Arlington Redevelopment Board - Apr 7th, 2022
Meeting held via remote participation. Materials were available from https://arlington.novusagenda.com/agendapublic/DisplayAgendaPDF.ashx?MeetingID=1570.
Finalize Report to 2022 Annual Town Meeting
(Rachel Zsembery, ARB Chair) Ms. Zsembery asks Ms. Raitt how she handled revisions that were proposed by the different ARB members.
(Jenny Raitt, Planning Director) Ms. Raitt says all of the proposed edits were compiled into one document, with change tracking. She suggests going through it page by page.
The board proceeds to work through the report, article by article.
Article 28. Added an explanation of the square footage choice.
Article 29. The board is okay with the edits.
Article 30. Added a missing quote. The board is okay with the edits.
Article 31. The board is okay with the edits.
Article 32. Board members propose minor edits.
Article 33. Minor edits with some discussion.
Article 34. Minor edits and discussion.
Articles 35--37. The board is okay with the proposed edits.
Article 38. There's a fair amount of discussion and wordsmithing in the section that explains the ARBs decision. Ms. Raitt informs the board that H.4295 was favorably reported out of committee. H.4295 is the state legislation that would implement Arlington's Home rule petition for a real-estate transfer fee.
Article 39. Minor edits. This article will require a 50% vote at town meeting.
Article 40. The board is okay with the wording.
Article 41. Article 41 will require a 50% vote at town meeting. Staff added citations to parking capacity studies.
Article 42. Planning staff informs the board that the Arts and Culture Commission unanimously supported of Article 42.
Articles 43--45. The board is okay with the reports for these articles.
(Rachel Zsembery) Ms. Zsembery asks whether the board's April 25th meeting will be in person or remote.
(Steve Revilak, ARB) Mr. Revilak notes that the Select Board's agenda for April 11th includes a discussion of whether town meeting will be virtual or in person.
(Jenny Raitt) Ms. Raitt says the Clean Energy Future Committee is excited about the solar systems article. She suggests the board may want to engage with the CEFC to give part of the presentation at town meeting.
There are no speakers for tonight's open forum.
Warrant Articles for 2022 Special Town Meeting
(Rachel Zsembery) Ms. Zsembery explains that the board will conduct hearings on three article to be heard during the special town meeting, with votes to be taken on April 25th. She explains how comments will be taken and reminds the public that all comments should be directed to the chair.
Article A - Family Child Care
(Jenny Raitt) Ms. Raitt explains that family child care is listed as a special permit use in Arlington's bylaw. Our zoning bylaw was amended in 2019 to comply with the Dover amendment; we didn't change the special permit requirement for family child care, but in retrospect we probably should have. She says there are 17 family child care providers in Arlington, and the upcoming hearings will be the first time we're requiring a special permit for this use.
Ms. Raitt says the state laws for family child care are divided into three sections: up to six children, up to eight children, and up to ten children. She says there are strict licensing standards in place for these facilities. The planning department recommends that this use be by-right in districts where it's allowed.
(Kin Lau, ARB) Mr. Lau notes that Arlington has existing child care facilities that are licensed for up to ten children. He asks if the town ever receives complaints about them.
(Jenny Raitt) Ms. Raitt isn't aware of any complaints.
(Kin Lau) Mr. Lau has no problem with allowing these uses in the B districts. He thinks that 10 children in a residential district might create a crowd around pickup, drop-off, and play times.
(Eugene Benson, ARB) Mr. Benson thinks this article is fine. He says the big question will be what rules and regulations the ARB decides to add. He thinks ten or fewer children will be fine and hopes we can put something in the rules and regulations to address Mr. Lau's concern.
(Melisa Tintocalis, ARB) Ms. Tintocalis anticipates neighbors being concerned with noise, but she understands we're not aware of any complaints.
(Rachel Zsembery) Ms. Zsembery asks who in the town would receive complaints.
(Jenny Raitt) Ms. Raitt believes it would be the Town Manager's office or the Board of Health.
(Steve Revilak) Mr. Revilak is surprised this isn't already covered by the Dover amendment changes. He has no questions.
(Rachel Zsembery) Regarding the Dover amendment, Ms. Zsembery asks if this is addressing an inconsistency in our bylaw. She thinks we could address noise concerns in rules and regulations.
(Jenny Raitt) Ms. Raitt believes this use should be allowed by right, and that most communities allow it by right with little or no review. She suggests that the board adopt minimal rules and regulations, and follow the Dover review process.
(Kelly Lynema, Assistant Planning Director) Ms. Lynema says that almost all of our neighboring communities allow this use by right. These child care centers are usually operated by property owners, and often serve the surrounding neighborhood. She suggests the board might see requests for a small sign, in conjunction with the use.
(Eugene Benson) Mr. Benson asks if making this use by right would make it a primary use rather than an accessory use. He notes that family child care is currently listed as an accessory use. But he thinks that's fine.
(Kin Lau) Mr. Lau is supportive. He hope that the larger facilities can make an effort to stagger pickup and drop-off times.
The chair opens the hearing to public comment. There are no comments.
Article B - Signs
(Kelly Lynema) Ms. Lynema says that Arlington's sign bylaw was adopted in 2019, before we had EV charging stations or Blue Bikes. The town's had requests for parking lot EV chargers with some advertising, and there's also advertising space on Blue Bike docking stations. This article would create definitions for EV charging and shared mobility stations, and exempt them from sign bylaw requirements, subject to performance standards. It would also allow signs on shared mobility stations along the Minuteman Bikeway.
(Eugene Benson) Mr. Benson has a question about "any action related thereto".
(Jenny Raitt) Ms. Raitt believes we are creating a new sign type. She says that EV charging stations are reviewed by Inspectional Services, and blue bike locations are reviewed by the DPW.
(Eugene Benson) Mr. Benson appreciates the effort of staff to put this forward. His suggestion would be to create a new sign type, and add it to the existing table of sign types. He'd like to see these signs treated that way, rather than being allowed through exemptions.
(Kelly Lynema) Ms. Lynema says she looked at other bylaws, and there are other communities that treat this case as an exemption. She says that bike shares are a shared public resource, and aren't in fixed locations.
(Jenny Raitt) Ms. Raitt says we could create a new sign type, but there would still be a need for exemptions.
(Eugene Benson) Mr. Benson asks what would need to be exempted.
(Jenny Raitt) Ms. Raitt thinks these signs shouldn't require ARB review.
(Rachel Zsembery) Ms. Zsembery asks if a new sign type would be added to the table in Section 6.2.5.
(Jenny Raitt) Ms. Raitt indicates that's where it would be added.
(Eugene Benson) Mr. Benson says the table would also have the applicable regulations.
(Kin Lau) Mr. Lau asks if our regulations would preclude using these signs for advertising.
(Jenny Raitt) Ms. Raitt says the signs might include advertising, especially the ones on EV chargers. Blue Bikes might consider sponsorship displays to defer the cost of the bike stations. She says that the docking stations have a sign area have two sides. One side typically says "Blue Bikes" and the other side is sponsored.
(Kin Lau) Mr. Lau would like to talk about advertising on the signs. He also wants to ensure these don't conflict with handicapped accessible spaces.
(Jenny Raitt) Ms. Raitt notes that the signs are part of the docking and charging stations. She says that EV chargers are larger and free-standing, with an integrated charging apparatus.
(Rachel Zsembery) Ms. Zsembery asks if we can add something about signs being integrated into the station, and not interfering with the public way.
(Kin Lau) Mr. Lau would be okay with that.
(Jenny Raitt) Ms. Raitt says that most of these facilities are in public areas, and approved by the Select Board. She says obstruction isn't a zoning issue.
(Melisa Tintocalis) Ms. Tintocalis asks if we're saying that ads will be eliminated.
(Rachel Zsembery) Ms. Zsembery doesn't believe so.
There's back and fourth about ads and sponsorships.
(Rachel Zsembery) Ms. Zsembery asks if there should be a limit to advertising.
(Kin Lau) Mr. Lau asks about sponsorships -- signs that contained just the name of the sponsor and a logo.
(Jenny Raitt) Ms. Raitt says she wouldn't want to preclude more than that.
(Melisa Tintocalis) Ms. Tintocalis says she understands the need for advertising and that we're trying to remove obstacles. She's comfortable with that. She understands the concern about advertisements and the board not being sure whether they want to limit them. She asks if there's a way the board could curb advertisements.
(Rachel Zsembery) Ms. Zsembery asks if that could be discussed during administrative review.
(Melisa Tintocalis) Ms. Tintocalis asks if the review would look at what's on the sign.
(Jenny Raitt) Mr. Raitt notes that for Blue Bike stations, we may need to find ways to fund them in the future, if ads aren't allowed.
(Melisa Tintocalis) Ms. Tintocalis asks if we could have something to prevent (say) ads for vaping products.
(Rachel Zsembery) Ms. Zsembery thinks that should be part of the Select Board's approval process.
(Melisa Tintocalis) Ms. Tintocalis asks where the guardrails are.
(Rachel Zsembery) Ms. Zsembery doesn't believe that's the purview of the Zoning Bylaw.
(Kin Lau) Mr. Lau says that what we're approving could allow ads. He asks if the board wants to put up some guardrails.
(Rachel Zsembery) Ms. Zsembery says the zoning bylaw can only regulate the size and placement of signs.
(Jenny Raitt) Ms. Raitt agrees -- zoning can only regulate the time, place, and manner of sign displays.
(Steve Revilak) Mr. Revilak agrees with Mr. Benson's earlier statement. If we're creating a new type of sign, he'd prefer to see it added to the table of sign types in the zoning bylaw, along with the applicable regulations.
Mr. Revilak says that Arlington rewrote it's sign bylaws in 2019 in order to bring them into compliance with the supreme court's ruling in Reed v. Gilbert. The supreme court determined that communities could regulate the time, place, and manner of sign displays, but they could not regulate based on the sign's content. Mr. Revilak doesn't believe we have the authority to regulate ads, because that would be a content-based regulation.
(Eugene Benson) Mr. Benson thinks the bylaw could make a distinction between on-premise and off-premise signs; advertising on the premises of a business would have to be limited to ads for that business. He doesn't want to see these signs exempted from administrative review. He suggests expanding the definition of shared mobility station to include e-bikes and scooters, and perhaps zip-cars. He doesn't think ads are a big deal. He thinks these signs should be exempted from the special permit process if they meet regulations.
(Melisa Tintocalis) Ms. Tintocalis says she's okay with that.
(Rachel Zsembery) Ms. Zsembery asks board members to share any wording changes they have with staff.
The chair opens the hearing to public comment.
(Chris Loreti) Mr. Loreti thinks the town wants to approve a kind of billboard, and he thinks they do have the ability to regulate that. He says the town should think carefully before subsidizing a failing business like Blue Bikes, and that this article isn't appropriate for a special town meeting.
There are no more comments from the public.
(Eugene Benson) Mr. Benson asks if the town will enter into a new contract with Blue Bikes, and if no contract means no more blue bikes.
(Jenny Raitt) Ms. Raitt indicates that Mr. Benson is correct with respect to Blue Bikes. She says that most of the applications for EV charging stations have been from private companies.
(Eugene Benson) Mr. Benson thinks this is another reason to exempt them from special permit requirements.
(Kin Lau) Mr. Lau says he needs to think about this.
(Steve Revilak) Mr. Revilak has no further questions.
Article C - Nonconforming Single or Two Family Dwellings
(Jenny Raitt) Ms. Raitt says this amendment was raised by Town Counsel. This led to a discussion about eliminating section 8.1.3(C) in order to avoid a conflict with case law. She says that Inspectional Services already has the discretion to determine what constitutes a non-conformity. She suggests that the ARB and ZBA might work together on guidelines for what constitutes increasing a non-conformity.
(Pat Hanlon, ZBA Assistant Chair) Mr. Hanlon explains that vested rights are laid out in Chapter 40A Section 6, and our basic rule is in Section 8.1.3(B). The Bellalta decision made it clear that a building inspector is able to make a decision on what constitutes increasing the non-conforming nature of a structure. Alterations that don't increase the non-conforming nature are allowed by right. If an alteration would increase the non-conforming nature, then the ZBA would have to make a section 6 finding in order for it to be allowed. Mr. Hanlon says that Inspectional Services makes the initial determination, which could be appealed to the ZBA.
Section 8.1.3(C) is a problem because under certain cases, it might lead to a different case than Bellalta would allow. Local laws can't take away protections that are given under state law. He thinks that 8.1.3(C) does more harm than good, and that the bylaw doesn't need more than 8.1.3(B).
(Mike Ciampa, Director of Inspectional Services) Mr. Ciampa agrees with Mr. Hanlon; 8.1.3(C) conflicts with state law. He supports the article, and says that a lot of concerns raised to inspectional services come from residents.
(Pat Hanlon) Mr. Hanlon thinks this will change procedures more than outcomes.
(Kin Lau) Mr. Lau has no questions. He's supportive.
(Eugene Benson) Mr. Benson agrees that subsection C has to go. He notes that our zoning bylaw sets up two situations for non-conforming single- and two-family dwellings. There's one situation that applies when the alterations happen within the existing foundation walls, and a second situation for alterations outside of that footprint.
(Pat Hanlon) Mr. Hanlon says the basic prohibitions are already in subsection B.
(Eugene Benson) Mr. Benson asks a question about what increases the non-conforming nature when an alteration extends outside the foundation walls.
(Mike Ciampa) Mr. Ciampa thinks that removing section C provides more room for discretion in that case.
(Eugene Benson) Mr. Benson feels that 8.1.3(C) should be replaced with something that says it's possible to alter non-conforming structures, outside the existing footprint of the building.
(Pat Hanlon) Mr. Hanlon thinks that's too broad. The bylaw needs to consider the case where an alteration would create a new non-conformity. Alterations are okay, as long as they don't create a new non-conformity.
(Mike Ciampa) Mr. Ciampa understands the merit in the wording. He says that "non-conforming" is open to interpretation from multiple people.
(Melisa Tintocalis) (I missed Ms. Tintocalis's comment)
(Steve Revilak) Having served on the ZBA, Mr. Revilak acknowledges that cases involving non-conforming structures can be challenging. Some scenarios are common and the ZBA has precedents for how to handle them. Other scenarios are hard. He feels that anything to provide clarity in this area will be helpful.
Mr. Revilak offers a friendly amendment. Instead of deleting the entire section, he suggests leaving the numbered item for 8.1.3(C), and replacing its text with the word "(deleted)".
(Jenny Raitt) Ms. Raitt says she's discussed this with Mr. Ciampa, and they felt it was better to remove the item entirely.
The chair opens the hearing to public comment.
(Chris Loreti) Mr. Loreti says that Section 8.1.3(C) was added to the bylaw because people were expanding additions that were already in the required setbacks. This was added to ensure review by the ZBA. He's not comfortable with the idea of removing 8.1.3(C) because of the possibility of extending a building that's in the required setbacks. He thinks the issue is that the bylaw isn't clear on what constitutes extending a non-conformity, and that the ARB and ZBA need to work together to define that.
There are no further comments from the public.
The board has no further comments on the article.
There's a motion to close the public hearings for special town meeting warrant articles. Passes, 5--0.
The board will deliberate and vote on these articles on April 25th, starting at 6:30pm. The April 25th meeting may be in person or remote, depending on whether we hold a virtual town meeting.