Arlington Redevelopment Board - Nov 4th, 2019

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EDR 3348, Poyent Signs/CVS, 833 Mass Ave. This is a continuation of a previous hearing. Mr. McCoy is Poyent's representative.

Andrew Bunnell starts the hearing with some background information and context. Poyent does sign work for CVS and this permit relates to CVS's intention to replace signs on their store, to conform with with the company's current design and branding standards. CVS rents the property from a Mr. Noyes; Mr. Noyes passed away a few months ago, and his son has been settling the estate. On the property (owned by Noyes, and rented by CVS) there's a residential building called the Atwood house. Back in 2009, there was a special permit hearing as the property changed from an auto dealership to a CVS, and some of the special permit conditions involved the Atwood house. The property owner was supposed to improve the house, but that never happened. The building has stood abandoned, vandalized, and boarded up.

Mr. Bunnell acknowledges that the Atwood house is a point of concern for several residents, but notes that Poyent has no control over what happens to that building; Mr. McCoy works for a sign company, and has nothing to do with Atwood.

Mr. McCoy gives a brief presentation. CVS changed its logo and updated the company's sign standards. The permit involves a one-to-one replacement with similar signs, plus the addition of a "Do not enter" sign.

Mr. Bunnell has no issues with the sign proposal.

Rachel Zsembery sees no problem with the signs. She does have concerns about re-opening the old special permit over lack of attention to the Atwood house.

Eugene Benson recently visited the site, and noticed a directional sign that's not on the plan. The sign says "Drive Thru", or something to that effect. He requests this sign be added to the plan.

David Watson has no comments on the sign proposal, but he'd like to discuss the issues with the Atwood house.

Kin Lau has no issues with the sign proposal. He believes the board needs to find a reasonable and fair solution that doesn't drag Poyent back over an issue that's beyond their control.

Jenny Raitt points out that the 2009 special permit had a number of landscaping conditions, and these were never fulfilled. There was supposed to be a planting strip between the sidewalk and the building. The whole area is currently hardscape, and the sidewalk extends all the way up to the building. Mr. McCoy isn't familiar with that aspect of the 2009 special permit.

Mr. Bunnell opens the hearing to public comment.

(John Worden, 27 Jason St. Property assessed at $1.974M). Mr. Worden points out that he submitted several documents to the board related to this hearing. He claims that the 2009 special permit required the Atwood house to be used for a useful purpose, but ten years later nothing has been done with it. David Levy, then the director of the Housing Corporation of Arlington, had contemplated turning the building into affordable housing. The landlord was only willing to lease the property for ten years, which made that effort financially un-viable. The building has been boarded up and vandalized. Mr. Worden believes that a self-inflicted harm is not an acceptable defense. Mr. Worden states that Dr. Atwood had his medical offices in the building, and he believes the 2009 special permit conditions should be upheld.

(John Atwood, 523 North Oakland St., Arlington, VA). Mr. Atwood is the grandson of Dr. Atwood who owned the building. He provides a set of pictures to the board. Dr. Atwood grew up in Rhode Island, attended Harvard Medical School, and graduated around 1900. He settled in Arlington, MA and had several children during the years 1908--1914. He worked with the Symmes Hospital and Arlington Board of Health. Symmes recognized him by including his portrait in a gallery of distinguished physicians. Mr. Atwood describes the house's main staircase and a stained glass window. The house used to have a garden, but that's now a parking lot. Dr. Atwood suffered a stroke in 1952 and never recovered. Mr. Atwood believes the house is of historical interest, due to his family history and the house's architecture. He believes the house should be preserved, or a plaque put up.

Mr. Lau says that he saw the inside of the building a few years ago. It was a dentist office for a period of time, and the dentist removed many of the interior features.

(David Baldwin, 49 Academy Street. Property assessed at $1.082M). Mr. Baldwin is a member of Arlington's Historic Commission, and believes that prosperity has not preserved Arlington's history. He says that what's left is important, and that we should not be razing historic structures.

(Carl Wagner, 30 Edgehill Rd. Property assessed at $678k). Mr. Wagner says that the Atwood house has been in bad shape for his entire life. Ten years ago, the Redevelopment Board gave an instruction not to knock the structure down. Mr. Wagner proceeds to go off on a tangent about Arlington's high school, and a recently-constructed building at 887 Mass Ave).

(Peter Bloom. 15 Jason Hill Terrace #3. Property assessed at $613k). Mr. Bloom is discouraged about what's happened with the Atwood house. He says it looks like the backdrop for an assault or a drug overdose. He says we're loosing the high school architecture, which makes the Atwood house more important.

Mr. Bunnell closes public comment on this EDR hearing. He'd like to deliberate and decide what to do.

Mr. Benson doesn't know if we can connect the current sign application to the Atwood house. He doesn't see how the board can do anything other than approve the change in signage. He suggests asking Town Counsel about doing a taking, and having the building condemned.

Mr. Bunnell believes the sign application meets current standards. He doesn't think that keeping CVS down is a great idea, but wonders how to manage enforcement. Historical and cultural issues are the purview of another board. Trespassers go in and out of the building, and what we essentially have is an absentee property owner. There are questions for town counsel and others. Perhaps CVS could have some leverage over its landlord, Mr. Noyes.

Mr. Watson is not comfortable with stalling CVS's sign permit. A redevelopment effort could potentially take years; do we have another alternative, which doesn't involve holding up the sign permit for years? He wonders if there are ways we could put pressure on the property owner, to take care of their property.

Ms. Raitt spoke with town counsel and inspectional services. We don't have a contact within CVS. We re-opened the 2009 special permit in order to bring the property owner in front of the board, which has happened. But, we haven't heard anything since then. Town Counsel reviewed the 2009 ARB decision, and believes that several of the points are unenforceable.

Mr. Bunnell says that condition #4 allows the ARB to attach additional conditions to the special permit. We could re-open the earlier permit with the property owner, and ask them to address the condition of the Atwood house.

Mr. Lau favors approving the sign permit, and going after the property owner separately. He thinks that CVS has been a good neighbor, and shouldn't be dragged around for this.

Mr. Bunnell says that Poyent is here with a very reasonable request. But there's this other situation, which has been going on for ten years.

Ms. Zsembery has no issues with the proposed signage. She wonders if this could be an opportunity so speak with someone who has decision-making authority at CVS, and get them to understand the risks associated with having a danger to their patrons on the same property. She feels it's important to have someone from CVS attend a future hearing, for the sake of expediting a solution with the landlord.

Mr. Bunnell agrees that the board should consider bringing CVS in.

Mr. Benson believes that the special permit conditions could require a representative from CVS to appear before the board.

Mr. Bunnell thinks we should re-open the earlier permit, and bring the property owner in.

Mr. Lau recalls the prior ARB meeting, where the owner came in and said he'd hired a structural engineer to evaluate the building. He'd like to see what they've done so far. Mr. Lau and Mr. Watson are in favor of reopening the special permit.

Ms. Raitt says that December 16 is the only opportunity the board has to bring the property owner in.

Mr. Watson and Ms. Zsembery feel it's important to get a CVS representative who has decision making authority.

The board votes 5--0 in favor of approving the sign permit, with three conditions: (1) that the missing directional sign be added to the plan, (2) that the landscaping requirements be addressed, and (3) that a CVS representative with decision-making authority come before the board on December 16th.

Next, there's a motion to re-open EDR special permit 3348. The hearing will be advertised for December 16, 2019. The property owner and a CVS representative shall attend, for the purpose of discussion violations of the special permit conditions. Approved 5--0.


Update on Central School Renovation Project. Before providing an update, Ms. Raitt informs the board that there's been a request for a Marijuana establishment in the building currently occupied by Swiftly Printing (1314 Mass Ave, in Arlington Heights). This will be discussed at the next ARB meeting.

The Central School renovations will go out to bid next month. Ms. Raitt asks the board to consider endorsing the bonding. Town meeting already approved $8.055M in bonding for the project. The project has a website, which is url{https://arlingtoncommunitycenter.org/}.

Mr. Lau asks if the line-item construction budget is available. Ms. Raitt says it's not; the town won't see another cost estimate until the construction drawings are done.

Mr. Benson asks what it means to "endorse" the bonding. Ms. Raitt says it's an expression of support. Mr. Benson asks if the board can say "support" rather than "endorse".

Board votes 5--0, in favor of supporting the bonding.


Committee Updates. Ms. Raitt provides numerous committee updates that might be of interest to the board.

The Arlington Heights task force has their kickoff meeting scheduled for tomorrow night, at 5:30pm.

The Housing Plan Implementation Committee's next meeting is on November 13th. They're talking about establishing a real estate transfer fee, via a home rule petition. The fees will go towards affordable housing, and the town will establish an affordable housing trust fund. Mr. Bunnell has questions that he'd like to task the HPIC. Mr. Benson notes that a similar proposal was voted down town meeting several years ago.

The Zoning Bylaw Working Group voted to move forward with hiring a consultant to perform an economic analysis of the Industrial zones, and to assess potential opportunities for economic development. The group selected RKG for the project.

The last town meeting approved funds to develop a set of residential design guidelines. We put out an RFP, and there were no responses. We've since put out a revised RFP, and there's some potential interest this time.

The Master Plan Implementation Committee's next meeting is December 19th.

The Community Preservation Act Committee held their first meeting a few months ago. There are potentially 12 applicants for CPA funds, but none involve affordable housing. The CPA requires a certain percentage of funds to be used for affordable housing, so we may have to set aside 10% of our CPA monies for use in a later year.

Ms. Raitt says the town is considering funding for an archaeological survey. CPA funding could also be used for a minuteman bikeway visioning project.

Envision Arlington's 2020 town survey will include questions about housing. The board might consider inviting Juli Brazile to a future ARB meeting.

The Open Space Committee is working to secure funds, for updating the town's recreation plan.


Release of Bicycle Parking Guide. Ms. Raitt announces a town bicycle parking guide, which was developed by the Department of Planning and Community Development.

Mr. Benson has a number of suggested wording changes. He'd like to submit written comments later.

(Steve Revilak, 111 Sunnyside Ave. Property assessed at $435k). Cycling is Mr. Revilak's primary mode of transportation, and he typically rides 100 miles/week or so for commuting. He thinks the planning department has done a very nice job, and commends them for their efforts. He appreciated the examples of good vs not-so-good bicycle parking; particularly the explanations for why the not-so-good parking wasn't so good. He felt the layout guidelines on page 22 were very useful, and appreciated the examples of Corral racks. Corral racks are an effective way to retrofit bicycle parking into an automotive-oriented environment, and they really demonstrate how space-efficient bicycle parking can be.

Mr. Benson wonders if the town can get corral parking for the next town day.

Mr. Watson thinks the guide will be useful. He wonders if the department can distribute copies to businesses and large residential property owners, to give them ideas and guidance.


Schedule, Minutes. The board discusses a proposed schedule of future meetings. Ms. Raitt says there may be a special town meeting in December 2020, for the purpose of discussing zoning articles.

The board reviews minutes from their last three meetings, makes a number of amendments, and approves them.


Open Forum. One resident wishes to speak during the open forum.

(Don Seltzer, 104 Irving St. Property assessed at $826k). Mr. Seltzer would like to talk about the recently constructed building at 887 Mass Ave. He notes that there's been interior construction in the commercial spaces on the first floor, apparently for a preschool. Mr. Seltzer asks if the ARB plans to re-open the special permit hearing, because the originally proposed use was retail. He feels that the traffic pattern of pick-ups and drop-offs will conflict with the high school.

Mr. Benson asks if the town has done a Dover review. Ms. Raitt says that town counsel and inspectional services have performed a Dover review.


Meeting adjourned.