Arlington Redevelopment Board - Jun 3rd, 2019

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EDR Docket 3598: 189--191 Broadway. The projects proponents are a veterinary clinic at 191 Broadway. They have an opportunity to acquire an adjacent commercial space at 189 Broadway (formerly Gibbons Electric) and renovate to expand their business. The permit involves a renovation of 191, and combining the facility with 189.

Attorney Robert Annese opens the presentation. The Arlington Animal clinic is currently located at 191 Broadway, and they've been in business since 1975. Most of their clientele comes from the immediate area. The business is located in a B2 district, and abuts an R2 district. They are proposing to acquire 189 Broadway, and are currently under contract with the owner of that building.

The business hours will be 8am - 6pm Mon--Fri, and am - noon on Saturdays. The business currently has no off-street parking; the acquisition of 189 will provide five off-street parking spaces. They plan to add five exterior and three interior bicycle parking spaces. The renovation will not expand the footprint of the building, and will not add new impervious surface.

The project architect continues the presentation. His name is Monty (didn't get the last name). Monty notes that 189 currently has a dumpster, which will be retained and can be screened if necessary. The renovation will improve the facade so the two buildings will look like one. The front door will be recessed, to prevent it from swinging into the sidewalk. The plan is to parge over the current exterior CMUs. The renovation will add a rolled stainless steel sign and lighting for pedestrian access. The garage door on the side of 189 will be retained. We'll add outdoor seating for patrons, and screening and buffering at the rear of the site. There will be no tree removal. The roof drain will stay as-is. A new HVAC unit will be installed on the roof. There's an electrical transformer on the roof, and that will be repainted.

Mr. Annese notes that his clients are acquiring 189 in order to expand their business.

Andrew Bunnell thinks this is a great project. He asks if there will be changes to traffic.

The business owners anticipate some increase in traffic, due to increased demand for services.

Mr. Bunnell asks about off street parking in the area.

Some off-street spots are time-limited, and some are not. There's one handicapped accessible space in front of the building. The owners say that many patrons walk to the clinic.

Kin Lau is supportive of the project, but has a number of questions. He asks about handling of medical waste -- will it be put into a dumpster?

The dumpster is for office trash. Medical waste will be handled separately.

Mr. Lau asks about screening for the HVAC unit on the roof.

The architect says they will consider this.

Mr. Lau asks about roof access. The architect says there will be a stairway and a door that leads onto the roof. Mr. Lau notes that OSHA requirements mandate railings for roof access; the architect acknowledges this. They will add railings.

Mr. Lau asks about soundproofing for the HVAC unit. The architect says this has been taken into account. There are acoustic treatments to direct the sound up rather than outward, and they make a big difference for mechanicals. Mr. Lau reiterates his support.

David Watson likes the project; he thinks it's a good re-use of an existing building. He appreciates the effort to comply with the town's new bicycle parking regulations. He says the outdoor racks they've selected are nice, but has concerns about their placement. He asks if the racks can be move out of the parking lot, and closer to the side door of the building.

Mr. Watson points out that the interior racks will require bicycles to be lifted, and our bylaw prohibits that. He asks the applicants to work with planning department staff to find interior racks that comply with this aspect of our bylaw. The proponents agree to do this.

Eugene Benson asks what's currently on the roof (I think he was referring to HVAC equipment).

The building's HVAC equipment is currently located in the basement. It's a small air handler, which won't have enough capacity for the combined space.

Mr. Benson agrees that the rooftop HVAC unit should be screened.

Mr. Watson asks if the planted area is new.

Yes, it's new. The planting area was added because the bylaw requires a buffer strip between business zones and residential zones.

Rachel Zsembery feels the architect has done a great job at marrying the two building facades, and she appreciates the choice of materials. She asks how reflective the stainless steel sign will be.

The architect says it will be a darker, matte finish.

Ms. Zsembery asks if they were planning to put signs in the door.

They might put branding signs on the door, and perhaps in the front window.

The chair opens the hearing to public comment.

(Catherine Hinton) Ms. Hinton owns the property on the other side of the fence. She's glad to hear the trees are staying. She asks about the type of trash that will be placed in the dumpster.

The dumpster will be used for office trash.

Ms. Hinton asks how loud the HVAC unit will be.

The architect says they'll address screening from an acoustical standpoint, so that sound is dispersed upwards rather than out.

(James Chen) Mr. Chen echoes the concern about sound from the HVAC unit. He asks if there will be changes to the rear of the building.

The applicants aren't planning to add any new openings to the rear of the building. They may cover over a window or two.

(Catherine Hinton) Ms. Hinton asks what will be planted next to the fence at the rear of the property.

The applicants are planning to plant a 5' buffer. They also plan to fix up the fence, because it's not in good condition. The veterinarians say they need to make sure that a dog can't get out through the fence.

Mr. Watson notes a place in the application where the addresses are reversed. The board will correct this administratively.

Mr. Bunnell thinks the board can approve the application with conditions: railing around the roof opening, relocation of bicycle parking, acoustic screening around the HVAC unit, and screening around the dumpster.

Board approves, 5--0.

Egerton/Herbert Green Infrastructure Project. Patrick Herron from the Mystic River Watershed Association presents.

Mr. Herron talks about phosphorous contamination from stormwater runoff. Urban areas tend to have high phosphorous contamination. This comes from sources like soil runoff, pet waste, leaves, and litter. The Mystic River has been adversely affected by phosphorous. He shows pictures of water chestnut overgrowth and a green cyanobacteria bloom. The cyanobacteria blooms are also a public health issue.

The Mystic River watershed covers 62 square miles. Both EPA and the MassDEP list most rivers in the watershed as impaired, due to pollution and a lack of dissolved oxygen.

Pavement is the best predictor of nutrient contamination. Phosphorous contamination comes from every part of Arlington. Not all nutrients come from fertilizer. Most come from organic material and trash.

East Arlington has great soil for infiltrating water, while West Arlington's is poor. This is partially due to the hilly slopes and rock ledges in the west.

In 2013, MyRWA did design work for a stormwater project, and found they could put bio-retention basins at the intersection of streets. The two Egerton/Herbert basins cost \$30,000 to construct; that doesn't include design costs.

The bio-retention basin has a layer of large stone for storing water, a layer of smaller gravel, and a layer of topsoil. It's attached to a catch basin. We'll need hundreds, or perhaps thousands of these to clean up the Mystic river. The current challenge is finding ways to build them inexpensively.

Plants in the bio-retention basin were chosen for their hardiness; we don't want the winter plowing to kill them. This project received a positive response from people in the area. MyRWA has applied for grants, in order to do more of this kind of work.

Kin Lau likes this idea a lot. He asks "if we wanted to encourage this kind of thing, is there a standard we could refer people to?".

Ms. Raitt says the planning department is working on updating the town's stormwater bylaws, along with accompanying guidebooks.

Mr. Herron suggests the Massachusetts Stormwater Handbook as a resource. The current version is dated, but there should be a new one coming out in a couple of months.

Mr. Lau would like to see design guidelines. For example, what size bio-retention basin would one need for a 60,000 square foot parking lot.

Mr. Herron notes that MS-4 requires 1" on-site retention for areas of over one acre. (An acre is 43,560 square feet, so a 60,000 square foot parking lot would be larger than an acre.)

Mr. Benson thinks that public works needs to be part of this discussion.

Mr. Herron states that the first 0.1" of rain carries 90\% of the pollutants; that's the important part to capture. These kinds of green infrastructure projects also need to be maintained.

Someone asks about trash that winds up in the bio-retention basins. Mr. Herron states that people tend to take care of this in residential areas.

Someone asks about salt. Mr. Herron says they address this by planting salt-resistant plants in the bio-retention basin.

ARB Property Portfolio Update. Jenny Raitt presents. The retirement board's lease expires on June 30th. They'd like to stay at 27 Maple Street for another six months, then move to a different space.

Mr. Lau asks if the retirement board is okay with this arrangement. Ms. Raitt says they are. The retirement board will move to a different suite in the building, in order to accommodate construction work.

Board votes in favor, 5--0.

ARB Rules and Regulations Amendment. Jenny Raitt presents. The proposed changes to the board regulations are due to Dover amendment changes in 40A. We'd be adding a rule 19 to the board regulations, and updating the table of contents.

Mr. Benson suggests referencing the ZBL's purpose statement in 19(A). He suggests a wording change to 19(B), and feels that 19(C) needs to be clearer about when appeals are brought to the ZBA or ARB. From a policy perspective, Mr. Benson is concerned about administrative approvals that don't have a public participation component. He thinks there needs to be a public component to the administrative approval, or a way to go before the ZBA or ARB to allow public input.

Ms. Raitt says that town counsel advised against going in that direction, due to the way the law is written, and case law. She's not sure how to navigate Mr. Benson's request.

Mr. Benson says he's not sure how to navigate it either. He'd like to discuss the matter with town counsel, and find a way to consider abutter impact.

Ms. Raitt asks if applicants could be encouraged to notify abutters. Mr. Watson thinks putting the burden on them might be too much to ask.

Mr. Benson asks if there should be timing limits to making a decision. There should be a limit to how long they have to wait.

Mr. Watson believes the appeals process needs clarification, with respect to which board hears the appeal.

Mr. Lau would like to hear town counsel's answers to Mr. Benson's question.

The board postpones further action on the rules change, pending input from town counsel.

Next Steps: Multi-family and Mixed Use zoning. Jenny Raitt has been in conversation with town manager Adam Chapdelaine, regarding the next steps for multi-family and mixed use zoning. Several ARB members have also had conversations with the town Manager in this regard. The current thinking is to focus on three areas:

  • The town's need and demand for housing; all types of housing.
  • The Metropolitan Mayor's Coalition's housing task force. Here, we'd be establishing local goals for housing production.
  • The town's universe of housing issues, and what should be done to address them.

In coming months, Ms. Raitt will have conversations with the ARB to this effect. Mr. Chapdelaine will have similar conversations with the Select Board. There will be a joint ARB/Select Board meeting sometime around September to talk about housing and commercial space, and the two boards would agree on a path forward.

In tandem, DPCD will talk with department heads, and figure out what types of warrant articles need to be filed and what mitigating measures need to be considered. This will be similar to the all-boards meeting held at the beginning of zoning recodification.

Given the timing, it's more likely that we'll bring zoning changes to a special town meeting in the fall of 2020, rather than the next annual town meeting.

We'll try to keep residents engaged along the way. Going forward, we should think about how this engagement process will work.

David Watson likes the process outline. He presumes the joint ARB/Select Board meeting will be open to the public. Mr. Watson wants public feedback, and to make future decisions with the public alongside the board.

Eugene Benson believes this is a good way forward. He has concerns about moving forward on housing without a parallel track for commercial zoning. He thinks we need to focus on the commercial side too.

Andrew Bunnell agrees. We can't lose sight of commercial zoning.

Rachel Zsembery agrees with the need to maintain a focus on the commercial side of things.

Ms. Raitt says the zoning bylaw working group will discuss the Arlington Heights Action Plan at their meeting Wednesday morning. That group is also slated to work on industrial zoning in the coming months. Mixed-use might deserve a separate conversation.

Approval of Minutes. The ARB approved minutes from their April 1st, April 4th, and April 22nd meetings.

Other Updates. The planning department is working on a hazard mitigation plan; there will be a public meeting on this on June 13th. This is an update to the 2012 mitigation plan. The mitigation plan doesn't involve any zoning changes, but there will be stormwater updates. Having an updated hazard mitigation plan allows towns to maintain eligibility for FEMA grants.

Public Commentary. (Don Seltzer) Mr. Seltzer appreciated what Mr. Watson had to say about citizen participation. He believes that we all want the same thing, but have differing ideas on how to get there. He asks "what happened with town meeting", and "why did the Board Reverse some of its decisions".

Andrew Bunnell says the board held a meeting, and voted to reverse their decision on several articles.

Mr. Seltzer asked when this meeting was held.

Jenny Raitt said the meeting was held on April 24th, before town meeting.

Mr. Seltzer asked if he could obtain a copy of any minutes from that meeting.

Ms. Raitt said she could provide the minutes.

(Steve Revilak) Mr. Revilak said the MyRWA presentation was his main attraction for the evening, and he was surprised by the slide titled "East Arlington -- Great for Infiltration". The slide showed east Arlington having good water infiltration properties and west Arlington as the opposite. The difference is due to soil properties. Mr. Revilak mused that someone had installed the town backwards, referring to the fact that the denser parts of town have good soil, and the sparser parts have poor soil.

Mr. Revilak noted a past zoning bylaw assessment, which opined that Arlington's off-street parking regulations led to a proliferation of paved impervious surface. He suggested revisiting the parking regulations regulations, for the sake of reducing the amount of pavement.

(Charles Hartshorne) Mr. Hartshorne agreed, with respect to reducing the amount of pavement in town. His house had a cobblestone driveway when he bought it. He paved it over at some point, and regrets doing so.