Arlington Redevelopment Board - Feb 25th, 2019

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10 Sunnyside Ave Environmental Design Review Hearing. Attorney Robert Annese presents for the applicant. There really aren't any big sites left in Arlington, but there is a need for housing. The lot is 16,500 square feet. We've met with inspectional services a number of times, and this proposal complies with all of the town's zoning bylaws. The building inspector has confirmed that the bonus provisions we're seeking will apply. Mr. Annese notes that the building design has a parapet, and believes that the parapet is customary for buildings of this sort. There will be 26 residential units (condominiums), four of these will be affordable. Two affordable units will be two-bedroom, and two will be one-bedroom. There will be two group two (handicapped accessible) units. Both group two units are also affordable units.

The first floor will have a retail space. It's under 3,000 square feet, so there's no parking requirement. We've gone out of our way to provide bicycle parking, both for occupants and retail patrons. We plan to encourage the use of bicycles.

The property owner (a fellow named Chris) speaks next. We've incorporated a number of elements from Arlington's design guidelines. There's currently no landscaping on the site. There will be a four-foot parapet on the roof to screen the mechanical systems. Seven units will be single-bedroom, and 19 will be two-bedroom. We've submitted a LEED checklist, where we expect to earn 40 points, making us LEED certified.

Chris Cormier is the developer. He's currently working on a project in Brighton, and we see a few slides of that building.

This project will incorporate several safety feature, like mirrors along the driveway and egress signaling. There are 33 lockable bike hooks, one at each parking space. We're also planning to install several benches outside the retail space.

After the opening presentation, the board asks questions.

Chris Loretti submitted a letter; he believes that the bonus reductions aren't applicable to this project. David Watson asks the planning director what she knows about the zoning question. Ms. Raitt spoke with Mr. Byrne about the FAR issue, and Mr. Byrne felt it should apply.

Mr. Annese asks the board to communicate directly with the building inspector. Eugene Benson believes the building inspector is wrong, and would like him to appear before the ARB. Andy West would like a written statement from the building inspector, in addition to having him attend a hearing.

David Watson appreciates the effort to provide bicycle parking, but he doesn't like the rack they've chosen for outside the retail space. The applicants are open to using a different type of rack.

Mr. Watson asks how large the bike room is. It's 6' by 10.5'.

Mr. Watson is intrigued by the ceiling-mounted bicycle storage. He's a little hesitant, since he's never seen them used in a commercial setting. He likes the amount of bicycle parking. Mr. Watson believes that occupants should have the option of bringing bikes upstairs, and storing them in their units.

Kin Lau suggests making one of the group two units a market rate unit. One can't assume that all disabled individuals are low-income. The applicants are willing to make this change.

Mr. Lau asks about bathrooms in the group two units. The applicants state that the bathroom drawings are schematic. When built, they'll be fully accessible.

Mr. Lau asks how the roof is drained. The applicants say it's internally drained. There won't be an external drainpipe.

Mr. Lau asks how the garage will be ventilated. He'd like to see this on the plans, particularly the location of the exhaust fan.

Mr. Lau asks the applicant to provide a full landscaping plan. He points to a patio in back of the building, and asks how the applicants expect people to get there. He suggests adding a walkway from the front of the building, around back to the patio.

Mr. Lau believes the parking garage will need more signaling, to better handle two-way traffic.

Mr. Benson asks how wide the driveway is. The applicant says 12'. Mr. Benson asks why 12' instead of 20'. The applicant says the building inspector determined 12' was okay. Mr. Benson would like to see a memo from the building inspector about this determination.

Mr. Benson would like to see a narrative description about the project's LEED goals. He'd like to see them achieve a silver rating.

Mr. West asks for a better site plan, something to provide more context about the surrounding sites. He'd also like a 3-D drawing to show depth. He'd like the applicants to bring samples of materials. He doesn't love the PVC molding at the top. He's also like to see a cross section of the building.

Mr. Watson asks about drainage plans. Mr. Benson would like to get a statement from the town engineer.

The ARB opens the hearing to public comments.

A resident from 44 Michael street asks about sound mitigation (from mechanicals), along with mitigation during construction. He urges the new owners to remove the blue tarp from the existing building, since it's shredding apart, and leaving little blue plastic bits all over the place.

Kin Lau would like to see a plan for how mechanicals are positioned on the roof.

Don Seltzer would like to see driveway elevation. He believes the driveway will have a 21% grade where Arlington recommends 15%.

Another resident is surprised that the applicant plans to build an underground garage. The resident thinks the area is too congested.

There are a number of questions about flooding, and whether this specific site has flooded in the past. I stated that my home flooded in 2010 and the water was nowhere near high enough to reach 10 Sunnyside. A resident from 37 Sunnyside states that his house has never been flooded, and he's not within the 100-year flood plain. His house is situated between the Alewife brook and 10 Sunnyside.

A resident says it's exciting to see multifamily development. More planting would be nice, especially along Sunnyside Ave. Changing from a bleak garage to a residential building is nice. There are drainage issues at the intersection of Sunnyside Ave and Michael St., so it would be good to have an analysis of spot elevations.

Kim Alexander sort of likes the project, but has concerns about traffic. It's hard to make a left-hand turn from Sunnyside onto Broadway. There's also a lot of traffic from Somerville and Route 16. If done correctly, this could be a nice project. She'd like to see no street parking from the Credit union to the corner, and a crosswalk to the bus stop on the other side of Broadway.

Monique Chaplain also has concerns about traffic, and turning onto Broadway from Sunnyside Ave.

A resident from 60 Silk Street asks about the impact to schools. She asks how the town measure the effects on the school district. Ms. Raitt states that the town currently doesn't have a metric. However, 11% of Thompson school students come from apartments and condominiums; the rest come from single- and two-family homes.

Chris Loretti asks who else is on the development team. Chris Cormier is the only developer. Mr. Loretti would like to know more about the density bonuses.

Someone asks if there has to be a height buffer. The site doesn't abut any residential districts, and it's not close enough for height buffer restrictions to apply.

There's a question about the width of the sidewalk in front of the building.

There are questions about how much the units will cost, and whether the retail space will be owned or rented. The applicants haven't set prices yet. The anticipate market rate at the time of sale.

The hearing is continued until May 20th.

Warrant Articles. Mr. Benson thinks some parts of the sign article are fine, but others need to be rewritten. For the multi-family articles, he's rather see density bonuses in exchange for affordable housing. To get the bonus, a developer would have to provide additional affordable units. Density bonuses are a common way to do this. We might also consider an inclusionary zoning requirement at five units instead of six.

Mr. Lau questions whether a density bonus would be enough to cover the cost of additional affordable units.

Mr. Watson appreciates these suggestions. He'd like to see higher affordable unit requirements, before allowing additional units. However, he's not sure how the math will work out.

Mr. Lau would like a diversity of units. Not just affordable, but units affordable to working-class families. He'd like to address a wider income range, including middle-class and workforce housing.

Mr. Benson would like to rewrite parts of the ADU and bicycle parking articles.

Ms. Raitt reports that the residential study group will discuss ADUs on March 8th.

The board opens the hearing to public comment. There's a bunch of discussion about affordable housing.

I noted that our current zoning laws were an effort to control population, and to reduce the options for multi-family housing, and apartment buildings in particular. Land is the main driver of housing costs. I suggested an exercise: a lot might cost $350,000 and construction costs $250 per square foot. Under these constraints, try to come up with a project that produces housing at $250,000/unit. Hint: it requires more than one unit per lot. I would like the town to choose price points for housing production, put together some schematic designs and construction budgets, figure out what the buildings would look like, and then change the zoning to allow them.

There's additional discussion about the warrant article hearing schedule, and the meeting adjourns.