Strategic Overview

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Princeton is an attractive college town that balances commercial and residential development with open space preservation. The community is served by a lively downtown which is the center of business, cultural and educational activities. Large areas within and on our borders have been preserved as beautiful natural areas for all residents to enjoy. With this balance in mind, the Planning Board has adopted the following vision statement.


Princeton has a special sense of place and community. It is an educational, cultural and commercial center as well as the site of such world-renowned institutions as Princeton University and the Institute for Advanced Study. It is also home to a leading center for theological studies, two nationally acclaimed schools of music, and numerous prestigious public and private schools at the elementary and secondary level. It combines a rich mixture of educational, cultural and historic resources. Princeton is a lively college town with attractive shops and restaurants, as well as businesses and residences. Surrounding the town center are architecturally diverse, residential neighborhoods on tree-lined streets linked by bike paths and/or sidewalks to small scale suburban offices, shopping and service centers. Within these urban and suburban neighborhoods, residents vary widely in age, socio-economic and ethnic backgrounds. Princeton is remarkable for its scenic open spaces, parks, recreational facilities and rural settings. Tree lined two-lane roadways lead to surrounding residential areas, extensive new office centers, shopping malls, and major transportation arteries.


In Princeton, decision making about land use and development has been based upon a set of strongly-held guiding principles. These principles have evolved over many years and are explicit in earlier master plans and are readily observed from the community's distinctive character. The Planning Board has articulated its vision of Princeton in the following expression of community values.1. COMMUNITY CHARACTER & QUALITY OF LIFE

  • Maintain a "sense of place" and small town quality that is distinctive to this community and evidenced as one crosses into the community through its several gateways. Maintain the scenic and historic gateways and enhance those that are less attractive. 
  • Maintain a mix and balance of uses that crosscut socio-economic lines. The opportunity for people to work and live within the same community is the basis of this diversity. 
  • New development must be compatible with neighboring uses and must minimize and buffer its impact on adjacent uses. Where new or expanding uses impinge on residential areas, extra measures are commonly required to mitigate its impact and maintain the residential quality of life. 
  • Outside of the downtown, the rural and scenic character is retained by setting development back from roads and limiting clearing, site disturbance, road widths, and the extent of impervious cover. 
  • Regional planning is given high priority. The Planning Board works with the neighboring communities on changes in land use, roadway improvements, open space preservation, traffic volumes and movement, greenways and improved water and air quality. 
  • The viability of the downtown is dependent on its mixed-use character and the compatibility of uses. Residential use, especially in upper floors, is an essential component of the central business district. Commercial uses must be functional, attractive, and compatible. Criteria include adherence to established urban design guidelines and minimizing impacts pertaining to parking, traffic, noise, illumination, smoke and odors, etc. 
  • The variety of housing is continually expanding to include different unit types, and sizes, so that they are affordable to many ages and income levels. Access to community services (transportation), public facilities (schools), and open spaces (parks) is a valued attribute. Innovative development patterns such as clustered development are used in appropriate locations to preserve a portion of the landscape in a natural state and provide alternative types and assemblages of living units. 
  • Existing neighborhoods should be maintained wherever possible by encouraging renovation and reuse of older buildings and developing new uses for those areas that are underutilized.
  • New housing development should be organized and designed to create and sustain attractive and safe neighborhoods. Critical parameters are the relationships buildings have to each other, parking and major roadways and open spaces. Positive organizing features include open spaces, gathering places, shared facilities, and recreation areas. 
  • Planning for new residential construction should be guided by traditional models of street layouts, tree plantings, and setbacks, as exemplified by various pre-war residential neighborhoods of Princeton. Typical postwar planned unit developments, with meandering streets, wide collector roads, cul-de-sacs, and arbitrary house placement, are self-isolating and costly in terms of infrastructure and should be discouraged as being less compatible with the established patterns of Princeton. 
  • Historic sites, landscapes, and structures are integral to the character and ambiance of the Princeton community and are retained and enhanced wherever possible. 
  • Site improvements should be built to human scale with reasonable limitations on size, bulk, and site disturbance. For example, houses should not be oversized compared to lot size, and a neighborhood should offer some visual diversity. 
  • Technological advances are recognized and encouraged where they enhance the quality of life and do not present unacceptable impacts. Making technology and communication systems more accessible to municipal and school uses and to all members of the community is an important community goal. Recent examples of the integration of technology include the placement of satellite dishes, television cable systems, and fiber optic vaults.


  • The preservation and protection of the natural environment must be an integral part of all plans and designs for improvements and changes in land use. Examples include rezoning of The Princeton Ridge, focus on and protection of Lake Carnegie, protection of the Institute Woods and Quaker Road farms. 
  • The aesthetic quality of the natural landscape surrounding Princeton, and of the landscape of street trees and neighborhood plantings within Princeton should be preserved, enhanced and made an integral part of all plans and designs for improvements and changes in land use. 
  • As a "Tree City", existing trees are retained or replaced with all development or changes in land use. It is regular practice for the Planning Board to require trees and other landscape materials to be incorporated into the site plan. Examples include trees within parking lots, mixed evergreen and deciduous buffers between uses, street trees along roadways, and evergreen screens around utility systems and refuse collection areas.
  • Open spaces are intentionally retained as part of the community resource base in the form of public lands and preserved areas within new development. The community's long-standing goal has been to preserve 25% of its land as open space. Open spaces are considered to have inherent values including ecological functions and recreation. They should not be regarded as left over land unsuited for development. 
  • Linkages between all open spaces with the right of public access is a high priority. The vision is to have a continuous public open space system that meanders through Princeton with access from many neighborhoods.


  • Growth in the community must be supported by adequate public facilities and infrastructure including extensions of utility systems used to direct growth and encourage appropriate alternative development patterns such as clusters.
  • Roadways are essential linkages connecting component pieces of the community but are not the community's primary organizing element. Despite the demand to widen roads to accommodate increasing traffic, improvements are limited to a scale that is compatible with the surrounding neighborhoods. Consequently, roads throughout Princeton are typically two-lanes and tree-lined and are configured to discourage traffic passing through town to reach other destinations. 
  • The community is walkable and bikeable. The downtown is pedestrian-oriented for shoppers, visitors, residents, students, workers. Its infrastructure (wide sidewalks, alleyways, plazas, green spaces, and lighting) encourages such use. Sidewalks and bikepaths are important improvements in outlying areas to reduce auto-dependency and to help meet recreational, health, and environmental preferences. 
  • Active recreational spaces and facilities should be provided within neighborhoods to increase the supply of recreation opportunities and to encourage community interaction and gathering. Recreational resources include well-maintained informal play areas for passive uses as well as facilities for active uses. 
  • The community favors development that does not unduly burden the tax base and carries its fair share of regional infrastructure.


The Regional Planning Board of Princeton preserves and, where possible, enriches the sense of community of Princeton Borough and Township. The Board promotes a variety of housing, businesses, recreational facilities and open space to meet the diverse needs of its citizens of different ages, ethnicity and income. It preserves and enhances the historical, educational and environmental treasures of the community. The twelve member board is a combination of four elected officials and eight private citizens.

In accordance with the above mission, the Regional Planning Board of Princeton has the following primary responsibilities:

  1. to adjudicate land use applications in accordance with state and local regulations and to assure that all permitted development is designed so as to be as harmonious as possible with the surrounding neighborhood, and;
  2. to periodically revise the master plan to balance the changing needs of the community while preserving the community values, and;
  3. to recommend revisions to the land use ordinances to respond to new demands for housing and services for the regions, and;
  4. to provide community planning information and application services to our citizens in a courteous, responsive manner, and;
  5. to interact with surrounding communities, county and state government on issues that affect the Princeton community's well being, and;
  6. to promote dialogue with the citizens on needs and concerns of neighborhoods, as well as the larger community.


Princeton's approach to planning is unique in the State of New Jersey because it has a joint Planning Board serving both the Borough and the Township. Planning is approached on a regional basis, and there is a greater understanding of the mutual benefits and impacts of planning and land use decisions. This Master Plan is meant to represent the collective thinking of the Princeton Community and its citizens. Once reviewed, debated, and adopted, it will reflect the understanding and aspirations for the future expressed by the community and its people.

The roots and many of the essential principles of the 1996 Master Plan are found in its predecessor Master Plans. The process is an evolutionary one as changes occur in goals, regulations, economic conditions, population, living habits, and environmental awareness. For us, the Master Plan is a strategic plan to guide our future and a policy tool for retaining and enhancing the special character, the values, and quality of life fundamental to our community. The master plan process in Princeton is not static but one where changes can be made as new challenges arise. The master plan should be viewed as a "rolling document" where new issues can be reviewed, evaluated and changes made as warranted.

Although there are many highly-valued goals and objectives for this Plan, the primary theme interwoven throughout each element of the Plan is that of balance and human scale. Princeton is and strives to be a balanced community with a mix of many uses that are serviced by appropriately-sized infrastructure and community services and facilities. Each element of the Plan has been approached with respect to its relationship to the others. Perhaps the most obvious is the balance sought between land use and circulation. As a premise of the Plan, the demands of one element are not permitted to override and out-compete another. The product, therefore, reflects a series of trade-offs substantiated by policy decisions reached throughout the planning process. It is these findings and initial policy decisions that are brought to the community in draft form by the Master Plan Committee for discussion, debate, and resolution.

The Princeton Community combines two distinct political entities. Princeton Borough is the older, more densely populated "town" at the core, of little more than one and a half square miles in area. Covering over 16 square miles, however, the Township rings the Borough and is generally more rural to the west and in its more remote northern and eastern sections. Although the two municipalities have separate governments and ordinances, they have come together in joint planning, education, recreation, health, library, and other services.

Master Plan Defined

Enabling Legislation

The State enabling legislation for the community's Master Plan is the Municipal Land Use Law (Chapter 291, Laws of N.J. 1975, amended) (N.J.S.A. 40:55D-1 et. seq.). Under State law, the responsibility for the preparation of a Master Plan is required for any community that regulates land development through zoning controls. A periodic update every six years is required of each community.

A Master Plan must include a statement of objectives, principles, assumptions, policies, and standards upon which the constituent proposals for the physical, economic and social development of a municipality are based. The master plan may contain the following elements: land use, housing, circulation, utility services, community facilities, recreation, conservation, economic and historic preservation.

Planning Activity in Princeton

The Planning Board of Princeton Borough was established in 1938, one of the first in New Jersey. A zoning ordinance was first enacted in 1929, and the first Master Plan was prepared in the 1950s, revised in 1960, adopted in June, 1967, and revised and adopted a second time in 1980. The 1996 Plan represents the fifth Master Plan for the Borough.

The Planning Board of Princeton Township was established in 1948, ten years after the enactment of the first zoning ordinance. The first Township Master Plan was completed in 1959, revised and adopted in June 1968 and again in May 1980. As with the Borough, the 1996 Plan is the fifth Master Plan addressing Township growth.

The Regional Planning Board was organized in January 1970 and charged with exercising those powers pertaining to community growth and development, including the preparation of a Regional Master Plan. The first regional Master Plan was adopted in May 1980 and the second in July 1989.


For the first time in our history, Princeton is facing a shortage of vacant, easily developable land. This shortage has already begun to show itself in increased competition among a variety of social issues over the future use of the remaining undeveloped land for a variety of social uses. The debate over sites for affordable housing, senior housing as well as the development of parks and schools is just the beginning of a series of increasingly difficult choices that the Princetons must make between competing social goals. This document provides the opportunity to identify necessary community facilities and plan for them.

One of the major purposes of this Master Plan is to express community goals for the use of Princeton's land and facilities. Guided by a broad community consensus, these goals include: meeting the community's affordable housing obligation, providing for our educational needs, preserving open space, developing adequate recreation facilities, preservation of historic buildings and sites, and retaining Princeton's small town atmosphere. The master plan also seeks to preserve the existing character, mix, and densities of commercial, residential, and other land uses in Princeton.

The Master Plan consists of eight separate elements and represents the Princeton community's strategic plan for development into the next century. The Master Plan is written so that each of the elements complement one another providing a concise picture of how the community will grow.

The Land Use Element recognizes the fact that most of land in Princeton has been developed and that there will be competing uses for the remaining lands. Specific recommendations include providing opportunities for senior housing, maintaining existing commercial areas, preserving the character of established neighborhoods and ensuring that redevelopment and new development is in character with existing neighborhoods. Specific zoning changes include:

  • Creating a very low residential density (10 acre lot) for two areas severely constrained by environmental features.
  • Developing overlay zones for high-density, age-restricted housing 
  • Revising conditional use standards to regulate nonprofit institutions in the downtown area.

Princeton has a long history of affirmative efforts toward the provision of affordable housing. The Housing Element contains the Affordable Housing Plan for both the Borough and Township. The Borough's plan provides for the rehabilitation of 25 low and moderate income units. The Township's plan provides for the rehabilitation of 50 low and moderate income units in Princeton and 23 new affordable units which will be met in the City of Trenton. During the previous six-year cycle the Borough provided 12 units of new affordable housing and the Township provided 181 new affordable housing units. Both communities remain committed to providing affordable housing and have included additional sites which may yield additional affordable housing.

The Circulation Element includes three distinct categories of mobility problems: internal circulation, regional circulation, and interstate/inter-regional circulation. Internal circulation addresses the mobility needs of Princeton residents and how they get to work, shopping, recreational and cultural areas within Princeton. Regional circulation addresses the mobility needs of those people who have one trip-end in Princeton; whether they are residents, employees, customers or persons utilizing Princeton's educational, cultural or recreational facilities. Interstate/inter-regional circulation addresses the mobility needs of those people whose final destination is not in Princeton but who pass through the town. The circulation element suggests strategies to increase the use of mass transit and to encourage bicycles and pedestrian mobility.

Providing adequate infrastructure to meet the needs of the Princeton community without adversely affecting the environment or quality of life in Princeton remains the underlying policy in the Utility Service Element. The location of new utilities or expanded facilities are planned so as to guide growth to appropriate areas of the community. Utility expansions are based upon changing demands and environmental considerations.

The Princeton community is served by a comprehensive system of municipal services which include public utilities, police and fire protection, emergency services, the public library, public health, public school system and recreational and cultural facilities. The goals of the Community Facilities Element includes: encourage the provision of convenient well-located community facilities; provide adequate municipal facilities for the efficient operation of the community; plan community facilities to serve the needs of all age groups; and, coordinate construction and installation of improvements as part of a comprehensive capital plan. The Community Facilities Element recommends that these facilities be well planned and well designed to ensure their integration into existing neighborhoods. This element also identifies the importance that the arts play in the visual quality and character of the community.

The need to preserve open space, create linkages between open spaces and to provide for a comprehensive plan for parks is more urgent now than in past if the community is to meet its goal of preserving 25 percent of the land area in Princeton as open space. The Open Space and Recreation Element identifies and prioritizes sites to be preserved for passive recreation and sites to be developed for active recreation.The Historic Preservation Element promotes and encourages the preservation and enhancement of building, structures and areas of historic value that reflect the cultural, social, economic and architectural history of Princeton. There are 19 identified historic districts in the Princeton community.

The Conservation Element seeks to preserve Princeton's natural and visual amenities. These include: critical environmental features such as steep slopes, waterway corridors, floodplains and wetlands; resources with exceptional community value including both man-made and natural visual resources and scenic corridors; and special environmental areas such as The Ridge, Delaware and Raritan Canal, and Lake Carnegie.


Implementation of the many recommendations contained in this document will occur over the next few years. An Executive Summary will also be prepared to be used as a guide by prospective developers and the community as a whole. Many of the recommendations require zoning amendments by the governing bodies and others require additional review by ad-hoc subcommittees. The Board's Master Plan Subcommittee and the Zoning Amendment Review Committee will develop a process for implementation of this Master Plan. Each year the established priorities will be reviewed, adding or deleting as necessary, thereby adjusting the listed priorities accordingly. The adoption of this Master Plan is just the beginning of the planning process for the Princeton community to bring us into the 21st Century.

Witherspoon-Jackson Historic District



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:

To view the application, download a PDF copy at:

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



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




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




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




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




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




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




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




Pennington Borough has limited affordable housing properties, which are advertised through the New Jersey Housing Resource Center at

For more information, contact the Affordable Housing Liaison:

30 North Main Street, Pennington, NJ 08534-0095

Phone: (609) 737-0276

Email: (Eileen Heinzel, current affordable housing liaison)

Web: or


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



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




Trenton Housing Authority (THA) provides affordable housing for Trenton residents. For a listing of affordable rental properties in the City of Trenton, visit documents/rental_housing_list.doc (Word document). For Trenton Housing Authority eligibility requirements, visit

875 New Willow Street, Trenton, NJ 08638

Phone: (609) 278-5000



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



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