Arlington Redevelopment Board - Nov 6th, 2023
Meeting held in the Select Board Chambers at Town Hall. Materials were available from https://arlington.novusagenda.com/agendapublic/MeetingView.aspx?MeetingID=1951&MinutesMeetingID=-1&doctype=Agenda.
Approval of Meeting Minutes
The board approved minutes from their October 2, October 10, October 16, and October 23 meetings.
Docket 3752 - 251 Summer St
Applicant Calyx Peak seeks to establish a recreational marijuana facility at 251 Summer St.
(Claire Ricker, Planning Director) Ms. Ricker says she's spoken with Calyx Peak, and they've asked to board to close the hearing. They appear to be having problems coming to an agreement with the property owner.
(Kin Lau, ARB) Mr. Lau asks if the applicant plans to resubmit.
(Claire Ricker) Ms. Ricker says they could, but she doesn't know. Arlington's bylaws allow for three recreational marijuana facilities, and this would have been the third. She notes applicants have to have a host community agreement approved by the Select Board before coming to the ARB.
(Eugene Benson, ARB) Mr. Benson asks for clarification about what the applicants mean by "close the hearing".
(Claire Ricker) Ms. Ricker says they're asking to withdraw their application.
(Steve Revilak, ARB) Mr. Revilak has no objections to entertaining a motion allowing the applicant to withdraw.
(Rachel Zsembery, ARB Chair) Ms. Zsembery agrees. The applicants can re-apply once they've got things worked out.
The board votes to allow the withdrawal of the special permit application with no findings, 4--0.
Docket 3602 - 1207--1211 Mass Ave
The applicant, James Doherty, was granted a permit to construct a mixed-use building consisting of a hotel and a restaurant at 1207--1211 Mass Ave. He's before the board tonight to request an extension of his special permit.
(Claire Ricker, Planning Director) Ms. Ricker says the applicant is looking for an extension of his special permit, which will expire in December 2023. She says there are no changes proposed to what the board had previously approved.
(James Doherty, Applicant) Mr. Doherty is the owner of 1207 and 1211 Mass Ave. He says the hospitality industry was hard-hit by COVID, and started getting back on its feet in Q2 of this year. He still believes this project would provide an asset to the community, and he's requesting a two-year extension to his special permit. He thinks things have gotten to the point where we're starting to see investment again.
(Rachel Zsembery, ARB Chair) Ms. Zsembery says the hospitality industry has been very vibrant for the last two years. She asks Mr. Doherty how far he is from having construction drawings to submit to the building department.
(James Doherty) Mr. Doherty says he needs to acquire a hotel operator first.
(Eugene Benson, ARB) Mr. Benson thought the restaurant was the most interesting part of the project. He asks if Mr. Doherty has a restaurant tenant lined up.
(James Doherty) Mr. Doherty says the restaurant is intended to be geared off the hotel. He'd like to have a hotel operator before finding a restaurant.
(Eugene Benson) Mr. Benson asks Mr. Doherty to summarize what's been done since the special permit was granted.
(James Doherty) Mr. Doherty says the Select Board issued their RFP for the property in 2016. His application came to the board in 2019 and was approved in June of 2020, after the pandemic had started. Things were very uncertain at that time. Mr. Doherty says he was taking care of the mortgage on the property, and taking care of his commercial tenants. He tried to continue discussions with hotel operators but wasn't able to find someone who could pull the trigger.
Mr. Doherty says there wasn't much new construction through 2022 that hadn't been previously financed. He says he's heard a lot of noise about his project via the media, which he didn't appreciate.
(Eugene Benson) Mr. Benson asks if Mr. Doherty still envisions the project being a boutique hotel.
(James Doherty) Mr. Doherty says yes, but notes that he could easily build a residential project on the site. He says the town introduced mixed use in order to get more commercial development, and this hotel is the only real project that advances that goal. He says he wants to make a good project succeed.
(Eugene Benson) Mr. Benson asks Mr. Doherty why he's sounding defensive.
(James Doherty) Mr. Doherty says that he is defensive, and he'll say why in a second. He says he's been trying to get a dialog going about this site since last fall, and we're now at the eleventh hour.
(Eugene Benson) Mr. Benson says there have been several changes to the bylaw since the special permit was approved, such as shade tree requirements and solar standards. Arlington also adopted the enhanced stretch code. Mr. Benson would like to see some of these requirements included, if the board extends the special permit.
(Steve Revilak, ARB) Mr. Revilak asks Mr. Doherty if he's proposing any changes to the plans that were approved, or to the special permit conditions.
(James Doherty) Mr. Doherty answers in the negative.
(Kin Lau, ARB) Mr. Lau supports a two-year extension, but he'd like to get a progress report after one year. He says he'd end the extension after one year, if there's no progress.
The Chair opens the hearing to public.
(Susan Stamp) Ms. Stamps wants to suggest three items for the board's consideration. First, condition 7a of the special permit approved flowering pear trees. She understands that the tree warden no longer recommends these, and suggests a different species instead. Second, she'd like to see the applicant comply with section 6.3.1 of the zoning bylaw, which requires a public shade tree ever 25 feet. Finally, she'd like to see the hotel comply with the enhanced stretch code that town meeting adopted.
(Ann LeRoyer) Ms. LeRoyer says she's been concerned about this project from the beginning. If it's delayed longer, the site will continue to sit unimproved, and she's concerned about that. She asks how long the site will stay in that condition.
There's no further comment from the public.
(Rachel Zsembery) Ms. Zsembery says she's concerned about not seeing movement with the project, if the permit is extended.
(Steve Revilak) Mr. Revilak says he'd be okay with requiring compliance with the solar bylaw and tree standards. He also agrees with changing the tree species in the planting plan.
(Kin Lau) Mr. Lau thinks the timeline is fair, but he'd like to see progress after one year.
(Rachel Zsembery) Ms. Zsembery thinks one year is too long. She'd like to get a project update in six months.
(Eugene Benson) Mr. Benson asks Mr. Doherty if he'll be able to meet that timeline.
(James Doherty) Mr. Doherty says he has no problem with a six-month checkin. He think it's unfair for the board to ask him to comply with new provisions of the bylaw. He notes that the bylaw now allows mixed use buildings to have a FAR of 3.0. The limit was lower when his permit was approved, and he's not asking for a higher FAR.
(Rachel Zsembery) Ms. Zsembery says Mr. Doherty could ask for changes to take advantage of that provision, but we'd have to re-open the special permit.
(James Doherty) Mr. Doherty says that he has something approved, and would like to go forward with that. He says he wants to do something tasteful and beneficial to the town.
(Rachel Zsembery) Ms. Zsembery notes that the town sold 1207 Mass Ave in order to have the property redeveloped.
(Steve Revilak) Mr. Revilak takes Mr. Doherty's point. He'd prefer a clean two-year extension to the special permit.
(Eugene Benson) Mr. Benson says he's okay with a two-year extension, but not a clean extension. He wants the project to comply with the solar bylaw and public shade tree standards.
(Rachel Zsembery) Ms. Zsembery says she agrees with Mr. Benson.
(Kin Lau) Mr. Lau agrees with Mr. Revilak. He doesn't believe in piling on new requirements.
There's a discussion about the requirements of the solar bylaw.
(Kin Lau) Mr. Lau says the rooftop of the hotel wasn't designed to accommodate solar.
(Eugene Benson) Mr. Benson says there's a list of exemptions in the solar bylaw; if one of them applies to Mr. Doherty's project, then he won't need to install solar panels.
(Kin Lau) Mr. Lau says he's okay with the compromise.
(Steve Revilak) Mr. Revilak says he still prefers a clean extension. But, the imposition of new conditions will not cause him to vote no.
The board sets May 6th for the six month check-in, and December 8, 2025 as the new expiration day.
The applicant will need to comply with Section 6.3.1 and 6.4 of the zoning bylaw, along with selecting a new tree species for the planting plan.
The board votes to extend the permit, with conditions, 4--0.
2024 Meeting Schedule
The board reviews their proposed meeting schedule for 2024. For the most part, it's the first and third Mondays of each month, with the exception of holidays.
The board adjusts the meeting dates for April to April 1, April 8, and April 29. They also move the July 8th meeting to July 15.
The board tentatively schedules December 3rd as a retreat date.
Schedule adopted, 4--0.
There are no speakers for tonight's open forum.
(Claire Ricker) Ms. Ricker says a fifth member has agreed to join the board. She'll be confirmed by the Select Board on Wednesday.
(Eugene Benson) Mr. Benson notes that we will need to come up with a site plan review application (this will be different from a special permit application).
(Claire Ricker) Ms. Ricker says she'll work on a draft application.
(Eugene Benson) Mr. Benson asks if Ms. Ricker could provide an update on our Inclusionary Zoning feasibility study, and EOHLC approval of our MBTA Communities zoning.
(Claire Ricker) Claire says the feasibility analysis is ongoing. The zoning changes will be submitted to the Attorney General and Executive Office of Housing and Livable communities in parallel.
(Steve Revilak) Mr. Revilak says the Massachusetts Citizen Planner Training Collaborative recently released their fall course schedule. These courses are intended for members of planning and zoning boards, and he's found them helpful.