Arlington Redevelopment Board - Nov 20th, 2023

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Meeting held in the main room of the Arlington Community Center. Materials were available from

The board welcomes its new fifth member, Shaina Korman-Houston.

Approval of Meeting Minutes

The board approves minutes from their November 6th meeting, 4--0--1 (Ms. Korman-Houston abstained, as she was not a member of the board at that time).

Meeting Schedule

(Claire Ricker, Planning Director) Ms. Ricker says she's requested the use of APD's community room for a board retreat on December 3rd. Ms. Ricker requested the room from 9am to 3pm, but the board doesn't need to meet for the entire time. 27 Maple street can be an alternate location if the community room isn't available.

The board agrees to hold their retreat on Sunday December 3rd, from 10:00 am to 1:00 pm.

(Rachel Zsembery, ARB Chair) Ms. Zsembery outlines a tentative agenda for the retreat. It includes: a discussion of how to keep closer tabs on adherence to special permit conditions, warrant articles for the spring town meeting, reviewing a draft application for site plan review and the associated board regulations, finalizing the board's 2024 meeting schedule, and potential urban renewal plans.

(Eugene Benson, ARB) Mr. Benson asks if the Atwood House would be included in potential urban renewal plans.

(Rachel Zsembery) Ms. Zsembery answers in the affirmative.

Zoning Amendments Preliminary Discussion

(Claire Ricker) Ms. Ricker shows a slide of possible amendment topics. These include: the Arlington Heights Business District, adjustments to height buffer areas, rezoning B1 parcels, rezoning the Walgreens parcel in East Arlington as B4, rezoning cemeteries as Open Space, rezoning church properties, adding more residential provisions to the list of transportation demand management options, and allowing administrative approval of illuminated signs. Ms. Ricker had also distributed a spreadsheet of zoning recommendations from existing planning documents; these are also things the board could pursue.

The Zoning Board of Appeals also recommended a set of changes, like removing the inland wetland and flood plain district overlays. Members of the ZBA will come before the board on December 18th to discuss their recommendations.

Finally, Mr. Revilak distributed a 2022 memo to the Zoning Bylaw working group, which provides several options from climate-resilient zoning.

(Kin Lau, ARB) Mr. Lau would like to have a joint meeting with the Select Board, to touch base and to make sure there's alignment on some of these goals.

(Steve Revilak, ARB) Mr. Revilak thinks the Arlington Heights Business district should be the board's main focus for this spring. He has a few questions about Ms. Ricker's list. He asks about the motivation for rezoning B1 parcels.

(Eugene Benson) Mr. Benson says this came out of site visits he did with Ms. Zsembery. They questioned whether B1 uses were still appropriate for the main corridors, or if they'd be better somewhere else.

(Steve Revilak) Mr. Revilak believes it would be appropriate to have smaller business uses on secondary streets, off the main corridors. He asks about the motivation for wanting to rezone the Walgreen's parcel.

(Kin Lau) Mr. Lau says the Walgreens parcel is small and underutilized.

(Steve Revilak) Mr. Revilak notes that, during the MBTA zoning process, the board agreed to look at TDM options that would be appropriate for residential-only development.

Mr. Revilak would like the board to consider flood-resilient zoning at some point. He believes the memo to the Zoning Bylaw Working Group was intended to present a list of options, rather than to recommend a specific course of action. He'd like to see the definition of building height amended so that buildings in flood-prone areas could be elevated, and perhaps a requirement for free-board in new construction.

Mr. Revilak would like the board to consider changing "Rental of up to three rooms" from a special permit use in the R districts to by-right. He believes that can only be enforced through complaints, which is problematic.

(Eugene Benson) Mr. Benson agrees that the Arlington Heights Business District should be the board's primary focus for the spring. He says we've done a lot in the last two years, and isn't sure if we should bring a lot of articles to this spring's annual town meeting. Mr. Benson says we should think about updating the town's Master Plan.

(Rachel Zsembery) Ms. Zsembery says she'll add the Master Plan to the agenda for the board retreat.

(Eugene Benson) Mr. Benson thinks an update to the master plan could be spread throughout 2024.

(Rachel Zsembery) Ms. Zsembery says we'll need to request an appropriation for that work.

(Claire Ricker) Ms. Ricker agrees that we'll need an appropriation. She says the existing master plan used a $100k appropriation the first year, and a $75k appropriation the year after.

(Eugene Benson) Mr. Benson says that some of the zoning recommendations in the spreadsheet have been done. He thinks it's harder for the board to get their heads around recommendations where the board didn't have any input on the plan. He thinks we should go through the list at a later point in time.

(Shaina Korman-Houston, ARB) Ms. Korman-Housing has nothing to add at this time.

(Rachel Zsembery) Ms. Zsembery thinks the board should focus on the Arlington Heights Business District and transportation demand management. She thinks it would be possible to update the height buffer requirements; the board has been in favor of doing this, but hasn't settled on a precise recommendation. She thinks some of these items could be pushed off to 2025.

(Eugene Benson) Mr. Benson would like to see an update to our commercial design guidelines, and possibly multi-family design guidelines for the MBTA Communities overlay district.

(Rachel Zsembery) Ms. Zsembery says we have an appropriation to update the design guidelines, but haven't spent it yet.

(Kin Lau) Mr. Lau says there are a lot of things here, and we need to prioritize. He'd like Arlington Heights to be the board's main priority.

(Rachel Zsembery) Ms. Zsembery suggests that board members read the Master Plan and Arlington Heights Neighborhood Action Plan in advance of the retreat.

(Steve Revilak) Mr. Revilak suggests reviewing the draft zoning changes that we looked at during the spring.

(Eugene Benson) Mr. Benson says he participated in last Friday's Clean Energy Future Committee meeting. Three of the committee members are planning to meet with Inspectional Services Director Mike Ciampa, to talk about the enhanced stretch code, and whether there things in the zoning bylaw that are standing in the way of meeting zero emissions goals.

(Rachel Zsembery) Ms. Zsembery asks staff if they can put together a schedule for warrant article submissions by early December. She thinks this will be useful for citizen petitioners that want to submit zoning articles.

(Claire Ricker) Ms. Ricker suggests doing this at the Board's December 18th meeting.

(Rachel Zsembery) Ms. Zsembery would like to put it on the schedule for December 4th, if possible. She notes that we've published timelines in previous years, and thinks we just need to update the dates.

The chair opens the floor to public comment.

(Susan Stamps) Ms. Stamps says that Green Streets Arlington is working with David Morgan on a zoning change for parking lots. They'd like to require trees, bioswales, and stormwater management. She says they hope to have something for the board to review by December 18th.

(Grant Cook) Mr. Cook thinks that Arlington Heights and parking changes seems appropriate for the spring. He suggests the board may want to consider rezoning the St. Camillus property as well.

(Claire Ricker) Ms. Ricker says the St. Camillus property is around six acres, and the Archdiocese issued an RFP for the sale of the property. She believes their preference is housing. Mr. Ricker says the parcel is zoned R1, so the options are a few single-family homes or a 40B project. Ms. Ricker says she's asked about rezoning, but feels there's little appetite for that, because 40B is an option. There have been some ideas floated, such as retail, commercial space, or something that involves stewardship of the nearby park.

(Eugene Benson) Mr. Benson believes that the Affordable Housing Trust Fund was thinking about proposing an affordable housing overlay.

(Claire Ricker) Ms. Ricker says the Trust Fund Board is meeting on November 30th, and she'll try to get this on their agenda.

(Eugene Benson) Mr. Benson says he's unsure about whether requirements for trees in parking lots belongs in the zoning bylaw, or the general bylaws.

Open Forum

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

New Business

(Claire Ricker) Ms. Ricker says she's just made an offer to an applicant for the Assistant Director position. If this person accepts, the Department of Planning and Community Development will be fully-staffed for the first time in more than a year.

Ms. Ricker reports that the department has submitted the MBTA multi-family district zoning to both the Attorney General and the Executive Office of Housing and Livable Communities. She's also had meetings with the owner of the Atwood House to talk about a potential project there.

Meeting adjourned.