Arlington Redevelopment Board - Jul 1st, 2019

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ARB Rules and Regulations. The board discussed adoption of rule 19; a new rule that covers review procedures relating to the Dover Amendment. Jenny Raitt informs the board that Chapter 40A Section 3 disallows special permit review for uses that are protected under the Dover amendment.

David Watson asks about turnaround times. What happens if the building inspector doesn't make a decision within 30 days? Eugene Benson and David Watson discuss options. The regulations could take one of three positions: automatic approval, automatic denial, or remain silent on the matter.

Mr. Benson would like the planning department to approve applications; in addition to the building inspector. There's a lot of back and forth about this, particularly in regard to what happens if the building inspector and planning department disagree. Per zoning bylaw, an applicant can appeal the building inspector's decision through the ZBA. There's not a straightforward process for appealing an administrative decision from the DPCD. Such an appeal would likely have to be filed as a grievance with the town manager's office, as the town manager has authority over departmental decisions.

Andrew Bunnell and Rachel Zsembery like the idea of an additional layer of review. David Watson notes that a broader site plan review is allowed, but that process can't be limited to applications that fall under the Dover amendment. Currently, the town does not have a site plan review process.

David Watson is hesitant to about having the planning department make administrative decisions, unless there's precedent for it in other towns. He'd like to see a single process with one decision.

Mr. Benson would like another round of input from town counsel, detailing options for appealing a decision from DPCD.

David Watson thinks it's not necessary for DPCD to give an administrative validation to the building inspector's decision.

Kin Lau likes the idea of letting the building inspector make a decision regarding Dover applicability, and letting DPCD impose "reasonable regulations" as allowed by the Dover amendment. David Watson asks about taking the building inspector out of the loop. He reiterates his concern about requiring applicants to effectively go through the same process twice.

Mr. Benson is inclined to vote against the proposal. He voices appreciation for Town Counsel's memo, but he's concerned about a review process that doesn't involve public input. He's like the ZBA or ARB to make the decision.

David Watson says it sounds like we need a more generalized site plan review.

Ms. Raitt describes how these reviews are conducted today, and it's essentially what's been proposed as rule 19.

Andrew Bunnell asks how often these applications come up. Ms. Raitt says there have been six applications during the last three years. Most of the applications were from pre-schools and faith-based organizations.

Board votes 4--1 in favor of adopting the new rule. (Mr. Benson opposed.)

ARB Goals. Jenny Raitt drafted a list of goals, based on previous board discussions. Mr. Bunnell believes the list accurately captures those discussions, and where the board wants to go.

Mr. Watson would like to emphasize the need for more affordable housing in section 1(a)(i)(a).

Mr. Benson suggests a wording change to 1(a)(i)(a). He'd also like an ARB liaison in the Clean Energy Working Group for 1(a)(v). The Clean Energy Working Group falls under the town manager's office. The board decides that Mr. Benson will act as that liaison.

The board wants to add "Develop Site Plan Review" to the set of goals, suggesting that could be done in tandem with updates to the EDR process.

Board votes to adopt the goals, 5--0.

Arlington Heights Action Plan. DPCD wrote a draft charter for the Arlington Height's Action Plan Committee. If the ARB chooses to form the committee, the charter will appear in the advertisement for committee positions. The committee openings would be formally advertised.

Kin Lau asks for clarification on the area referred to in the action plan. It's from Appleton Street to the Lexington border.

Board votes in favor of forming the committee, and advertising the positions, 5--0.

Fair Housing Training. The meeting is running behind schedule. The training will take a full hour, and Ms. Raitt suggests postponing it until a later time. The board agrees.

Approval of Minutes. The board approves minutes from April 24th, May 20th, and June 3rd. There are a number of corrections to the June 3rd minutes.

Public Forum. The board opens the meeting to public comment.

(Don Seltzer) Mr. Seltzer asks for a clarification on the Arlington Heights action plan. Are the Arlington Heights Zoning Recommendations different from the action plan?

Ms. Raitt says no, the action plan and proposed zoning changes come from the same document.

Mr. Seltzer believes the action plan is disingenuous and misrepresents the amount of work that's been done. Mr. Seltzer would like the committee to act as if they're starting the process from the very beginning. He doesn't want the committee taking input from a state agency (Mr. Seltzer is referring to MAPC, who worked with the town in drafting the Arlington Heights action plan).

(Joanne Preston) Ms. Preston echoes Mr. Seltzer's statements. She wants to see more public input in the Arlington Heights action plan. She suggests adding a representative from the tree committee and more than two residents.

(Beth Malofchik) Ms. Melofchik echoes the previous statement of concerns regarding the Arlington Heights action plan committee. She thinks we have too much housing, and not enough commercial space. She also urges the board to address the risk Ash Borer Beetle infestation, and to do something about knotweed growth along the bike path.

(Steve Revilak) Mr. Revilak applauds the board for adopting section 1(a)(i)(a) of their goal statement. He then asks the board to consider post-disaster redevelopment plans for the town. By way of example, approximately 650 Arlington households had active flood insurance policies as of last summer; that's probably a good proxy for the number of homes in the 1% flood hazard area. With climate change, it's very likely that some number of those homes will be damaged or destroyed in coming decades. Mr. Revilak believes we should think through this scenario before it happens, rather than afterwards. There are a number of options available. We could put additional regulations on the reconstruction of flood-damaged homes. Or, the town could use eminent domain to purchase at-risk properties, tear the buildings down, and replace them with green infrastructure. This would be equivalent to facilitating the relocation of several hundred households from a high-risk area to a low-risk one.

Following public comment, the board briefly re-opens the discussion on the Arlington Heights action plan committee, to broaden the number of committee seats available.