Arlington Redevelopment Board - May 20th, 2024

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Meeting held in the first floor annex of Town Hall. Materials were available from

Kin Lau and Shaina Korman-Houston were unable to attend tonight's meeting.

Review Meeting Minutes

The board approves their minutes from May 6, 2024. 3--0.

Docket 3799 - 5--7 Belknap Street

(Rachel Zsembery, ARB Chair) Ms. Zsembery notes there are only three board members here tonight, which isn't a quorum for making a special permit decision. She recommends postponing the opening of the hearing; any discussion of Docket 3799 tonight will be purely procedural.

(Claire Ricker, Planning Director) Ms. Ricker says the applicant asked to have their hearing postponed until June 10th. She believes the Attorney General's office will have made a decision on our MBTA Communities zoning by then.

(Eugene Benson, ARB) Mr. Benson agrees that the board can't open the hearing tonight.

(Steve Revilak, ARB) Mr. Revilak notes that Docket 3799 was filed as a special permit application, while also requesting review under the provisions of our Neighborhood Multifamily district. He feels that the wrong application was filed -- it should be a site-plan review application rather than a special permit under Environmental Design Review (EDR). Mr. Revilak says this project doesn't meet the criteria for EDR.

(Rachel Zsembery) Ms. Zsembery asks Director Ricker to follow up with the applicant.

Arlington Master Plan Update (AMPUp) Advisory Committee

(Claire Ricker, Planning Director) Ms. Ricker says there were 32 applications for 13 seats on the advisory committee. She lists the names of the applicants who were accepted. The screening committee tried to prioritize new voices, and people who had experience outside of Arlington. She says that the bulk of work will be in the seven study areas, and notes that several committee members completed Arlington's Civic Academy. In addition to these thirteen, the committee will have one representative from the ARB and one from the Select Board. She asks the board to approve the applicants.

(Rachel Zsembery, ARB Chair) Ms. Zsembery says she's excited to see a range of backgrounds, and notes that the applicants have lived here from 1--35 years. She noticed some small business owners, people who've worked on housing and food access, and a member of the former Master Plan Committee. She asks if the applicants who were not selected will have an opportunity to serve on the subject-specific working groups.

(Claire Ricker) Ms. Ricker answers in the affirmative. She also plans to approach the Envision Arlington Task Groups about participating in the working groups.

(Rachel Zsembery) Ms. Zsembery asks how the advisory committee will work with other town departments.

(Claire Ricker) Ms. Ricker says she'd like to get the consultant on board first, and then tap their expertise.

(Rachel Zsembery) Ms. Zsembery asks about the timeline for getting started.

(Claire Ricker) Ms. Ricker says there will be a meeting from 6:30 - 7:30 pm on June 13th. She thinks the work will be structured similarly to the MBTA Communities outreach, although this group won't be working under such a compressed schedule. The advisory committee's first task will be to review a draft RFP for a consultant. She hopes to have that advertised by the end of July.

(Steve Revilak, ARB) Mr. Revilak was impressed by the enthusiasm of the applicants. He feels the group is well-rounded, including new and old residents, veteran and new volunteers, homeowners and renters, and a range of interests.

Mr. Revilak says it's very important for members of a committee such as this to be able to work constructively and collaboratively -- "plays well with others" is one of the most important criteria. He asks staff if they had a sense of how the applicants would do in this area.

(Claire Ricker) Ms. Ricker says she had the sense that they could work well with others.

(Eugene Benson, ARB) Mr. Benson said he hadn't met a number of the committee members, and felt that was interesting. He notes that Ann LeRoyer chaired the Open Space committee for several years, in addition to being involved with the previous Master Plan. He says that one of the applications, Arthur Prokosch, works for the MBTA, and he'd like to make sure there won't be a conflict with having him serve on this committee. He suggests that Director Ricker discuss this with him, since part of the planning work will involve transportation and mobility. Mr. Benson asks for more details about what the working groups will do.

(Claire Ricker) Ms. Ricker says she'd like to have one working group for each of the seven subject areas, and she hope that working groups can collaborate with one another. She wants the updated master plan to be something that's comprehensible to the average Arlingtonian.

(Eugene Benson) Mr. Benson agrees that it would be good to invite applicants who weren't chosen for the advisory committee to serve on the working groups.

(Rachel Zsembery) Ms. Zsembery notes that we still need to select an ARB member to serve on the steering committee.

(Eugene Benson) Mr. Benson suggests we have that discussion when all five board members are present.

(Steve Revilak) Mr. Revilak agrees.

The chair opens the meeting to public comment.

(Grant Cook, Wollaston Ave) Mr. Cook thanks the board and staff for their consideration.

Mr. Revilak makes a motion to approve the thirteen advisory committee members, subject to ascertaining that none of them will have conflicts of interest. Motion adopted, 3--0.

Open Forum

(Taylor Toole, Belknap Street) Mr. Toole lives next to 5--7 Belknap Street. He has concerns about the proposed redevelopment of that site, and wanted to see what ARB meetings were like.

New Business

(Claire Ricker, Planning Director) Ms. Ricker says the 455 Mass Ave developers reached out to DPCD about signage. They're interested in installing a bracket system above the commercial storefronts that would allow signs to be easily swapped out. She thinks this might make it easier for DPCD to approve sign changes, because the dimensions would all be the same.

(Steve Revilak, ARB) Mr. Revilak is okay with a bracket system, but expresses reservations about the example provided by the developers.

(Rachel Zsembery, ARB Chair) Ms. Zsembery says this may not be the right aesthetic. She thinks the example provided by the developers looks more like advertising signage, rather than permanent signs for a business.

(Sarah Suarez, Assistant Planning Director) Ms. Suarez asks if there's a particular style that staff could guide the applicant to.

(Rachel Zsembery) Ms. Zsembery is not opposed to having a signage system, where a number of signs are provided by a single vendor. She'd like to see the proportions of the sign band, and how it fits onto the facade.

(Eugene Benson) Mr. Benson says it doesn't help when the example is something on the back of a bus.

(Rachel Zsembery) Ms. Zsembery says she'd be happy to work with the applicant on a system for the totality for the facade.

(Steve Revilak) Mr. Revilak says that he attended the ribbon cutting ceremony for the Artemis at 1165R Mass Ave, along with Director Ricker. The development involved adaptive re-use of an old mill building, and new construction intended to mimic the existing building. He felt it came out well. Mr. Revilak notes that 1165R Mass Ave was done through a comprehensive permit, and 31 of the apartments are income-restricted. Over 1400 people applied for these 31 apartments.

(Eugene Benson) Mr. Benson says that someone contacted him with concerns about the lighting at the rear of 882 Mass Ave; the exterior lighting spills out onto adjacent properties. He notes that the special permit conditions included a requirement for a lighting plan, which the applicants have yet to provide.

(Rachel Zsembery) Ms. Zsembery says the Select Board is meeting tonight, and will discuss potential dates for a joint ARB/Select Board meeting.

The ARB adjourns to town meeting.