Arlington Redevelopment Board - Feb 5th, 2024
Meeting held at 27 Maple Street. Materials were available from https://arlington.novusagenda.com/agendapublic/MeetingView.aspx?MeetingID=2002&MinutesMeetingID=-1&doctype=Agenda.
Review of Meeting Minutes
The board approved minutes from their January 8, 2024 and January 22, 2024 meetings.
Master Plan Implementation Committee
(Claire Ricker, Planning Director) Ms. Ricker says the Planning Department is looking to establish a new Master Plan Advisory Committee to oversee the upcoming Master Plan update. This project will kick off on Feb 29th, and the department will take applications from March 1st through mid April. The committee is expected to begin work after spring town meeting.
The board votes 5--0 to disband the previous Master Plan Implementation Committee, which was formed to oversee implementation of the 2015 Master Plan.
Board Rules and Regulations
(Claire Ricker) Ms. Ricker tells the board that Mr. Benson drafted new language for Rule 18 (Signs), which clarifies the conditions whereby sign permits can be subject to administrative approval.
(Eugene Benson, ARB) Mr. Benson says he tried to capture what the board had discussed during previous meetings. A sign application will be subject to administrative approval if it meets all of the regulations in the bylaw, and the property has no outstanding zoning or general bylaw violations. It also gives the Planning Department the discretion to refer applications to the ARB, if they feel it would be appropriate to do so.
(Kin Lau, ARB) Mr. Lau notes that signs are regulated by zoning, so enforcement falls under the Inspectional Service Department. He asks if sign regulations could be moved outside of zoning, so they can be enforced by other departments in town. Mr. Lau says that Inspectional Services has a big workload, and he'd like to see more enforcement of the sign bylaws.
(Eugene Benson) Mr. Benson says that moving sign regulations out of the zoning bylaw would mean that the ARB wouldn't review sign permit applications. He suggests having a discussion with the Town Manager and Director of Inspectional Services, as to how we might improve enforcement.
(Rachel Zsembery, ARB Chair) Ms. Zsembery says that the board had talked about a part-time position that would be shared between Planning and Inspectional Services, and dedicated to enforcement. She says there are things that fall through the cracks, because there's not enough manpower to get to them.
(Claire Ricker) Ms. Ricker says that conversations about additional personnel aren't easy to have right now, but she likes the idea of sharing a position between Planning and Inspectional Services.
(Eugene Benson) Mr. Benson says he's noticed plenty of non-compliant signs, and signs that weren't taken down after businesses closed.
(Rachel Zsembery) Ms. Zsembery says the board will need to advertise a hearing, where we'll vote on adopting the proposed changes.
(Eugene Benson) Mr. Benson says he made a change to the draft rule about site plan review, to cover cases where the board might have to reject incomplete applications.
(Rachel Zsembery) Ms. Zsembery would like to hold the hearing and vote at the board's next meeting.
(Claire Ricker) Ms. Ricker says the board has an outstanding goal of updating commercial design guidelines. There is a set of guidelines that date from 2015, but a number of their recommendations don't reflect current regulations. She wanted to have a discussion with the board about this.
(Steve Revilak, ARB) Mr. Revilak says that 2015 is when the existing Master Plan was adopted, and these guidelines pre-date the allowance of mixed-use in the zoning bylaw. The zoning bylaw has requirements for some things mentioned in the design guidelines, like tree planting and facade articulation, but has different requirements in other areas. Mr. Revilak appreciates the guidance that traffic and circulation prioritize pedestrians, then cyclists, then transit riders, and then drivers; he thinks that's the right order. Since we're updating the master plan, it's a good time to revisit and recalibrate the design guidelines.
(Eugene Benson) Mr. Benson says that some parts of the design guidelines don't match with the zoning bylaw. For example, the zoning bylaw requires upper story step-backs on the primary facade, but the design guidelines recommend them on multiple facades. He thinks the design guidelines could say more about architectural elements that aren't going to work. Mr. Benson thinks they can be updated without starting from scratch. He'd also like to see the design guidelines reference applicable sections of the zoning bylaw.
(Shaina Korman-Houston, ARB) Ms. Korman-Houston thinks a marriage of the design guidelines and zoning bylaw would be really helpful. She'd like to get to a place where a developer that who due diligence can present a proposal that's likely to be accepted in a timely manner.
(Kin Lau) Mr. Lau thinks the 2015 design guidelines are a good starting point, but they could be updated. In addition to listing things that are encouraged and discouraged, Mr. Lau would like to see the guidelines call attention to applicable bonuses. He thinks the guidelines will have to be updated outside the ARB, perhaps by a committee.
(Rachel Zsembery) Ms. Zsembery thinks it would be appropriate to update the design guidelines. She hopes we have access to the files used to produce the diagrams. Although they need updating, they're generally good, and it would be beneficial if they could be modified rather than re-created from scratch.
Ms. Zsembery also thinks this is an opportunity to be more explicit about our goals for the commercial areas, for example, regarding the amount of commercial space that's in a mixed-use development. We can also list materials that the board is unlikely to approve. She says it's sometimes a challenge to get from the first design to something the board finds acceptable. For example, the design guidelines could list preferred architectural elements, and recommendations for green building techniques.
(Eugene Benson) Mr. Benson says the design guidelines only mention the word "bonus" once, in a way in which bonuses aren't allowed. He says the guidelines could also reference standards for things like bicycle parking, and parking reductions.
(Steve Revilak) Mr. Revilak believes the single- and two-family design guidelines have been helpful to the ZBA, and he sees value in having a corresponding document for the commercial corridors.
(Eugene Benson) Mr. Benson says we don't have residential design guidelines for things other than single- or two-family homes. He'd like to see guidelines for larger multifamily buildings.
(Shaina Korman-Houston) Mr. Korman-Houston wonders if the guidelines could focus on "main corridors" rather than "commercial corridors", and encompass a wider typology of uses.
(Rachel Zsembery) Ms. Zsembery asks if Ms. Ricker has any thoughts on timing.
(Claire Ricker) Ms. Ricker says she'd like to produce an RFP as soon as possible, probably within the next month or two.
882--892 Mass Ave
(Claire Ricker) Ms. Ricker says she's been in contact with the developer of 882--892 Mass Ave, almost on a daily basis. They've sent information on the exterior paint they're using, and she's had several conversations about the vent louvers, and he's really looking for more information on what the board wants. Ms. Ricker says the regulatory agreement for the affordable units has been going back and fourth between the town and Executive Office of Housing and Liveable Communities (EOHLC). The latest version was sent to EOHLC on January 25th.
(Rachel Zsembery) Ms. Zsembery says she appreciates the follow-up.
(Claire Ricker) Ms. Ricker says the same developer reached out to staff, regarding the work they're doing at 455 Mass Ave. They've provided staff with the drawings approved by Inspectional Services, for comparison with the drawings used in the Special Permit process.
(Wynelle Evans, Orchard Place) Ms. Evans thanks the board for their follow-up on 882--892 Mass Ave. She says she's looked at plans for 192 Mass ave and 455 Mas Ave, and none of the units designated affordable are more than 700 square feet. She says there are already tenants for units at 882--892 Mass Ave, and asks what steps will be taken to ensure the affordable units are compliant.
(Claire Ricker) Mr. Ricker says it's clear to herself and the Town Manager that EOHLC will not be granting size waivers in the future. She plans to bring up the regulatory agreement the next time she speaks to the developer, and work to make sure this doesn't happen in the future.
(Wynelle Evans) Ms. Evans says she supports design guidelines for the main corridors, but doesn't want to exclude multi-family development that's not on the main corridors.
There's no new business to discuss this evening.