Arlington Redevelopment Board - Feb 22nd, 2021

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Meeting held via remote participation. Materials were available from

Only three board members were present during tonight's meeting, which meant the board couldn't vote on permitting decisions.

Docket 3638 - 400-402 Massachusetts Avenue

This is a continued public hearing. The applicant owns a mixed use building with three office and two residential units. They'd like to convert it to one office and four residential.

(Robert Annese, Attorney for the applicant) Mr. Annese says this docket was previously before the board, and he's gotten the inkling they were willing to allow three residential units. This building was rebuilt after a 1980 fire. Inspectional services does not have the plans that were filed with the 1980 permit to rebuild. Michael Byrne, the director of inspectional services provided a permit card dated June 3, 1980, which mentioned the construction of offices and apartments. The ZBA approved a permit allowing up to two apartments.

Mr. Annese says the building has two apartments which are one bedroom each. He's aware that some members of the public claim they are two bedroom apartments, and he disputes these claims. Mr. Annese says these apartments rent for $1600/month, which is the going rate for one-bedroom apartments in Arlington. His client is asking for four apartments rather than three, because they're having difficulty renting the offices.

(?, Architect) The project Architect (whose name I missed) shows changes to the floor plans. They've added bicycle parking and an electric vehicle charging station.

(Robert Annese) Mr. Annese says they're offering a TDM plan. There will be indoor bike parking, an EV charging station, and a shower in the office unit. He doesn't believe that the project will be economic with three apartments, so they're asking for four.

There are no questions from the board.

The chair opens the hearing to public comment.

(Don Seltzer) Mr. Seltzer says he's been trying to put together a paper trail of permits for the renovation of 400--402 Mass Ave. He says the building was built in 1799 and damaged by fire in 1978. The current owner bought the building in 1979 and a special permit allowed the construction of three offices and two apartments. Mr. Seltzer says that dormers and skylights were added sometime after 1980, and the one-bedroom apartments were converted to two-bedroom works. Mr. Seltzer claims that all of this work was done without a building permit, and that the building exceeds floor area ratio regulations for the district.

(Rachel Zsembery, ARB Chair) Ms. Zsembery says the board is treating this as a pre-existing non-conforming structure. The hearing is only concerned with a change in use.

(Eugene Benson, ARB) Mr. Benson asks Mr. Seltzer if he's reported these findings to inspectional services.

(Don Seltzer) Mr. Seltzer says he communicated these findings to the ZBA, and to inspectional services. He says the ZBA responded but inspectional services didn't.

(Stuart Brorson) Mr. Brorson said that if he bought $1000 worth of stock and it tanked, then he wished he could ask the town of Arlington to bail him out. He says the board's focus should be the long term interests of Arlington.

(Christopher Loreti) Mr. Loreti says that apartments aren't allowed in the B1 district. He asks the board to look at the decision of Darlow v Arlington. He disagrees with the redevelopment board's interpretation of mixed use in the zoning bylaw.

(Note: Darlow v. Arlington was a recent court case. It was dismissed with prejudice, on technical grounds.)

(Steve Revilak) Mr. Revilak believes there is a ten-year statute of limitations on work done without a building permit. Work done more than ten years ago has to be treated as a pre-existing non-conformity for zoning purposes. If there was work done without a permit at some point in the past, that's unfortunate. But if it was more than ten years ago, it's water over the dam.

(Robert Annese) Mr. Annese says the ten-year statue of limitations comes from Chapter 40A Section 7.

(Jenny Raitt) Ms. Raitt says that the statute of limitations has passed, and the building is being treated as a non-conforming property. She says the current building is in compliance with the 1980 ZBA decision.

(John Worden) Mr. Worden says the applicant's attorney has made an economic argument, but he hasn't shown any numbers. He says that without a spreadsheet, numbers are just words. He asks why the property owners can't just increase the rent. He asks if people should complain because they haven't made enough profit. He thinks the board should require numbers.

There's no further public comment.

(David Watson) Mr. Watson says he hasn't changed his feelings, though he appreciates the proponents effort. He appreciates Mr. Seltzer's material, but says it doesn't tell enough of a story from a legal perspective.

Hearing continued to March 1st.

Docket 3646 - 1420 Massachusetts Avenue

This environmental design review involves the reconstruction of a Citizens Bank in Arlington Heights.

(Dick Keshian, Attorney for the applicant) Mr. Keshian introduces the project and the development team. He happened to represent the applicants when the board permitted the current bank building in 1977.

(Tom (?), Architect) The bank has operated in this location since 1977. They've signed a long-term lease on the property and got permission to rebuild the building. The existing building has reached the end of its useful life.

The current building is 4,200 square feet and the new one will be 2,400. It will be in the same location as the current building. They're planning to include a pocket park, two short-term bicycle parking stations, and an ADA compliant ramp from the street to the main entrance. The parking lot will generally stay as is. There will be a stormwater depression in back to capture roof runoff and they intend to submit a new sign package.

(David Watson, ARB) Mr. Watson likes the open space and the pocket park. He asks about the orientation of the building. (The main entrance will face the parking lot, rather than the street.)

(Tom) They located the main entrance on the side of the building, in order to accommodate an ADA ramp.

(David Watson) Mr. Watson suggests adding doors on the street side of the building, and perhaps reducing the number of parking spaces. He asks about plans for long-term bike parking.

(Tom) They're planning one long-term bicycle parking space, inside the building.

(David Watson) Mr. Watson asks if all of the signs are necessary.

(Tom) Tom says they've removed one of the exterior signs. They'd like to keep the entrance sign, and the two side signs.

(Eugene Benson) Mr. Benson thinks the street side looks like the side of a building with a blank wall. He'd like to have the DPW sign off on the stormwater management plan. He's disappointed with their projected LEED score and would like to see them try for LEED silver or gold. He notes that EDR submissions require a LEED narrative, which their application didn't include. He asks the applicants to consider adding solar panels, and planting street trees.

(Tom ?) Tom believes there have been problems with street trees in this area. He says he'll look at it.

(Douglas G, Architect) Douglas said they put the main entrance on the side of the building to that it would be closer to the accessible parking spaces in the parking lot.

(David Watson) Mr. Watson says he was suggesting an additional entrance on the side, rather than moving the main entrance.

(Rachel Zsembery) Ms. Zsembery would like to see an entrance on the Mass Ave side of the building. She says that accessibility is important, but so is working well with the streetscape.

(David Watson) Mr. Watson seconds Mr. Benson's comments about LEED.

The chair opens the hearing to public comment.

(Eliza Burden) Ms. Burden would like to see the applicants use trees to mitigate heat island effects. She suggests adding a tree in the front left or in back of the building.

(Stuart Brorson) Mr. Brorson agrees with Mr. Watson and Mr. Benson. He's glad to see a commercial building that's not large. He says the design looks like a cookie-cutter architectural plan. He'd like to see them design an urban building for a walkable part of Arlington Heights. He says the street side of the building looks like the side of a warehouse. He thinks that solar would be a nice addition for the roof. He says that Citizens Bank has money and can do better.

(Susan Stamps) Ms. Stamps likes the idea of more trees. She sees greenery on the site, but mostly in the form of low bushes. She says the ARB is in a good position to insist on having trees in new development, and that low bushes don't capture as much carbon. She thinks that developers should mitigate heat when they put so much money into a project. She suggests breaking up the asphalt in the parking lot and putting in trees.

There's no further public comment.

The board and applicant discuss additional materials to be submitted for the next public hearing.

Hearing continued to March 15th.

Docket 2150 as amended by Docket 2618 - 49-51 Grove Street

This hearing involves renovations to the DPW yard on Grove Street.

(Jeff Alberti, Civil Engineer) Mr. Alberti works for the engineering firm Weston and Samson. He says the new facility will support the DPW, Inspection Services, and Town IT departments. The project will renovate four existing buildings, add a new building, a new salt shed, a new refueling station, and a new stormwater management system.

The site contains several MWRA sewer easements, a section of Mill Brook, and a high pressure gas main. There's historic contamination from the site's use as a gas manufacturing plant. The new building will be LEED silver. The redeveloped site will be properly signed, safe, and efficient. The conservation commissions has approved a notice of intent for the work.

(Eugene Benson) Mr. Benson says it looks like a wonderful project. He asks the applicants to clarify why they need 135 parking spaces.

(Jeff Alberti) Mr. Alberti says that 67 spaces are for DPW, seven are for inspectional services, twenty are for IT, and fifteen are for the facilities department. Seven spaces will be reserved for visitors, fourteen will be used to store town vehicles, and five will be accessible.

(Eugene Benson) Mr. Benson asks about bike parking.

(Jeff Alberti) Mr. Alberti says there will be fifteen short term spaces and five interior angle racks.

(Eugene Benson) Mr. Benson suggests including rooftop solar.

(Jeff Alberti) Mr. Alberti says the new building will be solar ready, with interior space reserved for supporting equipment.

(Mike Rademacher, DPW director) Mr. Rademacher says that DPW intends to pursue a solar installation, with the assistance of the town's energy manager.

(Eugene Benson) Mr. Benson asks about street trees.

(Jeff Alberti) Mr. Alberti says they're planning to plant trees along Grove Street.

(Eugene Benson) Mr. Benson asks if the three street parking spaces are necessary.

(Jeff Alberti) Mr. Alberti says they're for short term visits to inspectional services.

(David Watson) Mr. Watson says the project seems great, and it's long overdue. He points out that wave racks aren't compliant with the town's bicycle parking requirements. He suggests they review the bicycle parking guidelines.

Mr. Watson says he understands the issues posed by the site's condition and asks the applicants to consider an accessible parking space in front of the building.

(Rachel Zsembery) Ms. Zsembery thinks the new building's terracotta finish works well with the existing brick buildings. She notes that the existing buildings emphasize vertical elements and asks about the design intent of the new building's horizontal elements.

(David Steeves, Architect) Mr. Steeves says the existing buildings are 4000--5000 square feet. The new building is larger -- around 43,000 square feet -- which made it a challenge to integrate. There's a two-story administrative section in the front and an industrial section in the rear. He says the goal was to acknowledge the existing shape and fabric without copying the original buildings.

(Rachel Zsembery) Ms. Zsembery understands the challenge of not being too referential, and that it can be hard to make connections beyond material color.

(Stepped away for a moment)

There's more discussion about the visual elements of the new building.

(David Watson) Mr. Watson asks where the long-term bicycle parking will be located.

(David Steeves) Mr. Steeves says it will be in a corridor, near the shop area.

(David Watson) Mr. Watson thinks the administrative employees might want the bike parking closer to their space. He suggests including showers and changing facilities.

(Jeff Alberti) Mr. Alberti says they've included showers and changing facilities.

(David Watson) Mr. Watson suggests taking another look at the location of the long-term bicycle parking, and trying to make it more convenient for office employees.

(Eugene Benson) Mr. Benson asks about signs.

(Jeff Alberti) Mr. Alberti says they'll put together a sign sheet and submit it to the board.

The chair opens the hearing to public comment.

(Stuart Brorson) Mr. Brorson says he's very pleased with this. He says the building faces the street and respects the historic site. This is in contrast to the cookie cutter Citizens Bank proposal. He says it doesn't seem right to have windows that aren't operable.

(David Steeves) Mr. Steeves says that every space in the building has operable windows. There's a section of window casing that can be opened.

There's no further comment from the public.

Hearing continued to March 29th.

Update on Special Permits issued by the Redevelopment Board 2016-2021

The planning department prepared a list of special permits the board has approved since 2016. It's a simple list, containing addresses and current project status.

The board wishes to defer discussion until Mr. Lau is present. They'll return to this topic after warrant article hearings.

(David Watson) Mr. Watson says he's pleasantly surprised that progress was made on so many projects.

Zoning Warrant Article Public Hearing schedule

(Jenny Raitt, Planning Director) Ms. Raitt says the necessary legal notices have been filed and the draft warrant should be posted tomorrow. Ms. Raitt reviews the list of articles, and says that Erin Zwirko has been trying to gather main motions and supporting documents from citizen petitioners, and to help them prepare for their hearings.

Ms. Raitt says there was a meeting between herself, Adam Chapdelaine, and representatives of the redevelopment and select boards, to talk about where the boards might want to provide feedback to one another.

(Eugene Benson) Mr. Benson asks that main motions be presented to the ARB as early as possible.

(Jenny Raitt) Ms. Raitt says there are main motions for the articles the ARB is putting forward.

There will be a presentation on Real Estate Transfer fees on March 4th at 7pm.

Ms. Raitt says the select board will likely provide feedback on the industrial zoning, energy efficient home, and ADU articles. The select board would like feedback on several of the articles they're going to hear.

(Eugene Benson) Mr. Benson asks about the process for submitting feedback.

(Jenny Raitt) Ms. Raitt says she'll likely appear at the Select Board hearings and the ARB should provide a memo.

Approval of Minutes

The board approved minutes from their Nov 2nd and December 7th meetings.

Open Forum

No one wished to speak during open forum.

Meeting adjourned.