Land preserved, land in limbo
While the fate of a 90-acre parcel abutting Herrontown and Mt. Lucas roads is still in the hands of the Princeton Planning Board, another 153-acre parcel is set to be permanently preserved.
Both parcels are owned by Lanwin Developmemt Corporation, led by Bryce Thompson V, the son of longtime Princeton real estate mogul Bryce Thompson IV, who died in 2019.
The 90-acre parcel, known as Thompson woods, was acquired by the elder Thompson in the 1950s and later sold to his children. For the past several years Lanwin has sought approval for a plan to develop 30 houses on roughly 18.5 acres of the tract, leaving much of the parcel as open space. (The Echo, September 2019). The plan, which has met with much opposition from owners of neighboring properties, is scheduled to next be discussed at the December 2 Planning Board meeting.
What is moving forward is the preservation of another Lanwin property, a 153-acre parcel along Cherry Valley and Province Line roads along Princeton’s borders with Hopewell and Montgomery townships. Princeton Council voted unanimously at its October 25 meeting to introduce an ordinance that would authorize the issuance of bonds to fund the $8.9 million purchase of the property.
The cost of the acquisition is expected to be paid in part by a $1.25 million grant from the state Green Acres Program, $2.5 million of Mercer County open space funding, and nearly $3 million in funding from private nonprofits. A public hearing on the ordinance will be held during the November 8 Council meeting.
Compromise reached for Prospect properties
Princeton University has reached an agreement with the town of Princeton to preserve the Prospect Avenue streetscape as part of its plans to construct new facilities for its School of Engineering and Applied Sciences and Program in Environmental Studies.
When university representatives presented their plans to the Planning Board earlier this year, they were adamant that three historic Victorian homes on Prospect Avenue would need to be razed in order to move the former Court Club building at 91 Prospect Avenue across the street and accommodate new construction. (The Echo, July 2021).
But under an agreement reached in late October, the homes will be saved, and the 91 Prospect building will be moved across the street alongside them. The largest of the three homes, 110 Prospect Avenue, will be moved behind the buildings at 114 and 116 Prospect, and the Court Club building will occupy the lot where 110 once stood.
Additionally, the university has agreed to support the designation of a Prospect Avenue Historic District to further protect the character of the street.
The university’s revised application was unanimously approved at the October 21 Planning Board meeting.
A liquor license in the balance
A routine application for a place-to-place liquor license transfer turned into a fraught discussion at the October 25 Princeton Council meeting.
Claridge Wine & Liquor Co., which has operated for years at Princeton Shopping Center, has applied to move to 102 Nassau Street, the prime downtown location long occupied by Landau’s woolens shop. The liquor store’s shopping center location has suffered in recent years due to the addition of liquor sales at McCaffrey’s supermarket.
The two hours of discussion on the application were punctuated by confusion among council members as to the exact grounds on which they are legally allowed to evaluate the application. Because the liquor store is a permitted use for that space, and any retail operation in that space might have delivery and parking needs, a decision needed to hinge on health and safety concerns specific to a liquor store.
“At the end of the day your decision does have to be grounded in facts,” attorney Trishka Cecil advised council. “It can’t just be conjecture or fears of bad things that might happen. There does have be a basis because however any of you may feel individually as a group you are an entity, you are a governmental entity, and you have to ask yourself whether there’s a reasonable way for a government to behave in this situation.”
A chorus of neighboring business owners joined the meeting to express their concerns about the application, including traffic hazards created by delivery trucks and parking issues created by shoppers seeking to make only a brief stop at the store. Other concerns were raised about sales of cigarettes and vaping products at the location.
But others, including PJ’s Pancakes proprietor John Procaccini, neighbors at the Shopping Center, and longtime customers expressed their support for the move. Another impassioned plea for approval came from Stanley Dohm, the owner of 102 Nassau Street, who submitted a letter explaining the difficulties of finding the “right” tenant for the space and citing the numerous financial difficulties landlords have faced during the pandemic.
Dohm also noted that he rejected many potential food businesses due to the potential for odors and litter as well as a number of retailers specializing in hemp or marijuana-based products.
“I find an ongoing liquor store that is not a startup to be preferable to any of the food merchants. Liquor is only for outside consumption; no drinking or late hours is allowed,” he wrote.
Council members ultimately declined to vote on the transfer at the meeting, opting instead to table the discussion. The debate will continue at the Monday, November 8, Council meeting.
PCH holds groundbreaking
Princeton Community Housing held a ceremonial groundbreaking on October 15 for 25 new affordable homes and additional enhancements at Princeton Community Village
The new homes will supplement the 466 affordable rentals currently managed by PCH in Princeton.
When completed, the new three-story building will have a mix of one-, two, and three-bedroom apartments for very low, low, and moderate-income households. The building will include a covered porch and a new neighborhood pavilion for socializing, as well as new walkways to provide easy access to the existing Ted Vial Clubhouse.
Additional neighborhood enhancements will include improvements to the clubhouse, electric vehicle charging stations, bicycle racks, a package pickup center, underground stormwater management, and an abundance of native landscaping including trees, shrubs, and rain garden plants.
The building is designed to meet or exceed Enterprise Green energy efficiency standards and includes all-electric heating/cooling and capacity for future installation of rooftop solar panels.
Funding for the new building and neighborhood enhancements is provided by NJHMFA, Princeton, and through PCH’s ongoing capital campaign.
Zoning Board updates
The Zoning Board heard five applications at its October 27 meeting.
269 South Harrison Street, Molly T. Pyle, owner and applicant. C1 and c2 variances are requested to permit the development parking spaces within the front and side setbacks in exception to ordinance requirements. The application, which was continued from a prior meeting, was approved subject to a review of plans for drainage and landscaping.
338 Nassau Street, 338 Nassau Street, LLC, owner & applicant. Modification of approved site plan with variances to relocate air conditioners and install a generator/trash enclosure in exception to ordinance requirements. The application, also continued from a prior meeting, was approved.
35-37 South Harrison Street, Brooke Brown, owner and applicant. C (1) / (2) variance request to permit construction of a second residential unit creating a two-family dwelling in exception to the required bulk requirements. The application was approved.
211 Winant Drive, 21 Brearly Road, Freeman Butler LLC, owners and applicants. Application is made for a minor subdivision to permit a lot line adjustment with a variance for floor area ratio and for impervious coverage to permit construction of a swimming pool and a pool house in exception to ordinance requirements. The application was approved.
7 Hamilton Avenue, 7 Hamilton LLC, owners and applicants. C1/C2 to permit the construction of a single family home on a lot that does not meet the required lot width of frontage. The applicant is also seeking an appeal from the Zoning Officer’s interpretation regarding the permitted width of a garage.
The application was carried to the next meeting on Wednesday, November 10, the submission of a site plan with more information on the proposed project.