Aiming to streamline the re-opening process for Princeton’s eateries and businesses as they try to meet COVID-19 requirements, the Princeton Council has introduced an ordinance that temporarily relaxes some of the standards.
The ordinance, which was introduced by the Princeton Council at a special June 1 meeting, also addresses parking issues and creates special curbside waiting areas for customers to pick up their purchases.
A public hearing on the ordinance is set for the council’s June 15 meeting.
Municipal Attorney Trishka Cecil told the Princeton Council that the overall purpose of the ordinance is to establish a framework, which would last 120 days, while businesses such as restaurants and stores begin the re-opening process.
Municipal officials “can’t always anticipate the parameters” of the gradual re-opening steps being allowed by state officials, she said.
“We need Princeton to be in a position to react in a more nimble fashion,” she said.
As assorted businesses in Princeton begin to re-open as Gov. Phil Murphy begins to lift some of his executive orders, “it is clear that accommodations will need to be made to enable the businesses to comply with social distancing and infection control measures required of them,” the ordinance said.
“In recognition of the unprecedented challenges caused by the COVID-19 pandemic, the mayor and council find that it is in the best interests of Princeton’s residents and business owners to temporarily relax or suspend certain requirements” in the town’s ordinances, it said.
A streamlined process should be established so that staff and officials can react and address the issues as they arise, the ordinance said.
The ordinance also creates a special COVID-19 Compliance Committee to identify issues and recommend solutions to the Princeton Council. It will include the administrator, police chief, municipal engineer, zoning officer, health officer, fire official and the municipal planner.
The ordinance will be in effect for 120 days, and may be extended if necessary.
Among the provisions for sidewalk cafes, the ordinance allows the area occupied by a sidewalk cafe to be expanded into parts of the sidewalk adjacent to its building, provided that the owner of the adjacent building provides written consent.
The expansion of outdoor dining areas other than sidewalk cafes and other expansions of retail food establishments also will be permitted. Restaurants may temporarily relocate some of the tables and chairs into adjacent outdoor spaces or adjacent vacant indoor spaces without having to seek site plan approval or additional off-street parking.
The Princeton Council may grant approval, provided it is temporary and does not increase the number of tables and chairs. The expansion must be needed to comply with social distancing requirements.
The ordinance also allows the Princeton Council to close all or parts of sidewalks, suspend or alter parking regulations, and to block off parking spaces and loading areas so they may be set aside for curbside pickup from businesses.