Arlington Redevelopment Board - Nov 2nd, 2020
Meeting held via video-conference. Meeting materials were available from https://arlington.novusagenda.com/agendapublic/DisplayAgendaPDF.ashx?MeetingID=1193.
Docket 2905, 23 Broadway. The applicant requested a continuation. Hearing continued until Dec 7th.
Docket 3633, 1500 Mass Ave. This is a proposal for a mixed-use building in Arlington heights.
(Bob Annesse, Attorney) Mr. Annesse presents for the petitioners. During the last meeting, members of the board made several suggestions which the petitioners have tried to address. These include usable open space, window treatment and location, solar panels, fencing around the retaining wall, permeable pavement, and a TDM plan. The current proposal has five parking spaces; six are required, and the petitioners will request relief of one space as a concession for the TDM plan. The petitioners are unable to comply with two items: solar panels and the roof deck. The building code says that solar panels have to be set back so many feet from mechanical systems, and that left too little room for an effective solar installation. The petitioners prefer not to do a roof deck because they're at the outer limits of their construction budget, and it would cost too much. Mr. Annesse asks the board not to consider mandating solar panels and a roof deck.
(Emily Driscoll, Architect) Ms. Driscoll outlines changes to the design plans. They removed the handicapped accessible apartment from the ground floor, and the entire ground floor is now commercial space. It could be configured as one or two suites. They've added a landscaped wall, and a walkway from the street to the rear yard. The sides and rear of the building will have double-hung windows to match the ones in front. They've added fencing along the retaining wall and an EV charging station. They're planning two drains in the parking lot to capture stormwater runoff, though this needs further review with the town's civil engineer. The parking spaces will be numbered, and there will be one parking space per unit.
(Kin Lau) Mr. Lau appreciates the trim work shown in the new drawings. He's okay with leaving out the roof deck and solar panels. He wanted the petitioners to consider these features, but is okay with leaving them out. Mr. Lau says he's fine with the building. He asks about the caliper of the new trees along the perimeter of the property.
(Eugene Benson) Mr. Benson is glad the petitioners considered solar panels and the roof deck. He feels the permeable pavers are a good idea and asks if they'll require maintenance.
(Monte French, Architect) Mr. French says he has experience with using permeable pavers. They do require some maintenance.
(Eugene Benson) Mr. Benson says the board may want a maintenance plan as a special permit condition. Mr. Benson also asks about GFA. He says he's added up the first floor room areas shown on the plans and they don't match the number shown on the dimensional worksheet.
(Emily Driscoll) Ms. Driscoll explains that the ZBL has exceptions for what counts towards gross floor area.
Mr. Benson asks for a citation and Ms. Driscoll goes looking for it.
(Eugene Benson) Mr. Benson appreciates seeing the eleven replacement trees shown on the site plan. He suggests adding one or two street trees in the planting strip in front of the building. Whatever species the tree warden would recommend.
(David Watson) Mr. Watson thinks the petitioners have done more than enough with their TDM plan. He suggests removing "bicycle share on site" as one of the plan elements. He likes the look of the open space area and walkway. He asks how the open space (aka the back yard) will be maintained.
(Monte French) Mr. French says they'll have to consider maintenance of the area. It might involve carrying a lawn mower up a couple of steps. Mr. French says he has to do this with his own lawn.
(David Watson) Mr. Watson says he may want to add an open space maintenance plan as a condition for the special permit. He thinks the roof deck would be nice, but won't insist on it. Mr. Watson asks if board is settled that the tree warden has approved the tree plan.
(Bob Annesse) Mr. Annesse says he's provided a letter from the tree warden. The warden asked for 11 trees and there are eleven trees shown on the plans.
(Katie Levine Einstein) Ms. Levine Einstein agrees that a few street trees would be a nice contribution.
(Emily Driscoll) Ms. Driscoll provides a citation for GFA exceptions.
(Eugene Benson) Mr. Benson says he's satisfied with the answer to his GFA question. Mr. Benson doesn't think the board can require more trees, but the board can make compliance with the tree bylaw a condition of the special permit.
(Kin Lau) Mr. Lau is in agreement on the tree issues, but he disagrees with Mr. Watson's suggestion to require a maintenance plan for the usable open space. Mr. Lau states that the ZBL has area requirements for usable open space; it requires that a certain amount exist. He doesn't think a maintenance condition is necessary.
(David Watson) Mr. Watson says he was concerned about maintenance -- cutting the grass.
(Kin Lau) Mr. Lau says he wouldn't want to see the applicants lose their special permit simply because they didn't mow the lawn.
(Rachel Zsembery) Ms. Zsembery agrees with Mr. Lau. She also thinks a maintenance condition would be hard to enforce.
(Eugene Benson) Mr. Benson also agrees with Mr. Lau.
There are no further questions from the board, and the chair opens the hearing to public comment.
(Don Seltzer) Mr. Seltzer says he appreciates the addition of open space. He claims that the petitioners have miscalculated the building's gross floor area and exceeded the maximum floor area for this lot. He questions whether the board can grant this relief without ending up in land court. He asks "what happened to snow removal". Mr. Seltzers say that a four-unit apartment on a lot of this size is neither reasonable nor legal.
(Steve Revilak) Mr. Revilak think that the new site configuration, with a small parking lot and a back yard, is an improvement over the circular driveway with parking along the side. He thinks it's a better use of the site.
Public comment ends.
(David Watson) Mr. Watson asks about the fifth parking space. He sees providing one space per unit, and asks what the fifth space is for.
(Monte French) Mr. French says the fifth parking space could be used for the commercial suite, or as overflow for the residential apartments. For example, if one of the tenants had a guest.
(David Watson) Mr. Watson asks how snow removal will be handled.
(Monte French) Mr. French anticipates that snow removal will be contracted out. That might involve having someone come in with a front loader to carry the snow away.
The board discusses special conditions. Compliance with the tree protection bylaw will be one of the conditions.
(Eugene Benson) Mr. Benson would like the decision to include a finding and explanation about why the front yard setback was adjusted. He thinks it should also contain an explanation and justification for the parking plan.
(Jenny Raitt) Ms. Raitt states that approval of a TDM plan will also be a condition. Snow and trash removal are already covered by the general conditions for a special permit.
Permit approved, 5--0.
Draft Report to Town Meeting. The board reviews the ARB draft report to town meeting and suggests edit. The most discussion involves the report on article 18 (which would have allowed two-family homes and duplexes in what are currently single-family districts).
(Kin Lau) Mr. Lau says that Mr. Benson made a point about outreach. We can't equate a citizen article to one proposed by the ARB. Citizens don't have the same ability to hold forums or do outreach. Mr. Lau doesn't want to discourage people from bringing zoning articles to town meeting.
(David Watson) Mr. Watson asks Mr. Lau if he was referring to the board's commitment to have a public process.
(Eugene Benson) Mr. Benson says he voted no action on Article 18 because he wanted to see substantive changes before sending it to town meeting. He felt that having the article before town meeting would be sufficient outreach.
(Katie Levine Einstein) Ms. Levine Einstein suggests changing the wording to say that elimination of single-family zoning is a very new policy change, and research is still being done into its effects.
There's a similar but shorter discussion about the wording for Article 19's report.
The board approves the report, as amended.
Meeting Minutes. The board approves meeting minutes (with amendments) from Oct 17th and September 14th.
Open Forum. The chair opens the open forum portion of the meeting.
(Barbara Thornton) Ms. Thornton would like to suggest a set of process changes to the ARB. She sees this town meeting as a dress rehearsal for the next set of substantive zoning changes. Good governance is like an orchestra, and it requires coordination. There are four aspects to this: technical issues, organizational issues, political issues, and personal issues. If the Board wishes to take up ADUs in the future, it may be worth starting ten weeks before public hearings. Leave time to reconcile technical issues. Let petitioners know what questions you have, and allow time for them to be addressed.
(Steve Revilak) Mr. Revilak would like to offer constructive criticism of the ARB's hearing process. The hearing schedule for this town meeting was very short, and there wasn't enough time to work with the text of the articles. That's happened several times in the past. Mr. Revilak asks the board to consider adopting a hearing process that's similar to the Select Board's. He uses the tree protection bylaw as an example. The warrant article for the tree protection bylaw was added by the tree committee, and members of the tree committee drafted the first main motion. At the first hearing, the Select Board had a number of issues; they asked the proponent if they wanted to try again next year, or to revise the main motion and bring it to the board's next meeting. The tree committee chose to work on it. They brought a revised motion to the board's next meeting, the board suggested a few more changes, and recommended favorable action. Mr. Revilak hopes the ARB can allow time for iteration. He says there are residents that want to work with the board and get their input, and hopes that future hearings can accommodate that.
(Jennifer Susse) Ms. Susse would like to make a few suggestions, based on her experience serving on the school committee. The school committee used to be very resistant to public engagement. People who came to public meetings tended to be cranky and distrustful. However, getting a bunch of people talking together makes them realize that there's a diverse set of ideas, and it gives them a chance to feel heard. Ms. Susse encourages the board to do outreach before articles are put forward. Some people will be opposed, some people will be in favor, and good ideas will come out of the process. It's a long process but it usually saves time in the end.