Arlington Redevelopment Board - Dec 16th, 2019

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Hearing Continuations. Two applicants have requested continuations. Docket 3610 (for a recreational marijuana establishment) has asked for their hearing to be continued to Jan 6th, and Docket 3602 (Hotel at 1207 Mass Ave) has asked for their hearing to be continued to Jan 27th. The board votes to grant both continuations.

Open Forum. (Don Seltzer, 104 Irving St. Property assessed at $826k). Mr. Seltzer states that he's sent a letter to the board, and he'd like to speak with them regarding the special permit fee for 1207 Mass Ave. Mr. Seltzer believes that the Select Board had no authority to exempt a prospective buyer from the special permit application fee. He believes there are a number of red flags associated with the property sale. He suggests the board require payment of the special permit fee, and force the applicant to seek a refund from the select board.

(Marlon Banta, 24 Clark St. Property assessed at $619k). Mr. Banta is an abutter to 1207 Mass Ave, where the hotel project is proposed. He's having trouble finding current project documentation on the town website. He has concerns about the applicant's solar access study and the number of parking spaces requested. Mr. Banta anticipates some hotel patrons parking on Clark Street. Mr. Banta says the applicant is getting 1207 Mass Ave for $750k, which is a sweet deal. He'd like the building to be certified LEED silver, at least.

Rachel Zsembery notes that the board has already raised questions about the proposed LEED rating. She believes the applicant is working on this, but the ARB hasn't received updated planning documents from them.

(Don Seltzer, 104 Irving St. Property assessed at $826k) Mr. Seltzer provides the ARB with his opinion with respect to why project documentation might be difficult to find on the town's website. He suggests providing a link from the ARB's main page on the town website.

Eugene Benson said the ARB had questions about the Select Board's waiver of permit fees, but he hasn't seen a document stating that the waiver is illegal.

Andrew Bunnell said that, according to town counsel, the board can choose to waive the application fees. Mr. Bunnell hasn't made up his mind on the issue.

There's more back and forth between Mr. Bunnell and Mr. Seltzer, regarding the special permit fee.

Docket 3348, 833 Mass Ave. This part of the hearing is the reopening of a ten-year old special permit for a CVS store, and centers around a boarded-up house on the property (the "Atwood house"). Jeff Noyes is the property owner and Monty French is the architect. They're represented by attorney Robert Annese.

Mr. Annese opens. He feels its very complicated to mesh things with the 2009 special permit. His client submitted a structural report to the town building inspector, and the report indicated that the building was stable. His client is not currently planning to demolish the house, but it will require substantial renovations.

Mr. Annese questions how much the ARB considered zoning laws when they issued the 2009 special permit. The permit required 10 parking spaces for the house, and the sharing of a driveway between the Atwood house and CVS. There are currently conflicts between CVS parking and the parking spaces allotted for the Atwood house. Mr. Annese says the CVS building is cast in concrete, so any changes made would have to be made to the Atwood house. Their current thinking is a mixed-use building with commercial space on the ground level and residential on top. In the past, someone was interested in turning the building into affordable housing. Mr. Annese says this isn't an economically viable option for his client.

In 2009, the ARB said the building was not historically significant, but now it is. He notes that his client will have to seek a permit from the historic commission. He also expects to need approval from the conservation commission, as the 2009 CVS special permit required an NOI.

Mr. Annese says his client would like to do something reasonable with the building; they don't want to get into a battle with the town. But it will be expensive. He and his client need to assess the site in terms of the town's zoning bylaws, and determine what can be done that will satisfy them. Once they have a proposal that passes muster with the building inspector, they'll request an EDR hearing.

Mr. Annese points out that the site is in a B4 district, and was formerly part of a car dealership. The lot is 79,000 square feet. Mixed-use would be a non-vehicular use in a B4 district, which our zoning bylaw encourages.

Andrew Bunnell asks what a reasonable time frame would be. Mr. French states that the building needs some remediation before he and his crew can enter and start working. Once the remediation is done, they'll start measuring and taking inventory. He believes that could happen in a month.

Mr. Annese says his client might consider a subdivision, but the site also makes that challenging.

Kin Lau asks for a high-level timeline. There's a proposal for two months to remediate and document current conditions, then two to three months to study the zoning and propose an alternative. So, four to five months total.

Mr. Bunnell requests a progress report by Feb 24th, or so.

Mr. Lau expresses his appreciation to the applicant for re-boarding the windows, painting, and shoveling the sidewalk.

William Peterson (?) a manager for CVS is present for the hearing, but doesn't speak.

Mr. Benson feels that the original CVS EDR permit is still at risk, and thinks that a progress report on Feb 24th would be a good first step. He asks when the real proposal will be coming. Mr. Annese says his client will try to provide that information on Feb 24th.

Mr. Benson asks when (i.e., by what date) the applicants might have a proposal. Mr. French says they need to navigate the nuts and bolts of Arlington's zoning bylaw before making a proposal.

Mr. Benson would like to see some documentation regarding the economics of why the applicants believe affordable housing is not possible for the site. Mr. Annese says he was referring to the entire site -- turning the entire site into affordable housing would not be economically viable. Mr. Benson encourages the applicants to try to provide some affordable housing during redevelopment.

Mr. Annese believes that the 2009 ARB decision didn't condition CVS on the disposition of the Atwood house.

Ms. Zsembery says that the board expects to see an actual timeline. Mr. Annese says his client will submit a timeline on Feb 24th. Ms. Zsembery points out that the 2009 special permit for CVS noted the Atwood house as being a significant building.

Mr. Bunnell opens the hearing to public comment.

(John Worden, 27 Jason Street. Property assessed at $1.974M.) Mr Worden says that in 2009, the expectation was for the Atwood house to be turned into a small affordable housing complex. The affordable housing didn't happen. He's glad to hear that the house will be preserved. He feels that parking was not adequately contemplated at the time. Mr. Worden states that the property was originally zoned R1, but was changed to B4 by a resident-sponsored warrant article.

(Carl Wagner, 30 Edgehill road. Property assessed at $678k.) Mr. Wagner thanks the property owner for working with the ARB. He feels it's important for people to visualize the transition between buildings, and that we should build something like 887 Mass Ave.

(A. Michael Ruderman, 9 Alton St. Property assessed at $410k.) Mr. Ruderman says he formerly worked with the Historic Commission. He's been concerned about the deteriorating condition of the building, and feels that nothing has happened for too long.

(David Baldwin, 49 Academy St. Property assessed at $1.083M.) Mr. Baldwin says we have few of the early 20th century buildings left along Mass Ave. He thinks the outside should not be modern looking.

(Don Seltzer, 104 Irving St. Property assessed at $826k.) Mr. Seltzer says he recently discovered that, according to town records, the Atwood house doesn't exist. Mr. Seltzer claims that the house isn't listed in the assessor's database, and that the owner hasn't paid taxes in years.

Mr. Noyes (the property owner) disagrees. He says the house is listed in the assessor's database, on property card #2 for the parcel. Mr. Noyes says he's paid taxes on the property every year, and suggests that Mr. Seltzer go back and look further.

The board will continue the hearing on Feb 24th.