PRINCETON: Council to consider limiting how university can redevelop Butler tract housing complex

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By Philip Sean Curran, Staff Writer
The Princeton Council will consider limiting how Princeton University can redevelop the former Butler tract graduate housing complex, in a move to placate residents seeking stricter land use regulations.
Councilwoman Jo S. Butler said Friday that the council could act by the end of September or early October to introduce an ordinance changing the zoning of the roughly 33-acre property off Harrison Street. Current regulations would allow the university to build anything broadly fitting into education-related uses, like a library or an academic building, she said in describing things the town wants to avoid seeing go there.
By only allowing residential uses of the property, the town would be meeting a request of residents who live near the site, as they are looking for tighter controls on what Nassau Hall can build. Ms. Butler also said the university has suggested it intends to redevelop the property for residences, so the zoning change, in essence, merely codifies what the school had said it would do.
As for a schedule that council will follow, the Butler tract ordinance could be introduced as soon as next month with a vote to adopt it in October, she said. But that might change.
“It’s very tentative,” Ms. Butler said.
University spokeswoman Min Pullan said Friday that the university doesn’t have anything to say “at this point.”
Town officials, earlier in the year, talked of wanting to take this step. Ms. Butler, in particular, believed it important that the change happen quickly so the town has leverage when the university crafts its campus plan, the document that will guide university expansion. Nassau Hall intends to expand the undergraduate and graduate enrollments.
Mayor Liz Lempert and Councilwoman Heather H. Howard would have to recuse themselves from the matter given that they have conflicts of interest with Nassau Hall. Mayor Lempert’s husband, Ken Norman, is a tenured professor, while Ms. Howard works for the university.
For his part, Council President Lance Liverman declined Monday to say whether he supported the rezoning despite being pressed on the issue. He said the town would have a community meeting, either Sept. 7 or 14, to gather input.
“Every rezoning that we’ve ever done, it’s working with the owners of the property along with the town,” he said. “My personal view isn’t important. I’m here to listen. And then from that point, we’ll have a decision how to move forward.”