Dinky Right of Way Issue Dead, Borough Lawyer Confirms

The move by some members of the Borough Council to preserve the right of way for the existing Dinky train tracks would be meaningless in terms of Princeton University’s plans for its arts and transit neighborhood and the station move, a Borough Lawyer confirmed tonight.

Because of the change in New Jersey state law that went in to effect last year known as the time of application rule, ordinances adopted after a site plan has been filed have no impact on that project. Princeton University filed site plans for its arts center last week.

“The right of way ordinance would not apply to the current application by Princeton University,” Borough Lawyer Henry Chou told the Borough Council tonight.

Even if a site plan had not been filed, the Borough Council would not make the final decision on whether the right of way is adopted on the Borough map anyway. Press reports last week that any decision by the Borough Council to adopt an ordinance designating a right of way for the Dinky tracks would cost the town millions are inaccurate, because the Borough Council does not make the decision, the Princeton Regional Planning Board does.

“Assuming there is no site plan application, if you adopted the ordinance, the planning board would have the statutory authority to adopt the right of way in any future site plan they approve,” Chou said. ” It is a discretionary act by the planning board. They may or may not reserve a right of way.  They can either look at an official map or the circulation element in terms of the right of way. It is not triggered by the adoption of an ordinance though. It is triggered by the planning board’s decision on whether or not to include the right of way. But it could not even happen in the case of the University project due to the time of application law.”

Chou said he could not comment on some other questions asked by Councilwoman Jenny Crumiller about NJ Transit and the easement agreement with Princeton University because his firm, Hill Wallack, represents NJ Transit on some matters and it would be a conflict of interest to answer.

Councilman Roger Martindell asked if the University’s application has been deemed complete yet.

“The completeness issue not relevant,” Chou said. “For timing purposes it is the date of application.”

Chou said if a pending lawsuit challenging the zoning previously approved by the Borough Council for the University’s $300 million project is successful, that could affect the University’s plan and the zoning.

Resident Anne Neumann, a plaintiff in two lawsuits filed by residents who oppose the University moving its station 460 feet further from the center of town, said the Borough Council should still adopt the final ordinance “because contingencies might arise.”