Planning Board to Review Arts and Tranzit Zoning Tonight

Proposed Princeton University arts and transit zone
The Princeton Regional Planning Board will revisit the issue of new zoning for Princeton University’s proposed $300 million arts neighborhood at the board’s public meeting at 7:30 tonight at the township municipal building.

Last month, Princeton Borough Council and the Princeton Township Committee both reintroduced amended ordinances to rezone the area on the western edge of the campus to make way for the university’s arts plan. The area straddles the borough and township border, which is why two separate zoning ordinances are required, one for each municipality.

The planning board will review the revised ordinances and make recommendations, and then if there are no major changes to the zoning ordinances, the governing bodies will consider the ordinances again and take a final vote on them after public hearings.

Some residents oppose the university’s plan because it includes moving the Dinky station about 460 feet. Residents argue the extra distance from the center of town will deter walkers from using the Dinky. University officials say the move is necessary to create a second access road to a large parking garage and to make the plan work overall.

The university, borough and township recently approved a transit agreement that would create a new right of way for a future transit system like a streetcar or light rail.

But two officials in the borough are fighting to retain the existing right of way and want to designate a “transit only” zone where the Dinky right or way is currently located. At the Borough Council meeting Wednesday night, Councilwoman Jenny Crumiller proposed creating the transit-only zone that would preserve the public right of way for rail transit.

The council will seek legal advice on the issue before voting on whether such a move is possible.

The borough’s special transit attorney, Robert Goldsmith, has cautioned the council that the transit only zone could possibly make the borough vulnerable to a lawsuit for spot zoning.

Borough lawyer Henry Chou said a rail transit zone to memorialize the area where the track is now would be permissible, but said he was not giving an official opinion and had not seen Goldsmith’s memo.

The council will revisit the issue at its Nov. 22 meeting after seeking further legal advice.

Borough Council President Kevin Wilkes said preserving the existing right of way would not provide a straight shot up to Nassau street because some existing university buildings would make that impossible. But supporters of maintaining the existing right of way argued the existing right of way, even if it would have to veer off to avoid buildings, is better than the alternate right of way outlined in the transit agreement.