By Anne Levin
Impressed with a suggested compromise crafted by residents of the neighborhood where the Hun School is requesting a rezoning of two sites, Princeton Council on Monday night voted to approve an ordinance allowing for the change.
“I want to acknowledge both Hun and the neighborhood, who saw the benefit of we, we, we versus me, me me,” said Councilman Leighton Newlin. “It’s an attitude we could use more of in Princeton.” Other members of the governing body agreed with him.
Earlier this month, the town’s Planning Board endorsed the request, which would rezone the school’s Mall and the Mason House lot from R-2 (residential) to E-4 (educational). The request was originally endorsed by the Planning Board last year, and referred to Council. But a tie vote defeated the ordinance at that time. It was brought back last month.
The Mall is an open green space. The Mason House, formerly the headmaster’s home, was most recently used for academic support in order to increase space for the campus infirmary during the COVID-19 pandemic. The rezoning allows a greater floor area ratio (FAR), giving the school more space to meet local regulations for additions or improvements. Hun wants to build a visual arts center on the lot.
Over the past few years, residents of the Edgerstoune neighborhood had expressed concerns about traffic, noise, and future building projects on the campus should the rezoning be approved.
The recently created compromise requires that the school replace the Mason House with its new building on as much of the original footprint as possible, as close to the corner of Edgerstoune and Winant roads as zoning regulations allow. In exchange, the neighbors will not oppose a slightly larger structure on the lot, raising the maximum square footage from 9,000 to 10,000 square feet. Also, the school will agree to a deed restriction guaranteeing that nothing further be built on the lot, and that the remainder be preserved as open green space.
A few changes having to do with how setbacks are measured in the E-4 zone were added to the ordinance a few hours before the meeting, which made one member of Council wary of voting on it
without sufficient time to review. There was a suggestion to move the vote to a future date, but ultimately it was decided to vote on the ordinance and address the small changes later.
“I implore you, as earnestly as I can, to move forward with this ordinance,” said attorney Richard Goldman, who represents the school, adding that he had prepared a declaration of covenants and restrictions to be filed with the Mercer County clerk. “It’s almost four years, and the school has been stymied and can’t move ahead with its planning or fundraising,” he said. “Please move forward, and then begin a thoughtful process.”
During discussion of whether or not to vote, Councilwoman Mia Sacks praised the neighbors and the school for coming up with a compromise. “It’s so refreshing to see that agreement,” she said. “Both the school and the neighbors were excited about coming tonight and having the town bless that agreement. We do have a moment in which there is a consensus between people who were on opposite sides at one time, and I really hate to lose that momentum.”
Also at the meeting, Council heard a presentation about the Princeton Sanitary Sewer Investment Plan from sewer design engineer Andrew Filippi and David Goldfarb, who chairs the town’s Sewer Operating Committee. Aging pipes and pump stations will require an investment of approximately $9.5 million a year, on average, for the next 10 years, they said. Rates have been low because of many years of deferred maintenance.
“Now, we want to catch up, and we just need your endorsement,” Goldfarb said. “We have a good team in place. We’re going to find the leaks and fix them, and get on track to keep our sewers in place indefinitely.”
A letter from the Princeton Pedestrian and Bicycle Advisory Committee requested that flooding issues on Linden Lane, especially at Franklin Avenue, be addressed. After reading the letter aloud, Mayor Mark Freda said Council would ask the Engineering Department to investigate.