Borough Council poised to approve affordable-housing plan

Final decision also expected on university’s engineering quadrangle development scheme

By: Marjorie Censer
   The Princeton Borough Council is expected to approve at its meeting tonight the borough’s housing element and fair-share plan, which explains how the municipality will meet the new affordable-housing obligation imposed by state Council on Affordable Housing regulations.
   Though the plan can be amended, the council’s approval is the final step before submitting the plan to COAH. The borough is required to submit the 10-year affordable-housing plan — for January 2004 to January 2014 — on Dec. 20.
   The housing plan provides for 105 units of affordable housing — surpassing the 97 units required of the borough based on a growth-share calculation. The 97 units are required under what’s called a "growth-share" approach — directly linking the affordable-housing requirement to the growth of a municipality.
   Thirty-eight of the units are the result of development on the Princeton University campus and will be built by the university at sites yet to be determined.
   Another 29 units are planned for the Merwick Rehab Hospital & Nursing Care site on Bayard Lane. Princeton HealthCare System recently announced it would sell the Merwick site to Princeton University, as well as the Franklin Avenue parking lot across from the hospital.
   Twelve units will come from the downtown redevelopment, while the borough will receive credit for another 12 units at Elm Court II. The remaining units will be earned at Leigh Avenue and the Franklin Avenue parking lot.
   The plan to be submitted to COAH also includes a spending provision. The borough projects that it will collect nearly $1.3 million in revenue from development fees and payments in lieu of construction between November 2005 to January 2014 — the expiration of the third-round COAH regulations. The borough already has about $600,000 in its affordable-housing trust fund, meaning nearly $1.9 million will be available to spend on affordable housing.
   The plan budgets $150,000 for rehabilitation of existing units and $670,000 for new construction. The more than $1 million remaining will be spent on making units more affordable to prospective residents. More than $200,000 of that funding will be used to make units more affordable to households earning 30 percent or less of median income by region. A four-person family would have to make less than $23,844 — 30 percent of the county’s $79,479 median income — to qualify.
   The spending plan relies on the ordinance approved by the council at last week’s meeting that shifts the affordable-housing obligation to developers. The projected revenue includes fees to be collected from builders who pay in lieu of construction.
   In other business tonight, the council is expected to make its final decision on an ordinance that would allow increased density in Princeton University’s engineering quadrangle.
   The controversial ordinance — which was introduced with a narrow 3-2 vote — is the result of months of discussion among Murray Place neighbors, university representatives, and borough and planning board staff members. It grants an additional 100,000 square feet of space to the university in its engineering quadrangle while maintaining the 250-foot setback line from the rear of Murray Place residences.
   The ordinance retains Von Neumann Hall — the building closest to the rear of the Murray Place residences — at the request of residents and requires a comprehensive landscaping plan. It also includes detailed requirements for a shuttle system, obligating the university to provide frequent service and to avoid primarily residential streets for routes.
   The council is also expected to approve an ordinance to adjust the salary plan for borough employees.
   The plan calls for raises between 2.8 and 4 percent for employees — requiring an overall increase of 3.32 percent. The salary grade increases cover all noncontractual workers employed by the borough.