Arlington Redevelopment Board - Feb 26th, 2024

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Meeting held at 27 Maple Street. Materials were available from Board member Eugene Benson was unable to attend tonight's meeting.

Review Meeting Minutes

The Board approved minutes from their February 5, 2024 meeting, 4--0.

Public Hearing: Warrant Articles for 2024 Annual Town Meeting

(Rachel Zsembery, ARB Chair) Ms. Zsembery tells attendees that tonight is the first night of warrant article hearings. She explains the hearing procedure, and notes that the board will deliberate and vote on the final hearing night.

(Claire Ricker, Planning Director) Ms. Ricker says the board will hear Articles 25--29 tonight. The first three articles are administrative changes, Article 28 involves removing the Inland Wetland District section from the bylaw, and Article 29 involves height buffers. Ms. Ricker says the Conservation Commission voted to endorse Article 28 as written.

Article 25 - Building Definitions

Article 25 proposes changes to the definitions of "building attached", and "building detached".

There are no comments from the board, and no comments from the public.

Article 26 - Administrative Clarification

Article 26 proposes to add a citation in Section 5.4.2.A.

There are no comments from the board.

The chair opens the hearing to public comment.

(Chris Loreti, Adams Street) Mr. Loreti notes that the proposed citation depends on a numbering change contained in Article 27. He also suggests renumbering bullet points in Section 5.4.2.B.

There's no further comment from the public.

Article 27 - Administrative Correction

Article 27 proposes to change a bulleted list in Section 5.9.2.B(1) to an enumerated list.

There are no comments from the board.

There are no comments from the public.

Article 28 - Delete Inland Wetland District

Article 28 proposes to remove Section 5.8 Inland Wetland District from the zoning bylaw.

There are no questions from the board.

The chair opens the hearing to public comment.

(Chris Loreti, Adams Street) As a Town Meeting Member, Mr. Loreti would like to understand the relationship between Section 5.8 and what the Conservation Commission currently enforces. He says he wouldn't want to see wetland protections reduced.

There are no further comments from the public.

(Rachel Zsembery) Ms. Zsembery asks Ms. Ricker to comment on the work that's gone into Article 28.

(Claire Ricker) Ms. Ricker says the changes in Article 28 were recommended to the Redevelopment Board and Conservation Commission by the town's Environmental Planner, David Morgan. He felt that the Inland Wetland District provisions were redundant with the Conservation Commission's authority. Inspection Services, the Zoning Board of Appeals, the Planning Department, and the Conservation Commission were all supportive of this article. Ms. Ricker says this article will remove ambiguity over who has the authority to adjudicate wetland issues.

Article 29 - Reduced Height Buffer

Article 29 proposes new wording to Section 5.3.19 Height Buffers, along with new buffer distances.

(Rachel Zsembery) Ms. Zsembery asks Mr. Revilak to present the alternate wording that he distributed to board members.

(Steve Revilak, ARB) Mr. Revilak says his proposal consists of two parts: the language in 5.3.19.A and the buffer distances. In terms of language, Mr. Revilak says he liked what staff proposed, and was trying to make the paragraph easier to read and understand.

In terms of buffer distances, Mr. Revilak recalls the Board's discussions about the importance of justifying any new distances, and he'd like to offer a proposal along with a rationale. He proposes reducing the distances by 50%.

Mr. Revilak says the height buffer provisions were added to the bylaw in 1975, and the current 100, 150, and 200 foot distances are the same as they were then. However, Arlington's zoning bylaw permitted taller buildings in 1975. The R7 and B5 districts had maximum heights of 110', and the PUD district had a maximum height of 200'. Each of these districts were downzoned in subsequent years. R7 was downzoned from 110' to 60' in 1978, the PUD district was downzoned from 200' to 80' in 1982, and the B5 district was downzoned from 110' to 75' in 1987. Mr. Revilak says he researched these changes because he wanted to see if there were any discussions about updating the height buffers when the building heights were reduced.

The height reductions ranged from 32--60%. Mr. Revilak says this is "about half", and he's proposing distances to put the height buffer regulations in line with what they were from 1975--1987.

(Shaina Korman-Houston) Ms. Korman-Houston says she appreciates the history. She believes the proposed adjustments are sensible in light of that history.

(Rachel Zsembery) Ms. Zsembery is in favor of the wording changes, but has questions about the buffer distances. She asks Ms. Ricker if staff can research what other communities have done for height buffers.

The chair opens the hearing to public comment.

(Chris Loreti, Adams Street) Mr. Loreti wonders if the change is necessary, since the ARB can make a finding in favor of the taller height. He thinks that if the board wants to change this section of the bylaw, then they should just take it out. But he'd prefer to see no change.

There's no further comment from the public.

(Rachel Zsembery) Ms. Zsembery says that one of the Board's goals is to make the permitting process more predictable.

Ms. Korman-Houston and Mr. Revilak agree.

(Rachel Zsembery) Ms. Zsembery says that's end of tonight's warrant article hearings.

The board moves to continue the hearing until Monday March 4th. The board will deliberate and vote on March 18th.

Site Plan Review Application Draft

(Claire Ricker) Ms. Ricker says she's been working on the Site Plan Review application with Mr. Benson. She says it's based on the Environment Design Review application, with some changes for clarity.

(Kin Lau, ARB) Mr. Lau says this is a good checklist, but he'd like to see some elaboration on the requirement for a sketch-up compatible model. He suggests alternate wording.

(Rachel Zsembery) Ms. Zsembery asks if we'd want to require models for the Neighborhood Multi-family district, in addition to properties directly on the corridors.

(Shaina Korman-Houston) Ms. Korman-Houston asks if there's a threshold at which the model becomes useful.

(Kin Lau) Mr. Lau doesn't think a model is necessary if an applicant is just reconfiguring an existing building, but they are important for larger buildings with greater massing. He says it's hard to pin down a specific threshold.

(Shaina Korman-Houston) Ms. Korman-Houston asks who will determine when a model is required.

(Claire Ricker) Ms. Ricker suggests that the model could be required when a parcel directly abuts Mass Ave or Broadway, and there might be conversations about this in pre-review meetings.

(Kin Lau) Mr. Lau notes that there's a requirement to show the elevation of each floor. He'd also like to see elevations of surrounding buildings, for context.

(Rachel Zsembery) Ms. Zsembery says that an applicant might not be able to get the access they'd need to measure a neighboring building accurately.

(Kin Lau) Mr. Lau says it's okay if the elevations of neighboring buildings aren't perfect. He wants to be sure the board can get a reasonable view of the context.

(Shaina Korman-Houston) Ms. Korman-Houston says the zoning bylaw doesn't have definitions of "site plan review" and "by right", and she thinks these concepts should be explained in the application. She also suggests clarifying whether deadlines are given in calendar or business days, and calling out the requirements to have affordable units included on the subsidized housing inventory.

(Steve Revilak) Mr. Revilak suggests a small correction on page 1. Overall, he thinks the application provides a good walk-through of the process.

(Rachel Zsembery) Ms. Zsembery notes a typo on page 1, and asks if there should be a definition of "larger project".

(Steve Revilak) Mr. Revilak asks how big a project needs to be before DPCD calls for an inter-department review.

(Claire Ricker) Ms. Ricker says the inter-departmental review usually happens for projects of 20 units or more.

(Rachel Zsembery) Ms. Zsembery notes that pre-meetings are required for projects of five or more units, and suggests making that determination at the pre-review meeting.

There's discussion about where application materials should be submitted.

(Rachel Zsembery) Ms. Zsembery suggests having item 7.1 explain what a staff memo is, and omitting the time limit for public comment from item 7.4. She suggests additional changes to items 7.5 and 8.

There's discussion about what dimensional and parking information should be required for the application.

(Kin Lau) Mr. Lau suggests asking applicants to provide material and color samples for exterior finishes.

(Shaina Korman-Houston) Ms. Korman-Houston notes a tense inconsistency in the first paragraph of item 8.

Open Forum

There are no speakers for tonight's open forum.

New Business

(Claire Ricker) Ms. Ricker has three items of new business. First, her department received a letter of compliance for Arlington's MBTA Communities district. She'll review that letter with the board at a future meeting. Second, she's received a letter from DOER stating that Arlington is eligible to participate in the state's fossil fuel pilot program. Finally, the feasibility analysis for inclusionary zoning is done, and submitted to the Executive Office of Housing and Liveable Communities.

(Rachel Zsembery) Ms. Zsembery says she's spoken with the Chair of the Select Board about having a joint meeting to discuss parking. They're interested in doing this sometime in the summer. The on-street parking pilot ends in June, and that will give the Select Board some data to present.

(Kin Lau) Mr. Lau asks if there's an updating on getting a part time enforcement position.

(Rachel Zsembery) Ms. Zsembery says there have been some discussions about that between herself, Ms. Ricker, and (Town Manager) Jim Feeney.

(Kin Lau) Mr. Lau says he'd like to have a discussion with the Select Board about turning some parking spaces into tree planting areas and rain gardens.

(Steve Revilak) Mr. Revilak says that Somerville did a curbside plan, to look at different ways the edges of the street could be used, and where those uses would be appropriate. This would include things like outdoor dining, tree planting, rain gardens, bike lanes, and pickup/dropoff zones. He'd like to see Arlington do something similar, at least around the three commercial centers.

(Rachel Zsembery) Ms. Zsembery said she and the Select Board chair also talked about how the town's alcohol regulations may be a barrier in certain situations.

Meeting adjourned.