Arlington Redevelopment Board - Jan 24th, 2022
Meeting held via remote participation. Materials were available from https://arlington.novusagenda.com/agendapublic/DisplayAgendaPDF.ashx?MeetingID=1509.
Rachel Zsembery is nominated as board chair. Vote in favor, 5--0.
Kin Lau is nominated as vice chair. Vote in favor, 5--0.
Docket 3665 - 645 Massachusetts Ave
The petitioner is Chase Bank, who wishes to establish a branch at 645 Mass Ave, formerly the site of a Not Your Average Joes restaurant. They're before the board because bank branches of over 2000 square feet require a special permit.
(Jenny Raitt, Planning Director) Ms. Raitt says the applicants have provided updated materials. The changes include new windows, moving a blade sign, adding benches in front of the bank, and exterior (short-term) bicycle parking. At the prior hearing, board members requested information on the business choices behind this branch location; this was not provided in the updated materials.
(Kelly Lynema, Assistant Planning Director) Ms. Lynema points out that Chase has proposed three more short-term bicycle parking spaces than our bylaw requires.
(Robert Annese, Attorney for the Applicant) Mr. Annese introduces several representatives from Chase, and Richard Ramsey the property owner. Mr. Annese says that Arlington has fewer banks than surrounding communities. For example, Lexington has 20 bank branches and Belmont has a similar number. The Leader Bank building across from the High School consists of administrative offices and isn't a branch. Chase has an ATM kiosk, which also isn't a branch. Taking those into consideration, Mr. Annese says that Arlington Center has a total of seven bank branches.
(James Lalli, Chase) Mr. Lalli explains the rationale for putting the long-term bicycle parking space in the employee lounge. It would be a floor-mounted rack in a location that's restricted to bank employees. He's willing to consider alternate locations, though.
Regarding the rear entrance, site constraints will prevent them from making it ADA compliant. An accessible ramp would impede on other areas of the building.
(Robert Annese) Mr. Annese notes that several banks have front entrances, but not a rear entrance like this one.
(Brooke Cabrera, Chase) Ms. Cabrera says that Chase has 29 branches in the Boston market with plans for 56. Regarding the question of "why Arlington", Ms. Cabrera thinks the real question is "why not Arlington". She says the area is heavily trafficked, upper income, there's a good amount of density, and most residents have solid six-figure incomes. Regarding the concern that Arlington is over-banked, she points out that the Chase ATM is just a vestibule, and they'd like more of a presence in town. She says that Belmont has around 20 bank branches, and in her opinion, Arlington is under-banked.
The floor plan has several seating areas. Chase tries to make their locations more welcoming than typical bank branches. Bank of America has 156 branches in Boston, and Chase is trying to be more strategic about where their branches are located. They've opened branches in Roxbury, Dorchester, and Mattapan and tailored their offerings to those low- and moderate-income communities. Chase has continued their expansion efforts during covid, and they encourage people to visit their bank branches. Ms. Cabrera says that Chase prefers to hire within communities. Hiring within the community is usually more successful, because the employees better understand their customers.
(Richard Ramsey, Property Owner) As a landlord, Mr. Ramsey said he did everything possible to keep Not Your Average Joes. Not Your Average Joes determined that this restaurant was under-performing and closed it. Several of his tenants were experiencing difficulties, even before covid. He tries to work with his tenants.
645 Mass Ave has gone roughly two years with negligible or no rent, and he's never asked for financial concessions from the town. He asks the board to approve this application, to allow the on-boarding of a financially viable tenant.
(Robert Annese) Mr. Annese believes there's a fixation that this space should be a restaurant. The landlord has tried to find a restaurant tenant, but without success. Restaurants are not willing to invest right now. Mr. Annese asks the board for a favorable recommendation.
(Kin Lau, ARB) Mr. Lau says he looked at the floor plan and is intrigued by the Layout. He asks about the booths around the area labeled "living room". He'd like an explanation of how the space will be programmed.
(Brooke Cabrera) Ms. Cabrera says they're intended to be like booths in a diner. Each booth will be equipped with a computer, so that customers can talk with employees over a video link. The living room has a couch, again, to be comfortable and inviting. She says the lobby area is a digital access bar with a high-top table.
(Kin Lau) Mr. Lau appreciates having similar windows on the front and side of the building. He thinks the benches and planters are a good addition.
(Brooke Cabrera) Ms. Cabrera says the windows won't be as dark as they appear in the rendering. She says the goal is to make the interior space more transparent.
(Kin Lau) Mr. Lau isn't sure about the long-term bike rack, but he is supportive of the bank. He thinks it will add an anchor to the center. There are lots of restaurants nearby. There's a high concentration of banks in this part of the center, but that's okay. He knows the former restaurant struggled with being empty.
(Eugene Benson, ARB) Mr. Benson also had a question about the bike rack, as long as employees aren't concerned about bringing a bike indoors. He wonders if there's a better place for the long term bicycle spot.
Mr. Benson asks about the number of employees.
(Brooke Cabrera) Ms. Cabrera says there will be 5--6 regular employees, plus a few that float from branch to branch.
(Eugene Benson) Mr. Benson notes that the new version of the application has a different square footage measurement than the original. He asks about the difference.
(Richard Ramsey) Mr. Ramsey says the area is 3800 square feet (this is the number that appears on the current application). He'd initially thought it was larger.
(Brooke Cabrera) Ms. Cabrera says Chase brought in a survey team to measure the square footage.
(Eugene Benson) Mr. Benson would like to get to the issue of whether Arlington is over- or under-banked. He says the board was concerned about there being too many banks in the area, in Arlington Center. He asks why Chase couldn't have a branch in another area of town, like East Arlington or Arlington Heights. He's concerned about having a bank across the street from the civic block. He thinks that could put an extra burden on stores and properties across the street.
(Brooke Cabrera) Ms. Cabrera says that Chase has been targeting this area for 3--4 years. They looked at traffic counts and visibility, and want to make sure the branch is convenient to people's daily needs. This location has good proximity to the CVS, Whole Foods, and Stop and Shop. In the heights, they'd want a location close to Trader Joes.
(Robert Annese) Mr. Annese says this is a business zone, and it can be centralized with a specific type of business. There are an ample number of restaurants in Arlington Center. He says that Chase couldn't find another suitable site, and the landlord hasn't been able to rent this space. He feels the property owner should get some consideration.
(Eugene Benson) Mr. Benson thinks it would be more desirable to have the branch in another area.
(Brooke Cabrera) Ms. Cabrera says that Chase looked at 7--8 other sites in town, and they feel this is the best one.
(Eugene Benson) Mr. Benson asks if the applicants have considered giving up a parking space to fit a handicapped ramp (for the rear entrance).
(James Lalli) Mr. Lalli points out that once you're in the door, there are still several stairs inside the bank itself.
(Kin Lau) Mr. Lau thinks they'd need to take out at least three parking spaces in order to accommodate a ramp.
(James Lalli) Mr. Lalli agrees. He says the rear vestibule isn't large enough for an ADA-compliant ramp.
(Melisa Tintocalis, ARB) Ms. Tintocalis thinks this goes back to the Redevelopment Board's charge as a board. She appreciates that the landlord is trying to find a tenant to fill the space. It's sad to see vacant spaces. For her, the question is whether the adverse elements outweigh the benefits. She says the board has talked about creating more unique types of mixed use, and she's had trouble with the lack of interaction from the bank. She asks what metrics Chase considered when determining that this was a high traffic area.
(Brooke Cabrera) Ms. Cabrera says they used vehicular traffic. They haven't looked at pedestrian counts.
(Melisa Tintocalis) Regarding rents and price points, Ms. Tintocalis asks if rents change as the landlord looks at tenants.
(Robert Annese) Mr. Annese says that this space generated no rent for an extended period of time. He points out that Not Your Average Joes was only paying 6% of their rent before closing.
(Melisa Tintocalis) Ms. Tintocalis acknowledges that the last two years have been challenging. She asks how things were before then.
(Richard Ramsey) Mr. Ramsey says he owns another commercial block in Arlington, and that tenants were struggling even before covid. He's concerned that having too many vacant properties will start a downward spiral. If Not Your Average Joes had a vibrant business, they'd still be there.
The chair opens the public comment portion of the hearing.
(Julie Rioux) Ms. Rioux lives in a moderate- to low-income neighborhood. She says the statements about Arlington being appealing because of it's high-income may not work here. She got the sense that Chase wanted to be praised for providing services to low-income communities in Boston.
(Brooke Cabrera) Ms. Cabrera apologizes, and says that wasn't the message she was trying to convey. She says that community branches will have different focuses, depending on the communities they serve. For example, in lower-income communities, the bank will hold workshops on financial literacy.
(Jonathan Nyberg) Mr. Nyberg thinks it's imperative for us to have viable tenants. You can stop in Arlington Center and do multiple things while you're there. He notes that by having a bank, there will be more parking at night for other restaurants.
(Jo Anne Preston) Ms. Preston notes that we had to go to Sunnyside Avenue to find people that don't make six figures. She asks what services Chase can offer to low-income residents.
(James Fleming) Mr. Fleming says he's frustrated to hear people say that Arlington is over-banked. If we're having trouble attracting restaurants, then we're probably doing something wrong.
There are no more comments from the public.
(missed a minute or two here)
(Eugene Benson) Mr. Benson says he doesn't have a specific concern, but believes that the Zoning Bylaw gives the board broad powers to deny a special permit application if they believe it would cause an excess of use in a particular neighborhood. He thinks that other neighborhoods would be better locations for a bank branch. Belmont and Lexington do have more branches, but this is a short, little area. That said, he won't oppose Chase's application.
Mr. Benson wants to thank Mr. Nyberg for his comments. He says that empty storefronts are not the way to go, and another bank won't be detrimental to this area. It will just be a few banks in one part of Arlington Center. He believes this will be a more convenient location than the heights.
(Melisa Tintocalis) Ms. Tintocalis says she's already stated her concerns about moving forward. She agrees that viable tenants are important, but feels that banks create dead zones for walkability and interaction. She thinks this use could be in the center, on a second floor or on a side street. She's not in support.
(Rachel Zsembery, ARB Chair) Ms. Zsembery thinks that any use will create a dead zone at certain times of the day, with little activation. Depending on the business, there will be times when it's more vibrant than others.
(Kin Lau) Mr. Lau says that not all of Mass Ave is walkable; there are nodes that develop that way and parts that don't. He thinks that not having walkability in some areas is something that people like.
(Melisa Tintocalis) Ms. Tintocalis understands the benefit to Mr. Ramsey, but she thinks he can find a tenant that's not a bank. She wants to stay committed to the goals of the Master Plan.
(Richard Ramsey) Mr. Ramsey says he's been trying to help other tenants survive. Without a bank, it might be years before the space is rented. He thinks that things are getting worse, and not just in Arlington center. In an earlier hearing, Mr. Revilak said he was happy to see a bank go into this space, and he thinks Mr. Revilak was right.
(Eugene Benson) Mr. Benson respects Ms. Tintocalis's opinion. For him, the question is whether one more bank will tip the scales to becoming an excessive use. He doesn't think this bank crosses the tipping point; it isn't one bank to many.
(Robert Annese) Mr. Annese asks if Ms. Tintocalis is interested in hearing other ideas or getting additional information.
(Melisa Tintocalis) For a 3,800 square foot space, Ms. Tintocalis says she'd need to see a revised proposal.
(Robert Annese) Mr. Annese asks "revised how?".
(Melisa Tintocalis) Ms. Tintocalis asks if it would be possible to split the storefront, and do different configurations in each half. She says this is a great property, but once a bank moves in, it's likely to be there for the next 10--20 years. She hasn't heard the public embrace the idea of Arlington Center being a banking district. With a smaller footprint, she might consider another bank.
(Richard Ramsey) Mr. Ramsey asks if it would be possible to discuss another proposal, with different square footage.
(Jenny Raitt) Ms. Raitt believes the board has to take a vote on the current petition. A revised, repetitive proposal could be considered later. She thinks the situation really warrants a different proposal.
(Robert Annese) Mr. Annese notes that a negative decision from the board means he could be prohibited from refiling for two years. He'd prefer to continue, if there's another way to move forward.
(Jenny Raitt) Ms. Raitt believes it's not appropriate for Mr. Annese to talk strategy with the board.
(Robert Annese) Mr. Annese requests the hearing be continued, and that the board not take a final vote.
(Kin Lau) Mr. Lau points out that a bank of under 2000 square feet would be allowed by right. That's basically what we'd get by splitting the space.
There's a motion to continue the hearing. Motion fails 3--1 (Mr. Benson voted in the negative).
There's a motion to approve the special permit application. Motion fails, 3--1 (Ms. Tintocalis voted in the negative).
Housing Production Plan
This is the board's second hearing on the draft five-year housing production plan.
(Jenny Raitt) Ms. Raitt says the housing production plan is a tool to increase affordable and middle-income housing. It establishes goals for the next five years, and it will inform decisions about how the town spends Community Preservation Act and Community Development Block Grant funds. The plan also tries to influence the types of housing produced and to meet Chapter 40B's goal of having 10% of year-round housing on the subsidized housing inventory. Having a certified housing production plan can help the town prevent unwanted 40B projects. Ms. Raitt says there's hasn't been a lot of feedback on the goals, priorities, and strategies proposed in the plan.
If the board adopts the plan tonight, then it will go before the Select Board for a vote. If the Select Board approves, the plan will go to the DHCD for approval.
(Eugene Benson) Mr. Benson appreciates the fact that the consultant incorporated most of his feedback and suggestions.
(Kin Lau) Mr. Lau wants to confirm that the plan is just a plan; adopting it doesn't mean we're actually making changes right now.
(Jenny Raitt) Ms. Raitt says that's correct. Any actions, like changing the zoning bylaw, will have to be approved later.
(Melisa Tintocalis) Ms. Tintocalis says the second draft addressed her issues. She sees it as a handbook for moving forward.
(Steve Revilak, ARB) Mr. Revilak concurs with Mr. Benson. He appreciates the changes made for the second draft.
The chair opens the hearing to public comment.
(John Worden) Mr. Worden thinks this plan will destroy the town as we know it, if it's adopted and implemented. He says it's inappropriate and ridiculous. He notes that page 89 recommends the town conduct a racial impact study. Mr. Worden says he's lived in two neighborhoods in town, and the only impediment that black families have is the price. Mr. Worden thinks that black families have the same opportunity to live here as whites, if they have the money. Mr. Worden says the plan is an insult to the town. He says he's had black neighbors, and they've had no trouble buying a house. He doesn't know what this study is about, and asks "what about discouraging the destruction of smaller more affordable homes?".
(Patricia Worden) Ms. Worden says the plan provides a blueprint for the enrichment of developers, and for environmental destruction. The Master Plan says the only kind of housing Arlington needs is affordable housing, and housing for seniors. She think that any housing produced with the plan will be expensive or moderate income. She thinks it's inaccurate, and thank god it's just a plan. Ms. Worden thinks we should eliminate the goal of complying with MBTA community regulations. She disagrees with how the MBTA community regulations define multi-family housing, because their definition doesn't include two-family homes. She thinks the planning department just wants to add density.
(Stephen B) Mr. B says that Arlington's Zoning Map is inadequate for planning, and that we need to fix the map first. He thinks the plan does too much editorializing; he suggests rewriting to make it more objective. If we eliminate single-family zoning, that will just encourage other families to move in. Mr. B. used to live in Arlington, but currently resides in California where he's a member of a planning board. He notes that California recently did away with single-family zoning, and suggests people can look to California if they want to see what the future looks like. He says that inclusionary zoning increases market-rate costs and displaces potential buyers. He says the Alewife area is a pilot for removing overnight parking restrictions, and making Arlington more like Cambridge and Somerville.
(note: A group of Alewife-area residents have proposed a pilot plan to allow overnight street parking in their section of town. They're presenting their plan at tonight's Select Board meeting.)
(Carl Wagner) Mr. Wagner suggests the board should look at what the housing plan is doing, and whether it's radical. He says that over 60% of Arlington's housing is multi-family, and that our single-family housing is cheaper than other communities. Regarding the elimination of single-family zoning, the consultant said that was about housing choice and not about affordability. It will only provide choice to higher incomes. He says the plan shouldn't offer more choice to higher income households, and that it wasn't approved by any democracy.
(Annie Lacourt) Ms. Lacourt is fully in support of the housing production plan. She thinks it's got the right goals and the right strategies. When she moved to Arlington, she thought her children would be able to see kids from across the economic spectrum. Economic diversity is important. She feels like Arlington is losing housing in the missing middle, and this plan encourages a variety of housing types at different price points.
(Jo Ann Preston) (My zoom client crashed, and I missed the first minute of Ms. Preston's remarks). Ms. Preston thinks we should invest more CPA funds in helping the developmentally disabled. She recommends delaying approval of the housing production plan until there's more information about the contributions of the Arlington Housing Authority.
(Jenny Raitt) Ms. Raitt says she received written comments from Ms. Preston, and made additions to the plan based on those comments. Those changes were distributed to board members this afternoon.
(Karen Kelleher) Ms. Kelleher wants to talk about the plan as a framework. She says the plan has a tremendous amount of information about development and economics, and there are many strategies we can follow. There are three areas she sees as particularly challenging. There's a lack of options for low- and moderate-income households, which make up about 29% of Arlington's residents. There's a lack of housing diversity, and declining class diversity. Finally, affordable housing production in Arlington hasn't kept up with what other communities have done. Affordable housing needs additional funding. Ms. Kelleher thinks that Arlington will continue to struggle if we don't tackle the issue of regulatory reform. She asks the board to take on the leadership challenges described in the plan.
(Don Seltzer) Mr. Seltzer says the housing production plan overstates the number of single family homes in Arlington, and that the R1 (single-family) district is also used for things like churches, schools, and cemeteries. He says that Arlington has hundreds of two-family homes and duplexes. There are hundreds of single family homes being torn down, and they're being replaced by luxury duplexes that are more expensive than the original single-family homes. He thinks the plan fails to make an adequate assessment about school enrollment, and responsible planning should be required to consider that. He says the plan relies on the 2015 McKibben school enrollment projections, which were deeply flawed. Mr. Seltzer says the plan has many good elements, but not rezoning the R0 and R1 (single-family) districts.
(Kelly Lynema) Ms. Lynema notes the written comments that Mr. Seltzer submitted to the board. She says that 44% of Arlington housing consists of single family homes, based on 2019 American Community Surveys from the US Census Bureau. She notes that Arlington has 19 zoning districts. In the R0 and R1 districts, single family homes are the only economic use that's allowed by right. She says there are a lot of ways to slice and dice the statistics. From a pure acreage standpoint, around 75% of our area is used for single-family homes.
(Christian Klein) Mr. Klein believes this is a very important document, and it gives the ZBA some control over how 40B applications are handled. He notes that the policy changes will have to be adopted by town meeting. He wishes we could preserve more two-family homes, rather than splitting them into condos. Mr. Klein owns a two-family home; renting the second unit allowed him to afford it.
(Wynelle Evans) Ms. Evans says there's a lot in the plan to support, and she likes the idea of using Russel Common for something other than a parking lot. She says this plan will allow taller buildings and more density, and that Arlington is already the 12th densest community in Massachusetts. She says that Somerville and Cambridge are more expensive and more dense, and that subsidized housing helps prevent displacement. She thinks that market rate housing causes displacement.
(Jonathan Nyberg) Mr. Nyberg says that Arlington has diversity, but it is changing. We have a limited supply of land. He hopes that fear of change won't cripple our ability to move forward.
(Jennifer Susse) Ms. Susse loves the idea of trying to do something with Russel Common. She says that Arlington is losing economic and age diversity, and that we're not going to stay put. She likes the idea of slow gradual change.
(Eileen Cahill) Ms. Cahill is a professional civil engineer, and she has big questions about how Arlington's aging sewer system will handle having more people in town. She asks the board how they'd account for that. She asks "and what about water, and traffic, and schools?". Ms. Cahill suggests there's stress on the school system.
The chair closes public comment.
(Eugene Benson) Mr. Benson thinks the plan is necessary for the town, even though it isn't perfect.
(Steve Revilak) First, Mr. Revilak wants to point out that we're dealing with two issues here, which are related but not exactly the same. The first is affordability; our housing is expensive. The second is a housing shortage; we've under built during the last few decades, there's not enough housing to go around, and there are bidding wars that drive sale prices up.
Mr. Revilak wants to make a few remarks about the written comments that Jordan Weinstein submitted to the board. Mr. Weinstein's comments contain a table with a list of properties where a single family home was replaced with duplex condos; he hasn't verified this information, and is just taking it as-is.
During the first half of 2021, the median sale price of a single family home in Arlington was $960,000; that's from the housing production plan. He's been watching sales in the last half of 2021 and prices are in line with that. Mr. Revilak says that if you want to buy a single family home in Arlington, you're going to spend about a million bucks, give or take.
Of the 25 duplex condo sales listed in Mr. Weinstein's letter, 10 sold for more than $960,000 and fifteen sold for less. He thought that was encouraging news; it means that overall, these condos are selling for less than the median price of a single-family home. And, you're getting new construction rather than a building that's 50, 70, or 100 years old. A newer building means lower operating and maintenance costs.
Mr. Revilak notes that new condos are certainly less expensive than new single-family homes, which he's seen selling for $1.7M to $2.6M.
He appreciates seeing this data; it's made him more convinced that allowing two-family homes everywhere would be a positive change.
(Melisa Tintocalis) Ms. Tintocalis thinks that this plan is coming out of a democratic process. She notes that the board is approving a plan, and not just a single element.
There's a motion to approve the plan, as amended. Motion passes, 5--0.
Zoning Warrant Articles for 2022 Annual Town Meeting
(Jenny Raitt) Ms. Raitt says the Planning Department is recommending four zoning articles to the board for town meeting. These articles deal with street activation, street tree standards, solar energy systems, and administrative corrections.
(Rachel Zsembery) Ms. Zsembery would like to know when solar energy systems would be required.
(Eugene Benson) Mr. Benson says the main motion will be patterned after a similar ordinance in Watertown. It would be for new construction, or major renovations if the roof has sufficient capacity.
(Kin Lau) Mr. Lau supports the idea, but he'd need to get into the details to say more.
There's back and fourth between some board members, about the wording of the warrant articles.
(Jenny Raitt) Ms. Raitt introduces Christian Klein. Mr. Klein is the chair of the Zoning Board of Appeals and a member of the Zoning Bylaw Working Group. He has several articles to propose, based on cases that have come before the ZBA.
(Christian Klein) Mr. Klein says the ZBA sometimes runs into issues with the zoning bylaw, or finds cases where the bylaw is relying on a particular interpretation. He summarizes the articles he's proposing.
First, some of the ZBA's rules and regulations have been written into the zoning bylaw, and would require a 2/3's vote of town meeting to change. He proposes to strike that section, and notes that no other town board has its rules and regulations codified into law.
Second, he proposes a clarification to the definition of half-story. This would involve a change to the definition, and a new regulation in section 5.3.
Third, he proposes changes to section 5.3.9(A), to clarify how porches are handled.
The fourth article would add language intended to prevent yard encroachment, by repeatedly expanding a porch.
The fifth article would clarify what does and does not count as a large addition.
The last article involves unsafe structures. It would add a provision saying that the director of Inspectional Services has final say over whether a structure is unsafe.
(Rachel Zsembery) Ms. Zsembery says she hopes the ARB and ZBA can work together to make these clarifications.
(Kin Lau) Mr. Lau thinks this a good set of proposals, which will close some loopholes.
(Eugene Benson) Mr. Benson says he's been working with Mr. Klein and (Director of Inspectional Services) Mike Ciampa on one of the articles. They're still figuring out some of the details.
(Melisa Tintocalis) Ms. Tintocalis asks Mr. Klein if he's discussed these articles with Ms. Raitt.
(Christian Klein) Mr. Klein says yes, via the Zoning Bylaw Working Group.
(Steve Revilak) Mr. Revilak was a member of the Zoning Board of Appeals for about a year and a half. These articles represent some of the cases where he found himself scratching his head over how to apply the ZBL to a particular special permit application. He thinks they're good clarifications and refinements.
(Rachel Zsembery) Ms. Zsembery has some questions about the article on porches. She thinks there are a lot of permutations of open, enclosed, and knee-wall porches. She hopes the article will be flexible enough to accommodate them.
Ms. Zsembery asks the board if they should work with Mr. Klein, and submit these articles as their own.
(Kin Lau) Mr. Lau is okay with that, as long as the ZBA agrees with the language of the main motions.
(Eugene Benson) Mr. Benson agrees.
(Melisa Tintocalis) Ms. Tintocalis supports the idea.
(Steve Revilak) Mr. Revilak is supportive as well.
There's a motion to approve filing of these articles. Passes, 5--0.
(Jenny Raitt) Ms. Raitt says there are two committee presentations coming up this week, along with some next week.
(Kelly Lynema) Ms. Lynema says the planning department is submitting a proposal to the CPA committee to assess, prioritize, and digitize old planning records and maps. Some of these documents date back to the 1800s, and are the only copies. They're requesting funding for a preservationist, and will work with the library on how to make the digitized copies available to the public. The request amount is $25,000.
There's also a CPA request for seed money for the affordable housing trust fund (AHTF). The AHTF trustees will develop an action plan with community engagement. Projects would need to qualify under the CPA's definition of community housing.
Central School (Community Center) renovation update/completion
(Jenny Raitt) Ms. Raitt reports that the community center renovations are slowly winding down. Some town offices will move into the building temporarily. There's still work that needs to happen first, and that should wrap up next month. Ms. Raitt says that board members should contact her if they're interested in taking a tour of the new building.
Approval of Meeting Minutes
The board amends and approves minutes from their 12/16/2021 and 12/20/2021 meetings.
(Patricia Worden) Ms. Worden wants to thank Mr. Klein for preparing a warrant article to prevent encroaching porches. Ms. Worden believes there are several false citations in the housing production plan, and would like to take this time to list them.
First, page 85 recommends allowing two-family homes in districts that only allow single-family dwellings. She says the housing plan implementation committee never voted on this.
Second, she disagrees with the recommendation on page 85, that would allow three-family homes and townhouses by right.
Third, page 88 would allow the renovation of pre-existing non-conforming homes in the industrial zones. She says the housing plan implementation committee never voted on that.
Finally, page 89 would increase the amount of land where multi-family housing could be constructed. She claims the housing plan implementation committee never approved this.
(Jennifer Susse) Ms. Susse served on the school committee for six years, and would like to comment on the McKibben enrollment projections. She's looked at the McKibben report a lot, and over the years it's worked surprisingly well. The schools have lost a few students due to covid, and the elementary schools are expected to lose around 300 students during the next few years. She thinks the school district could absorb a few new students that result from a slight change to zoning. She thinks conservative common sense reforms won't require new classrooms.