Arlington Redevelopment Board - Apr 27th, 2020

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Meeting held via videoconference.

Docket #3348, 833 Massachusetts Avenue. Attorney Robert Annesse presents on behalf of the applicant. The applicant has submitted updated plans, and the current proposal is to take down the house at 821 Mass ave (the boarded up building next to CVS, aka the Atwood House). The applicant realizes that this will have to go before the historic commission. Their architect believes it will not be feasible to rehabilitate the building. The applicants have submitted design plans for a mixed use building.

Mr. Annesse would like to understand whether he should continue working with the ARB under docket 3348 or apply for a demolition permit. He asks the board for guidance in this regard.

Andrew Bunnell appreciates the applicant's efforts so far. He feels that they should apply for a demolition permit. That would close the hearing under Docket 3348. The applicants would have to submit a separate EDR permit for the new building.

Kin Lau agrees with filing for a demolition permit; we can discuss the new building when that permit application comes back to us. He supports the effort.

David Watson is supportive. He appreciates the applicant's commitment to do something with the property.

Eugene Benson mostly agrees with the proposal. He doesn't have a final opinion on whether the demolition should go forward; this seems like the owner's decision. He'd like a condition that the owner files for a demolition permit or an EDR permit for rehabilitation within 30 days.

Rachel Zsembery supports Mr. Benson's recommendation.

David Watson agrees with Mr. Benson' proposal.

Mr. Annesse feels that a 30-day timeline could be difficult to meet under the current COVID-19 emergency. He'd prefer 90 says.

Monte French (project architect) also believes 30 days is tight.

Mr. Benson asks what steps the applicants need to perform in order to apply for a building permit.

Mr. Annesse says he can't get into the building department and can't have face-to-face meetings with members of inspectional services. He feels he can't predict what obstacles they're likely to encounter.

Mr. French would like a 90-day timeline, but will try to apply for the demolition permit as soon as possible.

Mr. Annesse says that his client has been pushing forward; they've made an investment in this project and aren't going to walk away from it.

Mr. Lau has no objection to 90 days.

Ms. Zsembery thinks that 90 days should be the maximum, and encourages the applicant to get their permit application in sooner.

Jenny Raitt states that inspectional services is open, and believes there won't be a barrier to applying for a demo permit. She also points out that a the application for a demolition permit will trigger the demolition delay bylaw. She believes 30 days is a reasonable amount of time.

Mr. Benson suggests 30 days to file a demolition permit, but 60 days to file for EDR if the applicants change their mind.

Mr. Annesse and Mr. French are amenable to this suggestion.

Mr. Bunnell notes that the submitted drawings are a general plan for redevelopment of the property, and that the ARB is not voting on those drawings tonight.

Mr. Bunnell opens the hearing to public comment.

John Worden (27 Jason Street) thinks it's outrageous to have the property dealt with in the middle of a pandemic. If the applicants expect someone to move the building away, then they should fix it up first. The last pandemic was 102 year ago, and the doctor who lived in that house helped to treat people. He asks the ARB to delay their decision. He thinks this isn't a real meeting.

Mr. Benson states that the board is telling the applicant to file a demolition permit, or an EDR permit for rehabilitation. He suggests that Mr. Worden make his pitch to the historical commission.

Mr. Watson thinks it's unfair to say this isn't a real meeting, and points out that the board is following current state guidelines for public hearings.

Don Seltzer (Irving Street) would like to comment, and asks the chair to enable his video. There's back and fourth as Mr. Seltzer clarifies that he's asking to have his camera enabled (and not to share his screen). Mr. Bunnell declines this request, citing advice from town counsel. He asks Mr. Seltzer to state his comment; Mr. Seltzer says "forget about it" (or something to that effect), and declines to speak further.

Mr. Benson motions that the hearing be closed with the condition that the demolition permit is filed within 30 days, and that an EDR permit is filed within 30 days after the demolition is done.

Board votes favorable action.

Docket 3616 -- 434 Mass Ave. This hearing involves a change to Tai Pei Tokyo's signage (it's a restaurant). They're represented by a fellow named Charlie from Vital Signs. He describes the proposed modifications.

(Missed a few comments)

Mr. Benson suggests having the restaurant's name over the entrance, rather than off to the side. He recognizes that this would entail an additional expense.

Mr. Lau is okay with removing the lettering on the left.

Mr. Watson thinks the images over the doorway are a gray area, with respect to whether they're artwork or a sign. He's unsure whether the middle portion of the sign would be a violation of the sign bylaw.

Mr. Bunnell is comfortable with treating the middle panel as artwork, rather than a sign.

Mr. Benson is concerned that the center panel is intended to attract attention to the center of the building, even though it only consists of pictures.

Ms. Zsembery believes there is a place for artwork as companion to signs. In this case, it shows where the entrance to the building is.

Board votes approval, 4--1.

Docket 2818 -- 880 Mass Ave. This is a sign hearing for TD bank. John Parilo presents on behalf of the bank. TD bank wishes to replace the directional sign for their drive through window. The current directional sign is illuminated, and the new one will not be. It's larger than the existing sign, to increase visibility.

Ms. Zsembery recuses herself from the hearing, due to a business relationship with TD Bank.

Mr. Lau notes that the proposed sign is quite a bit larger than the existing one. Mr. Parillo agrees. Mr. Lau asks if the sign can be smaller, since it's adjacent to a residential area. Mr. Bunnell agrees.

Mr. Watson asks if the other signs being replaced are the same size. Mr. Parilo indicates that they are.

Mr. Benson is concerned that the proposed directional sign is larger than the sign bylaw allows. He thinks it should be smaller.

Mr. Bunnell asks if it would be possible to shrink the directional sign. Mr. Parilo says he'll have to consult with the bank.

Mr. Watson notes that the sign bylaw regulates both height and size.

Ms. Raitt refers to the planning department's memo for the docket; the proposed directional sign in 1.5' higher than allowed.

The chair opens the hearing to public comment.

Michael Smith (Lockeland Ave) states that there's glare from the existing illuminated sign. He'd like to confirm that the new sign will not be illuminated. The board confirms. He's in favor of reducing the size of the sign.

Mr. Bunnell starts to discuss the logistics of continuing the hearing. Ms. Raitt suggests May 18th as a continuation date.

Board votes 4--0--1 in favor of continuing.

Warrant Articles. Ms. Raitt lists a number of people who've discussed how town meeting should proceed. Under current law, it has to be held in person. Current thinking is to have town meeting focus only on articles needed for the town to move into the next fiscal year. Other articles would be deferred until a later town meeting.

Town Counsel provided suggested language for the vote. The board would vote to put the articles out to study; they would be brought up at a future town meeting that is not a limited-purpose town meeting.

Mr. Benson suggests wording changes, to clarify that the ARB will review the articles in the future.

Ms. Zsembery expresses her appreciation for work done to refine the language.

Mr. Watson feels comfortable with the current wording.

Vote in favor 5--0.

Director's Update. The Department of Planning and Community development is starting to focus on the sustainable transportation plan, the net zero plan, and an economic analysis of the industrial district. The department plans to organize virtual meetings on these topics, and welcomes suggestions for how to conduct the engagement.

The town will receive \$650k in additional CDBG funds to assist with the effects of the pandemic.

(I left at the end of the director's report)