It’s official – the town of Princeton now has 20 historic districts.
Princeton Council members voted 5-0 on Monday night to approve the historic district designation for the Witherspoon-Jackson neighborhood.
Several residents repeated speeches they have given at previous meetings asking officials to preserve the African-American history of the neighborhood.
“If not now, when?” Councilman Bernie Miller said as he voiced support for the historic district designation.
Some officials were concerned about approving the ordinance for the district because it mistakenly includes the historic African-American portion of the Princeton Cemetery. Officials decided the council could approve the ordinance and amend it later to remove the cemetery.
A few landowners also lobbied to have their properties removed from the district. Officials said they could consider removing properties later.
Councilman Patrick Simon expressed concerns about the cost of historic district designation for homeowners who want to demolish or renovate buildings, but decided to vote for the ordinance because of the desire expressed by neighborhood residents who wanted the district created to preserve its history. Simon had argued that the town needs to do more work before approving a historic district ordinance, including developing design standards. He also said the town should tackle the issue of affordability and McMansions in a more comprehensive way.
“Frankly our work up to this point is excellent some respects, but not in others,” he said. “We have not done as much work and due diligence on behalf of residents as we should have.”
Simon said the town should be taking a multi-pronged approach when it comes maintaining the character of the neighborhood.
“I don’t think the historic designation solves the problems,” he said.
Miller said it is not clear whether the historic designation will raise or lower taxes for property owners.