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Archive - Historic Preservation in Princeton Borough


Princeton Borough
Historic Preservation Review Committee

Procedures Manual


In accordance with Chapter 17A, the Land Use Ordinance of the Borough of Princeton, and the Municipal Land Use Law of the State of New Jersey, the Historic Preservation Review Committee (HPRC) adopts the following procedures to assist it in carrying out its functions:

  1. Organizational Meeting and Officers of the Committee
  2. Emergency Review and Special Meetings
  3. Orientation Materials and Training
  4. Attendance and Vacancies
  5. Applications, Supporting Materials, and Preparation for Meeting
  6. Conduct of Meeting
  7. Conflict of Interest
  8. Actions by the Committee and Records of Committee Action
  9. Subcommittee Reviews
  10. Project Changes
  11. Project Completion and Enforcement
  12. Administrative Waivers
  13. Concept Reviews
  14. Notification of Neighbors
  15. Adoption, Revision, and Revocation of Procedures

Appendix A Preservation-Related Sections of the Princeton Borough Land Use Ordinance
Appendix B Application for Historic Preservation Review

The purpose of these procedures is to assist the HPRC in carrying out its mandate to review projects within Borough’s locally designated historic districts, as specified in the Princeton Borough Land Use Ordinance. Within the historic districts, the HPRC serves in an advisory capacity to the Planning and Zoning Boards on site development applications. The HPRC also reviews preservation plan applications, i.e., projects within the historic districts which are exempt from Planning or Zoning Board review, but are visible from a public right-of-way, such as alterations and additions to single family houses.

These procedures also are intended to help local officials, applicants, new HPRC members, and the general public understand the ways in which the HPRC undertakes its responsibilities and the means by which it seeks to serve the public interest. 

1. Organizational Meeting and Officers of the Committee

The January meeting of the HPRC shall be its organizational meeting. At that meeting, the Committee shall elect from among its members a Chair and one or two Vice-Chairs. The Committee shall establish a regular schedule of meetings for the year and provide notice of such meetings in accordance with the Open Public Meetings Act. The HPRC shall meet once a month, on the first Wednesday of the month at 7:30 P.M. in Borough Hall, unless another date, time, or place shall have been adopted by the Committee at its organizational meeting. As specified in the Borough Land Use Ordinance, the Administrative Officer for the Committee shall be the Borough’s Development Enforcement Officer. Unless the Committee shall vote to make different appointments, the Administrative Officer shall serve as Secretary to the Committee and the Borough Attorney shall provide legal advice as required.

2. Emergency Review and Special Meetings

The HPRC recognizes that that there are times when regularly scheduled monthly meetings are not adequate to carry out its functions in the most effective and beneficial manner. Emergency situations and special circumstances arise from time to time that require an accelerated project review process by the Committee.

The Administrative Officer, the Chair, any HPRC member, or an applicant may request a special meeting. The person(s) requesting the special meeting should contact the Administrative Officer or Chair of the Committee to request a special meeting and give the reason for the request. Any applicant requesting a special meeting shall provide a complete application.

Among the circumstances that might trigger a request for a special meeting are:

  • a violation in progress,
  • an emergency repair due to fire, accident, or structural problems,
  • need to meet a tight construction schedule,
  • insufficient time for staff review prior to a regularly scheduled meeting, or
  • large number of review applications that would otherwise make a regularly scheduled meeting overly long

The Administrative Officer, in consultation with the Chair, shall make every reasonable attempt to expedite review. If the application meets the standards for administrative waiver as outlined in the Land Use Ordinance and Procedure #12, the application shall be quickly reviewed as an administrative waiver. If a full meeting of the HPRC is necessary, the Administrative Officer shall contact Committee members to schedule it. If, after a reasonable effort is undertaken, it is not possible to gather a quorum and schedule a meeting, the review shall be scheduled at the next regular meeting of the HPRC.

3. Orientation Materials and Training 

The Administrative Officer shall provide orientation materials to new members and alternates no later than the second regularly scheduled meeting of the year. These materials shall include, at minimum, the Princeton Community Master Plan, the Princeton Borough Land Use Ordinance, the Princeton Borough Zoning Map showing historic preservation overlay districts, the HPRC Procedures Manual, and a list of HPRC members.

Other HPRC-related materials shall be available for Committee members at Borough Hall. These shall include the Historic Sites Survey of Princeton, National Register nomination forms for the Princeton Historic District and the Jugtown Historic District, photographs of the historic districts, files on preservation plan and development applications incorporating HPRC decisions, and agendas and minutes of previous HPRC meetings.

Each member and alternate member is expected to familiarize him or herself with the Princeton Master Plan, HPRC responsibilities, standards, and criteria as specified in the Borough Land Use Ordinance, and the history and architecture of the historic districts. Each member and alternate should attend at least one educational program per year on a subject relevant to the work of the Committee.

4. Attendance and Vacancies

Attendance at HPRC meetings is important to insure a quorum for decision making. Regular attendance also gives all seven regular members and two alternate members experience in using the ordinance’s design criteria and standards for the full range of projects the HPRC reviews. Every Committee member and alternate is expected to notify the Administrative Officer, preferably at least two days prior to a meeting, if he or she cannot attend that meeting. Any regular member or alternate member who misses more than two consecutive regularly scheduled meetings, or five regularly scheduled meetings total during one calendar year, is expected to resign from the Committee, unless the absences are a result of exceptional circumstances that are not likely to reoccur. Anyone who resigns from the HPRC should notify the Mayor in writing with a copy to the Chair. Whenever a member resigns or vacancies occur, the Chair will request the Mayor to fill the vacancy within sixty days.

5. Applications, Supporting Materials, and Preparation for Meeting 

Applications for historic preservation review shall be accompanied by a written application, on a form set forth in Appendix B to these procedures. Five copies of the completed application shall be submitted to the Administrative Officer at least 15 days before a scheduled meeting in order for the application to be heard at that meeting. Applications for administrative waivers require two copies. Applications submitted at a later date shall be scheduled for the upcoming meeting at the discretion of the Administrative Officer, as long as such later submission does not delay circulation of applications to members as specified below.

The Princeton Borough Land Use Ordinance in sections 17A-41.1 and 17A-195 through 197.1 specifies the form and contents of supporting materials required, depending upon the type of development application. For HPRC review, each application shall be accompanied by at least one copy of supporting materials, such as photograph(s) scaled plans, sketches, written description, and materials specifications as needed to enable Committee members to understand the work proposed. The written description on the application form shall be sufficiently detailed to give a full and clear picture of the proposed work. Although such description may duplicate material presented in the plans, the intent is to expedite review time before and during the meeting. If the application is not accompanied by sufficient supporting materials, the Administrative Officer shall inform the applicant what additional materials are needed. The applicant shall bring to the meeting (but need not attach to the application) samples of materials proposed for the project.

The Administrative Officer, in consultation with the Chair, shall prepare and disseminate to members an agenda, applications, and supporting materials as needed no later than five days prior to the meeting at which they are to be heard. Members shall make an effort to personally observe, from the street, the site of each application to evaluate the proposed work.

6. Conduct of Meeting

All meetings of the Committee shall be held in compliance with the Open Public Meetings Act, Ch. 32l, P.L. 1975. The Chair shall preside at all meetings. In the absence of the Chair, the Vice-Chair shall preside. A quorum shall consist of four regular and/or alternate members. All decisions of the Commission shall be by majority vote of the members present at the meeting. Alternate members may participate fully in any discussions. They may vote only if replacing an absent member, as provided by the Municipal Land Use Law, so that no more than seven people are voting.

Each applicant shall be given an opportunity to describe the proposed work and to respond to questions from members of the Committee. Applications with clear and well-detailed supporting materials should not need lengthy presentations. If the applicant or his representative is not present, the Administrative Officer shall present the application. Members of the public shall also be heard, but the Chair may limit the number of speakers or the time allocated to each speaker to prevent duplicative or unnecessarily prolonged proceedings.

All speakers shall introduce themselves for the record. All presentations shall be informal, unsworn, and without application of the rules of evidence. All public proceedings of the Committee shall be recorded on audio tape. A member of the Committee shall be designated to provide summary minutes of the meeting. Alternatively, the Committee may employ a recording secretary to prepare summary minutes, if so authorized by the governing body. The purpose of summary minutes is to is to have a brief and easily accessible record of meetings for Committee members, including absent members. Summary minutes also are useful for training new members in applying the ordinance’s design standards and criteria and providing a thumbnail history of precedents and actions on previous applications. In case of a difference between the summary minutes and the audio tape, the tape recording shall govern.

7. Conflict of Interest

The HPRC understands that in a small community like Princeton Borough, there exist a wide variety of friendships, networks, and relationships among individuals and families. Many people within Princeton are affiliated in one way or another with neighborhoods, organizations, schools, workplaces, and religious organizations. Historically, many HPRC members have worked professionally in historic preservation or related fields such as architecture, planning, construction, and archeology. The professional expertise brought by such members is invaluable to project review, but it also may increase the potential for conflict of interest or appearance of conflict of interest.

These myriad relationships do not in and of themselves preclude HPRC members from reviewing applications of neighbors, acquaintances, colleagues, or organizations. Each Committee member is expected to make a personal decision about whether he or she has, or might appear to have, a conflict of interest on a particular application. These procedures shall serve to guide Committee members in making such decisions regarding conflict of interest beyond the requirement of section 17A-27.2 (e) of the Borough Land Use Ordinance which directs Board and Committee members not “to act on any matter on which he or she has, either directly or indirectly, any personal or financial interest.

  • Any Committee member who serves in a decision-making capacity, or has an immediate family member who serves in such a capacity in an organization that is an applicant for HPRC reviews shall recuse him or herself from the project review.

  • Any HPRC member who is currently working for an applicant, or has a financial interest in the application, or has an immediate family member working for an applicant or has a financial interest in the application, shall recuse him or herself from project review.

  • Any HPRC member who has had an association with the applicant or a representative of the applicant and has concerns over whether that association might constitute an appearance of conflict of interest should present the situation to the HPRC and the applicant. If any member of the HPRC or the applicant states that the association appears to be a conflict of interest, the Committee member shall recuse him or herself from project review.

  • Any HPRC member who anticipates recusing him or herself from a project review should inform the Administrative Officer or the Chair at least forty-eight hours before the scheduled meeting so that there is sufficient time to assure there will be a quorum present for review of that project.

  • Any HPRC member who owns property within two hundred feet of a project undergoing review shall recuse him or herself from project review. That person may, however, participate in the proceedings as a member of the public, and shall be subject to all rules and procedures regarding public participation in HPRC meetings.

Any HPRC member who anticipates that it will be necessary to frequently or regularly recuse him or her self from project review may wish to resign from the Committee.

8. Action by the Committee and Records of Committee Action

Upon completion of each presentation, the Committee shall discuss the application and reach a decision, in the presence of the applicant.

Applications for preservation plan approval may be approved, approved with conditions, or denied by the Committee. For site plan or development applications, the HPRC role is to provide advice to the Planning or Zoning Board. Conditional approval (or recommendation to a Board for conditional approval) may include resolution of specific items by subcommittee, as further explained in Procedure #9. The Committee should give reasons for its decisions or recommendations in accordance with Criteria and Standards of section l7A- 193 and/or l93A of the Borough Land Use Ordinance.

The decisions or recommendations and the reasons for them should be recorded in the summary minutes. A draft of the summary minutes should be sent to the Administrative Officer within one week of the meeting. The purpose of this is to enable these minutes, albeit in draft form, to be used in preparing timely letter(s) of determination (on preservation plan applications) and drafting written recommendations to the Planning or Zoning Board (on site plan or development applications).

The Administrative Officer, in consultation with the Chair (and with the aid of the audio tape and draft summary minutes), shall send the applicant seeking preservation plan approval a letter of determination stating the Committee’s decision within 10 days of the date of that decision. For site plan or development applications, the Administrative Officer, in consultation with the Chair, shall send written recommendations to the appropriate Board within 10 days of the meeting. The Administrative Officer shall send a copy of all letters of determination and written recommendations to the Chair.

The audio tape(s) of every meeting should be kept for at least one year. Application materials should be kept in perpetuity. Draft summary minutes should be presented to the Committee for approval at its next regularly scheduled meeting. Letters of determination and written recommendations to the applicable Board, which state Committee decisions and/or articulate reasons for those decisions in greater detail than described in the summary minutes and would be useful for Committee training, should be disseminated to members of the Committee.

9. Subcommittee Reviews

The purpose of a subcommittee review is to provide an expedited review process for concept reviews as outlined in Procedure #11 or to handle details of a generally acceptable preservation plan or development application in a prudent and efficient manner. It enables the HPRC to delegate specific decisions on details, materials, scale, color, or other features of a proposed project that the applicant may not have fully designed or chosen, or may not have included in the application materials. It also enables on-site review, when necessary.

The HPRC may approve a project (or recommend Board approval of a project) subject to the condition that a subcommittee review certain items. The Subcommittee should include the Chair or Vice-Chair and one or two additional members present at the meeting and appointed by the Chair. The Administrative Officer should convene the Subcommittee on-site or off-site quickly upon receipt of materials needed for review. These materials become part of the application record.

Subcommittee decisions shall be by majority vote. The Administrative Officer, in consultation with the Chair, should inform the applicant of any subcommittee decision in writing. Resolution of the condition(s) of approval by Subcommittee should be reported to the full Committee at its next regularly scheduled meeting.

10. Project Changes

Changes to approved plans may be necessary for a variety of reasons and may occur after work has begun on the project. The applicant should notify the Administrative Officer without delay when changes are needed or desired. The Administrative Officer should consult with the Chair and, depending upon the nature of the change, the Chair may authorize the change, convene an on-site subcommittee, or have the applicant bring revised plans to the full Committee. The Administrative Officer should record and report to the full Committee any changes authorized.

11. Project Completion and Enforcement

The Borough Development Enforcement Officer is responsible for continued compliance of all imposed conditions. The applicant should provide photo(s) or slide(s), which become part of the permanent application file, showing the completed project.

12. Administrative Waivers

Sections 17A-177 and 17A-177-1 of Princeton Borough’s Land Use Ordinance provide for an administrative waiver process when a proposed project has “no impact or de minimis impact on the criteria and standards set forth in 17A-193.” The administrative waiver process enables the Administrative Officer and the Chair of the HPRC to approve preservation plans without full Committee review. This also enables the Administrative Officer, the Chair of the HPRC, and the Chair of the Planning or Zoning Board to waive full Committee and Board review on projects that would ordinarily require Board review. The Chair or Administrative Officer should inform the Committee of all administrative waivers at the next regularly scheduled HPRC meeting. This reporting process provides accountability, by giving members the opportunity to comment upon the Chair’s interpretation of de minimis impact.

13. Concept Reviews

A concept review enables the applicant and the HPRC to discuss projects in the early stages of planning, before the applicant spends significant amounts of time and money fully designing a project. HPRC concept review may be used for any type of application; it includes, but is not limited to “early review” of site development described in section 17A-175 of the Borough Land Use Ordinance. A concept review can provide overall guidance on how the design criteria and standards might apply to a particular project. A concept review might, for example, give the applicant information about what are the character-defining features of the building or site which should be preserved and which elements are non-contributing and could be altered.

An applicant may request concept review at any time by contacting the Administrative Officer. The concept review can take various forms. It may be an on-site meeting with the Chair or a Subcommittee or may be a full-Committee review at a regularly scheduled meeting. To be productive, the applicant should provide, at minimum, photos of existing conditions, a description of the proposed project, a survey, a sketch site plan, and a sketch of the proposed work.

The Administrative Officer shall keep a file record of any recommendations, interpretations, or advice given. If the concept review was on-site or undertaken by the Chair or a Subcommittee, the Chair will inform the HPRC of recommendations made at its next regularly scheduled meeting. If the full Committee believes that any recommendations made are contrary to the design criteria and standards, the applicant should be notified. The intent of concept review is to provide preliminary comments that would be consistent with eventual project review. However, recommendations from a concept review are non-binding upon the HPRC. Both the applicant and the Committee should be aware that the more detailed project information that comes with a complete application may lead to an unanticipated and contrary outcome.

14. Notification of Neighbors

Neither the applicant nor the HPRC is required to notify neighbors of any proposed projects. Official notification of owners within two hundred feet of the property is required prior to hearings before the Planning and Zoning Boards. However, it is to everyone’s benefit to have the comments of neighbors early in the planning process, when the Committee hears an application prior to Planning or Zoning Board review.

For projects that might have a significant impact on the neighborhood, the Administrative Officer should recommend that the applicant notify, by regular mail, property owners within two hundred feet of the proposed project. This optional notification is recommended for the following types of projects:

  • major additions,
  • substantial alterations engendered by a proposed change of use,
  • substantial increase in parking, or
  • substantial site improvement or landscape changes

15. Adoption, Revision, or Revocation of Procedures

Any member of the HPRC may introduce a proposed procedure for discussion and adoption, revision, or revocation by the HPRC. To bring up a proposed procedure for discussion, the Committee member should contact the Chair or the Administrative Officer, who will include the proposal on the HPRC meeting agenda. To help focus the discussion, a draft of the proposed procedure should be prepared and disseminated to the Committee at least a week before the item is scheduled for discussion.

At the HPRC meeting, the Committee may refer the proposed procedure to a subcommittee for revisions or may vote on the proposed procedure. As in any other action item, a quorum must be present and a majority of those present and voting must vote in favor of the procedure for it to be approved. The HPRC may choose to approve the procedure provisionally.

Procedures may be revised or revoked at any time. A proposal to revise or revoke a procedure follows the same process as a proposal to adopt a procedure. Within the month following adoption, revision, or revocation of a procedure, the Administrative Officer shall provide a copy of any changes made (with date of change) to each Committee member for inclusion into the HPRC Procedures manual.

Adopted December 3, 1997; revised February 4, 1998.