A proposal to redevelop a site in downtown Princeton with a mixed-income apartment building appears dead in its current form, after failing to find support from the Princeton Zoning Board of Adjustment. The applicant, RB Homes, had hoped to construct a 3 1/2 story building, with 8 market rate units and two affordable units (“RB Homes Propose 10-Unit Apartment Building at ‘Lincoln Court'”). The Princeton Zoning Board of Adjustment considered the plan at their meeting of November 17, where members of the Board raised many concerns with the project. As it became clear that there was not enough support to get an approval, the applicant’s attorney carried the application to a meeting in January 2023, when a revised proposal may be considered.
The proposed rental building would have been built at the end of ‘Lincoln Court’, a short dead-end road off of North Tulane Street, but also involved a residential property at 16-18 Vandeventer Avenue (map). The property at 16-18 Vandeventer Ave would be restored as a duplex for two households. The rear yard of that duplex would be deed-restricted as a small parking lot for the apartments, which would replace existing dilapidated structures behind 16-18 Vandeveventer Ave, on Lincoln Court (see photo at top).
The new structure required variances for lot coverage and floor area ratio (FAR). To justify those variances, the applicant pointed to the public good of adding two new affordable units in a walkable location, and an upgraded path between Vandeventer Ave and Lincoln Court, which would improve pedestrian circulation downtown. The applicant’s planner also pointed out that nearby structures, several of which are very old, substantially exceed the lot coverage and FAR regulations in the current zoning code. The Historic Preservation Commission supported the application, in large part because of the restoration of the home at 16-18 Vandeventer Ave, which has fallen into bad shape. Two neighbors raised some concerns, but also expressed enthusiasm about the project.
But Zoning Board chair Steven Cohen was not persuaded. “In my opinion this building is way too big for the site,” he said. Other Board members chimed in with concerns about fire access, parking, and whether the windows were right. At one point, the board had a debate about what the definition of a ‘bedroom’ is, according to municipal code. (Apparently there is no definition, although the number of required parking spaces is dependent on the number of bedrooms.)
Considering the number of concerns, it seems likely that any modified application at this site will have to be substantially different. Daniel Barsky, of RB Homes, suggested that a revised application could be made to match zoning better by getting rid of the proposed affordable units and pedestrian walkway, which would reduce the building size and lot coverage.
Relevant links via princetonnj.gov: