Arlington Redevelopment Board - Jul 24th, 2023

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

Review Meeting Minutes

The board approved minutes from their Feb 27, April 3, and June 26 meetings, by votes of 4--0.

MBTA Communities Discussion

This is a working session between the Arlington Redevelopment Board and the MBTA Communities Working Group.

(Claire Ricker, Planning Director) Ms. Ricker says that Mr. Lau has been working with a consultant on a 3D model of Mass Ave, and he'd like to show this to the board.

(Kin Lau, ARB) Mr. Lau has been working on the model with an architect named Jie (?). They display the model rendering of Mass Ave and Broadway. It's a massing model that shows the envelope of each building. The CAD program that created the model allows one to view things from different perspectives and different positions. He and Jie started filling in parcels to show maximum build-out under the proposed MBTA multi-family zoning. He doesn't expect everything to eventually be built out to the max, and redevelopment that does happen will take place over a long period of time. He says the goal is to portray massing.

(Rachel Zsembery, ARB Chair) Ms. Zsembery agrees that the changes will take time. She thinks it would be possible to make some educated guesses as to what 10% or 20% build-out would look like, to show changes over some number of years.

(Steve Revilak, ARB) Mr. Revilak appreciates the work. He thinks it's a useful way to present existing conditions and how they might change. It's far less abstract than a textual description.

(Sanjay Newton, MBTA-C WG Chair) Mr. Newton asks if it would be possible to add more detail to the model.

(Kin Lau) Mr. Lau says yes, but it would take time

(Sanjay Newton) Mr. Newton asks if its possible to include trees.

(Kin Lau) Mr. Lau says some parts of the model have this information, and some don't. It depends on what the different parts have been used for in the past.

(Jie, Architect) Jie suggests using 2D trees rather than 3D, to keep the model size down.

(Kin Lau) Mr. Lau says these are all great ideas, depending on how much time and resources we have to invest.

(Eugene Benson, ARB) Mr. Benson sees things like windows and doors as elements that make a streetscape interesting, but we don't have them in this model. He's concerned that town meeting might see this and think we're planning to have buildings with blank walls. He thinks more details will make for a better presentation.

(Claire Ricker) Ms. Ricker says we showed an updated map on July 18th with some small refinements, mostly cleaning up edges along Broadway, Arlington Center, and the heights. She says the map represents the working group's votes: 4 stories, and a parking minimum of zero. In the Mass Ave and Broadway districts, the working group recommends height bonuses for ground floor commercial and additional affordable housing. There have not been any bonuses discussed for the neighborhood residential district.

(Rachel Zsembery) Ms. Zsembery says it's nice to see policy recommendations coming out of the working group. She asks if the working group considered 3 + 1 or 3 + 2 story bonuses, where the extra stories had to be used for commercial (i.e., bonuses that would provide additional residential).

(Kin Lau) Mr. Lau says the working group didn't discuss having more than one story of commercial.

(Rachel Zsembery) Ms. Zsembery thinks a two-story bonus for two stories of commercial would make it worthwhile.

(Kin Lau) Mr. Lau notes that the working group did favor a parking minimum of zero.

(Sanjay Newton) Mr. Newton wants to share a piece of advice that Utile gave the working group: be sure you're happy with what's allowed by right, because some builders will do that, rather than opting for a bonus.

(Laura Wiener, MBTA-C WG) Ms. Wiener says she thought the goal of Section 3A was to get housing, rather than office space.

(Eugene Benson) Mr. Benson thinks it would be a mistake to eliminate parking minimums. He'd prefer to have the minimum of one space/dwelling, with an option to reduce parking requirements by 75% via a transportation demand management plan. Mr. Benson also suggests changes to the setbacks. He'd prefer to see a 15' front setback, but allow 0' where there's ground floor commercial.

(Kin Lau) Mr. Lau says the working group had discussions about trees, and possibly removing street parking spaces to provide room for tree planting.

(Sanjay Newton) Mr. Newton says that Utile advised the group not to add too many extra open space regulations.

(Rachel Zsembery) Ms. Zsembery thinks that a tree requirement would be best as a separate article, so that it applied everywhere.

(Eugene Benson) Mr. Benson appreciates that the map doesn't use any commercial parcels, nor any parcels under consideration for the Arlington Heights Business District. He mentioned townhouses to Mr. Newton, suggesting 20' rear setbacks, 5' side setbacks, and three stories. He thinks townhomes would make sense in the neighborhood residential district, rather than on Mass Ave and Broadway. Mr.

Benson asks about the boundaries along the corridors.

(Claire Ricker) Ms. Ricker says it's a 350' wide band, around the center-line of each street.

(Eugene Benson) Mr. Benson points out an odd boundary on Allen St.

(Kin Lau) Mr. Lau acknowledges the area Mr. Benson is referring to. He says he missed that.

There's discussion about dimensional regulations. The working group has preferred to stick with height, setbacks, and parking. They're not recommending FAR, GFA limits, or Open Space requirements.

(Rachel Zsembery) Ms. Zsembery asks about including areas along Route 2, like Frontage Road.

(Sanjay Newton) Mr. Newton says the working group decided to focus more on transit accessible locations.

(Rebecca Gruber, MBTA-C WG) Ms. Gruber says the route 2 area wasn't discounted; the group wanted to focus on areas near existing businesses.

(Eugene Benson) Mr. Benson thinks that's consistent with the concept of 15-minute neighborhoods.

(Kin Lau) Mr. Lau wants to talk about setback regulations for corner lots. A corner lot has two front setbacks and two side setbacks -- there's no rear yard. He'd like to see how the board feels about transitioning from a corner property, to the next property in.

There's discussion of setbacks on corner lots, transitioning from mixed-use with 0' setbacks, and how to transition from mixed use on a corner lot, to an abutting residential property. The board agrees that this is an important topic, because of the large number of corner lots in the proposed multi-family district.

(Steve Revilak) Mr. Revilak notes that, at the prior working session, the ARB asked the working group to leave space around smaller business districts and parcels, to facilitate parcel consolidation and future expansion of the business districts. The working group discussed this request, and felt that the ARB was better suited to make those finer detailed changes. That's why the request isn't reflected in the map.

(Rachel Zsembery) Ms. Zsembery says that she and Mr. Benson will do a walk through of some of these areas.

(Rebecca Gruber) Ms. Gruber asks a question about parcels along commercial-to-residential transition areas.

(Rachel Zsembery) Ms. Zsembery thinks we need to walk the area.

There's discussion about front yard setbacks, and doing bump outs into the parking lane in order to plant trees. Ms. Zsembery would like the working group to continue their discussion about front setbacks.

There's discussion about base heights, bonuses, and having a maximum number of stories allowed.

Open Forum

(Wynelle Evans) Ms. Evans wants to go back to Mr. Benson's comment about trees. She heard Utile say that a 10' setback wasn't large enough for a shade tree. She wants to propose a different approach: the Kenwood apartment is eight stories tall with a 30' front setback, and this doesn't feel oppressive. Ms. Evans says she sent the ARB invitations to visit her street. She's concerned about how the multi-family zoning will affect private ways a non-conforming lots. Her street has several 3800 square foot lots, and there's not enough parking. Ms. Evans says there has to be a way to do a parcel by parcel visit.

(Susan Stamps) According to Ms. Stamps, Utile said that shade trees need at least a 15' setback. Ms. Stamps is a member of a group called Green Streets Arlington. She supports having more multi-family housing, but there's nothing in this zoning about climate change. She says we need to fill in the gaps, and that trees are a must have. She says that trees absorb water, carbon, and pollutants; they provide shade, habitat, and reduce energy usage. She's like to have the Town Engineer and Tree Warden consulted about the maps, and she believes the MBTA Communities zoning will only pass town meeting if there are regulations for trees.

(Elisabeth Carr-Jones) Ms. Carr-Jones is part of a group called Green Streets Arlington. She says that Arlington residents have given high priority to environmental goals, and we must ensure that Arlington is developed in harmony with the natural environment. She says that planting and replacing trees is important. Climate change is very important, and the Housing Production Plan states a priority of providing equitable access to green space. Trees are also a main provider of species.

(Bryan McBride) Mr. McBride says the consideration of habitat is necessary, and not a cover for nimbyism. He took pictures of different buildings with different setbacks. Mr. McBride says he likes places with 25--30' front yard setbacks. He thinks that 15--20' setbacks are fringe, and that 15' is really the minimum for a successful tree. Mr. McBride says he wouldn't want to live in an area with less than 10' setbacks -- that would be too urban for him. He says that setbacks aren't an architectural term, they're a way of life.

(Alan Carr-Jones) Mr. Carr-Jones says there are things he'd like to have, but can't be required. He as six suggestions, because he doesn't want new homes to be second-class citizens, relative to existing homes. His suggestions are: (1) larger setbacks, (2) easements for public access, (3) planting of trees, shrubs, and natives in pollinator corridors, (4) green parking lots, (5) reducing the size of parking lots, and (6) incentives for more green space on larger projects.

(Mary Ellen Aronow) Ms. Aronow is also a member of Green Streets Arlington. She thinks there are gaps in the multi-family zoning. She thinks we need to include climate mitigation plans, and she asks the ARB to bring a package to town meeting with these elements. For example, requirement for shade tree coverage, trees in setbacks, and screening between properties. Things to enhance the environment and streetscape.

(Keith Snedly) Mr. Snedly is on the tree committee. Mr. Snedly says he's a data guy. There was a tremendous storm in 2021 and we got something like 4" of rain. We have lots of local weather monitoring, lots of heavy precipitation, and warmer weather. He says we all have to worry about warmer weather. He says that GIS maps of heat islands in town are similar to the proposed multi-family district. Mr. Snedly says he wants to plant trees in these areas. He wants to do housing and increase the tree canopy.

(Chuck Carney) Mr. Carney has two suggestions. The first is to reinforce green space, and he suggests doing this by increasing setbacks. The second involves incentives. Mr. Carney thinks that different incentives might compete with one another, so it's worth scenario planning. He's also concerned about unintended consequences of things like empty storefronts.

New Business

(Claire Ricker) Ms. Ricker wants to give the board an update about the timing of town meeting. The select board had been considering October 16. Now, they're considering October 23rd, or perhaps after the override election. She says we can submit a copy of our proposed zoning for pre-adoption review, and that should allow it to be certified more quickly. She hopes to send the state a package by the third week in August.

(Eugene Benson) Mr. Benson says we need to have a discussion about the actual zoning language, and how the new district will relate to the existing zoning.

(Kin Lau) Mr. Lau asks if there's follow up on the question of inclusionary zoning outside the special permit process.

(Eugene Benson) Mr. Benson spoke with Town Counsel, who believes we can do inclusionary zoning outside of a special permit process.

(Claire Ricker) Ms. Ricker notes that we'll need to make a feasibility analysis. She has to see what the state requires for this.

(Rachel Zsembery) Ms. Zsembery says she'll send the Select Board a list of zoning articles that the redevelopment board is considering, outside of Section 3A.

Meeting adjourned.