Arlington Redevelopment Board - Apr 8th, 2024

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Meeting held at 27 Maple Street. Materials were available from

Docket 3789 - 62--64 Brooks Avenue

The applicant is planning to renovate a two-family home at 62--64 Brook's Ave, which abuts the Minuteman Bikeway.

(Claire Ricker, Planning Director) Ms. Ricker says the applicant plans to add dormers to a property that's adjacent to and visible from the Minuteman Bikeway. It's an existing non-conforming two-family dwelling. The main changes are the addition of a dormer, and a gate to provide access to the bikeway.

(Eugene Benson, ARB) Mr. Benson notes the Environmental Design Review (EDR) criteria in Section 3.4.2 of the Zoning Bylaw. This project doesn't require a special permit, but it may require EDR if it alters the architecture of the facade. Mr. Benson spoke with Director of Inspectional Service Mike Ciampa, who informed him that this kind dormer addition was fairly routine -- Inspectional Services directed the applicant to the ARB because they weren't sure whether the board would want to see it. It seems like the question is who makes the decision as to whether an alteration affects the architectural integrity of the facade. If this renovation doesn't affect the architectural integrity, then it doesn't meet EDR criteria.

(Steve Revilak, ARB) Mr. Revilak acknowledges that the applicant provided design drawings, but no renderings. For the purposes of tonight, he'd like to ask questions about materials, colors, and accents, to understand what the exterior will look like.

(Shaina Korman-Houston, ARB) Ms. Korman-Houston thinks the changes proposed aren't likely to affect the architectural integrity of the building.

(Kin Lau, ARB) Mr. Lau agrees with Mr. Benson, and he doesn't think this application falls under the board's purview. He says that if the Planning Department and Inspectional Services agree that this doesn't require EDR, then it doesn't require EDR.

(Eugene Benson) Mr. Benson says there are similar homes on the other side of the street, but they'd never come before the ARB, since they don't abut the Minuteman Bikeway.

The board finds that this project doesn't meet the criteria for Environmental Design Review, 5--0.

(Applicant) The applicant says they've done a number of dormers like this one; Inspectional Services sent them to the ARB because of the Minuteman.

(Rachel Zsembery, ARB Chair) Ms. Zsembery says that properties abutting the Bikeway really require a discussion, particularly about the process by which they're sent to the board.

(Eugene Benson) Mr. Benson says that Inspectional Services (ISD) sees all of the building permits in town, and they'd have a sense of whether a particular proposal was routine. He doesn't think that making a decision about architectural integrity would be an added burden for them.

(Claire Ricker) Ms. Ricker says that ISD has a good sense of what's common and what's not. She wanted to talk with the board about administrative reviews.

(Steve Revilak) Mr. Revilak notes that Arlington has a set of residential design guidelines for single- and two-family dwellings. He thinks that projects don't need to come before the ARB if they generally conform to those guidelines.

There's a motion that Inspectional Service and the Planning Department can make a decision about whether a project affects the architectural integrity of a building facade (relative to 3.4.2.B), and should come before the ARB. Projects involving single-family, two-family, duplex, or three family homes that comply with design guidelines would not be subject to Environmental Design Review. Motion passes, 5--0.

Master Planning Process Update

(Claire Ricker) Ms. Ricker says the Planning Department gave a webinar on February 29th, to kick off the Master Plan Update, which they're calling "AMPUp". The will establish an advisory/oversight committee who will direct the process, including other working groups that might be formed. Arlington's 2015 plan said that it was expected to last for ten years, which is almost where we are today -- it's time for an update.

Appointing the Advisory Committee is the next step in the process. Applications are open until April 14th. Once the committee is formed, staff will work with them to draft an RFP for a consultant. The project will kick off in earnest after the consultant is hired; Ms. Ricker hopes to have that done by December. The committee will also have representation from the Redevelopment Board, Select Board, and the Capital Planning Committee.

(Shaina Korman-Houston) Ms. Korman-Houston asks how the committee applications have been looking.

(Claire Ricker) Ms. Ricker says there have been 26 applicants so far. She's hoping to get a few folks that are renters, as that group is often under-represented in planning processes. She says that DPCD will provide the ARB with recommendations about committee membership, probably sometime in May.

(Eugene Benson) Mr. Benson asks what kind of criteria we're looking for.

(Claire Ricker) Ms. Ricker says that planning experience is great, but not required.

(Steve Revilak) Mr. Revilak asks if there will be one representative from the ARB.

(Claire Ricker) Ms. Ricker answers in the affirmative.

(Steve Revilak) Mr. Revilak asks if there are any applicants with transportation backgrounds.

(Claire Ricker) Ms. Ricker says there are a few applicants from the Bicycle Advisory Committee.

(Kin Lau) Mr. Lau asks about funding.

(Claire Ricker) Ms. Ricker says we have a warrant article for a $50k appropriation, and staff are also looking at remaining ARPA funds that might be available. There was $175k budgeted to the 2015 effort, and this update could cost as much as $250k.

(Kin Lau) Mr. Lau says he'd like to be sure that we have the funding and resources to see the project through. He asks if any commercial landowners have applied.

(Eugene Benson) Mr. Benson asks about the difference between updating the existing plan, and doing an entirely new one.

(Claire Ricker) Ms. Ricker says she'd prefer to start with the 2015 plan, rather than starting from scratch. The update is likely to go into more depth in some of the subject areas.

(Shaina Korman-Houston) Ms. Korman-Houston asks if there have been any thoughts on a consultant.

(Claire Ricker) Ms. Ricker says there are a number of firms doing this kind of work, including RKG, Utile, and MAPC.

Arlington Heights Business District

(Claire Ricker) Ms. Ricker says that she gave a presentation to the Arlington Heights Business Group in January, and people seemed excited. She's also re-engaged with the former Arlington Heights Neighborhood Action Plan Committee, and they may have a meeting on May 9th. The department is planning to table during the Arlington Heights Spring Fling on May 19th, and there will be other engagement opportunities during the summer. The work will likely come back to the ARB in October, so it can be presented to town meeting in the spring.

(Kin Lau) Mr. Lau asks if we'll be hiring a consultant.

(Claire Ricker) Ms. Ricker isn't sure that we'll need one. We have draft zoning to start with, and will seek feedback on that.

(Kin Lau) Mr. Lau says that diagram and models are likely to be helpful in getting the ideas across. He suggests setting aside some money for that.

(Shaina Korman-Houston) Ms. Korman-Houston asks what kind of budget is necessary for the work, and where the money will come from.

(Claire Ricker) Ms Ricker says she has some department funds. She doesn't anticipate this being a big dollar project.

(Shaina Korman-Houston) Ms. Korman-Houston asks how Ms. Ricker is feeling with regards to staff time.

(Claire Ricker) Ms. Ricker says she'll need staff to be engaged.

(Eugene Benson) Mr. Benson says the implementation plan looks good. He asks if there will be an ARB representative.

(Rachel Zsembery) Ms. Zsembery says that she's the representative.

(Eugene Benson) Mr. Benson says that the ARB member of the committee can provide updates to the board. There have been some changes to the Heights business district since the first action plan was written.

(Steve Revilak) Mr. Revilak asks if Ms. Ricker received any feedback from owners of the larger industrial parcels in the heights.

(Claire Ricker) Ms Ricker says she received very positive feedback.

Special Town Meeting Discussion

(Rachel Zsembery) Ms. Zsembery says the board has been provided with draft warrant article and main motion language for the MBTA-C map article to be presented at Special Town Meeting. The board will hold a hearing on April 29th. The main motion may be changed before then, but we have to finalize the warrant language tonight.

(Claire Ricker) Ms. Ricker says this comes from a procedural flaw in the way we advertised the zoning articles for last fall's special town meeting. As as the result of the flaw, the Attorney General's office wants Town Meeting to re-vote on the map and parcel list. Ms. Ricker says the warrant article language was drafted in consultation with the Attorney General's office, to conform with what they felt we needed to do.

(Steve Revilak) Mr. Revilak is okay with the warrant article language.

(Eugene Benson) Mr. Benson says he spoke with Town Counsel. He suggested the article be inserted by the ARB rather than the Town Manager and Department of Planning and Community Development. He suggests leaving out the words "MBTA Communities" and using "Multifamily housing overlay district instead".

(Shaina Korman-Houston) Ms. Korman-Houston has no changes to the warrant article language.

(Eugene Benson) Mr. Benson suggests using language that's similar to what was used in past warrant articles.

(Rachel Zsembery) Ms. Zsembery says she'd like to be consistent with the way the district was described in the fall of 2023.

There's discussion about the Warrant Article language, the article title, and the draft main motion. The board eventually agrees on wording that can be submitted when the warrant opens tomorrow.

Open Forum

There are no speakers at tonight's open forum.

New Business

(Eugene Benson) Mr. Benson realized that the Inland Wetland District will need to be deleted from the district list in Section 4.2.1. He's not sure how the board would amend their main motion during town meeting.

The chair will check with the moderator. Mr. Revilak offers to submit an amendment to the Inland Wetlands article, as he is a town meeting member.

(Steve Revilak) Mr. Revilak recently looked through the 2023 Envision Arlington survey results, and he'd like to share some of that information with the board. 1944 people responded to the survey, up from 1537 in 2022. By tenure, the largest group had lived in Arlington for 0--5 years; these were 23% of respondents. The next largest groups were 11--20 and 6--10 years. Taken together, those three groups make up 60% of the respondents, so our population continues to turn over at a decent clip.

79% percent of respondents were home owners, which is higher than the percentage given in the 2020 census.

Finally, 32% of respondents reported an income of above $200k/year; this is up from 30% in 2022.

(Shaina Korman-Houston) Ms. Korman-Houston asks if that's household income or individual income.

(Steve Revilak) Mr. Revilak says he's not sure; he doesn't recall how the survey question was worded.

Meeting adjourned.