Arlington Redevelopment Board - Mar 18th, 2024

Jump to navigation Jump to search

Meeting held at 27 Maple Street. Materials were available from

Review Meeting Minutes

The board approved minutes from their March 4, 2024 meeting, 5--0.

Warrant Articles for 2024 Town Meeting

(Rachel Zsembery, ARB Chair) Ms. Zsembery opens Article 31 for public comment, since the petitioner sent their certified letters about the map change after the previous hearing.

No one wishes to speak to Article 31, so public comment is closed.

Now, the board will deliberate and vote on recommendations for this year's zoning articles.

(Rachel Zsembery) Ms. Zsembery says the board will deliberate on each article, and then vote. She notes that board comments will shape the initial draft of the ARB's report to town meeting, and she encourages board members to articulate their points of view.

Article 25 - Building Definitions

Article 25 proposes changes to the definitions of "building, attached" and "building, detached".

(Kin Lau, ARB) Mr. Lau says this is a clerical change that clears up an ambiguity.

(Rachel Zsembery, ARB Chair) Ms. Zsembery notes that this article was discussed by the ZBA before it was brought to the ARB.

(Shaina Korman-Houston, ARB) Ms. Korman-Houston thinks this is a sensible clarification.

(Eugene Benson, ARB) Mr. Benson says he discussed this change with ZBA Chair Christian Klein and Director of Inspectional Services Mike Ciampa. The issue with the existing definitions is that some buildings are neither attached nor detached.

(Steve Revilak, ARB) Mr. Revilak thinks it's important to make these kinds of clarifications to the bylaw, so that it's easier to interpret and apply.

The board recommends favorable action on Article 25, 5--0.

Article 26 - Administrative Clarification

Article 26 would have section 5.4.2.A cite section 5.9.2.B(1)(e).

(Kin Lau) Mr. Lau is in favor of this article.

(Shaina Korman-Houston) Ms. Korman-Houston agrees.

(Eugene Benson) Mr. Benson says this article came from the ZBA chair, to make the bylaw clearer and easier to reference. He notes that we'll need to ask the moderator to take Article 27 before Article 26.

(Note: the proposed citation would refer to numbering that Article 27 proposes to change).

(Steve Revilak) Mr. Revilak supports the article.

The board votes to recommend favorable action on Article 26, 5--0.

Article 27 - Administrative Correction

Article 27 proposes to change a bulleted list in Section 5.9.2.B(1) into an enumerated list.

(Kin Lau) Mr. Lau thinks this makes the code easier to follow.

(Eugene Benson) Mr. Benson notes that this article also originated with the ZBA.

(Steve Revilak) Mr. Revilak believes this change will make it easier to cite individual elements of 5.9.2.B(1). He wants to offer a clarification, based on a correspondence to the board. A resident wrote to the board, expressing concern about allowing accessory dwelling units (ADUs). Mr. Revilak says that Arlington's Zoning Bylaw allows ADUs, and has for several years. Article 27 is simply taking an existing section of the bylaw, and changing a bulleted list to an enumerated one.

The board votes to recommend favorable action on Article 27, 5--0.

Article 28 - Delete Inland Wetland District

Article 28 proposes to remove Section 5.8 Inland Wetland District from the zoning bylaw.

(Kin Lau) Mr. Lau agrees with the article.

(Shaina Korman-Houston) Ms. Korman-Houston understands that the Conservation Commission's concerns were about jurisdiction, and she wants to make sure the most current and stringent regulations are followed. She notes that (Environmental Planner) David Morgan said that removing this section will not weaken environmental protections.

(Eugene Benson) Mr. Benson says that the ZBA asked to have this section removed from the bylaw, and that the town's conservation agent assured us that the Conservation Commission, through state and local regulations, covers the same ground. He thinks this section might have been necessary at the time it was added to the bylaw, but it's superfluous now.

(Steve Revilak) Mr. Revilak believes the Conservation Commission is the most appropriate body to handle issues relating to wetlands, and removal of this section will clarify which body has jurisdiction. Mr. Revilak wishes to acknowledge David Morgan for his work, and he thanks the Conservation Commission for their support of Article 28.

The board votes to recommend favorable action on Article 28, 5--0.

Article 29 - Reduced Height Buffer

Article 29 proposes to change the bylaw section that governs reduced height buffers.

(Steve Revilak) After the board's earlier hearing on this article, Mr. Revilak went back and compared the current section of the bylaw with the special town meeting warrant from October 1975, when the zoning bylaw was rewritten. Mr. Revilak says there have been two changes to the section on height buffers -- the mention of the R0 and OS districts -- neither of which existed back in 1975. In particular, the buffer distances have never changed.

Arlington allowed taller buildings in 1975, but the height limits were reduced in downzoning that took place during subsequent years. Mr. Revilak researched this because he wanted to see if the height buffers were discussed during those downzonings, but the topic seems not to have come up. He thinks this had led to an internal inconsistency in the bylaw.

Mr. Revilak recalls the board discussing what the buffer distances should be. He thinks there's a reasonable justification for the distances he's proposed, but is open to other suggestions.

(Eugene Benson) Mr. Benson says this part of the bylaw is important for cases where two different heights are allowed. The buffers are intended to prevent shadows, and lower heights create smaller shadows. He says the board always had the ability to allow the taller height, and this adds a bit more certainty going forward.

(Shaina Korman-Houston) Ms. Korman-Houston asks about the number of parcels that would be affected.

(Steve Revilak) Mr. Revilak says that's a good question, but he's never counted them.

(Eugene Benson) Mr. Benson says "not very many". In the context of reducing height limits, reducing the buffer makes sense. He thinks the middle adjustment is more appropriate.

(Kin Lau) Mr. Lau agrees. He says it's a proper adjustment for something that was left out.

(Rachel Zsembery) Ms. Zsembery asks Ms. Ricker about staff's research into what neighboring communities do.

(Claire Ricker, Planning Director) Ms. Ricker says that staff's research was done with respect to rear yard setbacks, and the distances proposed were intended to reflect the setbacks. She thinks they jibe with what other communities are doing.

(Eugene Benson) Mr. Benson says the buffers apply when going from a three-story building to four stories, or from four stories to five stories, depending on the zoning district.

The board votes to recommend favorable action on Article 29, 5--0.

Article 30 - Shaded Parking Lots

Article 30 proposes to add shade tree requirements for parking lots with more than 25 spaces.

(Kin Lau) Mr. Lau thinks these requirements will be too much of a burden on property owners and developers that want to improve their properties. He says that special permit applicants don't push back when the board asks them to add trees. He thinks this isn't a good amendment, which will make it harder for owners to make improvements.

(Rachel Zsembery) Ms. Zsembery thinks the article is too prescriptive, and she feels like it's a solution in search of a problem. She's in favor of adding landscaping to parking lots, but thinks the distances are too prescriptive.

(Shaina Korman-Houston) Ms. Korman-Houston thinks there are appropriate concerns about heat islands and runoff. She appreciates the applicant's flexibility in working with the board. She'd be comfortable moving forward with the article, but recognizes the concern about it's prescriptiveness.

(Eugene Benson) Mr. Benson asks staff to display the photo of the Whole Food's parking lot that he submitted. He notes that it's ringed with trees on two sides, and portions of the parking lot are shaded. During the summer, the shaded spaces tend to be taken first. Mr. Benson says that zoning to reduce heat islands benefits all of us, and the article was modified to allow the ARB to account for the effect of existing trees. He says that adding certainty to the process is beneficial and thinks the article has an appropriate level of prescriptiveness. This is similar to parking lot requirements in the industrial district, and 8% of the parking lot has to be landscaped anyhow.

(Steve Revilak) Mr. Revilak says the board usually doesn't see projects with parking lots of this size, but such properties are out there, and someone might want to redevelop one of them in the future. He thinks the shade tree requirements will help to limit heat islands in the future.

(Kin Lau) Mr. Lau thinks the Whole Foods parking lot is a good case for this, but notes that it's only one parking lot. He says that underground parking is much more expensive, and feels the board does a good enough job with trees when we get these projects. He's trying to have a balance with future renovations, but thinks this will create a burden that makes it harder for the town to move forward. Mr. Lau thinks it would be better to address existing heat islands.

(Rachel Zsembery) Ms. Zsembery notes that the board wanted to talk about parking in general this summer. She still thinks the article is too prescriptive, and would prefer to look at shading in concert with the other parking review.

(Eugene Benson) Mr. Benson says that parking lots with more than 25 spaces are already required to devote 8% of the area to landscaping. He sees the shading requirements a a minor burden at most. The bylaw already has a provision that requires planting of street trees, and feels this can go ahead now.

(Shaina Korman-Houston) Ms. Korman-Houston says she reads the bylaw as allowing trees to be planted in the 8% landscaped space. She asks Mr. Benson if he agrees.

(Eugene Benson) Mr. Benson answers in the affirmative.

The board votes to recommend favorable action on Article 30, 3--2. (Mr. Lau and Ms. Zsembery voted in the negative).

Article 31 - Add 5--7 Winter St. to MBTA Neighborhood District

This article proposes to add 5--7 Winter Street to the MBTA Communities Neighborhood Multifamily District.

(Kin Lau) Mr. Lau says the board tried to leave historic buildings alone when mapping out the MBTA Communities districts. As the proponent noted, some historic buildings were included because the town doesn't have a comprehensive list of what's on the various historic inventories. He's in favor of the article, based on the owner's request.

(Shaina Korman-Houston) Ms. Korman-Houston thinks the site is reasonable and appropriate. She believes that the town's demolition delay provides a sufficient level of protection.

(Eugene Benson) Mr. Benson agrees with the substances of the article, but opposes it due to a procedural defect. Mr. Benson says the petitioner didn't send abutter notifications by registered mail until after the public hearing. He acknowledges that Ms. Zsembery communicated with Town Counsel on this matter, but notes that the Board's agenda didn't specifically say that we'd be taking public comment on Article 31 tonight. He suggests that Mr. Leone send another set of notices, and that the board provide another opportunity for public comment at their next meeting.

(Steve Revilak) Mr. Revilak supports adding 5--7 Winter Street to the neighborhood multifamily district. He notes that several abutting properties are already part of that district.

(Rachel Zsembery) Ms. Zsembery notes that the board's next meeting is scheduled for April 1st, and that reports to town meeting are due on April 8th. Regarding Mr. Benson's request, she's not sure the calendar is on our side.

(Kin Lau) Mr. Lau asks if Town Counsel was okay with having this article go forward.

(Rachel Zsembery) Ms. Zsembery believes that Town Counsel was satisfied.

(Eugene Benson) Mr. Benson reads a portion of Town Counsel's letter. He feels that the petitioner did not provide abutters with adequate opportunity for public comment. He suggests we prepare the rest of the report for April 1st; we can change the report if comments from abutters change our minds.

(Claire Ricker) Ms. Ricker says she'd want to verify that accepting comments on April 1st won't cause us to violate the 65 day limit to close the hearing.

(Rachel Zsembery) Ms. Zsembery believes the requirements have been met, but she respects the differing views.

(John Leone, Petitioner) Mr. Leone says he read the bylaw as a requirement to send notices before town meeting. Abutters are residents, and they're entitled to speak there. He says that he spent over $100 dollars sending notices by certified mail, and asks the board to proceed.

(Shaina Korman-Houston) Ms. Korman-Houston thinks we can move forward, if Town Counsel was comfortable.

The board votes to recommend favorable action on Article 31, 4--1 (Mr. Benson voted in the negative).

Article 32 - Traffic Visibility

Article 32 proposes a change to section 5.3.12.A, which governs traffic visibility around corners.

(Eugene Benson) Mr. Benson says he wrote to the director of Inspectional Services with two questions. The first asked which was the correct line -- the property line or the curb. Mr. Ciampa agreed that it was the property line and not the curb -- unless the curb happens to be the property line. The second question asked about the proposal, and Mr. Ciampa was concerned that a fence which was transparent when installed might not stay transparent over time. He suggested a change to the language of the main motion, and the petitioner adopted something similar.

(Steve Revilak) Mr. Revilak says there are two subsections in 5.3.12, one that governs visibility around corners and one that governs visibility at the front of properties. The latter has a performance standard for visibility, and the former currently does not. Mr. Revilak understands the concern that Inspectional Services raised, but he feels the visibility standard is appropriate in both places, and helps to clarify the intent of the bylaw. He'd prefer the language that Inspectional Services suggested, if the petitioner is amenable.

(Shaina Korman-Houston) Ms. Korman-Houston says the language about vegetation always made her a little nervous. She thinks a fence is more likely to stay transparent over time, and the opposition from Inspectional Services gives her pause.

(Rachel Zsembery) Ms. Zsembery agrees with Ms. Korman-Houston. She's also given pause by Inspectional Services' opposition.

(Kin Lau) Mr. Lau is concerned that "transparent enough" isn't specific enough. He'd like to see the transparency requirement expressed as a percentage.

(Eugene Benson) Mr. Benson suggests alternate language. He doesn't think the board is in a position tonight to know what percentage of transparency is appropriate.

There's back and fourth discussion among members of the board.

(Caitlin Monaghan, Petitioner) Ms. Monaghan says she's okay with Mr. Benson's wording. She'd also be comfortable with a 90% transparency requirement.

(Rachel Zsembery) Ms. Zsembery says she's not comfortable with specifying a percentage right now.

(Kin Lau) Mr. Lau says he'd need a percentage to be supportive of the article.

(Shaina Korman-Houston) Ms. Korman-Houston says she can't be supportive without more emphatic support from Inspectional Services.

(Rachel Zsembery) Ms. Zsembery says it would be hard for her to support the article without support from Inspectional Services.

The board votes to recommend no action on Article 32, 3--2 (Mr. Benson and Mr. Revilak voted in the negative).

Article 33 - Rear Yard Setbacks in Business Districts

Article 33 proposes a change to the rear yard setback requirements in business districts.

(Kin Lau) Mr. Lau is in favor of the proposal. He thinks it makes sense.

(Shaina Korman-Houston) Ms. Korman-Houston agrees.

(Eugene Benson) Mr. Benson suggests a formatting change in the main motion.

(Steve Revilak) Mr. Revilak believes the proposed changes could help create more commercial space in mixed-use developments. He wishes the petitioner could have suggested this last fall, when we changed the setback requirements.

The board votes to recommend favorable action on Article 33, 5--0.

Article 34 - Residential Uses

Article 34 proposed to allow two- and three-family homes in the R0, R1, and R2 districts.

(Rachel Zsembery) Ms. Zsembery reads an email message she received from the petitioner, asking to have their article withdrawn, and requesting an ARB vote of no action.

(Shaina Korman-Houston) Ms. Korman-Houston appreciates the petitioners for bringing their article forward. She looks forward to hearing from them in the future.

(Steve Revilak) Mr. Revilak also expresses appreciation. He felt the hearings generated a productive dialog.

The board votes to recommend no action on Article 34, 5--0.

The board votes to close the warrant article hearings for spring 2024 town meeting, 5--0.

Meeting adjourned.