November 29, 2023

To the Editor:

Did we vote to become a city? By increasing the allowable density over a very broad area of town, and by reducing and eliminating restrictions to development, the proposed Master Plan (MP) would allow many of the existing buildings that create the particular feel of this place to be demolished and replaced by new structures containing more units. More often than not, these are grossly out of keeping in scale and design with the neighborhood in which they’re situated. Could this home replacement therapy, despite the good intentions of its advocates, be the cure that kills the patient?

Crucially, the plan relies on developers to fulfill its progressive ideals. But in this overheated housing market, the profit incentive only creates a drive for more units in greater densities — at ever higher prices. For whom are we providing all this projected new housing? “Affordable” seems a misnomer. For example, accessory dwelling units (ADU) are very appealing in concept, but even a tiny recent ADU on Guyot is now valued at over a million dollars. Whenever an affordable home enters the market — beat-up, perhaps, but a dandy starter home — a developer makes a cash offer, tears it down, and replaces it with a far more expensive house. More people will move here, yes, but it seems increasingly doubtful that they’ll be people of low, modest, or middle income.  more

To the Editor:

Princeton has long been a place that people love to visit and seek to call home because of its distinct neighborhoods, vibrant downtown districts, networks of parks and open spaces, top notch public schools, and all the shared benefits of a renowned University, among other assets. But, compounded by outdated zoning, our town has been struggling under the weight of its own success. As a result, streets are increasingly clogged with traffic that pollutes our air and warms our planet, schools are running out of space, and the cost of living — including the sales prices and rents of homes — is skyrocketing, leaving Princeton unaffordable for far too many.

We are at a crossroads: Do we proceed as we’ve been doing, allowing the town to be shaped by the strongest forces acting on it, or do we proactively plan to help shape the town into the place we want it to become? more

To the Editor:

I suggest that, because of fundamental issues, Princeton residents urge our Planning Board to postpone approval of its draft Master Plan at its November 30 meeting.

The stated vision includes the goal of providing housing “affordable to all income levels,” but the only plan for housing calls for teardowns and new condos (euphemistically called “gentle infill”), presumably to increase affordable options for middle income buyers who, it is thought, will be able to afford smaller homes. At the same time, the draft preserves exclusionary zoning in much of the town outside the center, which already benefits from large swaths of preserved green space and keeps out small lot housing.

By now, everyone has seen the astronomical rents being charged for the new apartment complexes that have been built or are being built. I don’t understand how anyone can believe infill housing will be cheaper. more

November 22, 2023

To the Editor:

In reviewing the Master Plan for Princeton, it does seem to describe the need to extend certain sidewalks and walkways into Princeton. I am writing to urge residents of the neighborhoods off of Cherry Hill and Great Road to show your support for completing sidewalks and walkways on these roads leading into Princeton. Both have sidewalk/walkways partially on them, but both should run the length of these roads.

Every day I see walkers and joggers walking along these very busy roads, putting their lives at risk as neither Cherry Hill Road nor Great Road have completed sidewalks/walkways and residents are forced to walk on the roads themselves, neither of which have a shoulder. The current Master Plan seems to indicate that these roads might have sidewalks/walkways as part of the plan, however, our fear should be whether these will remain in the plan after all of the vetting and financial concerns.

I am urging everyone to advocate for more sidewalks/walkways connecting these major thoroughfares into Princeton, which will be better for our residents, students, and anyone wishing to walk to town vs. driving, which will also help with congestion in downtown Princeton.

JOSEPH RENDA
Montadale Circle

To the Editor:

The Lawrence Hopewell Trail (LHT) thanks the 140 friends who attended our sold-out Founders, Friends & the Future dinner at the Chauncey Conference Center on November 13. We honored Becky Taylor and Eleanor Horne, our visionary founders who created the 22-mile LHT 20 years ago, connecting people and communities in Mercer County.

Proclamations and heartfelt tributes were offered by public officials who have long been supporters of the LHT and admirers of our founders. State Sen. Shirley Turner, Assembly Member Anthony Verrelli, and Mercer County Commissioners Nina Melker and Kristen McLaughlin stepped to the microphone and lavished thanks and praise on Eleanor and Becky. Gov. Phil Murphy, Congresswoman Bonnie Watson Coleman, and Congressman Andy Kim offered video tributes. Mercer County Executive-Elect Dan Benson unveiled a sign depicting the historic accomplishments of Becky and Eleanor that will be placed permanently on the LHT.

 more

To the Editor:

As an architect and longtime resident who cares deeply about the quality of life in Princeton, I have questions concerning some of the underlying assumptions of the Master Plan, and I am deeply worried about the consequences of its adoption.

Its base assumption is the town should grow and densify well beyond the current pace of change that is already rapidly altering its fabric. Land Use Goals 2-5 essentially declare that the goals (implicitly our shared goals) for our town is for substantially higher residential density, greater economic development, and that we all agree and want to streamline the review and approval processes to allow the easier implementation of these changes. Are these base assumptions truly shared by most?

I am pro-change and pro-growth, but not comfortable with these assumptions as declared. Some of us choose to live in our neighborhoods partly because they are not so densely developed.

My greatest issue with the Master Plan is where it veers from providing a “vision plan,” to specifying and overlaying fundamentally new regulations governing land use that will change our town in ways we cannot fully predict. more

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

CONFIDENT COMMUNICATION: “I am seeing more people who want and need to sharpen their communication skills. Confident communication is not merely about eloquence; it’s the foundation upon which leadership is built,” says Priya Kartik, founder and CEO of Enspire Academy. “The transformative power of effective communication and purpose-driven leadership is not just a belief — it is the cornerstone of our philosophy.”

By Jean Stratton

Expressing oneself clearly, sharing ideas easily, concisely formulating and presenting your thoughts: all of these are important to avoid misinformation and misunderstanding. Valuable both in one’s professional and personal life, they are essential tools to acquire.

Helping people to develop such communication skills is the mission of Enspire Academy. Founded by Priya Kartik 20 years ago, the Academy is located at 4 Market Street in Plainsboro Village Center, Plainsboro.

Inspiring individuals to gain confidence and hone their communication skills has been Kartik’s goal for many years. Growing up in India, she focused on education, initially receiving a degree in mechanical engineering, and in 1997, she began her career in the manufacturing industry.

Her ability to communicate easily inspired her to assist others, she recalls. “I enjoyed helping other people to communicate better. At first, it was a hobby. I could help my colleagues when they had to give a presentation at work, go to an interview, or if they had to speak at a conference.”

 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

TEAM WORK: “People know they can count on us. Our reputation for experience, quality work, and service is well known.” Shown are members of the Black Bear Builders team, from left, project manager Rob Burke, owner Matt Bonacci, and designer Shelby Tewell.

By Jean Stratton 

Back Bear Builders is ready to turn your vision into reality! This respected design-build remodeling firm, headquartered in Pennington, has a long history of quality construction projects. Residential remodels and additions are its specialty, with a priority on first-rate service.

“We feel that our people and process differentiate us from our competitors,” says owner Matt Bonacci. “Having talented carpenters who are respectful and communicative is only the first step in running a successful renovation project. By focusing on cleanliness, communication, and setting realistic expectations, we hope to make what is inherently an inconvenient process more palatable.”

Bonacci’s introduction to the design-build business stemmed from his early interest in drawing, he reports. “When I was a boy growing up in Titusville, I liked to sit down and draw windows. That was fun.” more

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