Arlington Redevelopment Board - May 15th, 2017

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195/211 Concord Turnpike

This discussion focused on a planned development project at 195/211 Concord Turnpike, just over the Arlington/Cambridge line. It's the site where Lanes and Games bowling alley is located, along with a hotel. The Cambridge planning board has approved the project. The question tonight is whether the ARB should contest their decision.

The DPCD obtained several project documents via public records request: the list of abutters notified, and the Cambridge Planning Board's decision.

TAC reviewed the developer's traffic study and essentially agreed with their findings. The study was based on traffic impacts seen after Vox on Two was built. There were many fewer (automobile) trips than residents. TAC noted that the study contained no recommendations for what to do if traffic projections were exceeded. TAC believes there will be minimial impact within Arlington proper. The 195/211 project has an agressive transportation demand management (TDM) program.

The ARB asked a TAC representative to explain their opinion. Wouldn't there be more traffic at Alewife?

TAC believes the net impact will be small, for several reasons. First, we have traffic impact data from Vox on two, and the project's TDM program. Second, there are business on the site already, and they generate traffic. The net impact is new traffic coming from the 195/211 development, minus existing traffic from Lanes and Games and the Hotel. The expected net change is 40--50 vehicles hour, during peak traffic times.

The developer's traffic study didn't assign any new trips to Lake Street. TAC believes that the number of lake street trips will be small, but non-zero. The biggest impact will be the interchange between Lake Street and Route 2.

Will there be impact to Arlington residents trying to get to and from Alewife? For example, Steel Street (which leads to the station) is already very congested with pedestrian, bike, and vehicular traffic. Any additional trips should make that congestion worse. That may be true. However traffic service in that area is already graded as an F, and you can't get worse than an F.

Has Arlington's Conservation Commission reviewed any order of conditions relating to this project? No.

Since Cambridge has already approved this project, what can we (the ARB) do? Could we suggest improvements? There are no good ideas here. There doesn't seem to be a way to mitigate congestion in this area, except perhaps for a pedestrian bridge.

A fellow from the North Cambridge Stabilization committee spoke for a long time. He pointed out the the DPCD should have gotten two notices, and at the last ARB meeting DPCD wasn't aware of getting any notices. He felt that lack of notice was probably grounds for an appeal. He points out that the traffic study was done by the project's proponent; Cambridge did not do an independent study. He points out that Vox on Two (where the traffic study data came from) is owned by the project's proponent, and that some TDM measures are contingent upon approval from MassDOT, the DCR, or abutting property owners.

I provided a few comments on flood mitigation. I was generally happy with what I saw in the Cambridge decision. The first floor has to stay above 2030 100-year flood plain, and residences have to stay above the 2070 100-year flood plain. They're building above the flood plain, rather than in it. After 2070, the biggest risk to flooding in this area comes from the Amelia Earhart Dam. Cambridge's 2016 CCVA estimates the Amelia Earhart Dam will is likely to contain a 100-year flood until 2070, but much less likely to contain a 100-year flood afterwards. There's not much you can do to mitigate that, aside from making an effort to un-develop the area. Sea water innundation will make a big mess.

The project will increase the amount of pervious surface on the lots; that's a positive aspect.

The board feels that the project may make traffic worse, but there's no specific mitigations they could suggest. Based on the information available, flooding and traffic will not get significantly worse as the result of this project. The ARB could file a suit in land court, but they don't believe there's a legitimate grievance, or a concrete desired outcome. In short, not worth it.

Arlington has a seat on the Alewife Traffic Management Association, and we can use that as a channel to raise traffic concerns. We should monitor the traffic, and see if the projections are off the mark. If they're really off the mark, then we'll have a real concern for any future projects.

The ARB would like to send a letter to Cambridge, regarding traffic concerns. In the longer term, it would be good to get the Arlington and Belmont town managers together with Cambridge's city manager, to start thinking about long-term solutions to traffic in the Alewife area.

Central School Lease for ACA

The Arlington Center for the Arts is planning to add community space and a performance gallery to the 3rd and 4th floor of the Central School Building. ACA's fundraising efforts are going well. They'll be moving out of the Gibbs next month, and seeking temporary space in the fall. They expect Central School Building renovations to be complete by Feb.

ARB agrees to sign a lease to the ACA.

Director's Report

Tonight's ARB meeting was the first where supplemental materials were available on-line. How did ARB members feel about the online Agenda? Feelings were generally positive. Members of the board felt that online distribution of 8.5 x 11 materials was fine, but it would be nice to get larger materials (e.g., architects plans) on paper.

The director appreciated everyone's support for last town meeting's zoning articles.

The director would like the ARB to have an opportunity to provide comments on the first ZBL recodification draft. There will be a public presentation on July 13th, and we expect to vote on recodification during a special town meeting this fall.

Town meeting voted to appropriate $55,000, to continue recodification efforts.

Approval of Prior Meeting Minutes

The ARB approved minutes from April 24th and May 1st.