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Historic Preservation FAQ

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What is the Historic Preservation Commission (HPC)?

The Historic Preservation Commission (HPC) is a local review agency of Princeton. HPC reviews preservation plans filed with the Office of Historic Preservation. Its purpose is to promote historic preservation, recommend designation of historic properties, and review projects for development in locally designated historic districts in Princeton. The Commission is a citizen body appointed by the governing body whose members serve without pay. Its members have a range of knowledge of architecture, architectural history, cultural history, landscape design, and/or archaeology. 

While the Office of Historic Preservation has on file research materials pertinent to its purpose, it does not serve as a library or research organization. This is a function served more by other organizations such as the Historical Society of Princeton, a private entity, located at the Updike Farmstead, 354 Quaker Road, Princeton.

 

What is a preservation plan?

A preservation plan outlines how a structure or site improvements in a local designated historic district or buffer zone will be altered. The preservation plan includes the application form, architectural detail drawings, photographs, specifications, and may include a site plan or other details. A preservation plan should be filed with the Office of Historic Preservation.

 

When do you need preservation plan approval?

An applicant must file a preservation plan when exterior work is proposed on existing structures on the property, or a new construction is contemplated. In certain historic districts, approval is needed when the applicant wishes to paint a house a different color than the existing color. The applicant does not need to file a preservation plan if ordinary maintenance is being done. However, in that instance, the owner should check with the Office of Historic Preservation to confirm that a preservation plan is not needed and also with the zoning and building departments to determine if permits are required.

 

What is ordinary maintenance?

The replacement of any deteriorated, damaged, or non-functioning structure or feature with same material, color, and dimensions.

 

How do you file for preservation plan approval?

An applicant files a preservation plan and submits three copies to the Office of Historic Preservation, located in the Zoning Department. The filing fees $75. Depending on the scope of the project, the preservation plan can be approved administratively by the Historic Preservation Officer and HPC Chair, or by the full HPC. (If the application is part of a development application for site plan or subdivision, the administrative officer of that application has a 45 day review period for completeness. If the application can be approved administratively, the Historic Preservation Officer has fifteen calendar days to review the application for completeness.  If the preservation plan request a full HPC review, the Historic Preservation Officer prepares a report for the Commission and the application is scheduled on the agenda of the next available Commission meeting. The preservation plan is reviewed and discussed and a public hearing is conducted on the plan. It is suggested that the applicant or a representative attend the hearing. Applications are on file and are available for public inspection at least ten (10) days before the date of the hearing.

 

Can I have my preservation plan approved administratively?

A preservation plan may be approved administratively when the Historic Preservation Officer determines that the preservation plan conforms to the requirements of the Historic Preservation Ordinance, and will not have a significant impact. The Historic Preservation Officer with the concurrence by the Chair of the Historic Preservation Commission may approve the application without a review by the full HPC. Certain changes in an approved preservation plan for projects currently underway may also be approved administratively.

 

What if I want to run my Ideas by the HPC?

You can file a concept plan with the Historic Preservation Office to be placed on the HPC meeting. The Commission will informally comment on the plan at the meeting. There is no fee required and no comments or plans are binding.

 

Do I need a zoning permit for the work I want to do? 

Only if you propose to build an exterior structure or add to an exterior structure. It is also required if you wish to change the use of rooms in the interior. The applicant is asked to file a zoning permit application along with the preservation plan application in order to insure that there are no variances in the proposed plan.

 

What if I want to plant a tree?

Landscape is under review of the Historic Preservation Commission. The purpose of the ordinance is not to restrict an owner from gardening or landscaping. If approval of a preservation plan it is recommended the applicant reach out to the Historic Preservation Officer to determine if the improvements will require an application.

 

What if I want to paint my house?

Certain historic districts (type 2) do not require approval for painting on already painted structures. Those properties that require approval (type 1) will need a preservation plan which is usually done as an administrative approval.

What if I want to demolish a structure or part of a structure?

If the demolition of a structure or part of a structure in a historic district is proposed, it shall be approved only if the structure cannot be put to a reasonable use. The applicant must apply to the Historic Preservation Commission for approval of the demolition.

 

Do I need to hire professionals to present my plan to the Historic Preservation Commission?

An individual owner may present a preservation plans to the Commission. However, the building department or zoning department may require certain professionals to prepare plans or documents for the proper permits.

 

What is the public hearing?

A public hearing is a meeting of the Historic Preservation Commission, publicly advertised, at which the preservation plan is reviewed. After a presentation of the application, the Chair of the Commission opens up the hearing to the public for comment. At the hearing, an individual may appear or be represented by an attorney. The applicant may also give power of attorney to an individual or a professional such as an architect.

How do I get my plan approved?

The preservation plan is approved during the public hearing by the review of the Commission. The Commission studies the report of the Historic Preservation Officer and reviews the application according to the Secretary of the Interior Standards (standards published by the US Department of the Interior) and the Princeton ordinance. The body then votes on the plan and issues a written document called a Resolution which outlines the approval or disapproval and any conditions that it may have imposed.

 

It is important to note that the Ordinance states that the criteria and standards in the ordinance are intended to provide a framework within which the designer of the improvement is free to exercise creativity, invention, and innovation. The HPC Ordinance states that a preservation plan be approved only if the proposed action (which may be modified by conditions of the reviewing agency)

  • is compatible with the existing structures and landscape of the historic district;
  • would not adversely affect the ambiance, character, and appearance of the historic preservation zoning district and the relationships among structures and between structures and public ways in the district;
  • would not adversely affect the exterior architectural features and setting of the structure and its historical and architectural interest; and
  • is consistent with the criteria and standards of the ordinance. (10B-272.4)

What do I do if I need a zoning variance for a single family house?

A single family homeowner in a historic district needing a zoning variance has to request relief from the ordinance from the Zoning Board of Adjustment. An owner prepares an application that includes the zoning variance application as well as a preservation plan. The application is subject to a 45 day completeness review period. The Historic Preservation Officer prepares a report to the Historic Preservation Commission. The Commission reviews the application and makes recommendations to the Zoning Board. The HPC, in this instance, has an advisory function. Final approval of the preservation plan as well as any variance granted would be by the Zoning Board of Adjustment.

 

What if my plan is not approved and I disagree with the HPC’s recommendations?

The owner may appeal within ten (10) days to the Planning Board. The appeals process is outlined in the ordinance.

 

How does Princeton designate a historic district?

Areas of study for districts are outlined in the Princeton Community Master Plan. When an area is chosen for study as a district, a letter will be mailed to owners in the area of study which outlines the following:

 

The HPC is researching the area for historic data.

 

An architectural survey will be performed by a consultant who may be seen surveying the area of study along with staff and HPC members.

 

The letter will ask the owner for any known historical facts pertaining to the study area or of any persons who may be interested in providing historic information.

After the study is completed, the proposed boundaries of the district are drawn. The survey will be reviewed by the HPC.

 

After completion of the survey, the HPC holds a public hearing on the proposed boundaries. Notice of this hearing is included on the HPC agenda, and a letter is sent to all property owners in the area of study inviting them to the hearing. Public comments on the proposed designation are welcomed by the HPC at the hearing.

 

After the public's input, the HPC deliberates and may pass a resolution to recommend to the governing body that a district be created.

 

If a district is recommended for designation, the Princeton Attorney is instructed to prepare an ordinance for introduction by the governing body on the proposed district. The introduced ordinance is referred to the Planning Board for comment. Princeton conducts a public hearing. The introduced ordinance returns to the governing body for final review and consideration. If adopted, the district is designated.

Witherspoon-Jackson Historic District

Web: http://nj.gov/counties/mercer/departments/hcd/program.html

 

Mercer County Affordable Housing Veterans Residence provides rental units for low-income veterans. The rental property is located at 2280 Hamilton Ave., Hamilton, NJ 08619. For more information, visit:

For eligibility and requirements, download the PDF handbook at:

http://nj.gov/counties/mercer/departments/pdfs/housing_veterans_residence_manual.pdf

To view the application, download a PDF copy at: http://nj.gov/counties/mercer/departments/pdfs/housing_veterans_residence_application.pdf

For more information, contact the Mercer County Affordable Housing Program at:

640 South Broad Street, Trenton, NJ 08611

Phone: (609) 989-6858, Fax (609) 989-0306

Web: http://nj.gov/counties/mercer/departments/hcd/program.html

 

3.4.2      Municipality-Specific Housing Programs

In Alphabetical Order by Municipality

Ewing: The Township of Ewing coordinates its affordable housing program in collaboration with

Piazza & Associates. They provide both home sales and rental units for low and moderate-income households.

Princeton Forrestal Village

216 Rockingham Row, Princeton, NJ 08540

Phone: (609) 786-1100, Fax: (609) 786-1105

Email: Ewing@HousingQuest.com

Web: www.piazza-and-associates.com/afhousing.php?pa=jefferson

 

Hamilton: Hamilton Townshipcoordinates its affordable housing program in collaboration with Piazza & Associates. They provide both home sales and rental units for low and moderate-income households.

Princeton Forrestal Village

216 Rockingham Row, Princeton, NJ 08540

Phone: (609) 786-1100, Fax: (609) 786-1105

Email: Hamilton@HousingQuest.com

Web: www.piazza-and-associates.com/afhousing.php?pa=hamiltonwelcome

 

Hamilton: Hamilton Township Housing and Urban Development Office provides information regarding Community Development Block Grant Program (i.e. housing rehabilitation), rental assistance (Housing Choice Voucher Program), and affordable housing.

2090 Greenwood Avenue, P.O. Box 00150 Hamilton, NJ 08650

Phone: (609) 890-3675, Fax: (609) 890-3525

Email: JBlakely@hamiltonnj.com

Web: www.hamiltonnj.com/HUD

 

Hopewell Township: TheTownship of Hopewell affordable housing program provides both for sale homes and rental units. Hopewell’s Affordable Sales are managed by Princeton Community Housing Development Corporation.

One Monument Drive, Princeton, NJ 08540

Phone: (609) 924-3822, ext. 5

Email: necall@princetoncommunityhousing.org

Web: https://www.princetoncommunityhousing.org/communities/hopewell-township-affordable-sales-program

 

Hopewell Borough: Hopewell Borough provides affordable housing in accordance with COAH. Contact the affordable housing liaison for more information.

88 East Broad Street, Hopewell, NJ 08525

Phone: (609) 466-2636, Fax: (609) 466-8511

Email: Michele.hovan@hopewellboro-nj.us

Web: www.hopewellboro-nj.us/departments/administration/affordable-housing/          

 

Hightstown Housing Authority serves low income residents of the Borough of Hightstown and the surrounding areas.

131 Rogers Avenue, Hightstown, NJ 08520

Phone: (609) 448-2268, Fax: (609) 426-9440

Email: kleprevost@Hightstownhousing.org

Web: www.hightstownhousing.org/default.aspx

 

Lawrence Township: Lawrence Township provides affordable housing for both purchasers and renters.

2207 Lawrence Road, P.O. Box 6006, Lawrence Township, NJ 08648

Phone: (609) 844-7087, Fax: (609) 896-0412

Email: Alink@lawrencetwp.com

Web: www.lawrencetwp.com/affhousing.html

 

Pennington Borough has limited affordable housing properties, which are advertised through the New Jersey Housing Resource Center at www.nj.gov/njhrc/find.

For more information, contact the Affordable Housing Liaison:

30 North Main Street, Pennington, NJ 08534-0095

Phone: (609) 737-0276

Email: eheinzel@penningtonboro.org (Eileen Heinzel, current affordable housing liaison)

Web: www.nj.gov/njhrc/find or www.penningtonboro.org

           

Princeton Housing Authority (PHA) is a government corporation that provides housing for low income families in Princeton while promoting self-sufficiency. PHA owns and manages 236 apartments for families, seniors, and disabled residents in addition to five developments in Princeton. Units may have income requirements.

1 Redding Circle, Princeton, NJ 08540

Phone: (609) 924-3448

Web: www.princetonhousing.org/

 

Robbinsville Township: Robbinsville Township provides affordable housing for both sale and rent. For more information, contact the Municipal Housing Liaison/Administrative Agent, Gail Pfister.

2298 Route 33, Robbinsville, NJ 08691

Phone: (609) 259-3600 ext. 110

Email: gailp@robbinsville.net

Web: www.robbinsville-twp.org/departments/affordable_housing/index.php

 

Trenton Housing Authority (THA) provides affordable housing for Trenton residents. For a listing of affordable rental properties in the City of Trenton, visit www.trentonnj.org/ documents/rental_housing_list.doc (Word document). For Trenton Housing Authority eligibility requirements, visit www.tha-nj.org/apply-for-public-housing.

875 New Willow Street, Trenton, NJ 08638

Phone: (609) 278-5000

Web: www.tha-nj.org/apply-for-public-housing

 

West Windsor: TheTownship of West Windsor affordable housing programs are coordinated in collaboration with Piazza & Associates. Sales and rentals are available for low and moderate income households.

Princeton Forrestal Village

216 Rockingham Row, Princeton, NJ 08540

Phone: (609) 786-1100, Fax: (609) 786-1105

Email: Info@HousingQuest.com

Web: www.piazza-and-associates.com/afhousing.php?pa=wwtwp

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