Arlington Redevelopment Board - Dec 4th, 2023

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Meeting held in the Community Center at 27 Maple Street. Materials were available from

Review Meeting Minutes

The board approved minutes from their November 20, 2023 meeting, 5--0.

Consideration of Citizen Warrant Article

John Leone is considering a citizen article to add 5--7 Winter Street to the Neighborhood Multifamily (NMF) District.

(Claire Ricker, Planning Director) Ms. Ricker shows a map of 5--7 Winter street, and nearby parcels that are in the NMF District. She thinks that 5--7 was likely omitted during the removal of East Arlington parcels with Mass Ave frontage, or because the property is on the National Register of Historic Places. She notes there was community concern about including historic properties in the multi-family districts for MBTA Communities.

(John Leone) Mr. Leone says that 5--7 Winter Street is a family home that his grandparents purchased in 1957. Members of his family have lived there ever since. It's a large parcel, with around 18,000 square feet of land.

Mr. Leone notes that 13 Winter Street is also on the National Register of Historic Places, but was included in the NMF district. He doesn't think that a listing on the National Register should disqualify a property for inclusion. He's like to preserve his options for the property. For example, the commercial owners on Mass Ave might be interested in a portion of it, or his family might want to add housing in the rear.

Mr. Leone says he's one of six children, and they've all agreed to go forward with this warrant article. He thinks inclusion in the NMF is more appropriate than inclusion in the Mass Ave Broadway Multifamily district.

(Kin Lau, ARB) Mr. Lau is supportive. He says the board intended to exclude historic buildings from the MBTA district, but he's supportive of rezoning this particular parcel. He could also be supportive of rezoning it when the board updates the Capitol Square business district. Mr. Lau notes that historic buildings can be moved.

(John Leone) Mr. Leone says the house was already moved. It originally faced Mass Ave, but was moved to face Winter Street when the property was subdivided. The subdivision created space for the businesses that are currently on Mass Ave.

(Shaina Korman-Houston, ARB) Ms. Korman-Houston concurs with Mr. Lau. She's also supportive.

(Eugene Benson, ARB) Mr. Benson notes that Mr. Leone filed this map change as an amendment during the fall town meeting, and the Board recommended voting against it. He felt that the change was suggested too close to town meeting. Mr. Benson says he was under the impression that all properties on the National Register of Historic Places were excluded.

Mr. Benson says the board plans to propose a rezoning of Mass Ave in two or three years. He'd like Mr. Leone to do outreach to neighbors and to the Historical Commission. He asks about the role Mr. Leone's family played in getting the property listed on the National Register.

(John Leone) Mr. Leone doesn't recall any family discussion; they simply didn't object. He says there was a mass addition of properties to the National Register around 1984, including his family's home at 5--7 Winter Street.

(Eugene Benson) Mr. Benson suggests Mr. Leone get in touch with staff, regarding the abutter notifications that are required for changes to the zoning map.

(Steve Revilak, ARB) Mr. Revilak is okay with adding the property to the NMF district. He notes that the adjoining B3 parcels on Mass Ave are shallow -- less than 50 feet deep. Mr. Revilak says he'd also support changing the base zoning to B3 at the same time, if Mr. Leone were interested in pursuing that. He thinks a change to the base zoning would provide additional options for how the property can be used in the future.

The chair opens public comment.

(JoAnn Robinson) Ms. Robinson is a member of the Historical Commission. She says the house was added to the National Register of Historic Places in the 1980s. She'd like to see the house retained, and revamped for a new use. She offers to provide a list of town properties that are on the National Register.

There are no further comments from the public.

(Rachel Zsembery, ARB Chair) Ms. Zsembery notes that changing the zoning of a parcel doesn't specify how a property might ultimately be redeveloped.

Discussion of Board Plans for 2024

(Rachel Zsembery, ARB Chair) Ms. Zsembery says the board wanted to follow-up on several items discussed at the retreat. Administrative approval of sign requests was one of these.

(Eugene Benson, ARB) Mr. Benson provided members of the board with excerpts of the sign bylaw and Board Regulations. The rules were more restrictive than he remembered. They only allow administrative approval of sign modifications, and staff can only approve an illuminated sign if it's a modification and the sign was already illuminated.

(Claire Ricker, Planning Director) Ms. Ricker says that determining what's small enough to approve administratively has been something of a balancing act. She says it ultimately depends on what the board wants to see.

(Eugene Benson) Mr. Benson believes that new signs aren't subject to administrative approval, as he reads the rules and regulations.

(Steve Revilak, ARB) Mr. Revilak says he's amenable with administrative approval of signs that comply with the standards in the bylaw, provided that staff are okay with performing the reviews.

(Shaina Korman-Houston, ARB) Ms. Korman-Houston thinks the board might consider retaining the right to review signs in high-profile areas.

(Rachel Zsembery) Ms. Zsembery agrees with removing the criteria that's specific to illumination. She's okay with administrative review of signs that meet the bylaws standards, where staff doesn't think board review is necessary.

(Kin Lau, ARB) Mr. Lau agrees with allowing administrative review.

There's discussion about how to re-write Rule 18 in the Board's Rules and Regulations. Mr. Benson offers to do a first draft of the new language.

(Eugene Benson) Mr. Benson asks if there should be a fee for administrative review of signs.

(Claire Ricker) Ms. Ricker says she'll look into this.

Ms. Ricker notes that the board didn't get to the discussion of urban renewal during yesterday's retreat, but she'll have staff look at a few areas for consideration. Arlington center is one area that comes to mind. Ms. Ricker feels the board should look into urban renewal plans sooner rather than later. The plan could consist of a single parcel, such as the Russel Common Parking Lot. She suggests putting this on the agenda for December 18.

(Kin Lau) Mr. Lau offers to work with staff on site consideration.

(Steve Revilak) Mr. Revilak is okay with considering urban renewal plans. He notes that the board expressed an interest in revisiting height buffers, but didn't get to this during the retreat.

(Rachel Zsembery) Ms. Zsembery would like to get height buffers on the agenda for January 8th.

(Kin Lau) Mr. Lau would suggests using the sketch-up model to illustrate how height buffers work.

(Eugene Benson) Mr. Benson suggests adding a standard special permit condition, with language about compliance with Mass Architectural Access Board requirements.

Open Forum

There's no one to speak at tonight's open forum.

New Business

(Claire Ricker) Ms. Ricker says that one of the candidates for the Assistant Director position has accepted the offer, and may start as early as next week.

(Steve Revilak) Mr. Revilak reports that the state renewed his term as the board's gubernatorial appointee. His new term will expire in September 2028.

Meeting adjourned.