Princeton University’s Arts and Transit Zoning to Be Reviewed

Proposed arts and transit zone
The governing bodies of the two Princetons will revisit the issue of zoning for Princeton University’s proposed $300 million arts center at two meetings this week.

Tonight at its 7 p.m. public meeting, the township committee will review the zoning ordinance for the portion of the arts zone that would be within the township’s boundaries.

Tomorrow at 7:30 p.m. the borough council will review the zoning changes necessary for the borough portion of the project to move forward.

Because of the numerous changes made to the ordinances, both ordinances need to be reintroduced. That means public hearings and final votes would have to take place after second readings of the ordinances. Those hearings would take place in November, after the general election.

The Regional Planning Board of Princeton recently reviewed the proposed zoning ordinances and made suggestions for changes to the zoning. The board did not allow public comment on the proposed zoning changes at that meeting.

The board did not issue an opinion on the university’s plan to move the Dinky station 460 feet south of its current location as part of the project.

While board members debated whether moving it would be desirable or necessary, board member Gail Ulmann, who was moderating the board’s discussion, did not think it was necessary for the board to come down on either side and expressed concerns about division among board members on the issue.

A report on the ordinances created by a planning board ad hoc committee suggested that moving the Dinky would become necessary if the university’s plan is carried out because of the increasing congestion in the area.

University officials have insisted repeatedly that the school must relocate the station for its arts center proposal to work and in order to create another access road to its large parking garage. School officials have said they will move the station anyway, regardless of whether the arts center plan is approved.

“I’ve come to the conclusion that regardless of public opinion, regardless of what the borough council says and regardless of what’s expressed here, the university will go through with this plan,” board member Marvin Reed said at the planning board meeting. “If that’s the case, I find it very important that we pass both of these ordinances, just to be able to have control over the process.”

After more than four hours of debate, the board agreed to say it could not come to a conclusion on the question of whether moving the Dinky station would be desirable or necessary.

A report from a traffic consultant showed that there would be no major traffic increases in the area during rush hour as a result of the proposed project, but several board members argued further studies need to be done to take in to account other hours, given that the performing arts spaces would be used at times other than rush hour.