Local Historic Preservation Group Asked to Consider Historic Designation for Dinky Train Station

The Princeton Borough Historic Preservation Review Committee is weighing whether to designate the Dinky Train Station area as a historic district.

Members of the group Save the Dinky asked the committee at its most recent public meeting to give the Dinky station such a designation. The station is on the state and national registers of historic places.

“Do we have the authority to recommend that a designation be made in the borough that mimics the national designation?” Historic Review Committee Member Peter Marks asked. “If we do, I would strongly favor it.”

Borough Zoning Coordinator Derek Bridger told Marks he would have to recuse himself from any discussion and vote on the issue because Marks is a plaintiff in a lawsuit challenging Princeton University’s right to move the Dinky station 460 feet south of its existing location as part of the school’s arts and transit project. Some other committee members and audience members expressed interested in looking in to the issue.

Anyone can nominate a site for historic designation, but committee members said there is a detailed process that must be followed. That process includes first  identifying individual historic sites in a potential historic district in the town’s master plan, which is developed by the Princeton Regional Planning Board.

The committee has been working to recommend that a portion of the western section of the Borough be designated a historic district called the Morven Tract Historic District. That recommendation process has stalled, committee members said, because accord to municipal  land use law, you can’t designate local historic districts without having individual historic sites already identified within those districts in the town’s master plan. The Dinky Station is not listed in the master plan as a historic site.

If the planning board designates the Dinky Station a historic site, the committee could recommend that a historic district be created, but that recommendation would then have to be voted on by the Borough Council.

For properties located within local historic districts, the historic preservation review committee considers applications for exterior alterations that are visible from the public right-of-way.

Princeton University Professor Alain Kornhauser of the group Save the Dinky urged the committee to consider the designation and told committee members the group does not oppose the university’s arts project.

“What the university proposed for the arts is really nice, really great, but I don’t see the need to move the Dinky,” Kornhauser said. “The station serves a historic function. Think about how blessed we are here to have the station. It is probably the last one that exists nationwide, and it really connects  the Borough to the world…The preservation of that function in the center of the community is really important.”

The preservation committee will look in to the issue further and plans, to discuss it again at its next meeting.