Regarding “University-town relations strained after meeting” (Wednesday, Feb. 2, 2011)
Given the differing views being expressed about the intended purpose of Monday night’s joint meeting of Borough Council and Township Committee, I thought it might be helpful to briefly recount the genesis of the meeting.
The University’s Arts and Transit proposal straddled both municipalities and was located in six different zones. The existing zoning permits everything in the plan except for the construction of the buildings for the arts. As part of our proposal, we asked each municipality to create a new zone for the area that would accommodate the proposed arts buildings (in the first phase and in later phases) and thus would allow the project to go forward.
Last spring we met with Princeton Township leaders and the professional staff of the Princeton Regional Planning Board to discuss a proposed zoning ordinance for the arts and transit area that is in the Township and to draft a possible ordinance for the proposed residential mixed-use district along Alexander Street, south of the arts and transit area.
We then asked Princeton Borough to engage in similar conversations with us to develop a compatible draft zoning ordinance for the Borough portion of the Arts and Transit area. The Borough refused to have this conversation, saying they instead wished to have further discussions with us about the nature of our proposal before turning to issues of zoning.
Over the summer we participated in five lengthy meetings with Borough and Township officials and representatives of the planning board where we answered their questions, considered alternative approaches, collected additional data, conducted additional analyses, etc.
At the last of these meetings, in early fall, we all agreed that we had gone as far as we could go without getting a signal from the municipalities about whether they were willing to put the necessary zoning in place. Because the project can only go forward if both municipalities put zoning in place, the local officials proposed a joint meeting of the two governing bodies. If we were simply presenting informational updates, we could have presented them separately, as we had done before. But they thought a joint meeting would be more appropriate if the intended purpose of the meeting was to get an indication about zoning.
Despite this agreement, months passed without the proposed meeting being scheduled. In early December the planning board adopted a resolution asking the two governing bodies to convene such a meeting and invite the planning board. This was proposed as a joint governing board meeting and not a planning board meeting because the issue on the table would be zoning. It was not expected that there would be a vote on a proposed zoning ordinance, but it was expected that each municipality would be asked to indicate whether it was prepared to go ahead with a process to develop such an ordinance.
On Jan. 10, University representatives met with three members of Borough Council, including the Council president, and one of the topics we discussed was expectations for the Jan. 31 meeting. Again, it was clearly understood that the purpose of the meeting was to give us an indication of whether the municipalities were prepared to proceed with discussions about zoning. There were similar discussions with other Borough officials in preparation for the meeting.
The meeting Monday night occurred eight months after we began trying to get an indication of whether the governing bodies would be willing to adopt the zoning necessary for us to proceed with a project that is designed to meet both University and community needs. The meeting was called for the purpose of describing our proposal in detail, answering any questions that were asked, hearing comments from the community, and then asking the governing boards whether they were willing to proceed. The clear indication from them was that they were not, which is why we now need to look to other sites to expand our capacities in the arts and need to develop different proposals for the former Arts and Transit site that can be accomplished within existing zoning.
Robert K. Durkee ’69
Vice President and Secretary
Original URL: http://www.dailyprincetonian.com/2011/02/03/27456/