NJ Town Hopes to Zone Out Snout Houses

Teardowns, leading to gentrification, have Princeton neighborhoods up in arms. The city’s solution is to greatly tighten zoning requirements.

It’s not the first time a city has tried to put the brakes on neighborhood-changing demolitions. Knapp notes that  “In some communities like Jersey City, Portland, Maine and St. Paul, Minn., officials have enacted moratoriums on building demolitions in an attempt to provide a cooling-off period and give civic leaders proper time to assess their land-use and zoning policies. Some towns have tried to address the teardown issue by placing limits on building heights, lot coverage, and setbacks. Another approach in some communities has been education, with citizens forming advocacy groups that work to promote alternatives to teardowns.”

No Snout. Under proposed new zoning, homes would be required to set garages back from the street. No more “snout houses.”

Princeton’s approach, so far, has been to attempt to “design in” solutions to the issue via more restrictive zoning. Knapp continues:

“The recommendations cover everything from the impervious surface on lots, the height of buildings, and height-to-setback ratios to undersized lot exemptions, lot grading, air conditioning units and generators, trees, landscaping, house orientation, the location of driveways, and, of course the size and location of garages. The initiative does not address regulating or restricting the demolition of houses.

Under the proposed regulations, a one- or two-car garage facing the street would be required to be recessed behind the foremost portion of the house a minimum of 16 feet, not counting porches and stoops. The garage would not be allowed to exceed 50 percent of the overall width of the house and would not be allowed to be more than 25 feet wide. Any garage for three or more cars would be required to be located so it is facing the side or rear of the property and not the street. For corner lots a one- or two-car garage would be allowed to face the side or rear of the property or the side street, with approval of the municipal zoning officer, and the garage would be required to be recessed behind the nearest portion of the house by a minimum of eight feet, not including porches and stoops.

On lots a half acre or less in size, the house and front entrance would be required to be oriented to face toward the street and the sidewalk.

Walkways would be required to be located on a property to facilitate pedestrian access between the front entrance of the house and the public sidewalk, unless there is no public sidewalk along the front of the property, the front yard setback is greater than 75 feet, the property has a u-shaped driveway, or the property has a motorcourt garage.”

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