings such that the green spaces are graciously visible from the street. It highlights some beautiful public spaces which will create a comfortable relationship between cars, pedestrians, houses, and greens. When possible, the effort to retain existing trees, especially those at the street, was made and is clear and appropriate.  more

To the Editor:

I write as a concerned parent of three current Princeton Public School students — a junior at PHS, an eighth grader at PMS, and a fifth grader at Riverside Elementary. On November 7 I will be enthusiastically voting for Eleanor Hubbard, Adam Bierman, and Rene Obregon Jr. for the Board of Education, and I urge others to join me in supporting them.

As any Princeton resident who follows the local news knows, in recent years the Princeton public school system has been afflicted with numerous serious problems and extraordinary turmoil. While it would be unfair to place all of the blame for these problems on the current Board of Education, it also seems clear that the community and our students would be well-served by a change from the dysfunctional status quo.  more

To the Editor:

As the work to update Princeton’s Community Master Plan nears conclusion, we would like to provide some information and context that we hope is helpful.

The Community Master Plan document is available in its entirety at engage.princetonmasterplan.org. The plan consists of an introduction that presents a vision, assumptions, and guiding principles, followed by multiple “elements,” distinct but interrelated sections covering specific subjects related to land use. Each element contains goals and recommendations.

The plan is a Planning Board document developed by the Planning Board with the help of a consultant and a Steering Committee of community leaders. A robust public engagement process unmatched since consolidation has been both a distinguishing feature of the plan update process, and immensely helpful in crafting the plan. more

To the Editor:

Princeton is fortunate to have exceptional civic-minded residents willing to serve in government posts. Rene Obregon has stepped forward as a candidate for the Princeton Public Schools Board of Education and I urge my fellow residents to elect him on November 7.

I’ve known Rene since our now high-school-age boys played baseball together in Little League. He was a constant presence as an encouraging parent at baseball and other athletic events, despite a demanding work schedule. Rene’s high engagement with the Princeton Public Schools in recent years is remarkable given his role as chief executive of the U.S. arm of a U.K. investment banking firm. By the time most of us get up in the morning, Rene is already well into his work day serving European clients. more

To the Editor:

On October 27, Superintendent Carol Kelley announced her resignation, ending a controversial tenure at Princeton Public Schools (PPS), during which thousands of students, parents, and residents continually called for her resignation.  While I applaud the Board of Education (BOE) for finally facilitating Kelley’s departure (though they are paying her through August 2024), the community is left wondering what took so long. Furthermore, the timing of this announcement, less than two weeks before an election in which three BOE seats will be filled, should not go unnoticed. It is more important than ever to hold current BOE members accountable for the damage done by the superintendent under their watch.

I started following local politics more closely at the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic and was shocked not only by the BOE’s pattern of irresponsible decision-making, but also by the lack of transparency and the indifference shown toward local experts, parents, and even students. Students suffered during unnecessarily prolonged school closures which have undisputedly resulted in significant learning loss and social-emotional trauma. These policy failures were compounded by further mistakes such as: the hiring of a superintendent who clearly was not a good fit for PPS; attempts to weaken the math program and eliminate accelerated tracks; funding of numerous consultants and public relation firms, costing Princeton taxpayers hundreds of thousands of dollars; the firing of a universally beloved high school principal in the middle of the school year without good reason; the exodus of many high-quality teachers and staff; and most recently, replacing the local YMCA afterschool care program with an outside for-profit company (with connections to the superintendent) which did not do appropriate background checks of its counselors and which some believe put our children in harm’s way.  more

To the Editor:

It is with great enthusiasm that we endorse Beth Behrend for her third term candidacy on the Princeton Board of Education. Beth brings deep experience with the Princeton Public Schools, having served for two previous terms, and as Board president. She makes decisions based on visionary thinking, a deep understanding of all points of view, and a practical commitment to concrete, cost-effective action. As a mother of three children, Beth has a steadfast commitment to the welfare of every child in our district, and a commitment to planning responsibly for our future.

Princeton Public Schools face many complex challenges, making strong, experienced Board leadership more important than ever. Through her work on the Board, Beth Behrend has demonstrated time and again that she cares deeply about Princeton’s students now and into the future. Beth doesn’t just care for a child’s experience in kindergarten today, she is looking ahead to ensure that child is as well-served by Princeton Public Schools as possible along every step of their journey, through high school graduation. more

To the Editor:

If you like flowers, songbirds, butterflies, and reducing your carbon footprint, there is a simple way to help — leave the fall leaves in your yard instead of putting them at the curb for removal. In winter, they provide a necessary refuge for butterfly caterpillars, pollinators, and other beneficial insects who need them to overwinter, and which are a source of food for birds. more

To the Editor:

As you pay your quarterly property taxes this week, consider an alternate scenario.

Imagine that as an incentive to move to Princeton, you are offered a deal for 30 years. Instead of paying property taxes, you are allowed to make a payment of no greater than 60 percent of your assessed property taxes based up your annual income. At the end of the 30 years, your taxes would revert to whatever the current level is. Clearly, you are coming out a big winner on such a deal, and you would be happy to accept.

But who is losing out? more

To the Editor:

I am a parent of two children at Riverside school and one child at UNOW, and I am writing to endorse Eleanor Hubbard for the Board of Education.

I have known Eleanor Hubbard for six years, initially at UNOW where Eleanor was president of the board, but now also at Riverside where she continues to remain involved and passionate about education as she always has.

Eleanor was a major presence on the UNOW board, always dedicated, available, and well respected. She never let her emotions make decisions for her, but rather always used her intelligence and data-driven approaches no matter the task. She listened to the opinions of those around her and made thoughtful decisions based on a totality of information provided. I have worked with her directly on various work streams including discussions over construction of the Tiger Plant (I was part of a group concerned about noise levels during the construction and she was a well-regarded mediator between UNOW and this group of concerned citizens), hiring of a new director at UNOW, and another group that was concerned with the proposed math reform in the Princeton Public School system.  more

To the Editor:

Halloween is full of scary things. But one scary thing that remains a constant threat throughout the year is the proliferation of microplastics, which are now found everywhere, including the most pristine wilderness areas, and even in our bodies. In developed countries wear from automobile tires, which are made of a plastics composite, is the largest source by far of microplastics. We breathe it. Our water supply is contaminated by it. It’s scary to think about that.

This is why I was happy to see that the proposed new Master Plan contains several elements that will lead to a large reduction of microplastics from tire wear in Princeton. more