The Princeton Planning Board is slated to vote on whether to approve a minor sire plan and variances for 23-25 Humbert Street on Thursday night. Plans for the site include turning a duplex into a triplex. The meeting will be held via Zoom at 7:30 p.m.
Metuchen-based company Simplify Living wants to build three rental units at the site. The duplex that was on the property has been demolished. Plans are for it to be replaced with a three-unit, attached triplex. Each unit would include two stories and a basement. One unit would face Humbert Street. Three parking spaces would be added at the back of the property. Simplify Living is seeking variances for impervious coverage, for some setbacks, and for usable open space standards.
The planning board began hearing the application on April 15. Neighboring residents expressed concerns about the size of the development, parking, and access to the shared drive at that meeting. There is a permanent access road easement for residents of three properties. The drive, which is gravel, will be paved asphalt. The existing impervious surface at the site is 51.8 percent and the allowable impervious surface under the town’s ordinance is 36 percent, but the developer is proposing an impervious surface of 70.9 percent.
Akash Ghulyani of Simplify Living told the planning board the building has been designed to maximize sustainability features, with a goal of meeting LEED gold building standards. Three electric vehicle charging stations would be provided at the site. A side yard setback of five feet is required, but a two-feet set back is being proposed.
A few residents who live in the area questioned why the town grants variances to developers who purchased properties fully knowing what the limitations would be when it comes to density and other issues. Resident Don Greenberg said the town should turn down the oversized project.
“It’s not incumbent on the town to grant egregious variances that are being asked for so applicants can maximize profits when they can build something that conforms to zoning,” Greenberg said. “Maximizing profit is not a justification…A two-family building was proposed when the property was first purchased.”
Resident Bruce Lawton expressed concerns about changing the character of the neighborhood. “Every time something new goes up, it’s about maximizing the real estate value for the person who owns it,” Lawton said. “It would be nice if real estate developers start to think about the character of where they are looking to make their money.”
Resident Leigh Gibson said removing the third unit would be a better way to maximize green space and take care of the variance issues for the site. She expressed concerns about the precedent the project will set for the redevelopment of homes in the neighborhood. “I don’t know why we as neighbors owe this new owner the privilege of a third unit at our expense,” she said. “You are going to turn the block into one long apartment-building-looking thing if these massive structures are replicated.”
Ronald Nielsen said Humbert Street is only one and two-family homes. “To replace two fairly sizable units with three smaller units is downgrading this neighborhood,” he said, adding that removing a unit would make way for more open space.
“It’s overkill, it’s too much for this neighborhood,” resident James Ross said. “We moved to Princeton for quaint. It’s not going to add quaint. We’re not in a low tax town. Putting this kind of building in will be disruptive to the neighborhood.”
Resident Steve Lydon said the dedicated easement reduces the development potential for the property significantly. Resident Daniel Brown expressed concerns about parking and the ability of emergency vehicles to use the access drive. Resident David Zinkin asked the planning board how parking and drive access will be enforced so that people can get in and out of the drive without issues.
Sam Bunting, who writes the pro-density opinion blog Walkable Princeton and is part of the YIMBY movement, told the planning board he would be delighted to have the development in his backyard.
“It’s what young people want, and people moving to Princeton. They would love to have the opportunity to move into this kind of more compact, small footprint home where they would have easy access to the town, and the property might be slightly less expensive than the single family homes characteristic of a huge portion of Princeton and surrounding areas,” Bunting said, adding that increasing the density from two two three homes is the most incremental increase in density possible. “Are you saying we’re done here in Princeton and no one else can come?” he said regarding opposition to the project.