PRINCETON: Mayor gives state of town, says community is inclusive, has strong commitment to affordable housing

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By Philip Sean Curran, Staff Writer
In a speech touching on some of the themes she likely will use in her re-election bid, Mayor Liz Lempert said in her state of the town address on Monday that Princeton is an inclusive community that has a strong commitment to affordable housing.
Speaking for 22 minutes at the first council meeting of the year, she touted the benefits of the merger of the former borough and township and reviewed a laundry list of accomplishments the town achieved last year. She devoted few words to what she wants to do this year, one in which she will run for re-election, possibly against fellow Democrat, Councilman Patrick Simon.
Mayor Lempert said consolidation is working well — “in fact, better than expected on many fronts.” She cited how a study by the Citizens Finance Advisory Committee, a group that advises town officials on financial matters, reported in 2015, the town achieved a net savings of $2.77 million last year thanks to the merger.
“The consolidation was a massive undertaking by elected officials, municipal staff and dedicated citizen volunteers. It will forever be a seminal event in our town’s history and has cemented the municipality of Princeton’s reputation as a place for government innovation,” she said in the Witherspoon Hall municipal building.
On affordable housing, she said the town would seek court approval of its housing plan. Towns across the state are required to take such steps based on a state Supreme Court decision handed down last year.
“Princeton will present its case in court with the advantage of having a strong, historical commitment to affordable housing that predates state requirements,” she said.
Devoting only a few lines to what she wanted to accomplish this year, Mayor Lempert said that among the goals for 2016 would be considering whether to create a historic district for the Jackson-Witherspoon neighborhood; harmonizing the town’s land use code; unveiling a new town website; and completing a bike master plan to have bike routes, among other things.
Starting around 5 p.m. the meeting drew U.S. Rep. Bonnie Watson Coleman (D-12), state Sen. Kip Bateman (R-16), Mercer County Executive Brian Hughes, other county politicians, municipal staff and community members. At one point, officials paused to pay tribute to former Borough Mayor Marvin Reed, with Mayor Lempert reading a proclamation in his behalf. He and his wife, Ingrid, both of whom were in attendance, have moved out of Princeton.
Earlier in the meeting, council members Lance Liverman and Heather H. Howard were sworn in to three-year-terms. Mr. Liverman also was named council president.