Arlington Redevelopment Board - Mar 21st, 2022

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Meeting held via remote participation. Materials were available from

Warrant Article Hearings

This is the third of four nights of warrant article hearings.

(Rachel Zsembery, ARB Chair) Ms. Zsembery explains the format of the hearings, and hearing procedures.

Article 45 - Appeals

Article 45 proposes to change the section of the bylaw that deals with zoning violations and appeals of the building inspector. It was filed by Sophie Migliazzo and ten registered voters.

(Jenny Raitt, Planning Director) Ms. Raitt thinks the bylaw already covers the issue that the petitioner is seeking to address, and isn't sure what the proposed changes are trying to achieve. She believes the appeals process is already covered under state law.

(Marc Migliazzo, Proponent) Mr. Migliazzo is the husband of Sophie Migliazzo, who filed the article. He says the thrust of the article is to clarify at what point parties can make a complaint when they feel a violation has occurred and enforcement is lagging. The bylaw contains guidance on how long Inspectional Services has to respond to a compliant, but not when corrective action must take place. Mr. Migliazzo says that complainants should have a guide as to when they can seek appeal from the ZBA if no corrective action has taken place.

Mr. Migliazzo says he's spoken with several land attorneys and no one was sure how much time should pass before a complainant should appeal to the ZBA. He thinks it's not the intent of the bylaw to let things slip for months or years, as they sometimes do today. He notes several points in the staff memo and refers the board to Bylinsky vs. Building Commissioner of Douglas. According to this decision, courts don't have jurisdiction over these complaints until there's been an appeal filed with the ZBA. Mr. Migliazzo says that the only court-accepted route is the Building Inspector, then the ZBA, and then the court system.

(Kin Lau, ARB) Mr. Lau notes that the proposed change to 3.1.2(B) has a placeholder for the number of days. He asks Mr. Migliazzo what number of days he'd propose.

(Mark Migliazzo) Mr. Migliazzo says that 3.1.2(A) gives the building inspector 14 days to investigate a complaint and render a decision. He thinks the intent is for enforcement to proceed promptly, where correction takes place in 4--6 months.

(Eugene Benson, ARB) Mr. Benson says that some things are easily fixed, while others take time to correct. He's concerned about what happens when the problem can't be corrected in time. He thinks Inspectional Services priorities should be driven by health and safety and would prefer that to be the default. Mr. Benson says he understands the motivation for having a deadline but is concerned this might set up a bad dynamic. He asks about the addition of "any other agency or person" in section 3.1.3.

(Marc Migliazzo) Mr. Migliazzo says that language is intended to track Chapter 40A Section 8, which defines the appeal process from special permit granting authorities.

(Eugene Benson) Mr. Benson asks staff to look at the changes, and see if they make section 3.1.3 broader, and to look at the penalties specified in 3.1.4. Mr. Benson asks if there are things that come up where the provisions in this warrant article would be necessary.

(Marc Migliazzo) Mr. Migliazzo says the warrant article is grounded in specific experience. A report was made to the building inspector and a violation was found. Mr. Migliazzo says that no fine was ever issued, and the non-compliance persisted.

(Eugene Benson) Mr. Benson asks why 3.1.3 didn't apply in that situation.

(Marc Migliazzo) Mr. Migliazzo believes it may have applied, but it's not clear at what point in time the ZBA could take it up. It's not clear when it's appropriate for the ZBA to take up the matter. He says the whole idea behind this amendment is to provide guidance as to when it's appropriate to bring a violation to the ZBA. Also, the ZBA itself should know what time frame is appropriate.

(Eugene Benson) Mr. Benson asks if that could be done in the ZBA's rules and regulations. He'd like to hear from the ZBA.

(Jenny Raitt) Ms. Raitt notes that this section of the ZBL was shortened during recodification; it refers to specific sections of 40A, rather than repeating them verbatim. She's not sure she likes the shortened version.

(Eugene Benson) Mr. Benson would like to hear how the Building Inspector prioritizes enforcement actions.

(Melisa Tintocalis, ARB) Ms. Tintocalis asks about the specific incident that motivated this warrant article.

(Marc Migliazzo) Mr. Migliazzo isn't sure if this public hearing is an appropriate forum for relating those details, but he'd be happy to speak with Ms. Tintocalis individually. He appreciates the size of Inspectional Services workload. Mr. Migliazzo says there are statutes of limitations for how long a non-conformity can exist before it becomes a pre-existing non-conformity. Part of the goal is to hold the statute of limitations.

(Melisa Tintocalis) Ms. Tintocalis would like to hear from Inspectional Services.

(Steve Revilak, ARB) Mr. Revilak has no questions, beyond what his fellow board members have already asked.

(Rachel Zsembery) Ms. Zsembery would like to hear from the director of Inspectional Services, regarding the challenges involved in responding to enforcement requests, and how ISD prioritizes enforcement.

(Mike Ciampa, Director of Inspectional Services) Mr. Ciampa says that safety is a large driver of prioritization. That includes things like work done without a permit and open excavation; those cases are given more priority. Cases where things aren't actively changing are given a lower priority. Mr. Ciampa says that this specific situation started two years ago and the issue was brought to the legal department at the time. Mr. Ciampa says it can take time to determine when a non-conformity took place.

(Rachel Zsembery) Ms. Zsembery understands that this is an iterative process and would like to know more about the specific time period.

(Mike Ciampa) Mr. Ciampa says that statutory duties take precedence. He says they can't account for, say, a 40% staff reduction at Inspectional Services that lasted for nine months.

(Kin Lau) Mr. Lau would like to confirm the statute of limitations.

(Mike Ciampa) Mr. Ciampa says it's ten years for work done without a permit, and six years for work done with a permit.

(Eugene Benson) Mr. Benson has one more question. He wonders if this could be rewritten not as a number of days, but in a way that prevents the statute of limitations from tolling.

(Marc Migliazzo) Mr. Migliazzo says there needs to be time for the ZBA to hear the case, and for a case to be filed in land court.

(Eugene Benson) Mr. Benson suggests rewriting such that the pertinent issue is the tolling of the statute of limitations.

(Marc Migliazzo) Mr. Migliazzo notes that Section 3.1.2(A) already requires the determination to be made within 14 days. He thought that would be the more burdensome part of the process, and that town counsel would take over if a violation was found.

(Eugene Benson) Mr. Benson believes that ISD gives the violating party some time to abate the violation. He's concerned about cases where the violation can't be abated in time.

(Marc Migliazzo) Mr. Migliazzo isn't sure whether the order to abate would have a deadline.

The chair opens the hearing to public comment.

(John Worden) Mr. Worden says that an additional enforcement officer was added to ISD not too many years ago. Despite the extra person on staff, Mr. Worden believes that enforcement is still a problem. He really thinks the job ought to be done and the violation corrected.

(Chris Loreti) Mr. Loreti believes he's made more complaints to ISD than anyone else in town, and he'd like to comment on the article. He says that 3.1.2(A) doesn't require notice to the complainant and gives ISD discretion about the time period for correction. 3.1.2(B) doesn't say when compliance must take place. Mr. Loreti feels that this never happened under the previous building inspector. Regarding Section 3.1.3, Mr. Loreti would like people to know that it costs $400 to bring an appeal to the ZBA and he hopes the ZBA has discretion to amend that fee.

(Jo Babiarz) Ms. Babiarz is concerned that we're asking ISD to perform an action with a specific deadline, that that they may not have the resources to do so. She's concerned that this might detract from ISD's ability to perform inspections, and adapt to changes in the building code. She doesn't think it's appropriate to impose deadlines without guaranteeing that there's sufficient staffing.

(Steve Moore) Mr. Moore says we have a new Director of Inspectional Services, and that the old one has retired. He thinks we need to give the new director a chance to run the department his way, and that we should give him a year after COVID. If this is still an issue a year from now, then we should add more staff. He thinks the town wants enforcement and that the ISD director should have the staff to do that.

There are no further comments from the public.

(Melisa Tintocalis) Ms. Tintocalis expresses concern about staff levels and the cost of enforcement.

Article 39 - Mixed Use in Business Districts

This article proposes to increase floor area ratio (FAR) limits for mixed-use buildings in districts where that use is allowed. It was filed by Xavid Pretzer and ten registered voters.

(Jenny Raitt) Ms. Raitt says the board will hear from the petitioner on this matter. She says the Planning Department has tried to look at increasing the allowed FAR as a way to encourage development, and had proposed FARs of 1.5--3.0 in the past. Ms. Raitt notes that there are many factors which cut into an owner's ability to develop their property, and these are not addressed by the current warrant article.

(Xavid Pretzer, Proponent) Mx. Pretzer explains that their proposal is to increase floor area ratio. They say that Arlington mas many nice buildings which are not legal to build today. Town meeting adopted mixed-use in 2016. Mx. Pretzer explains what FAR is, and that our status quo is FARs of 1.0--1.8. While the zoning bylaw theoretically allows 3--5 story buildings, FAR limits make this impractical to do. He's proposing a FAR limit of 4.0 for the B2--B5 districts.

Mx. Pretzer notes that mixed-use is encouraged by both the Housing Production Plan and Master Plan. Mixed use would enable the production of new subsidized housing through inclusionary zoning, and would allow people to live close to transit. FAR doesn't determine what buildings would look like. They believe this would enable new growth, expand the tax base, and create more vibrancy along Mass Ave and Broadway.

Mx. Pretzer shows pictures of several buildings, including the Capitol Square Theater, 4 Water Street, a mixed-use building that was proposed for 190 Mass Ave (which wasn't allowed because the proposed FAR was too high), 15 Main Street in Watertown, and 17 Holland Ave in Somerville. They see this as an opportunity to legalize the buildings we love, and to make our height limits possible to attain.

(Eugene Benson) Mr. Benson asks why Mx. Pretzer is proposing an FAR of 4.0.

(Xavid Pretzer) Mx. Pretzer says he presented this idea to the board several months ago, and suggested a FAR of 3.0. Several ARB members thought that FARs higher than 3.0 might be appropriate, so they're proposing 4.0 now. They note that Watertown allows a FAR of 4.0 in their central business district, but are open to adjusting the numbers.

(Eugene Benson) Mr. Benson isn't sure that all of the ARB members suggested going higher than 3.0.

(Kin Lau) Mr. Lau asks if the 4.0 FAR would be as of right.

(Xavid Pretzer) Mx. Pretzer believes that mixed use is only allowed by special permit.

(Kin Lau) Mr. Lau is interested in adding an inclusionary zoning clause, where applicants could get a higher FAR by providing more inclusionary units. He agrees that our lower FARs do prohibit redevelopment. He wonders if the inclusionary zoning percentage could be increased from 15% to 20%.

(Rachel Zsembery) Ms. Zsembery asks Mx. Pretzer how they feel about adjusting the inclusionary zoning percentage.

(Xavid Pretzer) Mx. Pretzer doesn't have data for inclusionary zoning percentages, and is concerned we might inadvertently set it too high. They'd like to leverage the expertise of the ARB and Planning Staff in coming up with a number.

(Steve Revilak) Mr. Revilak remembers the discussions about building height and FAR when the mixed use provisions were proposed in 2016. He agrees that the maximum FARs in the bylaw are too low. Mr. Revilak would like to suggest a friendly amendment: doubling the existing FAR limits, but with a cap at 3.0. Mr. Revilak would like to take a minute or two to explain how he arrived at those values.

In addition to FAR, our zoning bylaw has a FAR-like dimensional regulation called "open space". Open space is the part of a lot which isn't occupied by structures, used for parking, or used for vehicular traffic. The open space requirement is based on a percentage of gross floor area, so that larger buildings require more open space. It's another kind of FAR.

Mr. Revilak said is wasn't obvious to him how these two constraints interact with each other, so he worked out a table of different building heights and FARs to see where the FAR regulations bumped up against the open space regulations. For a three-story building, the maximum FAR is between 2.0 and 2.5 -- at that point, the open space requirements prevent the building from being any larger. With a five story building, the maximum far is between 3.0 and 3.5.

Mr. Revilak feel that "double but no more than three" would put our FAR limits right in that 2.0--3.0 area. He believes those values are better calibrated to the open space requirements, while still making it possible to build 3--5 stories.

(Xavid Pretzer) Mx. Pretzer reiterates that they're open to different numbers. They feel that 3.0 might be too low, and 3.5 might be more appropriate for allowing five-story buildings.

(Eugene Benson) Mr. Benson asks why we have different FAR limits for lots under 20,000 square feet and lots over 20,000 square feet.

(Steve Revilak) If Mr. Revilak's memory serves him correctly, the higher FAR values for smaller lots were intended to recognize the inherit challenges in redeveloping these smaller parcels. Less space makes them harder to work with.

(Jenny Raitt) Ms. Raitt says that the building height limits are different for the same reason.

The chair opens the hearing to public comment.

(John Worden) Mr. Worden says this is a bad idea. He thinks that if we want to do something about mixed use, then we should go back to the discussion from 2016 and the vibrant shops we were supposed to get. Mr. Worden thinks that all we've gotten are apartment buildings without the setbacks or open space that apartments require. He says he urged town meeting to adopt limits on residential in mixed use, but those limits weren't approved. He says the building on Summer street just has a little office and the one being built across from the high school will have one shop on the corner. He says the board hasn't insisted on doing what they said they'd do.

(Steve Moore) Mr. Moore says he doesn't support a piecemeal approach, and thinks this represents narrow interests rather than consensus. He doesn't think town meeting a good venue for making these changes ad hoc. He thinks that the ARB and ZBA should but forth a set of incremental changes each year, and not citizen petitions on single issues. He hopes to see internally consistent, coherent changes.

(Barbara Thornton) Ms. Thornton loves this proposal, as a city planner, as an Arlington resident, and as someone who walks down the street. She says we need residents upstairs to make sure our shops can continue to exist. She believes that Portsmouth, NH is a good example of a town with 4--5 story buildings and lots of street life. She notes that the parcels along our main corridors are small, and she hopes we can look at open space block by block rather than parcel by parcel.

(Brian McBride) Mr. McBride is concerned about the scale and scope of development. He's worried about the scale of town change, because economic booms come and go. He thinks it's appropriate to think about scale and the legacy we're leaving behind.

(James Fleming) Mr. Fleming likes this article a lot. He says that Arlington has a lot of one-story commercial buildings with high lot coverage, which couldn't go to two stories under the existing bylaw. He thinks the FAR should go to at least 2.0, and possibly 3.0. 4.0 might be too much for now.

(Jennifer Susse) Ms. Susse thinks this is a good idea. She understands the concern about unintended consequences but notes that sometimes we get tangled up and can't move forward. More than two-thirds of town meeting voted for mixed use in 2016 and she knows a number of people who are disappointed that more hasn't been built. She thinks our current FARs are too low. She doesn't have a particular number in mind, other than ours are too low. She appreciates the citizen petition to bring this article forward, and the expertise of the board to help shape it. She hopes we can go back to town meeting and get it right.

(Stephanie Hansel) Ms. Hansel thinks this is a huge exponential increase, and that no town has FAR limits so high. One size doesn't fit all our business districts, and our business districts can't accommodate so much density. She's concerned about the loss of commercial space, and thinks this article is broad and sweeping. She'd like to see something careful and considered, and doesn't think this is a balanced amendment.

(Don Seltzer) Mr. Seltzer says that fiddling around with key elements of the zoning bylaw is not to be done lightly, and that we need to evaluate the specific examples given. Mr. Seltzer believes the main reason why the Capitol Theater building couldn't be built today because it doesn't meet the rear yard requirements. Not every building is suitable for five stories. He says 180 Mass Ave has a FAR of 1.0, and believes it could accommodate another two stories of apartments.

(Catherine Pederson) Ms. Peterson asks the board if they've considered polling citizens, to see if they're aware of the proposal. She thinks there need to be more voices involved. We're just coming out of the pandemic and businesses need time to recover. This is a dramatic move to make while we're in recovery mode. She doesn't think the town has studied the effect of the ADU law that was passed last year, and doesn't think the town's schools can support more children.

(Elaine Maynard) Ms. Maynard says that a FAR increase to 4.0 would be dramatic and unprecedented. She thinks projects need to be evaluated on their own merits, and that the proposal for 190 Mass Ave was lacking. She says there should be project by project consideration. She says this feels broad and without bounds, and we need to think about the bits and pieces.

(Kelly Dougherty) Ms. Dougherty says we all value the vibrancy of a mixed-use town, which Arlington is. We want projects like the Capitol Square Theater, but more study is needed. She says that some mixed use projects have removed commercial space, and that 190 Mass Ave drew concerns over having a parking garage. She's concerned that Mass Ave will become a big parking lot, but isn't opposed to increasing FAR for specific projects. She says development should meet the needs of the town, especially when it comes to traffic. She thinks this should be studied more, with wider community input. Changing a wide swath of the town could be dangerous.

(Matthew Owen) Mr. Owen would like to voice strong approval. He doesn't know what the exact FAR numbers should be, but knows this is an issue based on attending ARB meetings. He notes that the mixed use permitted for Medford St. hit the 1.5 FAR limit and only added a second story. He thinks it's ridiculous that we'd cap a building on Medford Street at two stories, when down the block there's an apartment from 1890 that has three stories. He hopes the board will recommend favorable action to town meeting.

(Sarah Tuttle) Ms. Tuttle loves this proposal because it's so specific. She thinks Arlington could do better, and that our FAR maximums are limiting. She thinks one of the selling points of this proposal is that it removes a block and allows development that meets the needs of the town.

(Aram Hollman) Mr. Hollman opposes the article. He think it's just another attempt to add density and it doesn't mention affordable housing. He thinks this an attempt to convert businesses into housing, and that it will result in the creation of luxury housing. He says this will be another step towards converting Arlington to an all-bedroom community. Mr. Hollman says he's previously referred to Arlington as a golden ghetto, and that more mixed use will bring in low-wage jobs. He says the municipal budget increases too much and thinks this is just an attempt to delay our day of reckoning.

(Christopher Loreti) Mr. Loreti questions the assumption that Arlington's FAR is too low. He asks if the ARB has issued any mixed-use permits for two-story buildings, and says he doesn't know of any. He says the zoning bylaw isn't consistent with the Master Plan. During the Master Plan's visual survey, more people liked four stories than five stories. He says that one size does not fit all of our business districts and feels that an FAR of 4.0 would be inappropriate for the B2 district. He says that complicated articles should not come from amateurs. He says that one size fits all is not appropriate and hopes the board doesn't approve it.

(Note: a few months ago, the ARB approved a two-story mixed use proposal for the corner of Mass Ave and Medford Street).

There are no more comments from the public.

(Rachel Zsembery) Ms. Zsembery would like to know what the maximum FAR is for the Industrial districts.

(Jenny Raitt) Ms. Raitt says the maximum FAR is 3.0, but it's subject to a set of amenity requirements. In the Industrial district, all buildings over 39' are subject to specific amenity standards.

(Rachel Zsembery) Ms. Zsembery says she's heard feedback about increasing the FAR to 4.0. She asks Mx. Pretzer if they'd consider some standards for a higher FAR limit.

(Xavid Pretzer) Mx. Pretzer thinks that's worth exploring, but there's a lot of complexity over what makes sense. They're generally in favor of density bonuses.

(Rachel Zsembery) Ms. Zsembery says that Mx. Pretzer could stay with the approach of keeping it simple. She says the board would need any proposed changes by April 4th, and would be open to providing guidance.

(Kin Lau) Mr. Lau thinks incentives are okay, but wonders if 4.0 across the board is too much. He likes the general approach but isn't sure whether all the numbers are there.

(Eugene Benson) Mr. Benson notes that the board has talked about FAR for years, and can think of several mixed use buildings with two stories. He notes that business parcels on Mass Ave and Broadway generally don't have large lots. He likes Mr. Revilak's suggestion, and thinks that some of the articles going before town meeting already go in the direction of adding amenities, like solar systems and street trees. Mr. Benson says he was the main proponent of adding affordable housing for the 2019 multi-family article, and he thinks that a 20% affordability requirement could work.

(Melisa Tintocalis) Ms. Tintocalis says that density helps with liveliness, but she thinks there's more to consider.

(Steve Revilak) Mr. Revilak would like to share his favorite zoning idiosyncrasy about the Capitol Square building. It has an 1,100 seat movie theater, and our current zoning requires one parking space for every four theater seats. That's a lot of parking. Mr. Revilak thinks there's absolutely no way the Capitol Square Theater could be permitted today, at least not without a very impressive parking podium. He's not opposed to the idea of bonuses or performance standards in exchange for a higher FAR.

(Rachel Zsembery) Ms. Zsembery believes she's seeing consensus about a lower FAR. She'd like to go around to the board members again, to see how Mx. Pretzer should proceed.

(Kin Lau) Mr. Lau suggests doubling the existing FARs.

(Eugene Benson) Mr. Benson suggests doubling, and leaving it at that. He thinks there could be a requirement for more affordable housing, but isn't sure we'd be able to get that done in time. He says "just double it".

(Melisa Tintocalis) Ms. Tintocalis has no comment.

(Steve Revilak) Mr. Revilak suggests doubling the existing FAR limits, but no more than 3.0.

Article 34 - Porches

This amendment seeks to add a definition of "porch" and to clarify that porches are an allowed projection into minimum yards. It was proposed by ZBA Chair Christian Klein.

(Christian Klein, ZBA Chair) Mr. Klein says he's proposed several articles based on things that have come up at the Zoning Board of Appeals, and the ARB agreed to file them as their own. Mr. Klein says that requests to build porches are common. In addition to the definition, this article would modify Section 5.3.9 to clarify that a porch is something that's allowed to project into minimum yard setbacks.

(Rachel Zsembery) Ms. Zsembery asks a question about the distinction between enclosed vs unenclosed porches.

(Christian Klein) Mr. Klein acknowledges that the bylaw uses both the terms "enclosed porch" and "unenclosed porch". He says the definition tries to clarify that a porch must be open on one side.

(Kin Lau) Mr. Lau has no questions.

(Eugene Benson) Mr. Benson asks what "open on at least one side" means.

(Christian Klein) Mr. Klein says that a typical porch has three open sides, but it might have two, depending on how it's set against the house. It might even have only open open side -- on the front. The idea is that at least one side isn't enclosed, and the porch isn't weatherized.

(Eugene Benson) Mr. Benson asks about half-height walls, and if that would constitute an open side.

(Christian Klein) Mr. Klein answers in the affirmative.

(Eugene Benson) Mr. Benson suggests that the ZBA might want to expand upon this in their rules and regulations.

(Melisa Tintocalis) Ms. Tintocalis asks how many special permits for porches the ZBA sees each year.

(Christian Klein) Mr. Klein thinks there were between 8--12 requests in the last year.

(Kelly Lynema, Assistant Planning Director) Ms. Lynema says that the ZBA typically sees 2--4 requests for porches each year, but acknowledges that there were a large number of requests last year.

(Steve Revilak) Mr. Revilak has no comments.

The chair opens the hearing to public comment. There are no comments from the public.

Article 35 - Yard Encroachment

This article would require a special permit in order to enclose a porch. It seeks to prevent "building creep", where a porch is added, then enclosed, then turned into living space, and another porch built in front. It was proposed by ZBA Chair Christian Klein.

(Christian Klein) Mr. Klein says this article is somewhat related to porches. We currently allow porches to be enclosed, and the face of the building moves forward when that happens. When people have filed special permits to add porches, the ZBA has been adding a condition that the porch not be enclosed, and wouldn't be considered part of the foundation.

There are no questions from the board.

The chair opens the hearing to public comment.

(Chris Loreti) Mr. Loreti supports the intent of the article, but he's troubled by the changes that staff have proposed. He doesn't think the language they've proposed to strike shouldn't be struck. He says this is important for section 8.1.3. He thinks that 5.3.9 would still allow a deck to be built in the rear of he house, and then converted into something like a kitchen. He's concerned that a special permit could be used where a variance would be more appropriate. On a different note, Mr. Loreti suggests that articles submitted by the ZBA be labeled as coming from the ZBA, rather than the ARB.

There's no further comment from the public.

(Christian Klein) Mr. Klein asks the chair if she could direct Mr. Loreti's question about decks to the building inspector.

(Mike Ciampa) Mr. Ciampa says it will be easier to prevent that, once they have an online system for processing building permits.

(Eugene Benson) Mr. Benson asks if Section 5.3.9(D) could say "except by variance".

(Mike Ciampa) Mr. Ciampa is okay with unenclosed by special permit and enclosed by variance.

(Christian Klein) Mr. Klein suggests "special permit or variance, as appropriate".

(Rachel Zsembery) Ms. Zsembery asks Mr. Benson if he'd be okay working with Mr. Klein to tweak the language.

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

(Melisa Tintocalis) Ms. Tintocalis has no further questions.

(Steve Revilak) Mr. Revilak acknowledges that this has proven to be a difficult concept to put into words, and he thanks the people who have worked on this article. He has no further questions.

Article 36 - Large Additions

This article seeks to clarify the thresholds that trigger the large addition provision, and the way they're calculated. It was proposed by ZBA Chair Christian Klein.

(Christian Klein) Mr. Klein explains that section 5.4.2(B)(6) requires a special permit for an addition of 750 square feet or 50% of the gross floor area. The bylaw doesn't say whether the lower or higher square footage applies, and this article would clarify that the lower square footage triggers the provision.

Mr. Klein notes that the board has received a lot of questions about what does or does not constitute a large addition, and this article adds the current interpretation.

(Kin Lau) Mr. Lau asks about additions smaller than 750 square feet, and if they'd be considered "large".

(Christian Klein) Mr. Klein answers with a pair of examples. Suppose a house had 1200 square feet; an addition of 600 square feet would require a special permit. On the other hand, if the house had 2000 square feet, then a 750 square foot addition would require a special permit.

(Eugene Benson) Mr. Benson asks about the case where the addition was more than 750 square feet, but entirely within the existing footprint -- adding a second story to a one-story house, for example. Mr. Benson asks if that would be a large addition.

(Christian Klein) Mr. Klein says that's exempted by the first bullet under 5.4.2(B)(6). Additions that are entirely within the foundation wall are exempt.

(Mike Ciampa) Mr. Ciampa agrees with Mr. Klein's description.

(Eugene Benson) Mr. Benson asks about the case where one adds a second floor, along with an addition on the side.

(Mike Ciampa) Mr. Ciampa says that space added within the existing foundation doesn't count towards being a large addition. But the part of to the side would count.

(Eugene Benson) Mr. Benson is concerned about whether it makes sense to do this. He asks what problem we're trying to solve.

(Christian Klein) Mr. Klein says the final sentence in the article is the current interpretation of the provision.

(Eugene Benson) Mr. Benson says Mr. Klein misunderstood his question. He wants to know why we require special permits for large additions.

(Melisa Tintocalis) Ms. Tintocalis has no questions.

(Steve Revilak) Mr. Revilak has a question about the last sentence, because it's different than what Mr. Klein originally proposed. The original proposal would have included all of the square footage when determining if it was a large addition, but the staff memo points out that doing so would cause a considerable increase in the ZBA's case load. He understands that the new text explains how the bylaw is currently interpreted. He asks Mr. Klein if he's okay with that.

(Christian Klein) Mr. Klein acknowledge that his original proposal was different, but he's okay with the current language.

(Jenny Raitt) Ms. Raitt points out that large additions trigger the special permit process; there's a notice requirement when large additions are added. She believes there's a special permit requirement so there will be a notification process.

The chair opens the hearing to public comment.

(Don Seltzer) Mr. Seltzer asks if someone can explain the difference between an "addition" and an "alteration".

(Christian Klein) Mr. Klein says that an alteration is a reconfiguration of existing space. An addition in the creation of new space.

(Chris Loreti) Mr. Loreti is surprised to hear that the bylaw is being interpreted the way it is. He thought that any increase of 750 square feet would be treated as a large addition, and believes the bylaw was interpreted that way in the past. In some parts of Arlington, all additions have to be within the existing footprint.

In the earlier article, Mr. Loreti thinks there should be language to specifies that porches aren't inside the foundation walls.

There are no more comments from the public.

There are no further questions from the board.

There's a motion to continue the warrant article hearings to March 28th. Approved, 5--0.

Discussion of Special Town Meeting Warrant

(Kelly Lynema) Ms. Lynema says she's submitted the legal notice for the special town meeting articles, and the department is working on the main motion language.

(Jenny Raitt) Ms. Raitt says the special town meeting will likely take place on May 11th, during the middle of regular town meeting. There will be three articles for the special town meeting: family childcare, signs for shared mobility facilities and electric vehicle charging stations, and changes to Section 8.1.3(C). The ARB hearing for these articles will be on April 7th.

Ms. Raitt says that annual town meeting will start on April 25th, and the redevelopment board will meet before town meeting starts. She believes there will be two special permit requests for family childhood care facilities.

Open Forum

No one wishes to speak during tonight's open forum.

Meeting adjourned.