Borough Council to Discuss Special Improvement District, Transit Only Zone Tonight

Proposed Transportation Corridor Special Improvement District Map

The Princeton Borough Council will discuss two ordinances related to Princeton University’s proposed Arts and Transit neighborhood, including the creation of a transit-only zone and a special improvement district, at a 7:30 p.m. special meeting of the governing body tonight.

Some council members are proposing that the borough finally create a so-called special improvement district, a proposal that has been discussed for many years but has been unpopular with many borough business owners.

But borough officials do not want to create the district along Nassau Street, as has been discussed on the past. Instead the improvement district would be created from Nassau Steet down University Place all the way to the township border – in other words, the zone would mainly encompass Princeton University properties, including the proposed arts and transit neighborhood and the new right of way agreed on by local officials and the university for future transit such as light rail.

A special assessment would be places on all non-residential properties in the district, which would be called the “Transportation Corridor Special Improvement District.” The assessments would fund improvements in the area such as transportation initiatives.

A non-profit corporation would be created called “Princeton On the Move” to manage the district. The board of directors for the corporation would consist of seven members, including the mayor, a member of borough council, the borough administrator, a borough traffic and transportation committee member, and three area business or property owners.

All costs for the improvements in the district would be covered by the assessment of properties. Assessments would be determined by multiplying the current assessed valuation, as determined by the tax assessor of the borough for real estate tax purposes, multiplied by a rate to be established by the district management corporation. The portion of the proposed budget for the first year of operation of the district would be no greater than $90,000.00, according to the ordinance.

The management corporation would develop an annual business plan and budget, which would be reviewed by the borough council annually. The corporation would be able to apply for grants and take out loans for improvement projects.

Some borough officials have worked out a draft of the improvement district ordinance with the help of the borough’s special counsel on transit issues. Two council members have criticized the process, saying they were not included in the negotiations and that the full council did not authorize the lawyer’s work and payments.

Councilwomen Jenny Crumiller and Jo Butler are proposing that the council instead create a transit-only zone along the existing Dinky right of way to preserve that right of way for future transit that could possibly run all the way up to Nassau Street. Princeton University wants to move the Dinky station 460 feet south of its existing location and has plans for a new access road to its parking garage and a building that would be build on the right of way.

The Princeton Township Committee approved zoning for the university’s plans for the arts neighborhood recently, and the borough council is slated to vote on zoning changes for the portion of the arts neighborhood within borough borders next week.