To the Editor:
I’m writing out of concern about the proposed residential rezoning that West Windsor Council will ultimately make the final decision on in the very near future. This rezoning affects some 5,"000 residents who live in currently non-conforming lots.
The proposed new zoning will make these lots conforming. The potential adverse consequences could be serious unless safeguards are built into the new code regulations. I recently spoke with a land use and planning official in the township and I’m really concerned about the very adverse effects the proposed changes could have on our township.
The official mentioned that currently non-conforming properties would become conforming and that essentially, homeowners wanting to object to an imposing structure next door would have no recourse to object once the changes go into effect as long as the structure conforms under the new zoning provisions.
Currently, neighbors of expanding homeowners must be notified in advance of proposed additions and expanding neighbors must obtain variances for such additions. The Zoning Board hears all cases involving objections to proposed additions by neighbors and can grant relief by denying egregious expansions. That is a crucial safeguard.
I was told that under the rezoning, no advance notices will go out and that so long as the expansion conforms to the new regulations, you’ll be stuck with what goes in next door even if it really adversely affects your own enjoyment of your own property. People certainly have the right to improve their property, but that right should end where it adversely affects someone else’s equally important right to enjoy their own property and environment.
Something must be done to build safeguards into the new zoning provisions to allow homeowners to appeal AND to be notified of any proposed additions well in advance. There should also be strict guidelines about additions being in character with other homes in the neighborhood, i.e., if the street has many colonial houses, additions should conform with that style of house.
There must also be strict limits on people buying homes as investments and turning the home over after a pricey expansion. They should have to prove full-time residency in West Windsor for at least a few years, perhaps five. Without these safeguards and limitations, people will do whatever they want and won’t care about what anyone else thinks. The whole look of the town could be transformed.
The new zoning says front setbacks would remain at 40 feet, the rear setbacks would go from 20 feet to 30 feet and the side setbacks would conform at 15 feet (vs. the 20 feet currently required). The FAR percentage would go from 13 percent to 17 percent and the improvable area would go from 17 percent to 18 percent.
The land use official I spoke with said a home currently 2,"400 sqare feet could expand as much as 1,"000 additional square feet without notification and without any recourse for adjoining property owners. That is just not right and is not tenable, especially for lots under an acre.
Ask yourself this question: Do I want someone to build a 1,"000 square foot addition within 30 feet of the side of my house? Thirty feet would be the sum of the neighbor’s side setback and your own under the new laws. Many of the affected 5,"000 homes are on half-acre or smaller lots, so this is really a big deal. Big additions on one acre-plus lots are alot less imposing.
If you’re one of the 5,"000 affected homeowners, there’s only one answer to that question — NO!! West Windsor should not be allowed to become McMansionville. That problem is already plaguing neighboring Princeton, where teardowns of charming older homes and construction of oversized, less aesthetically pleasing homes on postage-sized lots is giving certain neighborhoods there a black eye.
There is still time to prevent such construction activity from taking place in West Windsor and the time to act is now. In closing, I’m asking Town Council and Planning Board members to consider the proposed checks and balances suggested above and build them into the new zoning provisions — if they see fit to pass the provisions at all.
I urge all concerned homeowners to attend the Wednesday, January 23, Planning Board meeting about rezoning at Grover Middle School and let your voices be heard. Time is of the essence.
See story page 23.
For Station Parking
Consider the Dinky
West Windsor is a New York City commuter town. For those with high New York City salaries, the cost of living is low with excellent schools. The rest of us homeowners pay outrageous taxes, yet we receive no benefit from the Princeton Junction train station. Why? We cannot use it except at night or the weekends. There is no parking from 6 a.m. until 6 p.m.
If we do not commute to New York City on the train, why should a West Windsor resident pay for a town center or parking lot we cannot use? Two thousand additional parking spots would not even dent the current needs.
The immediate solution would be to open all of the parking lots at 10 a.m. for daily use. Commuters would have four hours from 6 a.m. to 10 a.m. to park. After that they would be just like the rest of us West Windsor residents.
The real solution for additional parking is the two square miles of empty West Windsor space between Route 1 and the canal. The one-stop Dinky train passes right through the middle to meet every Princeton Junction train. NJ Transit could easily add a second stop on the right of way it already owns. There is plenty of room for all current and future parking needs. This area has excellent access from Route 1 at Alexander Road. This land is definitely not permanent open space. Don Swanson
Stanford Place, West Windsor
South to North:
Let’s Be Friends
Dear Tim O’Connor, I apologize in advance if my past response seemed a bit harsh. Personally, as a student at West Windsor Plainsboro High School South, I have nothing against our partner school North and rivalry to me is very immature, especially since we are all living in the same towns. I was simply stating that from what I have heard in the past North was less tolerant than South. I never said that “everyone” at North was intolerant and I never said that I was 100 percent certain my response was right. I simply said what I thought. Everything I said in my last letter to the editor was based on conjectures I have made from stories I heard from students at both North and South. Forgive me, if it was not clear that I was making conjectures or if you feel my conjectures were way off.
However, I am glad that you replied to my letter because it has redeemed the faith I have in our diverse neighborhoods. I value your “first hand experience” because my thesis on North was based on stories that were passed down to me from seniors of ‘07 who graduated from North last school year. Therefore, assuming you were being honest in your response, then those stories must have been stretched out to seem worse than they probably were. I felt as if Molly Kwon Brossman’s article only proved to me that those stories were valid, but perhaps I was wrong.
Specific stories I have heard in the past stemmed from people at both North and South who agreed that North had more “cliques” than South in the past couple of years. Such stories have led me to make my conjecture about North. It is quite possible that some of those stories had that “rivalry” twist in them, which is a shame. Rivalry has nothing to do with how I wrote my last response; rumors, I suppose, have everything to do with how I see North and how some of friends see North as well. Whether these rumors are true, that is to be determined by probably more than just your response and my response. As for the last line of my response — it was joke; I meant no harm by it.
I am sorry if it insulted you or any of the students at West Windsor Plainsboro High School North. I never meant to insult anyone, I’m not that “type” of person. Honestly, I was just trying to answer the question Molly Kwon Brossman posed about South and I tried to do so based on what I heard about each school. I guess “passed down” stories prove to be highly inaccurate. I apologize.
However, in the end of all of this madness we both do not fully know what it is like to go to each other’s schools. So based on your response and my response — we can both agree and conclude that rivalry has gone too far and has manifested itself into a vicious rumor-filled, hateful form. Maybe one day, South and North can get over the whole “we’re better than you” phase, but I suppose it will take the underclassmen to change that.
While walking down the halls of South, I do not just see a clump of separated groups, I see people — I am very happy to know that North is no different from South in this manner. It is very refreshing and thank you for your response.
Senior, Class of 2008
Pedestrian Group Records ‘07 Gains
The Board of Trustees of the West Windsor Bicycle and Pedestrian Alliance thanks our membership for supporting our mission to promote bicycling and walking, emphasizing access, increased mobility, education and safety. WWBPA membership more than doubled this year to 240 members. This increase reflects the need for improvement and the progress we are making in bicycle and pedestrian safety.
In the spring, we published the first bicycle and pedestrian map of our township. This bilingual map shows routes for bicycling and walking in West Windsor. With the help of our membership, we led three educational walks to highlight dangerous areas for pedestrians and bicyclists: Canal Pointe Boulevard in the vicinity of Meadow Road, the intersection of Cranbury-Wallace Road and Route 571, and the pedestrian non-friendly sections of Cranbury and Clarksville roads near Grovers Mill Pond.
Our recommendations from these walks have sparked action from local governments: the state has set a rapid timetable to make significant improvements to the Cranbury-Clarksville Road and Route 571 intersection, including installation of crosswalks and pedestrian-activated traffic lights; the township has adopted our proposal to put Canal Pointe Boulevard on a road diet, decreasing travel lanes, adding bike lanes, and installing safe crosswalks along this busy road; and the county has painted crosswalks along Cranbury Road and is considering what can be done to improve pedestrian safety on these roads.
Our membership and their children and teens have participated in our many events: the Pedals for Progress bicycle drive, many trail-building days on the Millstone and Rogers Preserve Trails, our family bicycle ride along the newly created Trolley Line Trail along the PSE&G right-of-way, Safe Routes to School, and our efforts to educate the Hispanic community about bicycle safety.
We look forward to building our membership in 2008 and involving them in events aimed at improving conditions for bicyclists and pedestrians in our community, and in achieving our primary goals of education and enforcement.
To learn more about our organization, visit www.princetononline.org/wwbpa or attend our annual meeting on Thursday, February 21, at 7:30 p.m. at the Senior Center.
WW Bicycle & Pedestrian Alliance
Thanks to Cat Clinic. . .
I would like to publicly thank the veterinarians and staff at Carnegie Cat Clinic and Princeton Animal Hospital for their generous help in recent rescue efforts. On December 12, Union Township Animal Control raided a home in Union that contained 112 animals, including 64 cats.
The Union Township Humane Society’s facility was closed that week for renovations, and furthermore is not large enough to intake the large number of animals pulled. Rescue groups with local contacts, such as ours, took as many cats as we could to receive much-needed veterinary care and to be fostered until permanent homes can be found.
In our case, the cats pulled were in need of veterinary care and not in condition to be placed directly into foster care. The staff at Carnegie Cat Clinic rose to the occasion and boarded several of the shorthaired pedigree cats while they received vaccinations, tests, treatment for parasites, and neutering.
This help included significant after-hours work on the intake of the cats. Besides great medical care, the staff also gave the cats the love and attention they craved. Thank you to the veterinarians and staff at Carnegie Cat Clinic and Princeton Animal Hospital for finding the extra time to care for these cats.
President, Oriental Shorthairs of America, Slinky Katz Rescue
. . . & to Plainsboro Voters
We would like to thank the voters of Plainsboro for their support in our re-election to the Township Committee. We now have an opportunity to continue to build on our record of good government that we have established while in office.
We plan to continue work on sound fiscal management, smart growth, effective municipal planning and open space in Plainsboro. As work on the Village Center continues and as the new larger library and other infrastructure improvements are undertaken, Plainsboro will remain a very desirable community where citizens choose to live, work and raise their families.
Ed Yates, 22 Drayton Lane
Michael Weaver, 79 Krebs Road
22 Drayton Lane
79 Krebs Road