With Phase I of the Witherspoon Street improvement project underway — Council awarded a $4.47 million contract for the work at its February 14 meeting —the governing body has now turned its attention fully to Phase II.

Phase I covers the area of Witherspoon Street within the Central Business District, beginning at Nassau Street, and continuing one block past Paul Robeson Place and Wiggins Street to the intersection of Green Street. Phase II picks up there and continues to Franklin Avenue.

CONCEPT 6

Part of the concept plan for Phase II. View the full design here.

In a presentation during a Council work session at the February 14 meeting, assistant municipal engineer Jim Purcell outlined the proposal for that stretch, which includes five-foot sidewalks, shade trees on the east side of the street, adjacent to Princeton Cemetery, to create a canopy, and shorter trees on the west side of the street that will not grow tall enough to encroach on utility lines.

The plan also calls for raised crosswalks at certain intersections that experience high pedestrian traffic from children walking to and from Community Park School, as well as the transformation of private drives like Shirley Court and Witherspoon Lane into driveways such that the sidewalk can run continuously across them.

One feature notably absent from the Phase II plan is bike lanes, which municipal engineering staff noted would come at the cost of either resident parking spaces or a sidewalk on one side of the street. “We just don’t have the space to do it safely,” Purcell said at the meeting.

To receive state funding for the project, Council must approve a Phase II plan this month. A contract must be awarded for Phase III, which will cover the stretch from Franklin Avenue to Valley Road, by November, 2023.

Meanwhile, underground utility work is underway for Phase I, which includes the permanent shift to a one-way Witherspoon Street from Nassau to Spring Street to accommodate wider sidewalks and additional space for outdoor dining.

Zoning Board updates

The Zoning Board of Adjustment heard four applications at its regular meeting on February 23.

19 Marion Road East, Michael Gecan and Sheila Morrissey, owner and applicant. A variance was requested under the C1 criteria to permit construction of a new home in exception to the required lot area. A bulk variance was requested to permit construction of a front entry garage in exception to the required 16-foot setback from the nearest portion of the main house.

The application, which was carried from a previous meeting to allow the applicant to confirm that no neighbors were willing to sell a portion of their property to create a conforming lot, was approved, with one board member opposing the variance for the garage.

44 Morgan Place, 44 Morgan LLC, owner and applicant. The applicant was granted a C1/C2 lot area, lot depth, and lot frontage variance for a new single-family dwelling in August, 2018, and was requesting on extension of the Zoning Board approval.

At issue was the length of time since the original variance, and that municipal ordinances changed in the interim such that the approved plan would no longer be permissible. The application was tabled for the applicant to revise their plans for the home.

29 Leigh Avenue, Kimberly Beury and Edward Markey, owner and applicant. A C1 variance and Historic Preservation Plan Review were requested to remove the existing front to back gable roof and replace it with a higher hip roof and four new dormers in exception to the required smaller and combined side yard setbacks. The property sits in the Witherspoon Jackson Historic District.

The application was approved.

131 Mountain Avenue, Kenneth and Linda Twining, owner and applicant. C1 and C2 variances were requested to permit the construction of a two-story addition to the rear elevation of the subject property in exception to the required height-to-setback ratio.

The application was approved.

The next Zoning Board meeting is scheduled for Wednesday, March 23.

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