Arlington Redevelopment Board - Jul 10th, 2023

Jump to navigation Jump to search

Meeting held in the Arlington Community Center, at 27 Maple Street. Materials were available from

Docket 3756 - 1309-1323 Massachusetts Avenue

This special permit involves the replacement of business signs along a block of Mass Ave in Arlington Heights.

(Claire Ricker, Planning Director) Ms. Ricker explains that Docket 3756 is a sign package. Normally, these are approved administratively, if they meet the by-right regulations in the bylaw. Several of the proposed signs will require relief from the ARB, and that's why the applicant is before the board tonight.

(Bill McFadden, Barlow Signs) Mr. McFadden says the proposal is part of an effort to beautify a group of storefronts. They've already done painting and exterior work, and they'd like a seamless look across all six storefronts. He believes the use is essential to identify each tenant, and easy identification is a benefit to the public. He says the new signs will improve the property, as well as the character of the district. The signs are non-illuminated, have dimensional lettering, and use a consistent color scheme.

(Rachel Zsembery, ARB Chair) Ms. Zsembery is happy to see the investment, and a consolidated sign package.

(Kin Lau, ARB) Mr. Lau asks about the existing window graphics, and whether they'll be taken down.

(Bill McFadden) Mr. McFadden believes they can be taken down.

(Kin Lau) Mr. Lau would like to look at all of the signs on the group of storefronts, not just those in the sign band. He'd like to have a discussion about what stays up vs what comes down. He thinks the signs shown in the renderings don't fit into the sign band comfortably.

(Rachel Zsembery) Ms. Zsembery asks if Mr. Lau is referring to the horizontal or vertical dimension of the signs.

(Kin Lau) Mr. Lau says he'd be okay with relief for width, but not for height.

(Eugene Benson, ARB) Mr. Benson agrees that the new signs are an improvement. He reads the bylaw's requirements for relief: it has to be based on the architecture, location, or nature of use. He asks the applicant what reasons they'd give to justify relief.

(Bill McFadden) Mr. McFadden says it's the size of the signs, and the fact that there are street trees in front of them. The owners would like the size standardized across the sign band. In some cases -- Classic Kitchen, for example -- reducing the size of the sign will make the lettering hard to read. Mr. McFadden says he'd like to avoid people having to squint in order to read the signs.

(Eugene Benson) Mr. Benson suggests the signs have too many letters.

(Bill McFadden) Mr. McFadden acknowledges that several of the signs have multiple lines of text.

(Eugene Benson) Mr. Benson asks if each of the signs are too large.

(Claire Ricker) Ms. Ricker SUSE the application is requesting signs that are 10' wide where the bylaw would allow a six-foot width. They're like the signs to cover the entire width of each storefront. Ms. Ricker says they'll also need relief in the vertical dimension, where the signs take up more of the sign band than is allowed by right.

(Rachel Zsembery) Ms. Zsembery thinks the Classic Cafe sign is too large.

(Steve Revilak) Mr. Revilak believes the signs are too wide, and take up too much of the sign band. He might be okay with 8' widths, but he thinks 10' is too large.

(Rachel Zsembery) Ms. Zsembery appreciates the contrast of the black on white signs. She asks the applicant if they considered different color schemes.

(Bill McFadden) Mr. McFadden says he discussed this with his client. They liked this particular color scheme.

(Rachel Zsembery) Ms. Zsembery isn't in favor of black on white, on a white building. She suggests removing the "walk in only" line from the sign for the Heights Barber Shop. She acknowledges that the Heights Pub was granted relief for height, but she thinks 10' is too wide for the narrower storefronts on this building. She suggests breaking some of the signs into two lines, RB Farina Roofing and RB Ace Disposal, so they can be narrower. She asks whether Classic Cafe will retain their awning.

(Bill McFadden) Mr. McFadden answers in the negative.

(Rachel Zsembery) Ms. Zsembery says the bylaw allows two signs per business. She'd like to have at most one window sign for Classic Cafe.

(Kin Lau) Mr. Lau asks if there will be any lighting on the signs.

(Bill McFadden) Mr. McFadden says they aren't planning on any illumination.

(Kin Lau) Mr. Lau thinks that lights would be a nice touch, but he understands that isn't part of the package.

(Eugene Benson) Mr. Benson is okay with the black on white color scheme, but he doesn't see a reason to approve larger signs than the bylaw allows. He says he's not inclined to vote in favor of this proposal.

(Steve Revilak) Mr. Revilak also wondered about the color scheme. He was going to ask if the applicants had considered other colors, and he understands their preference for black on white. He agrees with Ms. Zsembery's suggestion of re-arranging the copy in order to narrow the signs.

(Rachel Zsembery) Ms. Zsembery says the sign band on this building is narrow, and the applicant doesn't have much ability to remove words. She favors having the applicant meet the requirements for width, and granting relief for height.

There's discussion about how to pull in the width of the signs.

(Kin Lau) Mr. Lau suggests removing the window signs from Classic Cafe, so that people walking by can see in.

(Eugene Benson) Mr. Benson suggests leaving one window sign.

(Kin Lau) Mr. Lau asks if the board would be okay with putting these constraints into the special permit conditions, and allowing them to be approved administratively.

(Rachel Zsembery) Ms. Zsembery says she'd like to do that.

(Kin Lau) Mr. Lau appreciates the applicant's willingness to go with a six foot width.

(Rachel Zsembery) Ms. Zsembery asks if Classic Cafe's sign is supposed to be centered over the door, or between the lease lines. She'd prefer the latter.

The chair opens the hearing to public comment. There is none.

(Rachel Zsembery) Ms. Zsembery believes she's hearing the board concur around the vertical dimensions. She asks the applicants to come into compliance regarding sign width, and alter the lettering as discussed earlier. In addition to the signs in the sign band, there will be one window sign for Classic Cafe.

(Kin Lau) Mr. Lau says Classic Cafe's window signs don't mention the business name.

(Rachel Zsembery) Ms. Zsembery says she's okay with them having one window sign.

(Kin Lau) Mr. Lau would like both of the window signs removed. He thinks they're more like advertising, rather than business signs.

(Eugene Benson) Mr. Benson suggests a finding that the board is granting vertical relief because we feel that it's architecturally appropriate.

(Steve Revilak) Mr. Revilak would like to confirm that the signs will be six feet wide.

(Rachel Zsembery) Ms. Zsembery answers in the affirmative.

(Eugene Benson) Mr. Benson would like something in the conditions that requires the applicants to come back to the board if they want to add exterior lighting.

There's a motion to approve the permit, with conditions. Motion passes, 4--0.

Open Forum

The board approves minutes for their May 15th meeting, by a vote of 4--0.

The board approves minutes for their June 5th meeting, by a vote of 4--0.

Open Forum

(Susan Stamps) Ms. Stamps is a member of the tree committee, and she expresses concern for street trees and open space in the MBTA communities district. She distributes paper copies of a letter that was written by herself and four others. She says the five of them got together because they were concerned about the environmental aspects weren't being considered. She wants to help the town pass this zoning in the fall, but she thinks the proposal needs green zoning language. She'd like provisions for a tree canopy, and publicly accessible open space. She says we're dealing with a warming climate, and it will only get warmer. She says we need plant trees to create refuge spaces for pedestrians.

(Steve Makowka) Mr. Makowka is the chair of the Historic Districts Commission. He's been attending meetings of the MBTA Communities working group, and he feels that historic preservation goals might be getting lost. He thinks the working group should do outreach to the historic preservation community, and he suggests scheduling a working session to discuss the value of historic districts.

(Chuck Carney) Mr. Carney thinks the first map that the MBTA communities working group produced raised a lot of questions, but the second map outlined a better model. He thinks it will inform the basis of a good debate. He asks that more of the modeling assumptions be published, so the public can better understand what's being proposed.

(Claire Ricker) Ms. Ricker clarifies that the model Utile has been using was developed by the state's Department of Housing and Community Development.

(Rachel Zsembery) Ms. Zsembery says she's been asking people to understand that this is an iterative process.

(Eugene Benson) Mr. Benson thinks the MBTA Communities proposal needs to consider historic districts. Regarding green space, he thinks we can discuss alternative approaches to setbacks, which might give Ms. Stamps and her colleagues what they're looking for.

(Steve Revilak) Mr. Revilak notes that the MBTA Communities requirements are about creating the ability to build multi-family housing by right, and DHCD's guidance prohibits us from placing "extra" requirements on these districts, which aren't applicable to other types of by-right housing. He says that's a constraint we have to work within.

New Business

(Claire Ricker) Ms. Ricker says she's been working with the chair of the MBTA Communities working group. The working group will have a joint meeting with the ARB on April 24th, and another public forum on July 25th. She says we have numerous iterations of the district map, but none of these are necessarily the final one.

(Eugene Benson) Mr. Benson asks about notifying property owners in the proposed district.

(Claire Ricker) Ms. Ricker says we don't have a final parcel list. She has sent several announcements to the Town Meeting Member's mailing list, and the latest one lists the precincts that are likely to be affected. She says that Teresa Marzilli is looking at doing a focus group with the Historic Commission, and David Morgan is doing outreach to the Tree Committee and Open Space Committee.

(Rachel Zsembery) Ms. Zsembery asks if anyone has talked with Town Counsel about inclusionary zoning.

(Eugene Benson) Mr. Benson says he hasn't done this yet, but will do so by June 24th.

The board votes to adjourn the public portion of the meeting and move to executive session. From executive session, the board will adjourn for the evening.