Arlington Redevelopment Board - Nov 1st, 2021

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Meeting conducted via remote participation. Materials were available from

Docket 3665 - 645 Mass Ave

This docket involves a proposal to construct a Chase Bank branch at the site of a former restaurant. The applicant has asked to have their application withdrawn without prejudice.

(Robert Annese, Attorney for the Applicant) Mr. Annese says he's being retained by Chase. They'd like to start the application process anew, tweak the development plans, and submit a new application. He believes that no one will be prejudiced by a withdrawal, and that everyone will have a chance to be heard when the new application is submitted. Mr. Annese says an applicant can withdraw at any time, and he's only added the words "without prejudice" because he's a lawyer. He's tried hundreds of cases in court and never had that request turned down.

(Rachel Zsembery, ARB Chair) Ms. Zsembery notes that only four members of the board are here (Mr. Lau is not present), and that Mr. Revilak can't vote.

(Jenny Raitt, Planning Director) Ms. Raitt notes that the process for withdrawal without prejudice is described in MGL Chapter 40A Section 16, so the board will need to vote.

Mr. Annese would like to come back before the board, so he can get a vote on withdrawal with all board members present.

Motion to continue to November 15th passes, 4--0.

Docket 3348 - 833 Mass Ave

(Rachel Zsembery) Ms. Zsembery says the applicants have asked to have their hearing moved from December 6th to November 15th.

(Robert Annese) Mr. Annese says he has a meeting with the Historical Commission tomorrow evening. He believes he'll have a sense of what the Historical Commission wants after that meeting.

There are no questions from the board.

Motion to move the hearing date from December 6 to November 15 passes, 4--0.

Preliminary Discussion of Zoning Amendments

(Jenny Raitt) Ms. Raitt recalls that the ARB has been encouraging citizen warrant article proponents to appear before the board. Tonight, James Fleming is here to present two ideas: a parking reduction for multi-family dwellings, and uses for open space. The Zoning Bylaw Working Group will discuss potential zoning amendments on Wednesday and report back to the board on November 15th.

(James Fleming) Mr. Fleming will begin with his proposal for apartment parking requirements. Single-, two-, and three-family dwellings require one space per dwelling unit. Apartment buildings have tiered parking requirements that vary with the number of bedrooms. He'd like apartments to have the same requirements as 1--3 family homes; one space per unit.

(Eugene Benson, ARB) Mr. Benson thinks this idea makes sense. He asks Mr. Fleming if he'd keep the one space per five units requirement for senior assisted living.

(James Fleming) Mr. Fleming says he envisions keeping the senior assisted living requirements as they are.

(Melissa Tintocalis, ARB) Ms. Tintocalis asks Mr. Fleming how many units this would affect.

(James Fleming) Mr. Fleming says the requirements wouldn't take effect retroactively. He suggested one space per dwelling after visiting several apartment buildings, and generally seeing one space per apartment.

(Jenny Raitt) Ms. Raitt says that one of the purposes of this meeting is to give Mr. Fleming a list of things to prepare when he's presenting his article. She notes that the board considered a similar measure in 2019.

(Melissa Tintocalis) Ms. Tintocalis thinks it would be helpful to see how this aligns with the master plan, and if there have been any studies on overall parking demand management.

(Steve Revilak, ARB) Mr. Revilak likes the idea of putting apartment parking requirements on parity with those of single, two, and three family homes. He doesn't think it makes sense for his two-bedroom home to need one parking space while a two-bedroom apartment requires a space and a half. He notes that parking spaces have an associated land cost, and that land is a significant component of Arlington's housing costs. Mr. Revilak notes that Boston recently adopted parking maximums, and believes they considered the cost of parking in new development when making that decision. He also notes that 1165R Mass ave had a parking ratio of slightly greater than one space per dwelling.

(Eugene Benson) Mr. Benson believes this change could be retroactively applied. For example, an apartment owner would be allowed to remove parking spaces, and turn them into open space (for example).

(Rachel Zsembery) Ms. Zsembery is interested in this idea, and thinks it would be helpful to see an analysis.

(James Fleming) Mr. Fleming moves on to his second idea. It's a continuation of town policies under COVID, where businesses were allowed to use space in parks. He'd like to see this become a permanent option, subject to regulation by the Parks Department. He notes that the Open Space district definition doesn't allow this, and that several kinds of temporary uses in the OS district require special permits. Mr. Fleming thinks we might also need a section under special regulations to describe how temporary uses in the Open Space district are managed.

(Eugene Benson) Mr. Benson likes the thought. He doesn't think it's necessary to change the district definition; just amend the table of uses to describe the accessory uses you're trying to allow. Park department regulations should be okay with that process. He points out that Mr. Fleming didn't mention changes to off-street parking or loading spaces, and he suggests keeping those regulations as they are.

(Melissa Tintocalis) Ms. Tintocalis asks Mr. Fleming to explain the intent of his proposal.

(James Fleming) Mr. Fleming says he's like to give businesses and arts organizations the ability to use our parks. No one actually gets a special permit for a temporary use. The intent is to have the bylaw give the permission by right.

(Melissa Tintocalis) Ms. Tintocalis is supportive. She's like to hear from town staff, and Economic Development Coordinator Ali Carter. And perhaps to see policies from other communities, and what usage fees they impose.

(Steve Revilak) Mr. Revilak asks what fee the town charged for the beer garden.

(Jenny Raitt) Ms. Raitt says it was a nominal fee, and that the Select Board has permitted beer gardens for the last few years.

(Steve Revilak) Mr. Revilak believes there was a silver lining to the pandemic: it reminded everyone of how much fun it is to do things outside. He'd be surprised to see anyone apply for a special permit under "Other accessory use customarily incidental to primary use". A special permit requires two weeks for advertising, at least one hearing for the board to make a decision, another hearing for the board to vote on the written decision, and then a 20-day appeal period after the decision is filed with a town clerk. That's a very high bar for the temporary use of a park.

(Rachel Zsembery) Ms. Zsembery thinks it might make sense to look at what was approved pre-pandemic, what was approved post-pandemic, and what the barriers are.

(Jenny Raitt) Ms. Raitt says that any temporary use would really need the permission of the property owner, and that could be one of several bodies.

(Rachel Zsembery) Ms. Zsembery believes we should think about where the text of the activation should live.

(Melissa Tintocalis) Ms. Tintocalis says this seems related to having parklets in the public right of way. She wonders if the two areas could be combined.

(Jenny Raitt) Ms. Raitt says the Planning Department looked at this, but through the Select Board.

(Melissa Tintocalis) Ms. Tintocalis is interested in seeing how we can streamline the process from the applicant's perspective.

(Jenny Raitt) Ms. Raitt says the town is doing that. Parklets are a temporary use of an outdoor parking space, and the process depends on who owns the land. The goal is to make it easier to do these kinds of things.

(Eugene Benson) Mr. Benson says there's a group that does Shakespeare in the Park at a park near his house. He suspects they got permission from whomever runs the park, but not a special permit.

(Jenny Raitt) Ms. Raitt asks if Mr. Fleming would want fitness studios to have use of parks.

(James Fleming) Mr. Fleming answers in the affirmative, but says he might file that as a separate article for town meeting. He says the parks committee doesn't permit anything that's not explicitly allowed by zoning. Again, the intent is to make some of our COVID programs permanent.

(Eugene Benson) Mr. Benson says he's thinking about other activities that take place in the park near his house, like archery and tai-chi. It's also used for sporting and fitness events.

There's back and forth about Mr. Benson's observations of how the park near his home is used, and what the Parks Department told Mr. Fleming about what it allows.

(Rachel Zsembery) Ms. Zsembery suggests wording to cover a broad variety of uses. There may be things other than fitness and cultural events that make sense for a park.

(Eugene Benson) Mr. Benson agrees with keeping the language broad. Decisions about specific uses should lie with the body that permits use of the park.

(Melissa Tintocalis) Ms. Tintocalis says there should be some thought to public safety, and to wear and tear on the open space.

(James Fleming) Mr. Fleming says there's one more article he's considering for town meeting, but he'll bring that to the board at a later time.

(Steve Revilak) Mr. Revilak says that Mr. Benson's suggestion for wording the use broadly got him thinking about how to say it. So far the best he's come up with is "temporary group activities, organized by for-profit or non-profit organizations".

The chair opens the hearing to public comment.

(Don Seltzer) Mr. Seltzer wishes to comment on the parking proposal. He believes there will be unintended consequences for disabled spaces. Reducing the number of parking spaces also reduces the number of disabled spaces. Regarding the open space proposal, Mr. Seltzer thinks the zoning bylaw's special permit requirement doesn't make sense. He believes that should be in the town bylaws, under the jurisdiction of the Select Board.

There are no further comments from the public.

Update on Planning Meetings

(Kelly Lynema, Assistant Planning Director) Ms. Lynema provides a list of upcoming meetings that the planning department is holding.

Minuteman Bikeway, November 3rd. The town will look at the entire length of the bikeway, from Cambridge to Lexington. The goal is to recommend improvements and additional access points.

Housing Production Plan, November 9th. The department will provide an overview of the planning process to date, followed by a presentation of the draft plan. There may be a separate presentation to the ARB in December. (This is tentatively scheduled for December 16th.)

Stratton Safe Routes to School, November 10th. The goal is to improve travel routes to the Stratton School. There are details on the town website's transportation planning page.

GDBG Open House, November 10th. The goal is to encourage more groups to apply for CDBG grants.

Open Space and Recreation Plan, Dec 8th. The presentation will include a review of the process, and a talk about goals and strategies.

(Melissa Tintocalis) Ms. Tintocalis asks if there are any parameters around the CDBG open house.

(Jenny Raitt) Ms. Raitt says the open house is being run by the town's CDBG administrator. They'll provide guidelines for the application process, and can steer groups towards other funding sources if necessary.

Approval of Minutes

The board approves minutes from their November 4th meeting.

Open Forum

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

Meeting adjourned.