Arlington Redevelopment Board - Jun 17th, 2024

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Meeting held at 27 Maple St. Materials were available from

Review Meeting Minutes

The board approved minutes from their June 10, 2024 meeting, 5--0.

Docket 3799 - 5--7 Belknap Street

This is an application for a special permit to build four dwellings.

(Note: although the applicant filed for a special permit, they intended to seek site plan review under Arlington's MBTA Communities multifamily district. Arlington's MBTA district has yet to be approved by the attorney general.)

(Claire Ricker, Planning director) Ms. Ricker said the board considered opening this hearing a few weeks ago, but postponed as there were only three members present that evening. She says the board needs to open the hearing tonight to be compliant with the 60-day window for opening a special permit application.

(Rachel Zsembery, ARB Chair) Ms. Zsembery recalls a discussion about asking the applicant to withdraw.

(Steve Revilak, ARB) Mr. Revilak would prefer to have the applicant withdraw, and submit a site plan review application after the attorney general has approved our MBTA district. He doesn't want to run into time limits if the AG's office takes longer than expected.

(Eugene Benson, ARB) Mr. Benson would prefer to dismiss the application.

(Shaina Korman-Houston, ARB) Ms. Korman-Houston asks what dismissal would mean.

(Rachel Zsembery) Ms. Zsembery says that dismissal means the board wouldn't hear the application in its current form. She'd like this to be the board's standard practice when a wrong application is filed.

(Kin Lau, ARB) Mr. Lau sympathizes with the owner. He asks what would happen if the AG takes another six months? He agrees with asking the applicant to submit, but would prefer to avoid waiting for the AG.

The board continues to discuss the procedural aspects of this case. Several members prefer to wait for the attorney general's decision.

(Eugene Benson) Mr. Benson suggests dismissing the current special permit application, as it is not a special permit use in the district where the property is located.

Board votes to dismiss Docket 3799, 5--0.

Arlington Master Plan Update Advisory Committee

(Claire Ricker, Planning Director) Ms. Ricker says the Master Plan Update Advisory Committee had their first meeting last Thursday, and it went well. They reviewed a roles and responsibilities document, which committee members seemed open to. The committee will need to select two co-chairs. Ms. Ricker says that Mr. Benson and Mr. Revilak attended the meeting, which lasted for about an hour. The committee's first task will be to issue an RFP for a consultant.

Mr. Benson and Mr. Revilak both express interest in serving on the committee. Mr. Revilak says he'd support Mr. Benson's nomination, if the board is limited to one representative.

(Shaina Korman-Houston) Ms. Korman-Houston would support either member.

(Kin Lau) Mr. Lau agrees.

(Rachel Zsembery) Ms. Zsembery asks if the board is limited to having one representative on the committee.

(Claire Ricker) Ms. Ricker thinks it would be acceptable to have two ARB representatives, as the ARB oversees the process and has to adopt the new plan. She says the committee composition was based on the 2015 Master Plan committee.

(Rachel Zsembery) Ms. Zsembery says that Mr. Benson and Mr. Revilak have different interests, and she thinks they'd plug into different areas of the process.

The board votes to nominate Mr. Benson and Mr. Revilak to serve as representatives to the Master Plan Update Advisory Committee, 5--0.

Docket 3801 - 61 Dudley Street

Docket 3801 is a special permit to rebuild a non-conforming single-family home in the Industrial district as a two-family home. The permit is before the ARB because the property abuts the Minuteman Bikeway.

(Claire Ricker, Planning Director) Ms. Ricker says the property is in the Industrial district. The applicants would like to renovate an existing single-family home, and turn it into a two-family. She says that approval will require the board to make several findings, and grant relief from several of the standards in Section 5.6.2. The applicants propose to install two benches behind the property, next to the bikeway. They've done a solar analysis, and found that 50% roof coverage is not feasible. Ms. Ricker lists the findings that the board will have to make. Essentially, the proposal is to convert a single-family dwelling into two-family, with some concessions and findings.

(Mary Winstanley O'Connor, Attorney for the applicant) Ms. Winstanley O'Connor says she's here with Gary and Mark Santini of Santini Realty LLC, and the project's architect. She says the findings under Section 8 are important, and believes the board can grant relief for the non-conformities. The parcel is 6200 square feet, and the applicants feel that is too small for an industrial use. She thinks the standards in Section 5 are intended for industrial uses, not residential. Ms. Winstanley O'Connor thinks that section 8.1.2.B is most applicable here.

(Brian, Architect) Brian says they plan to expand the building, converting it from a single-family to a two-family. They're proposing two driveways. The one on the right is the existing driveway, and they'd excavate a new one on the left. Each unit will have a garage under the living space, which can also provide bike storage. He says it's a symmetric building and the floor plan is mirrored on both sides. He thinks it's in keeping with the neighborhood from a massing and stylistic standpoint. He provides the board with siding samples.

(Steve Revilak, ARB) Mr. Revilak asks which walls of the existing structure will be retained.

(Brian) Brian says they'll retain the south and east walls.

(Steve Revilak) Mr. Revilak says it's more typical for duplexes to have a single, double-wide driveway in the center. He asks why the applicants are requesting a special permit for a second driveway, rather that the single-driveway configuration.

(Brian) Brian says that two driveways will allow them to re-use the existing driveway and garage.

(Steve Revilak) Mr. Revilak visited the site and noticed a large tree at the rear of the property. He asks if they plan to preserve the tree.

(Applicant) The applicants plan to preserve the tree.

(Steve Revilak) Mr. Revilak asks if the applicants would be able to renovate the building by right, as a single-family home.

(Mary Winstanley O'Connor) Ms. Winstanley O'Connor believes they'd still need a special permit for that.

(Eugene Benson, ARB) Mr. Benson asks if there's a tenant living in the house.

(Applicant) The applicants say the tenant bought a house, and will be moving out.

(Eugene Benson) Mr. Benson asks what the tenant was paying in rent.

(Applicant) The applicants say the rent was $2800/month.

(Eugene Benson) Mr. Benson asks if the new units would be sold as condos.

(Applicant) The applicants answer in the affirmative.

(Eugene Benson) Mr. Benson saw something in the application which indicated that the applicants could do solar on 48% of the roof. He asks if they plan to include solar.

(Applicant) The applicants answer in the affirmative.

(Shaina Korman-Houston, ARB) Ms. Korman-Houston encourages the applicants to speak with solar providers, as they might have concerns about condos with a shared roof. She thinks that solar-ready may be a safer bet. Ms. Korman-Houston asks why the applicants are only providing one street tree.

(Brian) Brian says it's because of the amount of street frontage.

(Shaina Korman-Houston) Ms. Korman-Houston asks about the location of the benches, and whether they'll be open to the public.

(Brian) Brian says the benches will be open to the public, but they'll be located off the property.

(Shaina Korman-Houston) Ms. Korman-Houston asks if the architect had any thoughts about adding something to break up the facade.

(Brian) Brian thinks they could break it up by adding box windows.

(Shaina Korman-Houston) Ms. Korman-Houston asks where trash will be kept.

(Brian) Brian expects trash to be kept in the garage.

(Kin Lau, ARB) Mr. Lau visited the site this afternoon, and he thinks the street is more residential than industrial. He agrees with the applicant's idea to reuse the non-conforming structure. He suggests changing the proportions of how the cornices are integrated with the windows; what's on the drawings seems shallow. He asks about a detail that's shown on the side of the buildings, but not on the front.

(Brian) Brian says that was an error of omission.

(Kin Lau) Mr. Lau asks if the building will use heat pumps.

(Applicant) The applicants answer in the affirmative.

(Kin Lau) Mr. Lau asks if the condensers will be located on the sides or rear of the building.

(Applicant) The applicant says they'll go in the rear. They think the best spot would be between the stairs.

(Eugene Benson) Mr. Benson asks if the existing street tree will need to come down, in order to provide the second driveway.

(Applicants) The applicants aren't sure. It's a town tree, and they'll have to figure that out.

The chair opens the hearing to public comment.

(Wynelle Evans, Orchard Place) Ms. Evans says she was on the fence about this project. She likes the mix of residential and industrial on this street, and is mainly in favor. She appreciates that the applicants are preserving the front setback and keeping the trees, but expresses concern about the lack of open space and the 37' height. She thinks the applicants are trying to evade R district regulations, and that they should have gone to the ZBA for a variance first.

There are no more comments from the public.

(Steve Revilak) Mr. Revilak says he's comfortable making the findings required by Section 8.1 and with the request for a second driveway. He's less comfortable with the dimensional regulations and the industrial district standards in Section 5.6.2. Mr. Revilak says the zoning bylaw doesn't contemplate reconstruction of non-conforming single- and two-family dwellings in the industrial district; there are no dimensional regulations for those uses, and the development standards assume commercial buildings. In order to provide relief for the development standards -- like the requirement for 50% transparency on the ground floor -- Mr. Revilak would like to see the building comply with dimensional standards for duplexes that appear elsewhere in the bylaw.

(Mary Winstanley O'Connor) Ms. Winstanley O'Connor says she appreciates what Mr. Revilak is trying to do, but she thinks the dimensional standards for the industrial district should apply here.

(Rachel Zsembery) Ms. Zsembery says she was also struggling with that aspect of the bylaw.

(Eugene Benson) Mr. Benson says this isn't a variance request. He agrees that the Zoning Bylaw doesn't contemplate the reconstruction of single- and two-family dwellings. He thinks the applicants are asking for a lot of relief. Because this is an industrial district, he's not sure whether a duplex wouldn't be substantially more detrimental than a single-family home. He says this hearing would go before the ZBA if the property were located on the other side of the street, and they don't have the flexibility that environmental design review provides. He thinks the bylaw's intent is to provide more industrial use in this district, not residential. Town Meeting decided that artists mixed use was the only residential use permitted in the industrial district. He thinks a duplex could be substantially more detrimental because once it's sold as condos, it's unlikely to change. He thinks this neighborhood should transition from residential to industrial.

(Shaina Korman-Houston) Ms. Korman-Houston says she was struggling with the same things as Mr. Revilak and Ms. Zsembery. She hadn't understood the intent about transitioning the area to more industrial. She says that Mr. Benson's comments about the ZBA were also interesting.

(Rachel Zsembery) Ms. Zsembery also thinks that a two-family could be more detrimental to the neighborhood.

(Kin Lau) Mr. Lau says this is a small lot, and it's located on the fringe of the industrial district.

(Steve Revilak) Mr. Revilak is okay with the change in use. However, if the applicants want the dimensional regulations for the industrial district to apply, he thinks the development standards in Section 5.6.2 have to apply too.

(Eugene Benson) Mr. Benson thinks the board could allow 48% solar, but doesn't have the ability to grant the other forms of relief that the applicant is requesting.

(Rachel Zsembery) Ms. Zsembery feels strongly about shutting down the opportunity for commercial redevelopment.

(Shaina Korman-Houston) Ms. Korman-Houston is leaning against the proposal, due to the potential loss of industrial space.

(Mary Winstanley O'Connor) Ms. Winstanley O'Connor says that her clients looked at the possibility of commercial redevelopment, but the lot is too small. She notes there are houses on either side of Dudley Street. She thinks the lot can't service an industrial use. From a legal perspective, Ms. Winstanley O'Connor doesn't think that a two-family dwelling is substantially more detrimental to the neighborhood.

(Eugene Benson) Mr. Benson doesn't think the board should afford this level of flexibility to the applicant.

The board votes to deny the special permit, 4--1 (Mr. Lau voted in the negative).

Open Forum

There are no speakers for tonight's open forum.

New Business

(Steve Revilak) Mr. Revilak made a trip to Portland, ME earlier this month, and was very impressed with the downtown. He thought it was an example of "before car" architecture, where buildings are right next to each other, and not broken up by parking lots. Mr. Revilak says this led him to download Portland's Zoning ordinance, and look at their parking requirements. He noted that Portland allows a fee in-lieu of parking, where builders can reduce parking requirements by paying into a Sustainable Transportation Fund. The Sustainable Transportation Fund can be used for things like sidewalk improvements, bike lanes, bus shelters -- basically anything except for single-occupancy vehicles and private garaging. He mentions this because the board had wanted to expand the list of transportation demand management options.

(Rachel Zsembery) Ms. Zsembery asks if there's an update on scheduling a joint meeting between the ARB and Select Board.

(Claire Ricker) Ms. Ricker says that meeting will be held in September.

(Kin Lau) Mr. Lau thinks the fee in-lieu of parking works in Portland because it's such a hot market. He's not sure it would work in Arlington.

(Rachel Zsembery) Ms. Zsembery would like to review the memo to Mr. Doherty, regarding the scope of permissible modifications to a special permit. She'd like that to be one of the board's agenda items for July.

Meeting adjourned.