Arlington Redevelopment Board - Sep 12th, 2022

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Meeting held in the first floor of the Community Center. Materials were available from

ARB member Melisa Tintocalis was unable to attend tonight's meeting.

MBTA Communities Update

(Kelly Lynema, Acting Planning Director) Ms. Lynema tells the board that DHCD released the new MBTA community guidelines in August. She provides a presentation that outlines how the guidance has changed, and how it applies to Arlington.

The law requires MBTA communities to have a "district of reasonable size" where multi-family housing is allowed by right, at a gross density of at least 15 units/acre, and without any size or age restrictions.

Arlington is now classified as an "Adjacent Community", which means our capacity requirement is now 10% instead of 25%. "Capacity" refers to the number of dwellings that could be built by right if there was nothing in the district, and 10% refers to the percentage of year-round housing units from the last census. Arlington's required multi-family district capacity is 2046 housing units. Capacity is a total, not an increase.

The minimum size of our district has been reduced from 50 to 32 acres; this is a minimum, and we have the option of making the district larger. We can also have sub-districts that allow different gross densities, as long as they average to at least 15 dwellings/gross acre. Each multi-family district must be at least five acres in size.

Our district is not required to be within 1/2 mile of the Alewife T station. A number of adjacent communities (including Arlington) had less than 100 developable acres around transit stations. This gives us more freedom with respect to where the district is located, but the recommendation is to have it near transit corridors.

There is an incentive for Arlington to create its district ahead of schedule. Communities that wish to participate in the state's fossil fuel ban pilot need to have 10% of their housing on the Subsidized Housing Inventory, or to establish a multi-family district of reasonable size by January 2024.

Within each district, multi-family homes must be allowed by right, but site plan review is allowed.

Because Arlington had an inclusionary zoning bylaw, we'll be able to keep our requirement for 15% affordable units in projects of six dwellings or more. However, the units have to be affordable to households making 80% of the area median income. Our Housing Production Plan suggests revisiting our inclusionary zoning bylaw, and that may become part of this process.

Multi-family districts can't require higher efficiency standards or mixed use development, but mixed use can be allowed.

In November 2020, town meeting voted to approve a home rule petition for a gas ban in new construction and substantial renovations. The new state energy bill would allow us to participate in a pilot gas ban program, if we comply with the MBTA requirements by Jan 2024. Having 10% subsidized housing would also qualify us for participation, but that's not something we could practically achieve.

DHCD is in the process of releasing a compliance model (which sounds like a spreadsheet application that communities can use to assess their level of compliance). We plan to apply for technical assistance in developing our MBTA zones, and submit an action plan to DHCD by 1/31/2023. DHCD's deadline for adoption is 12/31/2024 (or Jan 2024, if we want to participate in the gas ban pilot).

That's the presentation. Now come questions from the board.

(Kin Lau, ARB) Mr. Lau asks if we've done a study of the town's electric infrastructure, and if we have enough to support electrification.

(Kelly Lynema) Ms. Lynema believes the gas ban would apply to smaller buildings, and that there were exemptions for larger ones.

(Kin Lau) Mr. Lau says that right now, it can take 3--4 months to get an electric service hookup from Eversource. He knows of several projects that had to stop work because Eversource didn't provide a hookup. He thinks the town should look for a commitment from Eversource.

(Eugene Benson, ARB) Mr. Benson thinks it would be helpful for the DPW to provide some input on water and sewer capacity, since that issue came up during the last set of warrant article hearings.

(Kelly Lynema) Ms. Lynema says that Horsley-Witten did an infrastructure study for the housing production plan, and they didn't feel there was a capacity issue.

(Eugene Benson) Mr. Benson asks about the public participation process.

(Steve Revilak, ARB) Mr. Revilak notes that compliance with MBTA community requirements is goal #2 in our housing production plan (HPP). However, there are many strategies and goals in the HPP and Fair Housing Action Plan that could be used to implement the MBTA community requirements. Mr. Revilak would like to treat this as an opportunity to figure out how to expand multi-family housing in Arlington. He'd like to see us pursue existing planning goals, but in a way that puts us in compliance.

Regarding outreach, Mr. Revilak would like to learn more about the targeted outreach that was done for the Affordable Housing Trust Fund's plan. In theory, anyone can come to a public meeting and provide comments, but in practice, that's not what happens.

(Rachel Zsembery, ARB Chair) Ms. Zsembery asks if ADUs could be counted in multi-family requirements.

(Eugene Benson) Mr. Benson doesn't think so, since our bylaw limits the size of accessory dwelling units.

(Rachel Zsembery) If the board creates new zoning districts, Ms. Zsembery believes we'll need to understand how inclusionary zoning would apply.

(Eugene Benson) To meet the deadline for participation in the gas ban, Mr. Benson thinks we'll have to bring the MBTA zoning proposal to town meeting in Spring or Fall of 2023.

(Kelly Lynema) Ms. Lynema says we still need to figure out whether Jan 2023 is the deadline to pass the zoning changes, or the deadline for having them certified for compliance. Compliance decisions might take up to 90 days.

(Eugene Benson) Mr. Benson asks about our safe harbor under Chapter 40B.

(Kelly Lynema) Ms. Lynema says that permitting 1165R Mass Ave gave us safe harbor status for a year, but that will run out next month.

(Steve Revilak) Mr. Revilak asks if having 1.5% of land area used for subsidized housing would qualify Arlington for participation in the gas ban pilot.

(Kelly Lynema) Ms. Lynema answers in the negative.

ARB Retreat Planning

(Rachel Zsembery) Ms. Zsembery says the board had previously set aside four potential days for our annual retreat (which is mostly a goal-setting meeting). The dates were Sep 24, Sep 25, Oct 15, and Oct 16. Ms. Zsembery asks if board members are still available on those days.

(Kin Lau) Mr. Lau would prefer to have the retreat in September.

(Eugene Benson) Mr. Benson also prefers September.

(Steve Revilak) Mr. Revilak is okay with September, but he'd prefer Sunday to Saturday.

We'll do the retreat on Sunday September 25th, starting at either 8:00 or 9:00 am. Ms. Lynema will try to find a meeting location.

The board discusses potential topics for the retreat. These included:

  • Streamlining the permit application process with a digital workflow
  • Joint Meetings with the Select Board
  • a 3D sketch-up model of Mass Ave
  • Meeting with the Chamber of Commerce
  • Commercial Design Standards
  • Some areas from the 18--20 Belknap St hearing where the bylaw was unclear.
  • Stormwater retention standards for the industrial district
  • A Review of projects approved during the last two years, and their current status.
  • Having by-right permitting options, with site plan review
  • Reviewing our goals from 2021

(Kelly Lynema) Ms. Lynema notes that there is some funding lined up for a Master Plan update. She also informs the board that the Economic Development Coordinator job position will be posted soon.

Meeting Minutes

The board amends and approves minutes from the following ARB meetings:

  • 4/25/2022
  • 4/27/2022
  • 5/2/2022
  • 5/4/2022
  • 5/16/2022
  • 5/23/2022
  • 6/27/2022
  • 7/11/2022
  • 7/25/2022

All minutes were approved by votes of 4--0 (Ms. Tintocalis was not present).

Open Forum

No members of the public attended tonight's hearing, so there was no one to speak during open forum.

(Kin Lau) Mr. Lau commends Ms. Lynema for the work she's done as Acting Director for the Department of Planning and Community Development.

Meeting adjourned, at around 8:30pm.