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Princeton Governing Body Tables Business Hours Ordinance

The site of the proposed 7-Eleven on Nassau Street.
The site of the proposed 7-Eleven on Nassau Street.

At the request of Mayor Liz Lempert the governing body for the town of Princeton decided tonight to table an ordinance until next week that would restrict business hours for stores in or next to residential areas.

Council President Bernie Miller was absent. Without his vote, Lempert and her voting block of Miller, Heather Howard and Lance Liverman would not have the majority needed to pass the ordinance.

Resident Joe Small took issue with the fact that the ordinance was being tabled and called the move unprofessional.

“It’s not for the convenience of citizens. It’s for someone who can not be here who votes with the mayor,” Small said.

Small said the ordinance benefits Wawa and the Princeton University Store, which would be exempt from the operating hours restrictions. He also questioned whether Howard and Lempert should vote when the ordinance includes an exemption for the university. Howard is a lecturer at the university and Lempert’s husband works for the school.

Many business leaders oppose the ordinance, which calls for businesses in or next to residential zones to be closed between 2 a.m. and 5 a.m. Pharmacies and restaurants with liquor licenses are exempt from the regulations.

Residents in the East Nassau Street neighborhood argue that the restrictions will reduce noise, crowds, disorderly conduct and trash.

With all the exclusions, the ordinance currently only would apply to the new 7-Eleven slated for the former West Coast Video store on Nassau Street.

Robert Bratman, the owner of the property, has promised that the 7-Eleven would be a well-lit environment with security cameras.

Resident Wendy Ludlum said the ordinance takes into consideration the rhythm of the town so that merchants can thrive and Princeton can be “particular about what we do and how we run our town and how people can live.”

Pine Street resident Steven Schultz voiced support for the ordinance, saying it will cut down on disorderly conduct in the neighborhood. A drunk driver hit a car and the car ended up in his driveway. “This ordinance will prevent more of that,” he said.

Adrienne Kreipke, a resident of Maple Street, said she is surprised 24-hour businesses are not already banned in Princeton. She suggested the hours be restricted even more than just 2 a.m. to 5 a.m.

Maple Street resident Gail Ullman, a member of the town planning board, asked the council to use caution in proceeding with the ordinance.

“My concern is the reason for this ordinance,” she said. “None of these circumstances exist at the moment, and I believe the ordinance is in response to fear, rather than reason — fear of bad people coming in crowds. I urge you to wait and base this ordinance on facts, not fears.”

Business owner and resident Lou Carnivale said the ordinance is looking for a problem that does not exist.

“If there is a problem, you have the ability to change it,” Carnivale said. “Why pass a law before it’s necessary?”

John Marshall, the president of the Princeton Merchants Association, said the merchants understand residents’ concerns but they disagree with the implementation method. They argue zoning should be used to resolve such issues.

Councilman Lance Liverman said any time the council votes on important votes, all council members should be present.

“I’m the only one sitting up here who lives within 50 feet of commercial property,” he said. “People come out at all times of the night. I know exactly what the neighbors are talking about. It’s not just screaming and shouting, it is lower voices…I’m a business person. I do not want to impede anyone’s livelihood. I don’t think it would. I don’t know, maybe 7-Elevens have to be open 24 hours a day instead of opening at 5 a.m. or 6 a.m.”

Councilwoman Jo Butler said her concern is that the merchants in town be treated fairly.

“It’s a huge advantage to the university to keep their business open beyond the hours and not let our own merchants service those students,” Butler said.

Council members agreed to postpone the vote until Miller returns. If the ordinance had been voted down by opponents Jo Butler, Jenny Crumiller and Patrick Simon, it would just be reintroduced again when Miller is present in order to have the votes to pass it.

The ordinance is now slated to be approved on Dec. 15 after the continuation of the public hearing.

Krystal Knapp

Krystal Knapp is the founding editor of Planet Princeton. She can be reached via email at editor AT planetprinceton.com. Send all letters to the editor and press releases to that email address.

  • Bob

    I think that the problems are caused by the restaurants in the area as the patrons leave and go to their cars parked on the tree streets. If the radical vocal minority did not complain when the owner wanted to put a bank in as a tenant, the restaurant patrons would park in the bank’s parking lot, after banking hours, not on the tree streets. I think the neighbors are acting like spoiled children. I personally welcome the 7-11.

  • JustSaying

    Residents on the neighboring streets can attest that there is plenty of noise at 2am on weekends when the local bar closes. So it’s not a solution in search of a problem.

    7-11 does not provide a service needed in the East Nassau Street neighbornood.

    Any fair poll would show that the quiet, respectfaul majority in the tree street neighborhood supports this resolution. There’s no evidence otherwise.

    I hope the town council passes the resolution.

  • Xavier

    I attended the hearing and heard the owner of the West Coast Video Building speak. He asked for fairness. First he wanted to put a bank in his building that his family has owned since the early 1960s and for which they have paid over one million dollars in taxes. A bank is quiet, clean and would have provided needed parking after banking hours. A radical, vocal minority came out and shouted the bank down! It is not vibrant. It does not encourage community. There are too many financial institutions in town. We want a place to buy food. To accommodate the shouters, the building’s owner found 7-11. The store sell’s food. It will have an internet cafe to encourage community. It provides a service that is needed in the East Nassau Street neighborhood. Once again the radical, vocal minority came out and cried that there will be crime, drug dealing, litter and noise. No matter that none of these alleged problems exist at Wawa, Princeton’s other 24/7 convenience store. No matter that the proposed 7-11 will have surveillance cameras, LED lighting and a manager on duty at all times. No matter that the only part of the 7-11 that abuts residential property is a brick wall with no windows. No matter that the building has been vacant for 10 years. But the radical, vocal minority cried “be afraid be very afraid” and sadly, half of Princeton’s politician’s appear ready to bow to the fear mongering. Rather then leading and voting against an un-needed ordinance that will likely result in 7-11 avoiding Princeton, Council appears poised to pass a law that will probably result in litigation. And, based on the numerous exceptions that exclude other similarly situated properties, the plaintiff will probably prevail and Princeton will pay more unnecessary legal fees. Why doesn’t the council put this ordinance on hold to wait and see if there really is a problem that needs correcting? I am asking.

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