By Lori Hayes,2014-12-28 13:27
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    adopted - December 12, 1996 page 20



    In 1989, the Master Plan’s Land Use Element could still speak of “a substantial amount of vacant land [that] remains available for development.” What was once a substantial amount is now severely reduced. Today approximately 90 percent of the 11,800 acres that make up the Princeton Community are either developed or have been approved for development. The vacant lands that remain are, for the most part, either environmentally sensitive or difficult to develop.

In its land use policy Princeton has moved from the luxury of “both” to the constraints of “either-or.”

    As the Princeton Community approaches build-out, difficult choices among competing uses for the remaining land will have to be made. The legal obligations of affordable housing, a growing school-age population, and the needs of the aging Baby Boom generation are placing difficult demands on the rapidly dwindling resource of vacant land inside the boundaries of Princeton. The Land Use Element will attempt to describe the community priorities that underlie the Master Plan’s approach to these competing claims.

    Another major concern of the Land Use Element is the effect of increasing traffic generated by new residential, commercial and other development, both in Princeton and surrounding communities. These developments especially along the Route 1 Corridor, require that improvements be made to existing road systems so that the resultant traffic can be accommodated in a safe and efficient manner. At the same time, such improvements, if not properly planned, can threaten the basic scale and quality of life in the Princeton Community.

    The Land Use Element reflects the Board’s priorities for the development of vacant land as well as the re-development of those areas in need of it. We have addressed our legal obligation to provide affordable housing, to designate a new school site and to consider other community facilities. It is important that the governing bodies implement these planning recommendations through proper zoning and ordinances.


    The policy of the Land Use Element is to retain and enhance the distinct character and boundaries, diversity of land uses, natural and historic resources, small town image and human scale of the Princeton Community. This policy is founded upon three central premises.

    1. That the historic mix and balance of different land uses which have characterized the Princeton

    Community be maintained and enhanced.

    2. That the Land Use Element be consistent with the Circulation and Utility Service Elements. 3. That the Land Use Element take into consideration the impact of surrounding communities

    plans so that we can adjust our plans in light of our neighbor’s land use decisions.



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1996 - 2001 GOALS

    The Land Use Element recommends future land uses that will achieve a balanced land use pattern consistent with the primary goals of the Master Plan and to accommodate present and future needs. In order to retain and enhance the distinct character that is Princeton the following goals have been adopted.

    I. Maintain a balanced community that offers a mix of land uses while providing

    appropriately scaled community infrastructure and services.

    II. Preserve the existing character and mix, of commercial, residential, and other land uses

    in the Princeton Community.

    III. Encourage the use of sound urban design and energy saving principles in new

    construction and redevelopment projects to enhance the character and appearance of

    the Downtown Business Districts and other developed areas.

    IV. Preserve, protect and enhance natural, cultural and recreational resources including

    open space linkages, steep slopes, floodplains, historic & cultural resources and

    recreational & open space areas.

    V. Preserve the scenic quality of Princeton’s principle gateways, and where possible take

    steps to enhance and protect those gateways.

    VI. Guide future development with due regard to its impact upon future taxes, as well as

    other costs that might adversely affect residents and diminish the opportunity for low

    and moderate income persons to continue to reside within the community.

    VII. Use economic and employment growth to preserve the community’s quality of life and


VIII. Continue to provide the community’s fair share of affordable housing.

    IX. Encourage historic preservation through land use policies which support the

    preservation of historic buildings and sites.

X. Preserve and protect the character of established neighborhoods.

1989 - 1996 CHANGES

    From the middle of the 1980’s to the early 1990’s, approximately 1,623 acres in Princeton were approved for new residential development. These approvals may result in 1,410 additional units being



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constructed. Many of these residential developments were proposed under the Township’s cluster

    ordinance and over 250 of the 1,623 acres are permanently preserved as private open space. An additional 212 acres of land have been preserved from residential development with the approval of an 18 hole golf course now known as the TPC at Jasna Polana.


    1989 - 1996

    Approved Units Units Constructed Units Not Yet Constructed

     583 200 383 Single Family

     655 377 278 Townhouse

     172 158 14 Condominium

     1,410 735 675

    Of the 1,410 new or potential residential units, approximately 735 have already been constructed. The Community’s settlement of a lawsuit against the Township and Planning Board by the Institute for Advanced Study to permit 276 units on approximately 105 acres of land would make up approximately 40 percent of the approved but not yet constructed residential units. However, the Institute site has been identified as one of the most important sites in Princeton for preservation due to its historic significance, natural beauty, environmental sensitivity and prominence as a gateway into Princeton and active community groups are working with the Institute to preserve these lands. It is the community’s hope that the Institute lands are preserved and the 276 units approved under the Institute settlement will not be constructed thus reducing the potential for new home construction to 424 residential units. By the year 2002, it is estimated that 300 units of the remaining 675 approved but not yet built units may be constructed.

    Approximately 100,000 square feet of nonresidential construction has been approved in the community since 1989 with 45,000 square feet already built. In addition Princeton University has constructed over 520,000 square feet of new buildings or additions to existing facilities. These include new academic buildings such as the computer science building, major infill projects such as the engineering quad expansion, recreational facilities including the DeNunzio pool and support facilities such as the parking garage and the cogeneration plant currently under construction. Despite these new facilities the University maintains that employment and student population over the last six years has remained fairly constant.

    In addition to the new residential and commercial development, Princeton Township has preserved 52 acres of land as permanent open space with the acquisition of the Poe Tract and is currently under contract to purchase 38 acres of land for active recreation located near Snowden Lane and Herrontown Road. The Planning Board protected 212 acres from development by permitting construction of a golf course and worked closely with Friends of Institute Woods to preserve the approximately 500 acres of land owned by the Institute for Advanced Study.



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    Approximately 1,200 acres in the Princeton community are currently assessed as vacant or farmland. Some of these parcels have existing houses on them so that the actual developable acreage is somewhat less. These lands, for the most part, make up the remaining undeveloped land in Princeton. Much of it is environmentally sensitive and it is estimated that less than 300 additional homes could be constructed on this 1,200 acres of land. These 300 homes added to the already approved 424 homes (not including the Institute approval) result in a residential development potential of 724 additional homes at build-out.

1996 - 2001 STRATEGIES

    The plan for future land use was based upon an analysis of the natural resources and physical characteristics of the community, coupled with a consideration of existing development, proximity to community facilities and services, and the opportunities and constraints posed by the existing road network. Princeton’s land use priorities are preserving the existing character of the community, to provide opportunities for senior housing, to meet the communities’ affordable housing obligation and to provide for necessary community facilities. The proposed pattern of future land use is shown on the land use map.

    In those sections of the community where land is already developed, this plan affirms the policy of prior master plans to maintain boundaries between different uses. For example, the CBD boundaries are a recognized edge of the business community, the growth of educational institutions will be maintained within educational districts, and the hospital zone will similarly retain hospital uses and prevent the spread of such uses to adjoining residential areas. At the same time, the Regional Planning Board recommends that the mix of commercial and/or residential buildings and neighborhoods in the downtown area be retained.

    A discussion of key policy considerations and recommended strategies is presented below for each of the identified land use types. Major concerns center on development controls that will help balance land use with traffic generation. Traffic studies must be updated to present accurate traffic projections.


    The 1996 land use plan endeavors to maintain and enhance the diversity of residential options available in Princeton. To meet the needs of a broad spectrum of residents of different ages and income groups it provides for a variety of housing areas, sizes and types. The scale and integrity of existing neighborhoods should be protected from incursions by incompatible land uses or changes in density. The balance of mixed residential-business buildings and neighborhoods should be similarly retained. The locations and types of new residential development should be carefully planned to reinforce the goals and policies of the Housing Element while at the same time minimizing adverse effects on natural, cultural and historic resources.

    New residential development should respect and enhance the existing natural and man-made environment by clustering, where appropriate, to preserve identified sensitive areas. It should foster good architecture and design and incorporate quality landscaping. Green buffers should be used to



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    mark changes of uses, to screen major roadways and to demarcate abutting residential neighborhoods. New developments should also be designed to create a sense of community and blend into the surrounding neighborhoods. Phasing of new development may be necessary to avoid overburdening the community’s infrastructure, facilities, and services.

    Over the last few years the Planning Board has identified a need for new types of housing for our growing elderly population. Housing for the elderly includes independent living, continuing care retirement communities, assisted living and nursing homes. The Princeton Community supports the development of innovative approaches that will result in housing affordable to a wide range of income groups.

    Both governing bodies have recently adopted zoning ordinances to permit senior housing. The Borough has adopted flexible zoning regulations which will permit the location of a continuing care retirement community in the downtown. In 1994 the Township enacted a zoning ordinance to permit Continuing Care Retirement Communities. The Township recently adopted an ordinance permitting independent senior housing on three sites in the Township and permitting assisted living and nursing facilities in the OR-1, OR-2, R-T and S-2 zones. Senior housing recommendations are discussed later in this element.

    Residential uses have been divided into four overall categories and densities. The various categories and proposed locations are further described below.

Very Low Density Residential - 10 acre or greater lot size

    Areas assigned these designations are critical environmental areas and are severely constrained by features such as historic resources, 100-year floodplain, stream corridors, hydric soils, and wetlands on which residential development is inappropriate. In view of environmental constraints that virtually preclude residential development, a large minimum lot size should be considered.

Recommendations for Very Low Density Residential

    We recommend that two areas be zoned at 10 acre minimum lot size. These areas are found in the southwestern and northeastern corners of the Township, adjacent to Stony Brook and the Millstone River, respectively.

Low Density Residential - 3 acre to 4 acre lot size

    Low density development may be permitted in larger areas characterized by sensitive natural and cultural resources. Except for environmentally critical areas noted above, these areas have the most severe constraints for residential development. Much of the remaining undeveloped land in Princeton falls within the Low Density residential category. These lands are generally less suitable than the Moderate Density and High Density areas due to such factors as steep slopes, wetlands, soil conditions, stream corridors, and access to roads and utilities. This category has been applied to the R-A zone (4 acre minimum lot size) and the R-B zone (3 acre minimum lot size) of the Ridge. The



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    R-A zone is the portion of the Ridge most environmentally sensitive due to a concurrence of steep slopes and soils with severe development constraints.

Recommendations for Low Density Residential Development

    The Planning Board recommends that the residential cluster option be used where appropriate to provide protection of environmental and historic resources. Other areas may be suitable for more traditional land use patterns. No other changes are recommended.

Moderate Density Residential - ? acre lot to 2 acre lot size

Moderate density areas make up the bulk of Princeton’s residential land area. For the most part, these

    are established neighborhoods whose moderate density has historically been divided into two categories: medium low density with homes on 1? to 2 acre lots and medium high density with homes on ? to 1 acre lots. In general, the medium low density areas are characterized by moderate environmental constraints for future development and the medium high density areas typically have few if any constraints to development.

Recommendations for Moderate Density Residential Development

    Steps should be taken to preserve and enhance the existing character and scale of these neighborhoods and to protect them from incompatible land uses and inappropriate road widening. Vacant land adjacent to existing developed area should reflect surrounding densities based upon available information including existing patterns of development, environmental considerations and the relative availability of utilities and services. Redevelopment should also be consistent with the surrounding neighborhood.

High Density Residential - lot sizes less than ? acre

    High Density housing includes single-family dwellings on small lots, two-family houses, townhouses and multi-family housing. For the most part these areas include established neighborhoods. These areas are characterized by the relative absence of environmental constraints and the availability of utilities and services. Higher-density housing and multi-family units should be permitted only in environmentally appropriate locations of limited extent and where amenities such as playgrounds and community facilities can be made available.

Recommendations for High Density Residential

    The Board has identified the Arcaro tract located on Cherry Valley Road as particularly suitable for smaller homes at medium densities likely to provide residential options for middle income households. The location of the Arcaro property as a future transitional residential area between the Princeton Ridge development with low densities due to environmental constraints and the high-density Griggs Farm affordable housing development lends itself to this use. The Board continues to endorse the affordable housing recommendations found in the Housing Element of this Master Plan.



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    Providing opportunities for senior housing has been identified as a community priority. As a first step, zoning changes have been adopted to permit age restricted housing at the southeast corner of Terhune Road and Harrison Street, along Cherry Valley Road next to the Griggs Farm Development and on Great Road behind Elm Court. Density in these ordinances ranges between 8 and 11 dwelling units per acre. Zoning ordinances to permit assisted living facilities and nursing homes in the R-T, OR-1, OR-2 and S-2 zones have also recently been adopted. The Planned Commercial Development District has been amended to provide flexible zoning permitting Continuing Care Retirement Communities in the downtown.

Recommendations for Senior Housing

The community’s recently enacted zoning provides for a range of senior housing throughout Princeton.

    Additional senior housing sites will be identified after a careful review of environmental constraints and neighborhood compatibility. The Board intends to identify additional sites which are appropriate for senior housing, prepare overlay zones which respect individual site conditions, and make recommendations to the governing bodies for zoning these sites. A site by site review is necessary to determine the most suitable areas. In the Township, these sites will be capable of supporting up to 75 residential units. In the Borough, much smaller size developments will be considered.


    The Princeton Community is enriched by the presence of renowned academic institutions within its boundaries, as well as high quality private schools with both academic and special educational purposes. In addition to educational institutions, Princeton is also home to other regional community facilities such as the YM/YWCA, Princeton Medical Center, Merwick Rehabilitation Center, McCarter Theater, Corner House, and the Princeton Ballet. Other concerts, artistic, and athletic events occur in Princeton throughout the year. While these institutions occupy large tracts of land within the community, not all portions are used directly for education purposes. The functional and growth requirements of the institutions must be balanced with the residential character of the community.

Recommendations for Institutional/Educational Uses

    The various educational zones should be refined to better define permitted uses, ensure adequate buffering, provide appropriate parking facilities and delineate the limits of expansion. New buildings should be oriented to lessen traffic impacts on already congested roadways.

    Nonprofit institutions should be discouraged from occupying commercial buildings in the Central Business District and turning them into nontaxable office buildings. These conversions diminish the “critical mass” of retail and service uses essential to the vitality of the Downtown and erodes the

    community’s tax base. Non-profit institutions should also be discouraged from purchasing private residences for non-residential use in adjacent residential neighborhoods to protect the small-scale



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    character of those neighborhoods. The Board will be reluctant to grant any request for a change of use by nonprofit institutions in historic zones, in the downtown districts and in residential areas such as those along Harris Road.

    Changes or revisions to the conditional use standards in the zoning ordinance will be necessary to regulate nonprofit institutions use of commercial and residential buildings for office and other no-residential purposes.

    The University should be encouraged to site future development further south of the main campus so that erosion of existing neighborhoods can be reduced. Consideration should be given by the University to locating some future facilities on the West Windsor side of Lake Carnegie. In addition, as Nassau Street approaches full capacity, the University should locate buildings so that primary access is from their own internal roadway system and linked to Faculty Road, Washington Road and Harrison Street.

    As more and more land is being purchased by tax exempt institutions, the implications of this trend must be studied and responded to with great care by both municipalities. An eroding tax base undermines the ability of the municipalities to provide services and places an unfair burden on taxpayers. Additional tax revenue or payment in-lieu of taxes should be obtained.

    A study should be made of the area surrounding the YM/YWCA, the Y’s Bramwell House, Merwick and Stanworth in recognition of the evolving pattern of institutional use. The underlying residential nature of the area should be protected, but the possibilities for future development of these properties by community service institutions should be recognized and accommodated. These institutions should be encouraged to work together wherever possible to provide for common needs such as access, parking and circulation. Standards should be established to protect adjacent houses and residential neighborhoods.


    The shortage of vacant, easily developable and accessible land increases the competition for future land uses. Princeton must address its future community facility needs. This document reflects the Board’s recommendations on addressing remaining land uses. It is recommended that land be set aside for a Community Center which meets the needs of all age groups. Recommendations are also made to provide for land for other community facility needs, such as a new Public Works garage, additional recreation fields for soccer, baseball, softball, etc.


    The primary entrances or “gateways” into the Princeton Community are an important focus of this Master Plan. These gateways make it evident to visitors and residents that they have crossed into a community with a sense of place which is different from surrounding areas. There are three general types of gateways leading into Princeton. Undeveloped or natural gateways characterized by open fields, wooded areas or streams and lakes that are found along Quaker Road, Cherry Hill Road, River



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    Road, Washington Road and Alexander Road at the Canal. Residential/historic gateways characterized by distinctive residential development or historically significant structures and places are found along Province Line Road, The Great Road, Princeton-Kingston Highway, Harrison Street, Rosedale Road, Mercer Street and Route 206 south. Mixed commercial and historic gateways of Mount Lucas Road, Route 206 north and Alexander Street are characterized by a variety of building types as well as a variety of uses.

Recommendations for Gateways

    Gateways with exceptional visual and historic significance, such as those found on Quaker Road, Washington Road, Harrison Street, Mercer Road, Cherry Valley Road, Route 206 south, The Great Road and Princeton-Kingston Road, merit preservation in their present state. With the exception of the Washington Road gateway, these entrances are primarily residential in character and should not be converted into commercial entrances. Vigorous efforts to preserve both the residential character and historical significance of these entrances should be considered.

    The Washington Road gateway may be threatened by the NJDOT proposal to construct the “Millstone By-pass”. The most recent plan would close Washington Road between Route 1 and the new by-pass.

    Steps should be taken to preserve the Washington Road gateway and to ensure that the design of the new entrance treats the gateway as an important entrance into Princeton as well as protecting Harrison Street from being a major regional traffic terminus or pass-through to Route 206 north.

    Other gateways, such as the service zones on Alexander Street and Route 206 North are more commercial in nature and should be improved to create an appearance appropriate to their role as entrances to Princeton. The application of the urban design principles listed at the end of this element should be encouraged to upgrade the streetscape of those gateways which are candidates for enhancement.

    Principle gateways are located near or distinguished by the views they provide of the University buildings or natural features such as Lake Carnegie or the D & R Canal. Views of these natural and man-made gateways should not be obstructed or negatively impacted by new roads or bridges.


    A primary objective of the Land Use Element is to stimulate the economic well-being of the established commercial centers in Princeton. It is important to balance the intensive land uses embodied in the Commercial and Office-Research zones with efforts to moderate traffic generation. In general, commercial development can be categorized into five districts: Downtown Business, Mixed Use Residence-Office-Business, Service Business, Office-Research and Shopping Center. Many of these districts overlap, most notably in the downtown district with the mixed use and service business areas.

Downtown Business District



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    The Downtown Business Districts include the Central Business District (CBD) as well as several Neighborhood Business, Residence-Office and Service Business districts. The combinations of different retail, residential and office uses that characterize these districts are fundamental to the economic vitality of Princeton’s Downtown. Princeton’s downtown was shaped, over time, for the person on foot and everything abut the town’s layout reflects this. While the automobile must be

    sensibly accommodated however the pedestrian takes precedence over the automobile in the downtown.

    These districts, particularly the CBD, have been the focus of significant growth. In the heart of the CBD, Palmer Square is the site of a major redevelopment project incorporating retail, residential and office components. The eastern end of Nassau Street has experienced changes with many existing buildings receiving facelifts and redevelopment occurring where existing buildings have become obsolete or structurally unsound.

    The enormous growth of residential developments in communities that surround Princeton has transformed Princeton’s downtown into a regional center for shopping, dining and cultural events. The downtown has traditionally been a diverse and multi-faceted area where residents can reside, work, learn and shop. This historic balance must be maintained as a retail shopping area requires a diversity and critical density of stores contiguous to each other in order to remain attractive to shoppers. The existing residential units on the upper floors of mixed office/residential buildings also contributes to the vitality of the downtown and should be preserved when new office development occurs. The residential component of these buildings and neighborhoods is an integral part of the balanced mix of downtown land uses which should be preserved. Without a residential component, the Downtown would lose much of its evening and night time vitality. Residential use also contributes to physical safety once business hours end. The trend of institutions buying up properties and converting them to institutional use is of particular concern in the Downtown. This trend should be carefully monitored and appropriate steps taken when the goals of maintaining the balance of land uses of preserving residential neighborhoods in the downtown are threatened.

Recommendations for Downtown Business Districts

    Nonprofit institutions should be discouraged from occupying commercial buildings in the Central Business District and turning them into nontaxable office buildings. These conversions diminishes the “critical mass” of retail and service uses that is essential to the vitality of the Downtown and erodes the community’s tax base.

    Demolition of smaller buildings, consolidation of lots and creation of large-scale development of inappropriate height and bulk should be discouraged through zoning changes. The application of the urban design principles, listed at the end of this element, should be used to guide the scale, bulk, height, massing, and architectural detailing of new development.

    New banking, office, financial institutions and insurance businesses have been eliminated as permitted uses on the first floor in the CBD. The Planning Board recommends continued examination of the

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