At its Monday, Jan. 24 meeting, conflict of interest concerns led the Princeton Town Council to disband the Site Plan Review Advisory Board (SPRAB), a team of professional designers that reviews construction proposals to advise the Planning Board. Also, during the meeting, the public brought up concerns about new Accessory Dwelling Units (ADUs) and an upcoming ordinance mandating business assessments.
The council also introduced a new COVID-19 testing site and recognized the Friends of the Princeton Public Library.
The council held a lengthy debate on whether or not to disband SPRAB. While the council members agreed that the Board plays an important advisory role in construction projects, most found that it poses a potential conflict of interest, as the Board currently has the power to approve minor projects — ones that members themselves might be working on and, therefore, might be able to gain from.
Opponents of disbanding the board believe that doing so without a replacement plan could be dangerous. Councilmember David Cohen, a liaison to the Planning Board, worried that passing this ordinance would be like “throwing out the baby with the bathwater.”
“We have a lot of development going on in town right now, a lot of applications that are going to be coming through the planning office,” Cohen said. “And, if we dissolve SPRAB now, we may have 12 to 18 months before we can put in place a successor entity. That’s a whole bunch of applications that will not benefit from the very useful review that SPRAB performs.”
The Planning Board, which is officially in charge of approving construction applications in the town, unanimously voted in favor of disbanding SPRAB. Councilmember Mia Sacks, the other liaison to the Planning Board, explained that the Board believes this is the fastest way to move forward.
“It is problematic for us to continue to have this stub entity which is depopulated and has no end but is still part of our ordinances. And that creates a complicated situation that is not helpful for staff and not helpful for the review process. It actually creates more work and gets in the way of us moving towards what everybody tonight has said that they want to have,” Sacks said.
The Council voted to disband the board 5-1.
During the public comment portion of the meeting, multiple residents expressed concern about the rise of ADUs, which were featured in a New York Times article on December 10, 2021. They are meant to provide more affordable housing in Princeton, but residents are worried that developers are taking advantage of the town.
“This is not smart growth, this is greed growth,” said Dale Meade, a member of the public.
Other members of the public expressed worry about an upcoming ordinance that puts a mandatory assessment on Nassau Street business owners, and the lack of communication between them and the Council. Councilmember Michelle Pirone Lambros noted that the Council does not have an email database for business owners, and that the problem needs to be addressed.
The Council also announced a new COVID-19 testing center on N. Harrison Street, near the Princeton Shopping Center, which is open Monday through Saturday.
The full meeting can be viewed on YouTube here.
The next Council meeting will be held on Monday, Feb. 14.
Correction: A previous version of this article misstated the date of the Town Council meeting as Jan. 25. It has since been corrected to Jan. 24.
Charlie Roth is an Assistant Data Editor and Staff News Writer for the ‘Prince’, focusing on local town coverage. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or @imcharlieroth on Twitter or Instagram.