Princeton ‘Advisory Planning District’ Report Offers Positive Change

How can Princeton residents give input on planning issues? (Click to expand.)

How can Princeton residents give input on planning issues? (Click to expand.)

‘Advisory Planning Districts’ have been suggested as a new way for Princeton neighborhood residents to provide input on planning matters. Tonight, based on their interim report, an ‘Advisory Planning Districts Task Force’ looks set to recommend against setting up new committees, but has a bunch of positive ideas about how to make planning in Princeton more transparent.

The Princeton ‘Advisory Planning Districts Task Force’ was set up prior to consolidation to research ways to establish committees that might represent neighborhoods. The members of the Task Force are Council members Jenny Crumiller, and Patrick Simon, Bill Harla, Wanda Gunning, Valerie Haynes, and Ryan Lilienthal. Their report observes that new committees could hypothetically assuage the fears of neighbors who feared that their voice might not be heard in a consolidated municipality. But the majority of Task Force members found major problems with setting up new neighborhood committees. The Status Report of the Task Force is included for discussion by Princeton Council in a working session tonight, Tuesday, July 15. The full report can be read here.

The Task Force was concerned that Advisory Planning Districts ‘could exacerbate conflict within a neighborhood’ when no consensus could be reached over a planning matter. The Task Force further notes that all citizens already have the right to discuss concerns before the Planning Board and Princeton Governing Body. Instead of setting up new committees, the Task Force is recommending a range of new, common-sense measures, which will make the planning process more open to public discussion and comment. Planning applications would be required to be submitted in electronic format, and automatically distributed to neighborhood lists. Planning Board and Zoning Board meetings would be video-recorded, and posted on the municipal web page. These are excellent ideas, and should have been implemented long ago.

Princeton residents have shown that they are quite capable of making their voice heard without Advisory Planning Districts. In recent years, ad hoc groups have sprung up to comment and litigate on planning issues, and Princeton Future also provides a forum for discussions on planning and land use. But the public are often insufficiently aware of things that are going on in the municipality. To be aware of everything that is going on, you’d pretty much have to be a professional municipal meeting attendee. The Task Force’s interim report seems to strike the right balance between opening the planning process to the public, and having an appropriate level of government for a town of 28,000 people. Council will discuss the report tonight, and there will be another public meeting for comment on September 17 at 400 Witherspoon Street.

What do you think about Advisory Planning Districts? Does Princeton need another level of government and some more committees? And how should planning be made more representative? Have your say in the comments section below!


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