Arlington Redevelopment Board - Nov 7th, 2022

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Meeting held in the first floor of the community center. Materials were available from

Docket 3722 - 141 Massachusetts Avenue

The applicant is proposing to replace the outdoor signs of the Leader Bank at 141 Massachusetts Avenue.

(Claire Ricker, Planning Director) Ms. Ricker says this is a non-conforming 2,000 square foot bank branch in the B2 district, in a building that pre-dates our zoning bylaw. They're proposing to remove the existing wall signs and replace them with a new 40 sq ft. wall sign. They're before the board tonight because the sign is larger than what's allowed by right, and requires a discretionary permit.

(Loren Rosen, Artifex) Mr. Rosen's firm, Artifex, was hired by Leader Bank to design and install the new signage. He believes the proposed sign meets eighteen of nineteen requirements in the zoning bylaw; the requirement it doesn't meet is size. The existing sign consists of channel letters, which are larger than the ones being proposed. Mr. Rosen says that a fair amount of the 40 square feet is white space above the lettering. Leader Bank has been around for 70 years, and the company adopted a new logo. The proposed sign in 30% smaller than the one being replaced. The letters are 2" deep whereas the current sign has 5" deep letters. The letters will be illuminated by halo lighting, which is a form of reverse lighting. The word "Leader" will be fabricated with a translucent material, and be internally illuminated. Mr. Rosen says they're planning to install new fascia panels, and improve the appearance of the corner entrance.

(Brett Scofield, Leader Bank) Mr. Scofield says the bank is trying to accomplish a good-looking sign. He says they'd prefer to have a more modern, clean-looking sign.

(Kin Lau, ARB) Mr. Lau asks what the white panel is made of.

(Loren Rosen) Mr. Rosen says it's a 4mm thick, off-white composite material.

(Kin Lau) Mr. Lau asks about the gray panels.

(Loren Rosen) Mr. Rosen indicates they're the same kind of material.

(Kin Lau) Mr. Lau asks the applicants to consider extending the panels up, to cover the last few courses of brick at the top of the wall. He believes this would make the panel look more like a part of the building facade.

(Melisa Tintocalis, ARB) Ms. Tintocalis asks if there's a possibility of having a blade sign.

(Kelly Lynema, Assistant Planning Director) Ms. Lynema says the applicants could install a blade sign, but that wasn't part of this application.

(Melisa Tintocalis) Ms. Tintocalis asks why the applicants didn't include a blade sign.

(Applicant) One of the applicants says they were originally planning to have a logo above the door, but decided on just the street number instead.

(Eugene Benson, ARB) Mr. Benson says the sign area is around 39 square feet, but the B2 district has a 20 square foot limit for wall signs. He asks the applicants why they couldn't go with a 20 square foot sign.

(Loren Rosen) Mr. Rosen said they considered a smaller sign, but felt it was too diminutive.

(Eugene Benson) Mr. Benson suggests reducing the size of the sign and the band.

(Steve Revilak, ARB) Mr. Revilak says there are other additional dimensional constraints he'd like to discuss. First, wall signs in the B2 district have a 6' height limit, but Mr. Revilak understands how that's a difficult constraint with this facade. Mr. Revilak notes that wall signs are limited to 60% of the width of the architectural element that contains them. He thinks the sign is larger than that, and asks the applicants to provide a percentage.

(Applicant) The applicant says the sign is seventeen feet wide, and the band is 20' wide.

(Steve Revilak) Mr. Revilak says he'd like to see the sign fit the 60% width constraint.

(Rachel Zsembery, ARB) Ms. Zsembery says she has no problem with the sign in this district, but she does have an issue with it being wider than 60%. She suggests making the band longer, so that it becomes a single architectural element.

(Lauren Rosen) Mr. Rosen believes they can do that.

The chair opens the hearing to public comment.

(B. Linehan) Ms. Linehan says she's been a Leader bank customer for many years and she enjoys the service their bank provides. Ms. Linehan says she has some issues with the typography of the sign, and suggests reducing the point spacing around the letters.

There are no more comments from the public.

(Rachel Zsembery) Ms. Zsembery brings the discussion back to the board.

(Steve Revilak) Mr. Revilak says he's okay with the sign band changes that Ms. Zsembery proposed.

(Eugene Benson) Mr. Benson would like the sign to be smaller. He thinks it's ridiculous that this block is zoned B2. He says the liquor store next door recently replaced their sign, and the new one is too big. Mr. Benson believes we need to change the sign regulations, or rezone this district as B3. He says he can't agree with a sign that's larger than 20 square feet.

(Melisa Tintocalis) Ms. Tintocalis thinks this sign offers more continuity. She likes having the exposed brick above the sign band, but would be comfortable with Mr. Lau's earlier suggestion to cover that section of brick. She's also interested in seeing blade sign ideas.

(Kin Lau) Mr. Lau says he likes the white band, but would prefer both gray and white. He notes that we have an mishmash of zoning districts on Mass Ave.

(Rachel Zsembery) Ms. Zsembery likes the brick above the band, and she thinks it's okay for the board to approve a larger sign in this location. She notes that businesses in this district are limited to two signs, and the application materials show three: one wall sign, and two window signs.

(Applicant) The applicant says the window signs are for temporary advertisements.

(Rachel Zsembery) Ms. Zsembery says they're limited to one window sign.

(Eugene Benson) Mr. Benson notes the applicants could have a second wall sign on the other corner of the building.

(Rachel Zsembery) Ms. Zsembery asks if they'd consider a blade sign there.

(Applicant) One of the applicants says they didn't consider a blade sign. If they were to add one, they'd want to locate it on Mass Ave.

(Rachel Zsembery) Ms. Zsembery says a blade sign could be approved administratively, if it meets the standards for the district.

(Kin Lau) Mr. Lau says he'd like to withdraw his earlier request, that the applicants cover the upper few courses of brick.

There's a motion to approve the permit. Passes, 4--1 (Mr. Benson voted in the negative).

Docket 3723 - 22--24 Belknap Street

This docket involves a large addition to a two-family home. It's before the ARB because the property abuts the Minuteman Bikeway.

(Claire Ricker) Ms. Ricker says that this permit involves a large addition to a two-family home on Belknap Street. There's no change in use, though the building is going from a two-family to a duplex. The applicants are here because the property abuts the Minuteman Bikeway, which places it under ARB jurisdiction.

(James Risling, LR Designs) Mr. Risling says they're seeking a permit for a 1200 square foot addition. This will allow the applicant to convert the two-family building into side by side homes. He says there's an 11' slope at the rear of the property, which leads down to the bikeway. The lot size is 10,440 square feet. Mr. Risling says the trend towards working at home has made den and office space more sought-after commodities.

(Kin Lau) Mr. Lau asks about the garage that's on the property.

(James Risling) Mr. Risling says they plan to leave the garage. There will be two tandem parking spaces on that side of the building, and pavers that lead to the garage.

(Kin Lau) Mr. Lau asks about curb cuts.

(James Risling) Mr. Risling says there are existing curb cuts on both the left and right sides of the property.

(Kin Lau) Mr. Lau thinks the improvements are nice. He asks the applicants to put the parking on one side of the building, so there's more of a front lawn.

(Jason Santini(?), Architect) Mr. Santini notes that having the parking on one side means that one of the residents will have to walk all the way around the building.

(Eugene Benson) Mr. Benson also has questions about parking. He asks if there will be driveways on both sides of the building when the project is complete.

(Jason Santini) Mr. Santini answers in the affirmative, though he says they're planning to reduce the width of the left driveway to the minimum allowed.

(Eugene Benson) Mr. Benson asks how the applicants plan to prevent residents from driving their cars onto the grass, and parking in the usable open space. He asks if they're planning to install some sort of fence or curb. Mr. Benson also asks about a LEED checklist. He'd like to see a LEED checklist, or some sort of narrative about sustainability.

(Steve Revilak) Mr. Revilak says the applicants need to provide a vegetated buffer along the left driveway, and reads the standard in the zoning bylaw that applies. He doesn't think that will be practical for the driveway on the right, as that's shared with an adjacent property. Mr. Revilak visited the property over the weekend, and suspects that the side additions won't be visible from the sidewalk in front of the house. He asks if the applicants received a copy of the town's Residential Design Guidelines, and what inspiration they drew from them.

(?) One of the applicants said the guidelines influenced the gambrel roof form, and making the entrance appealing from the street.

The chair opens the hearing to public comment.

(Deb Bermudas) Ms. Bermudas has concern about massing, and she disagrees with the notion that the proposal is similar to nearby structures. She says the applicants plan to increase the height of the building, and believes it will be too high. She's concerned about impacts on visibility and thinks the height is oppressive. She'd like to see something smaller, to limit over-shadowing.

(Chris Loreti) Mr. Loreti has comments about the second driveway. He asks if the property was ever granted a special permit for a second driveway, and doubts it was. He doesn't think the second driveway is necessary, and notes that it ends in the front yard. He hopes the board denies the applicant's request for a special permit.

There are no more comments from the public.

(Rachel Zsembery) Ms. Zsembery asks a question about one vs two driveways. She'd feel okay with having the applicant work with staff on sustainability measures.

(Kin Lau) Mr. Lau asks if there are shared parking arrangements. He says it looks like the garage crosses the property line, and thinks a buffer along the left-side driveway is okay. He says he can't tell where the property line is in the shared driveway. He thinks the remaining questions can be worked out administratively.

(Melisa Tintocalis) Ms. Tintocalis doesn't have strong feeling about the driveway buffer.

(Eugene Benson) Mr. Benson thinks a LEED checklist is required, and that the applicants should come back to the board with one. He'd like to see a buffer along the left-side driveway, and doesn't think that a shared driveway is the board's concern. He'd like to have the applicants come back before the board.

(Steve Revilak) Mr. Revilak asks the applicants to confirm that the building height is under 35' now, and will remain under 35' after the renovations.

(Applicant) The applicants answer in the affirmative.

There back and fourth about the LEED checklist, and whether the applicants should be required to come back for a second night of hearings. There's also back and fourth about parking.

(Rachel Zsembery) Ms. Zsembery summarizes the conditions that she's heard from board members: a vegetated buffer along the left-side driveway, a fence at the end of the left-side driveway, and providing staff with a LEED checklist.

There's a motion to approve the special permit, with conditions. Motion passes, 4--1 (Mr. Benson voted in the negative).

Docket 3717 - 80 Broadway

This special permit involves the construction of a new five-story mixed-use building.

(Claire Ricker) Ms. Ricker says that 80 Broadway is currently a one-story commercial building, and the applicant proposes to build a five-story mixed use building on the site. There will be commercial space on the ground and second floors, along with nine residential units. The development is large enough to trigger our inclusionary zoning bylaw, so one of the residential units will be deed-restricted affordable.

(Rob Costello, Applicant) Mr. Costello says he's lived in Arlington for 15 years, and has a kid in the Thompson School. He says the site is in need of redevelopment and he's had his eye on it for a long time. He notes how the proposal aligns with goals in the Master Plan. Mr. Costello says the residential units will be rental apartments rather than condos, and he thinks this will make a key impact on Broadway.

(David Fried, Architect) Mr. Fried says they're proposing a five-story building with commercial space on the first two floors. There will be a total of nine apartments and a rooftop solar array. The site is 6770 square feet and mostly covered with asphalt with extensive curb cuts. They plan to remove the curb cut on Winter Street, and have a single curb cut on Broadway. There will be 1500 square feet of commercial space on the first floor and the second floor commercial space will be elevator accessible. They're proposing six parking spaces, one of which will be an accessible space. There are three apartments on the third and fourth floors; the fifth floor has roof decks facing Winter St. and Broadway. The building will be 55' tall; the first floor is 13' high and the upper stories are 10' 6". The exterior will be mostly fiber cement panels, with metal panels on the stop floor. There were will be a canopy over the residential entrance, and street tree plantings. Mr. Fried shows a slide of shadow studies, explaining that shadows will pass the abutting buildings at around noon.

(Kin Lau) Mr. Lau would like to review the relief that the applicants are seeking. He understands they'd like a reduction of nine parking spaces to six, and relief from open space requirements, or the ability to count the rooftop decks as open space.

(Applicant) One of the applicants confirms that they'd like a reduction to six parking spaces. They'd also like relief from drive isle width requirements, as a portion of the drive isle is 20' wide rather than the required 24'.

(Kin Lau) Mr. Lau suggests adding a roof deck above the first floor commercial space. He thinks there's probably 600--700 square feet there.

(Melisa Tintocalis) Ms. Tintocalis thinks this is an exciting project for Broadway, but she'd like to see the applicant carve out more open space.

(Kin Lau) Mr. Lau thinks that a roof deck above the first floor could be connected to either the commercial or residential spaces.

(Applicant) One of the applicants says they were concerned about keeping the commercial space under 3000 square feet, as there's no parking requirement for the first 3000 square feet of commercial space in a mixed use building.

(Melisa Tintocalis) Ms. Tintocalis appreciates the applicants efforts to comply with goals in the master plan.

(Kelly Lynema) Ms. Lynema tells the board that they could consider this project as having an upper-story step back on the second floor.

(Eugene Benson) Mr. Benson says this is an exciting project for Broadway. He asks about elevator access.

(Applicant) One of the applicants indicates that the elevator is accessed through the residential lobby. This includes elevator access to the second floor commercial space.

(Eugene Benson) Mr. Benson asks about handicapped access.

(Applicant) One of the applicants indicates an access ramp on the plans.

(Eugene Benson) Mr. Benson understands why the applicants are seeking a parking reduction. He notes that the applicants are also asking for a reduction in the number of long-term bicycle parking spaces, and that involves a different standard. He'd like the applicants to find a way to provide the required number of bicycle spaces. Mr. Benson says that open space has to be on the ground, or above the first floor. He'd like to know more about what the units look like, for example, the number of bedrooms in each apartment.

Mr. Benson says the board received a letter about the gross floor area calculations for this project. He asks the applicants to describe how they calculated gross floor area.

(Applicant) One of the applicants says they included everything between the outside wall faces, except for elevators and stairwells.

(Eugene Benson) Mr. Benson says he hadn't seen the applicants shadow studies before, and he'd like them submitted to the board.

(Steve Revilak) Mr. Revilak has a question about the applicant's open space calculations. He says the tables on sheet A-0 make it look like the percentage requirements were based on 6770 square feet, which is the size of the lot. Our open space requirements for a mixed-use building are based on the percentage of gross floor area (GFA) devoted to residential units, not lot size.

(Applicant) One of the applicants indicates that they calculated the requirements based on the percentage of residential GFA. They believe the 6770 square feet on sheet A-0 is a mistake.

(Steve Revilak) Mr. Revilak asks about the distance between the left-most parking space and the next property on Winter Street. He says the board received a letter from the owner of that property, who was concerned about cars parking right next to his ADU.

(Applicant) The applicant indicates that the distance is 8'.

(Steve Revilak) Like Mr. Benson, Mr. Revilak would also like to see the applicants provide the full number of bicycle parking spaces. He indicates an area on the north-west corner of the ground floor commercial space where the applicants might consider a second bike closet.

(Rachel Zsembery) Ms. Zsembery appreciates the articulation of the residential space, and has some suggestions about the cornice of the first floor. She'd like to move away from a more industrial aesthetic, and asks the applicants to consider something less flat, that can play well with the railing above. She'd like the sign areas to be either internally or externally lit.

(Kin Lau) Mr. Lau suggests changes around the entrance to the parking area. He believes that part of the building will be very visible from Broadway.

(Melisa Tintocalis) Ms. Tintocalis asks a question about the mixed use building on Mass Ave, across the street from the high school. She likes how that building fits on the parcel, and the corner entrance. She feels that the corner entrance has a more welcoming look.

There's a back and forth discussion about building facades.

The chair opens the hearing to public comment.

(Melinda Chu) Ms. Chu appreciates the need for more mixed-use, but she's concerned about how this building might impact her solar panels, and the natural sunlight her property receives. She thinks that a three-story building would be more appropriate.

(Eugene Benson) Mr. Benson indicates that he's aware of the solar panels on Ms. Chu's house; that's why he asked the applicants to provide a shadow study.

(Terry Chu) Ms. Chu lives on the upper story of 88 Broadway. She says she works from home and her building doesn't get a lot of sunlight; it's blocked by 84--86 Broadway. She believes the proposed building will put 88 Broadway in shadow. She's concerned about sunlight, and isn't sure how well the building fits in with the rest of the block.

(Matthew Owen) Mr. Owen supports the project. He likes the fact that the applicants are increasing the amount of commercial space on the site. He likes the additional residential and thinks the units are a good size. Regarding shadows, Mr. Owen had some questions about the orientation of Winter Street with respect to the shadow studies.

(Chris Loreti) Mr. Loreti says that 80 Broadway is a small lot and he thinks the proposed use is not appropriate. He thinks there's no way that the ARB can find that a five-story mixed use will not impact the adjoining residential districts. He disagrees with Town Counsel's opinion about the scope of the ARB's authority, and thinks the applicants should have gone to the ZBA for a variance first. Mr. Loreti would also like to know if any members of the board had ex-parte meetings with the applicant.

(Rachel Zsembery) Ms. Zsembery acknowledges that Mr. Loreti has expressed this opinion to the board before, and states her disagreement.

There's no more comment from the public.

(Rachel Zsembery) Ms. Zsembery has been keeping a list of things that board members have asked for, and she'd like summarize this for the applicant. The list includes includes:

  • A LEED checklist
  • A transportation demand Management plan
  • Verifying the open space calculations, and ensuring they're calculated based on the amount of residential gross floor area.
  • More details about the residential apartments
  • Adding dimensions of the upper story step backs
  • Correcting the figures on sheet A-0.
  • Adding dimensions to the buffer areas around the parking spaces.
  • Improvements to the first-floor facade
  • Adding a roof deck or roof garden above the first floor
  • Adding driveway safety measures
  • Providing a lighting plan, including lighting for the parking area

There's a motion to continue the hearing to December 19th. Motion passes, 5--0.

ARB Rules and Regulations

The board is contemplating several small changes to their rules and regulations, based on warrant articles passed during the last town meeting.

There are no questions from the board, and no comment from the public.

Motion to adopt the changes passes, 5--0.

Hybrid Meeting Protocol

(Rachel Zsembery) Ms. Zsembery says the board has been asked to participate in a hybrid meeting pilot. The meeting materials included a set of recommendations from the Remote Study Working Group. Ms. Zsembery wrote a memo with her own recommendations, but this wasn't distributed to board members in advance of the meeting. The board will revisit this topic on November 21st.

MBTA Communities Working Group

Planning staff provided a memo with a suggested composition for the MBTA communities working group. The suggestions are for

  • Two members of the ARB
  • Teresa Marzilli, from the DEI department
  • 1 resident with experience in public relations
  • 2 residents with experience in planning and zoning.

After a brief discussion, Mr. Lau and Mr. Revilak are selected as the board's representatives.

There's a motion to adopt the proposed working group composition; passes, 5--0.

Open Forum

The chair opens the open forum portion of the meeting.

(Matthew Owen) Mr. Owen has some comments on the 80 Broadway hearing. He thinks the open space requirements for mixed use buildings seem to be having a similar effect as the old FAR regulations -- they make it hard to build to the height that zoning allows. He thinks that's worth a discussion.

(Rachel Zsembery) Ms. Zsembery agrees that topic should be priority for the board.

New Business

(Kin Lau) Mr. Lau says he's tired of having board members being accused of ex-parte meetings, and such. He thinks those accusations are slanderous, and hopes there's something we can do to prevent it.

(Steve Revilak) Mr. Revilak would like to talk about 464 Mass Ave; this isn't new information for the board, but it may be new information for the public. Mr. Revilak notes that the applicant found a better site for their brew pub, and informed staff that they won't be moving forward with 464 Mass Ave. So, we do not have our first brewery yet.

(Kelly Lynema) Ms. Lynema says she's working on a memo regarding several zoning amendments. She also informs the board that several citizen petitioners will be on the November 21st agenda.

Meeting adjourned.