In a meeting on Oct. 25, which notably lasted over five and a half hours, the Princeton Town Council passed an ordinance banning gas leaf blowers within the municipality, alongside debating whether to allow Claridge Wine and Liquor to open on 102 Nassau Street and rezoning areas around the Hun School from residential to educational.
Approving Claridge Wine and Liquor to move from their original location in the Princeton Shopping Center to 102 Nassau Street drew public criticism from other local businesses. Among the detractors were owners of Hamilton Jewelers, Labyrinth Books, and the Princeton Arts Gallery.
“A liquor store at this location will actively detract from the Princeton experience, particularly on this block of Nassau Street,” wrote Hank and Andrew Siegel, owners of Hamilton Jewelers, in a letter to the Council.
As the nearly two-hour debate continued past midnight and multiple council members raised their voices at one another, the council voted to table the decision until the next meeting, citing that they felt more information and attention to the issue was needed.
“This has really gone off the rails … this is exactly why we should not be doing it this late when everyone’s tired,” said Councilwoman Mia Sacks on the choice to revisit the issue later.
The ordinance to ban gas leaf blowers in the municipality, however, was met with unanimous public support. Not only do they believe this will have large benefits for the environment, but the Council, in its ordinance negotiations, had involved the affected landscaping workers — a significant choice, according to resident Phyllis Teitelbaum.
“If Princeton passes this ordinance, you will be in the trend [of banning gas leaf blowers],” she said. “But Princeton has done something unique. We involved our landscapers.”
“Not a single other municipality has included landscapers in its planning of a gas leaf blower ordinance,” Teitelbaum continued. “Some of the provisions in the proposed ordinance are ones that were actually suggested by the landscapers themselves.”
A Spanish interpreter was provided for this portion of the meeting. After over an hour of public comment — all in support of the ordinance — the council voted unanimously to pass it.
The council also discussed rezoning residential areas around the Hun School in Princeton to allow more space to be used for educational purposes. However, neighbors of the school expressed concern over the decision. Namely, residents were worried about potential construction that they believed would happen if the rezoning passed.
Richard Goldman, the attorney for the school, argued that the rezoning request was strictly so that the school could use the existing property for educational purposes, with no current plans for construction. He did not rule out future construction.
After almost 90 minutes of debate, the council reached a standstill. After a vote of three yeses, one no, and two abstains, the Council failed to reach a majority
Unsure as to how to proceed, the municipal attorney Trishka Cecil said she would look into what would be done. Cecil believed that either the yes vote wins as a plurality, or that the decision would be deferred to Mayor Mark Freda.
Freda stated during the meeting that he would vote no on the rezoning.
Regarding the ongoing debate over construction plans on whether to pedestrianize Witherspoon Street, Naomi Hess ’22 detailed her experiences with the current sidewalks, which are narrow and hard to navigate in her wheelchair.
“I just want to make sure that you consider accessibility in these renovations,” she said.
Hess is an Associate News Editor for The Daily Princetonian.
The council agreed that this should be a priority and asked to speak with her again on the issue in-depth.
Furthermore, additional public support for turning Witherspoon Street into a purely pedestrian zone was expressed during the meeting. The council, while in favor of increasing pedestrian space on Witherspoon, in a previous meeting was hesitant to accept fully pedestrianizing the space.
The Council will next meet on Monday, Nov. 8.
Charlie Roth is a news contributor for the ‘Prince.’ He can be reached at email@example.com or @imcharlieroth on Twitter or Instagram.
The full recording of the meeting can be viewed here. Timestamps are below:
Hun School: 51:28-2:17:30
Leaf Blowers: 2:17:30-3:28:15
Liquor license transfer: 3:28:15-5:23:58