I was born and raised in Princeton. I’ve been a licensed professional planner and a certified member of the American Institute of Certified Planners since the early 1980s. With all respect, I must disagree with staff on the proposal to abolish Princeton’s Site Plan Review Advisory Board (SPRAB). SPRAB has been doing project reviews since the 1980s without legal challenge. I don’t think I fully understand why the project classification problem or other technical problems that staff and the town attorney have identified can’t easily be solved, considering what SPRAB brings to the table.
SPRAB is a unique organization that has contributed to the development and character of the town for many years. SPRAB is a voluntary group of residents, with a variety of expertise, including architecture, who know the town and its operation and its townscape. In a lot of ways, it is the eyes of the citizenry, taking the time to make observations and share these observations in a discussion during meetings that are open to the public. From its observations, SPRAB develops recommendations regarding aspects of each project that are important to the citizenry and to planning board members. These recommendations are very helpful as many community members try to understand what a project is all about and whether there are any features of the project that should concern them. And most importantly, it gives an important perspective and recommendations to the Princeton Planning Board.
SPRAB doesn’t have meetings with the applicants that are essentially closed to the general public – that is left to paid staff. SPRAB meetings are quite different – they are not meetings with the applicants and, again, they are open to the public.
This advisory board is not redundant in any way. The issue with the Municipal Land Use Law raised by the lawyer can be worked out without eliminating SPRAB. In some 50 years, no one has brought up any legal concerns previously. That is not to say that SPRAB is perfect, but SPRAB brings to the community a homegrown perspective that is very different from that of paid staff. It is very important to maintain SPRAB. It is needed more than ever as the Borough and Township continue to physically become one town, project by project, and as Princeton updates its master plan, which certainly will take a significant amount of staff time.
The council is meeting on Monday, January 24th at 7 p.m. The Abolition Ordinance is supposed to be on its agenda. The Planning Board discussion took place last Thursday. For reasons not explained, the Planning Board has now called for an emergency planning board meeting also on January 24th at 3 p.m. to again discuss the proposed Abolition.
Kip Cherry, PP, AICP