Council Votes to Oppose Dinky Station Move

The Dinky Station

The borough council passed a resolution this Tuesday opposing the removal of the Dinky Station from the borough.

Council members unanimously voted to approve a brief resolution stating that they do not support Princeton University’s plan to move the Dinky station, citing the following reasons:

-The proposed move is contrary to smart growth norms

-The proposed move is contrary to state development and redevelopment plans

-The proposed move is contrary to New Jersey Transit policy

-The proposed move is not in the best interest of the residents of the borough.

The resolution will be delivered to the trustees of the university, President Shirley Tilghman, the head of New Jersey Transit and its board members, and the clerk of the township.

Except for Councilman Roger Martindell, council members did not make statements during the meeting about the resolution, which followed presentations by the Rutgers University Design Studio and private rail company URS about the potential for replacing the Dinky with a streetcar or light rail in the future.

Council President Kevin Wilkes said in a phone interview last night that the resolution was timed to be voted on before the 7:30 Princeton Regional Planning Board meeting tonight at township hall.

The planning board is reviewing the university’s proposal for its arts and transit neighborhood district on the western edge of campus and will make recommendations to the governing bodies of the two Princetons on creating the proposed new zone. But both the township and the borough governing bodies would have to approve zoning ordinances for the proposed zoning changes in each municipality.

“We wanted to send a clear message to the planning board that the council opposes the train station move,” Wilkes said of the timing of the resolution.

Before the vote on the resolution, Martindell said it was a “first step” in the right direction but should have gone further.

“I’m concerned it might be the last step when it comes to taking a stand on the proposed removal of the railway station,” Martindell said. “This resolution is somewhat perfunctory in depth. It avoids an opportunity to do a detailed analysis of public policy and it avoids a detailed analysis of the violation of the community interest. There may be no additional platform to discuss our concerns in detail. It is too passive to be of maximum use.”

Martindell said while he was disappointed, he still supports the point of the resolution.

“I hope in the next few weeks we will augment it in detail, expand and dig deeper,” he said.

It is still unclear exactly what the resolution means in terms of the borough council approving the zoning or a memorandum of understanding with the university about future transit, but obviously the resolution makes the success of either look bleak.

“We will consider the zoning as it is presented to us,” Wilkes said.

The university wants to move the station about 460 feet south of its existing location to make way for its new arts center plan and a second access road to its large parking garage. Some residents oppose the plan because it pushed the station further from the center of town. The move also shifts the station from the borough to the township.

Princeton University officials say the station must be moved for their plans to work and that keeping the station at its existing location is not an option. Even if the arts zone is not approved, they say they will still move the station.

After a tense January meeting in which Tilghman asked for a decision about the zoning, saying the university would move the arts center elsewhere on campus, university officials and representatives from the borough and township met several times to try to hammer out a compromise transit agreement in a memorandum of understanding, but the draft agreement was never approved.

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