Arlington Redevelopment Board - Dec 20th, 2021

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Meeting held via remote participation. Materials were available from

Docket 3348 - 833 Mass Ave

This in a continued hearing, involving the disposition of an abandoned building next to a CVS pharmacy on Mass Ave (aka the "Atwood House").

(Robert Annese, Attorney for the Applicant) Mr. Annese says he's appeared before the Historical Commission and tried to explain what happened during the ARB's last discussion of the Atwood House. Then, the discussion shifted to what needed to be done in order to restore the building. He says the building has been re-sided and they're waiting for windows. The demolition permit was filed with Inspectional Services today, and Mr. Annese says his clients are prepared to go forward with the demolition application. The Historical Commission wants the building exterior put back, and Mr. Annese says his client will do that.

Mr. Annese says he's tired of being a volleyball. He says he'll pursue a demolition application, and reiterates that his client's preference is for the building come down. The architect and contractor are here at the hearing, if the board would like them to answer questions. He hopes the Historical Commission could come to some sort of agreement with the Redevelopment Board, in order to avoid a two-year demolition delay.

(Rachel Zsembery, ARB Chair) Ms. Zsembery is not sympathetic. The ARB's position is that the owner must comply with the Arlington Historical Commission, because the demolition work was started without a permit. She proposes the permit hearing, until the owner submits a special permit application for the new building.

(Note: Docket 3348 dates from 2009, for the construction of a CVS pharmacy on the same parcel as the Atwood house. It was re-opened in 2019, when CVS sought to changes signs around the exterior of the building, and it remained open due to the state of the Atwood House.)

(Kin Lau, ARB) Mr. Lau supports Mr. Annese's plans. He suggests the applicants work with the ARB during the demolition delay, so that they have a project ready when the demolition delay ends. He thinks that can help streamline the process.

(Eugene Benson, ARB) Mr. Benson agrees with his colleagues. He says that the delay is attributable to the fact that the owner started demolition without a permit.

(Melisa Tintocalis, ARB) Ms. Tintocalis has no comments.

(Steve Revilak, ARB) Mr. Revilak agrees with Mr. Lau.

The chair opens the hearing to public comment. There is none.

There's a motion to close the public hearing for docket 3348. Passes, 5--0.

Approval of Minutes

The board amends and approves minutes from their December 6th meeting, by a vote of 5--0.

Open Forum

(Joann Robinson) Ms. Robinson is the chair of the Historical Commission. She wanted to comment during the hearing for docket 3348, but couldn't because Zoom had frozen on her. She says she'll submit written comments on behalf of the Historical Commission instead.

She says the Historical Commission had made an offer that involved moving the building forward.

Ms. Robinson is breaking up. She'll try to dial in via telephone.

(Joann Robinson, via telephone) Ms. Robinson thinks it's premature to close the public hearing, because there's been little conversation between the ARB and the Historical Commission. At the Historical Commission, there was a lot of support for keeping the house; Ms. Robinson says that wasn't presented to the board. She thinks it's inappropriate for the owner to apply for a demolition permit at this point, because they're still restoring the exterior of the house. She says the Historical Commission wouldn't entertain a demolition permit at this point.

(Rachel Zsembery) Ms. Zsembery says that all of the special permit conditions are still in force, despite the fact that the hearing was closed. When the applicant proposes a new building, they'll come before the ARB with a new special permit application. It's her understanding that the Historical Commission has to act on demo applications when they're received.

(Michael Ciampa, Director of Inspectional Services) Mr. Ciampa says the town bylaws classify this as an unpermitted demolition. The clock from a demolition delay will start from that point.

(Joann Robinson) Ms. Robinson said the Historical Commission postponed the demolition hearing in July, and that the owner had agreed to restore the exterior rather than apply for a demo permit. She thinks there might be common ground that the two boards could work from.

(Rachel Zsembery) Ms. Zsembery says that as the project moves forward, the ARB indicated that they'd support carrying some of the Atwood House's architectural elements forward.

(Eugene Benson) Mr. Benson ask if Ms. Robinson could clarify how the Historical Commission was relying on the special permit.

(Joann Robinson) Ms. Robinson says the Historical Commission has tried to work with the ARB to preserve the house, or to move it off the property. She believes the special permit says the building can't be demolished.

(Eugene Benson) Mr. Benson says the special permit doesn't prohibit the owner from demolishing the building; it just requires them to come before the ARB before doing so.

(Joann Robinson) Ms. Robinson says the Historical Commission had a different impression about what the special permit meant.

(Rachel Zsembery) Ms. Zsembery says the special permit prohibited demolition for two years. That was two years, starting from 2009.

(Joann Robinson) Ms. Robinson says the house has historic value.

(Rachel Zsembery) Ms. Zsembery says she's not aware of the Historical Commission making any requests to the ARB, since the permit was re-opened.

(Kin Lau) Mr. Lau says he's been a member of the ARB for six years, and doesn't recall anyone from the Historical Commission reaching out to the board during that time. He says the board re-opened the special permit and pushed the owner to do something with the property. It's up to the Historical Commission to determine whether they will impose a demolition delay.

(Joann Robinson) Ms. Robinson says the Historical Commission wrote a letter to the building inspector when the property was not being taken care of; that letter may not have been translated to the ARB.

(Rachel Zsembery) Ms. Zsembery says this is an unfortunate situation. The ARB is interested in seeing the property taken care of, and will work with the Historical Commission when a new proposal is filed.

There's no further comment from the public.

There's a motion to adjourn the public portion of tonight's ARB meeting. Motion passes 5--0.

There's a motion for the board to move to executive session to "approve meeting minutes from Executive Session on October 4, 2021". Motion passes 5--0, and the board moves to executive session.