Despite petition, officials set to act on affordable units

The Princeton Packet
19 December, 1986

Despite petition, officials set to act on affordable units
By Marjorie Snyder
Staff Writer

Some Princeton Borough residents want more talk and less action from local leaders, but officials are expected to proceed with plans to build affordable housing units anyway.

Borough Council members are expected to vote Monday on a resolution which would set guidelines regarding who lives in which of the 72 affordable housing units proposed for the borough. Accepting the procedures would allow the borough to sell the first phase of the units by March.

Yet some people, including one borough councilman, think the borough is moving too fast to finish the project by the March deadline set by a Mercer County agency.

About 85 borough residents recently signed a petition to halt construction of 20 units on Hamilton Avenue until more information about the plans art provided by the borough. Edouard Jordi of Hamilton Avenue said he expects to submit the petition when the council meets at 8 p.m. Monday in Borough Hall.

A few council members do not agree with local residents’ concerns.

“Everything’s been publicized. This isn’t anything that’s been pulled over anybody’s eyes,” said Councilman Irvin Urken on Thursday. “It’s not that much of a rush.

By passing the measure, the borough seeks to beat a March deadline set by the Mercer County Improvement Authority. The county agency has floated a $6 thillion bond to fund the borough’s affordable housing program. One hundred percent of the units slated for Hamilton Avenue must be sold by March under the funding agreement.

The borough’s plans call for construction of 72 units on the following sites: Maclean Street, 28 units; Hamilton Avenue, 20; and John and Clay streets, eight. In addition, the borough seeks to rehabilitate the I6-unit Shirley Court housing complex; situated off Witherspoon Street.

Forty of the 72 units are planned for low and moderate-income people. The other 32 are described by the borough as “market rate.”

Towns are required to provide opportunities for low- and moderate-income housing under the 1983 state Supreme Court’s Mount Laurel II decision.

Four of the 20 units on Hamilton Avenue are scheduled for construction sometime in February, as part of an energy-efficiency experiment. The four passive solar energy units designed by New Jersey architect James Wasas will consist of prefabricated panels which lock together. The two-story duplexes will be situated behind 94 Spruce St. through 98 Spruce St., fronting on Hamilton Avenue. If the project is successful, the other units will be constructed similarly.

In the proposal slated for a council vote Monday, priorities for future occupants are outlined:

First priority for housing would be given to borough workers who provide emergency services, such as members of the Princeton Fire Department, the Princeton First Aid and Rescue Squad and the borough Police Department.

Other first priority candidates are borough residents employed by the borough, the Princeton Regional School District, the Medical Center at Princeton, or volunteers in borough community activities.

Borough residents no longer able to live in the borough are first priority, as well as residents living in “deficient housing,” such as units with substandard plumbing and inadequate heating. Other top candidates are households with one or more members who have lived in the borough for at least 10 years at any time and forced to vacate due to actions by the borough, live in deficient housing, or live in an urban municipality whose indigenous need is too large.

Among those given second priority are Princeton Township employees of Princeton public schools and the Medical Center at Princeton, plus emergency service volunteers, such as firefighters.

While many residents do not deny there is a need for affordable housing in the borough, those who signed the petition say they want more information about the implications of the housing project on their neighborhood. Among the concerns expressed in the jfetition are the location of each unit in relation to existing streets and surrounding homes and the amount of parking.

In an interview last week, Councilman Richard Woodbridge echoed residents’ suggestions that the borough should take some sore time to examine the program.

Yet Mr. Woodbridge, the lone Republican on the council, seems to be the only borough official who feels this way. The other five council members
agree with Borough Mayor Barbara Sigmund who contends the borough has no choice but to proceed with its plans.

A marketing procedure must be in place before the units can be sold, said the mayor.

Site plans for the Hamilton Avenue units are slated for presentation to the Princeton Regional Planning Board in January.

“The public has had every opportunity to comment,” said Councilwoman Mildred Trotman. “Even if it’s not on the (council meeting) agen-da, they have had an opportunity to discuss it.”

A lifelong borough resident, Councilman Mark Freda said he resents new residents complaining about old issues like affordable housing.

“We’ve been working on this for a year, closer to two years,” said Mr. Freda. “One thing we do in Princeton is study too much. It’s time for some action.”

Councilman John Huntoon said the housing program has been “public knowledge for some time.” He pointed to newspaper articles, public hearings by the Borough Council for land purchases, and his own recent campaign as examples of the borough’s willingness to talk to the community.

“We want more dialogue,” Mr. Huntoon said. “We want community input and we always have.”

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