Arlington Redevelopment Board - May 17th, 2021

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Meeting held via remote participation. Materials were available from

Docket 3647 - 10 Sunnyside Ave

The applicant has requested to withdraw their application, and requests that the board accept the withdrawal without prejudice. They're considering coming back with an office-only proposal.

The board votes to accept the withdrawal, 4--0.

Town Meeting Update

So far, town meeting has adopted Article 28 (Affordable Housing Regulations, Article 29 (Definition of Apartment Conversion), Article 30 (Gross Floor Area), and Article 33 (Administrative Corrections).

Articles 31, 32, 34, 36, 37, 42, and 47 passed via consent agenda.

There are 11 zoning articles left for town meeting to consider. 44--49 will come up tonight. 35 and 43 were postponed, due to late-arriving amendments.

Discussion of Article 43 (Accessory Dwelling Units)

The board discusses the amendments that have been submitted for Article 43 - Accessory Dwelling Units. There have been 14 amendments and substitute motions submitted so far.

(Rachel Zsembery, ARB Chair) Ms. Zsembery notes how closely the Board worked with Barbara Thornton on the ADU article. She asks if the board has any questions about the amendments.

(Kin Lau, ARB) Mr. Lau doesn't feel the changes are necessary. He thinks the majority of the amendments will hurt the proposal, and make the goal of building ADUs unattainable.

(Eugene Benson, ARB) Mr. Benson agrees with Mr. Lau. He thinks the substitute motions aren't particularly good, and that they'll make it difficult or impossible to have an ADU.

(Melissa Tintocalis, ARB) Ms. Tintocalis would like to stick with the original article. She thinks that town meeting members should simply vote against the article if they don't like it, rather than submitting amendments to weaken it. A lot of research went into the original article.

(Rachel Zsembery) Ms. Zsembery agrees. She's concerned about the substitute motion which takes the 2019 ADU article and changes a date. She feels the board was too timid in 2019, and that Article 43 is more appropriate for Arlington.

The chair opens the hearing to public comment.

(Don Seltzer) Mr. Seltzer wants to remind the board of their opinions from last October. One board member wanted to limit ADUs to existing structures. He doesn't think the town will be able to prevent ADUs from being used for short-term rentals. He thinks that Article 43 opens the door too wide, and urges the board to start with more restrictions.

(Rachel Zsembery) Ms. Zsembery thinks the board has learned a lot about ADUs during the last few months, and she thanks Mr. Seltzer for reaffirming the learning process that came out of those collaborations.

(Jennifer Susse) Ms. Susse thanks the board for their support. She thinks that Article 43 is a modest and carefully crafted proposal.

(Lori Leahy) Ms. Leahy asks if there were any public forums for the 2019 article.

(Rachel Zsembery) Ms. Zsembery says there were numerous public hearings.

(Lori Leahy) Ms. Leahy asked if the board held any forums.

(Jenny Raitt, Planning Director) Ms. Raitt says that quite a few people attended the public hearings.

(Lori Leahy) Ms. Leahy says she's really worried about East Arlington. She doesn't feel that East Arlington was properly represented.

(Al Tosti) Mr. Tosti wants to support what Mr. Seltzer said. He thinks that Article 43 is a radical proposal which will be devastating to East Arlington. He says that Arlington is the eleventh-densest community in Massachusetts, and there will be a negative impact to East Arlington.

(Rachel Zsembery) Ms. Zsembery says she takes Mr. Tosti's points. She notes that any ADU will have to conform to existing zoning regulations, even if the homeowner builds an addition to accommodate it.

(Barbara Thornton, Article 43 proponent) Ms. Thornton thanks the board for working with her on Article 43. She's a huge fan of governance and citizen engagement, and is glad that she and the other proponents were able to reach consensus with the board. She's done research into home sizes in Arlington, and based on that, doesn't believe that ADUs will be very big.

(Steve Revilak) Mr. Revilak would like to comment on three areas: public process, collaboration with the board, and East Arlington.

For public process, most zoning article have one or two public hearings. Over its various iterations, Article 43 has received four: on 1/27/2020, 10/26/2020, 1/4/2021, and 3/15/2021. Each of these iterations led to further thought and refinement. This is far more hearings an iterations than a typical zoning article gets.

For collaboration, Mr. Revilak wishes to express for Barbara Thornton, Phil Tedesco, the Board, and town staff. Several months ago, we told the board that we wanted to with them in a collaborative manner, and that's exactly what the board facilitated.

Finally, East Arlington. Mr. Revilak is a resident of "dense, urban, East Arlington". He's spoken to numerous people in East Arlington about Article 43, and it's been well received -- people like it.

(Chris Loreti) Mr. Loreti says he heard about the research. He asks how many communities allow more than one ADU per lot.

(Phil Tedesco) Mr. Tedesco says that other communities generally allow one ADU per dwelling.

(Barbara Thornton) Ms. Thornton says that their article is framed around homeowners and existing dimensional regulations. If a lot has a duplex with two owners, she'd like each of them to have the ability to add an ADU, as long as all dimensional regulations are followed.

(Chris Loreti) Mr. Loreti asks how many communities would allow ADUs this close to the property line, and have bylaws with poison pill language that makes it difficult for a ZBA to reject them.

Ms. Zsembery attempts to get an answer to Mr. Loreti's question. Mr. Loreti interrupts and starts speaking over Ms. Zsembery. Ms. Zsembery tries to direct an answer again, and Mr. Loreti continues talking over her. Ms. Zsembery asks Mr. Loreti not to interrupt her, but he continues to do so. Ms. Zsembery asks Mr. Loreti again, to please stop interrupting her. Mr. Loreti continues talking over her. Ms. Zsembery asks Ms. Raitt to mute Mr. Loreti, and Ms. Raitt does so.

(Kristin Anderson) Ms. Anderson is a town meeting member from precinct 13. She said someone asked her to vote against Article 43 because of the effect it would have open space. She really wants to vote in favor of the article, and feels it has a lot of potential. However, she also agrees with Mr. Seltzer's points. She asks why the board is supporting the ADU Article.

Ms. Anderson says her house has an adorable little garage which was built in 1940 and is seven feet from the property line. She thinks it could be an awesome tiny house, but then it would be right next to her neighbor's yard. She's really in favor of the idea, but wishes the ARB weren't so loose. She wishes the board would not have recommended favorable action, and is concerned that adding restrictions would require a two-thirds vote.

(Wynelle Evans) Ms. Evans says she supports ADUs. She recognizes the need and all of the work the proponents have done. She believes that not enough consideration has been given to abutters, and that this proposal should have gone to the residential study group, if the group wasn't defunct. She thinks the number of amendments speaks to the concerns of residents and that short-term rentals are not well defined in Arlington's bylaw.

(Karen Kelleher) Ms. Kelleher lives on Beacon Street in East Arlington. There have been at least ten single family homes on her street that were demolished and turned into large two-families. She says this hasn't materially changed the character of the neighborhood or her quality of life. East Arlington is dense, and we accept that. ADUs are far less expensive than new homes, and there's been a robust public discussion about this article.

(Pat Hanlon) Mr. Hanlon has a remark about a 2/3's vote being required to reverse a decision about ADUs. He doesn't believe the housing choice legislation says that. Instead, it says that a majority vote is required to pass ADU bylaws where the ADU is allowed by right. He believes there's room to loosen or tighten the bylaw, as long as one stays within the "by right" boundary.

(Phil Tedesco) Mr. Tedesco thinks the collaborative nature of this process should be apparent. The issues being voiced tonight were considered in the process, and he thinks they've been adequately dealt with. He's glad to see the board reaffirm their support for the article.

Mr. Tedesco would like to address several questions that came up in the public comment. First, several dozen communities in Massachusetts allow ADUs. Some of them only allow one per lot; however, we wanted to look at things from the perspective of the homeowner (i.e., a single lot can have more than one homeowner).

Roughly half of the communities that allow ADUs permit them in accessory structures. He notes that special permits are not a trivial undertaking.

Arlington's short-term rental bylaw passed overwhelmingly in 2019. It was based on a state statue, which has reporting requirements and penalties.

Finally, Mr. Tedesco believes that Mr. Hanlon is right about the majority vote requirement in the housing choice legislation.

(Eugene Benson) Mr. Benson says all of these things came up during the public hearing process, and he believes that adequate safeguards were provided.

Left at this point, to hop over to town meeting.