Oversized houses on undersized lots could come to an end in Princeton

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Oversized houses on undersized lots in Princeton may be on the way out.

The Princeton Council introduced an ordinance that would eliminate a provision in the town’s land use ordinance that allows that practice.

The ordinance, which was introduced at Princeton Council’s Jan. 14 meeting, repeals part of the land use ordinance that permits the construction of larger houses than would otherwise be permitted. A public hearing is set for Princeton Council’s Feb. 25 meeting.

The repealer ordinance states that Princeton has received “numerous complaints from the public regarding the proportional increase in the Floor Area Ratio,” which affects the maximum square footage of a new house to be built.

The ordinance states that eliminating the proportional FAR provisions would “further the goal of maintaining the existing character of Princeton’s residential neighborhoods.”

The rationale for allowing the construction of new houses that are larger than what would otherwise be permitted on a small, undersized lot is to permit house sizes to be uniform in the zoning district.

This means that a┬ásmall house could be demolished and replaced by a new house significantly larger than what would have been permitted – and that is exactly what has happened in many neighborhoods over the past few years. Developers buy houses, tear them down and build new ones that are out of scale with the other houses on the street.

For example, in the former Borough R4 zoning district, which has a minimum lot size of 6,000 square feet, a house as large as 2,400 would be allowed as of right.

On an undersized 3,000-square-foot lot in the R4 zone – half the size of the minimum 6,000-square-foot lot – the land use ordinance would allow a 1,200-square-foot house, which is half the size of the 2,400-square-foot house.

But applying the bonus FAR, a new house as large as 1,800 square feet could be built on a 3,000-square-foot lot. At 1,800 square feet, that house would be 600 square feet less than the maximum 2,400-square-foot house permitted on a full-sized, 6,000-square-foot lot.

In the former Township R3 zone which has a minimum lot size of 32,670 square feet, zoning would permit a house as large as 4,900 square feet.

But on an undersized 25,000-square-foot lot, a new house could be as large as 4,750 square feet, or 150 square feet less than the maximum house size on a lot that meets the minimum square-footage standard.