Town of Princeton Cracking Down on Residents Who Leave Brush in the Streets

yard wasteA warning to Princeton residents: The town is planning to issue summonses within the next few weeks to property owners who leave yard waste such as grass clippings, leaves, tree branches and weeds piled on streets.

Town employees noticed a few weeks ago that about 25 percent of homeowners in various areas are piling their brush on the street. The town sent out notices to more than 200 property owners in two areas of town designated as zones one and two for town brush collection, according to Bob Hough, the town’s director of infrastructure and operations. Last week the town gave 37 property owners who did not respond a final warning to remove the brush within 72 hours.

Anyone who does not remove their brush from the street will be issued a summons by the police or a violation notice by the health department and fined.

“Brush on the roadway is hazardous for residents,” Hough told the Princeton Council Monday night.

“There is a considerable amount of non-compliance within the old Borough boundaries, and it has worked its way beyond the perimeter of the old Borough and crept farther out,” Hough said. “People see a neighbor leaving brush out, and they say `hey, I’m leaving it out too.’ It’s a rat game. People are ratting each other out. If someone gets a notice, they call and ask if we have given one to a neighbor who has brush out. Usually the answer is yes.”

The town will issue notices to property owners in other neighborhoods in the coming weeks.

Resident Kate Warren said during public comment prior to Hough’s report that former Princeton Borough residents have been penalized  as a result of the consolidated Princeton’s brush pick up schedule. Borough residents were promised they would not lose any services as a result of consolidation.

“I have a small backyard like many former Borough residents, I had no place to put all my weeds and brush,” Warren said. “I was told I could put then in car and bring them to the composting site in Lawrence, join the town composting program, or compost them in backyard. My yard does not have any room for compost. The alternative is to put them in the trash and then they will go to a dump site, increasing the tonnage of trash the town dumps.”

Warren said lawn debris is piling up in the former Borough.

“I understand the town is considering hiring an enforcement officer,” she said. “Rather than fining people into submission, why don’t you expand the brush program and pick up regularly like you used to, or expand the composting program and provide it free to every taxpayer?”

Councilwoman Jenny Crumiller said the town still has bag pick up. Residents can put brush in big leaf bags.

Councilman Patrick Simon told Warren that brush pick up for her area of town is scheduled for the first week in August.

In the former Borough, residents could place their brush on the street any time and the public works department would pick it up. That practice was eliminated in the consolidated Princeton. Now all residents must place their brush on the street the week their pick up is scheduled.

Bagged leaves are collected regularly certain times of year. One pick up was scheduled for July and one is scheduled for August. The next leaf bag pick up after that is scheduled for October. Brush is not supposed to be placed in the leaf bags, however, according to town regulations.


    1. The issue is with brush pick up, which even a cursory reading of the article indicates. Brush doesn’t compost easily nor is it eligible for the composting program.

          1. And the point is that in the former borough, where there are small lots, there isn’t room to simply let the debris sit around for years, and for that matter, weeks at a time.

            This is an example of the very parochial view of our council representatives, who apparently live in larger houses with larger yards. There isn’t much concern for those of us who don’t have the space for the debris, or a truck or a lawn service to take it away. Let’s face it — the current town council is not receptive to the problems faced by the non-wealthy.

    2. Some of have our own compost pile and still there are things that can’t be composted.

  1. The former Boro streets are now covered with bark and the leaves which are falling from the London Planes that line the old town streets. Will someone fine the trees? Those who try to keep up their properties with summer pruning, clipping and brush removal are discouraged. Our taxes have gone up but services have gone and we were PROMISED that wouldn’t happen. Those making these decisions have landscapers and larger properties.

  2. The former Boro streets are now covered with bark and the leaves which are falling from the London Planes that line the old town streets. Will someone fine the trees? Those who try to keep up their properties with summer pruning, clipping and brush removal are discouraged. Our taxes have gone up but services have gone and we were PROMISED that wouldn’t happen. Those making these decisions have landscapers and larger properties.

  3. Is there a number we can call to report offenders? There’s a house on the Princeton-Kingston Rd that’s has a giant pile obstructing the shoulder and spilling out into the street – and it’s been there for a month, blocking bicycle traffic.

    1. If what you write is true, Steve, I find it SAD that our police & maintenance department has allowed a hazard to remain on route 27 for a month. There’s no incentive for paid municipal employees to protect citizens from road hazards, if the town’s governance plan and their paycheck is attached to making more money from summonses issued to homeowners. Increased charges & intimidation by government are replacing neighborly esprit de corps & helpfulness in town life. A truck should be sent out today to ensure public safety.

  4. Summonses & property taxes are on the rise, and Council’s preferred form of governance. The issuance of 2015 summonses has increased over 43%, when compared to 2014. (2445 summonses were issued through June 2014. 3516 summonses were issued through June 2015) Our municipal income stream has also increased from a 3.1 million annual payment from Princeton University & rising property valuations. More municipal employees have been hired & our police have time for coffee chats. But, for all this positive cash flow & support, the municipality cannot send out a truck to remove safety hazards from our streets today to solve a problem. Instead, Council wants municipal employees to look at piles in the street, write a warning, do repeat visits to check the piles, & write more summonses. If these piles are so dangerous that a summons can be justified, why isn’t the municipality protecting everyone with one truck visit? I’m shocked & embarrassed that Kate Warren was told to put waste in her car & drive it to the waste center. If municipal employees sweeping through neighborhoods with summons meters were sweeping hazards off the street, this problem would already be solved. Thanks Planet Princeton for the warning that our wallets are again in danger, and so are we!

  5. It is abundantly clear that the current pick up schedule is not meeting the needs of the community and needs to be increased. It is just ridiculous to consider hiring “enforcement” personnel instead of doing more to solve the real problem. I have no quarrel with issuing summonses to abusers of the service, like those folks who take down an entire tree and leave the logs for the municipality to remove. But the number of warnings issued in just two sections reveals, not that we are a community of scofflaws, but rather that the pick up program is deficient. This is where Council needs to focus its attention: providing something closer to what Borough residents were promised (I’m from the former Township so that didn’t impact me) and, much more importantly, something much closer to what is actually needed in the entire community.

  6. Perhaps the next time one hears that there aren’t as many local volunteers for the Fire department or the Rescue squad as needed, we should think about the town trying to pit residents against each other by issuing summonses about yard waste. Community spirit declines when it becomes an us vs. them relationship between the town and its residents.

    This wouldn’t be an issue if the town would simply spend the relatively minimal cost for a few more weekly debris pickups.

  7. The Borough of Princeton prohibited leaves and lawn debris such as branches and grass cuttings from being placed in the street. When the ordinances of the two communities were “harmonized” at that time the leaves and debris were allowed to be placed within three feet from the curb, not allowed within 10 feet of a storm sewer inlet, however there was no restrictions about placing the materials within a designated parking space which is actually a safety concern for various reasons including the risk of car fires caused by hot catalytic converters.

  8. I’m glad this is being addressed, and I hope it ends up with more frequent pickups of brush. These brush piles are a big hazard for people, especially children, biking on borough streets. The piles are almost impossible to see at night.

  9. Has anyone noticed the sides streets off of Nassau over the past few days? It is even worse than when this article was first published!

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