Zone change may not call for senior housing

Panel examines service business district in Princeton Borough.

By: Jennifer Potash
   A proposed zoning change to encourage more housing opportunity in downtown Princeton Borough may no longer include incentives for senior-citizen housing.
   The Zoning Amendment Review Committee of the Princeton Regional Planning Board discussed the proposed ordinance Tuesday.
   In February, the Princeton Borough Council referred two draft ordinances to the review committee — one that would permit residential uses in the service business district and the other to allow secondary residences for senior citizens in existing borough homes.
   The service business district ordinance proposes adding a residential component to the district located on the south side of Nassau Street between Olden Street and Moran Avenue.
   The proposal arose out of an application before the Planning Board last year to tear town a converted Victorian house, which housed the Family Guidance Center, and put up an office building.
   Planning Board members wanted a residential component and the developer agreed to include residences if the borough changed the zoning to permit that use, said Mayor Marvin Reed. This section of Nassau Street, sometimes called Gasoline Alley, once included five gas stations. Today, two gas stations remain, joined by a tavern, supermarket, video store and bicycle shop.
   Mindful of recent meetings in which residents of that section of Nassau Street expressed strong support for the eclectic character of the neighborhood, the Planning Board members sought protections against the possibility the area would be redeveloped with office buildings or apartments.
   Princeton Borough Councilwoman Wendy Benchley, who consistently said the zone would be a perfect site for senior housing incentives, retreated from that position and said she "didn’t want to limit" the development possibilities. Ms. Benchley also serves on the Planning Board.
   Mayor Reed said the borough was examining a proposed ordinance to allow secondary residences as a way to address senior citizens’ housing needs.
   The proposed zoning change would permit office or retail use on the ground floor and residential use on the upper floors. Buildings would be limited to 35 feet in height.
   Princeton Regional Planning Director Lee Solow presented hypothetical scenarios for the development of mixed-use buildings and multi-family residential buildings on lot sizes of 22,000 or 44,000 square feet.
   The Planning Board members discussed how much residential housing the zone could handle, taking into account the existing high pedestrian and vehicular traffic. The Planning Board members agreed that providing a density bonus to a developer to gain more housing units is desirable, but sought additional analysis from Mr. Solow about how much housing to encourage in the zone.
   Planning Board attorney Allan Porter and Mr. Solow will continue to work on the ordinance and bring a draft for consideration by the review committee at next month’s meeting.