Arlington Redevelopment Board - Sep 25th, 2022

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Meeting held in the Arlington Police Department Community Room; materials were available from This was the board's annual goal setting meeting.

Project Reviews

The ARB typically hears eight dockets per year. About half of these are sign permits.

Projects permitted in 2020:

  • Eskar (dispensary on lower Broadway). Construction is complete and they're open for business.
  • 882--892 Mass Ave (Across the street from Stop and Shop and the high school). Construction is nearing completion.
  • 400--402 Mass Ave. Across the street from the fire station. I don't believe anything has happened with this property.

Projects permitted in 2021

  • 455--457 Mass Ave. (Corner of Mass Ave and Medford St). Construction hasn't started yet. The owner of this parcel also owns 882--892 Mass Ave, and they may be waiting until that work is complete.
  • 645 Mass Ave. Former site of Not Your Average Joes. This permit (Chase Bank) was denied, and the property has been vacant since. The owner might have another potential tenant.
  • 883 Mass Ave (aka Atwood House). The demolition delay expires in the summer of 2023, and the owners may come back to the board around that time.
  • 10 Sunnyside Ave. This parcel was the subject of two special permit hearings before the ARB, and neither project materialized. Later, the ZBA granted a special permit for office use. Some of the demolition work was done, but progress appears to have stopped. Planning staff inform the board that the owners (Column Health) were purchased by another company. The Housing Corporation of Arlington may have an option to purchase.
  • 192--200 Mass Ave. This proposal was withdrawn, but the owners may come back to the board in the future.
  • 1460 Mass Ave (Citizens Bank). Construction is nearly complete.

Projects from 2022

  • 34 Dudley St. Self-storage in the industrial district. Construction hasn't started, but the special permit wasn't challenged.
  • 464 Mass Ave. Deep cuts deli. We know the applicant needed to appear before the Arlington Historical Commission. Construction hasn't started yet.
  • 18--20 Belknap St. The applicant continues to work with inspectional services.

Members of the board ask about the Hotel Lexington (site of the former VFW building on Mass Ave). Staff believes the owner ran into problems with financing and may come back with a multi-family project.

There are several projects that may move forward in the coming months:

  • 10 Sunnyside Ave. The Housing Corporation of Arlington is weighing the pros and cons of a special permit via EDR or a Comprehensive permit.
  • A marijuana dispensary on Summer St.
  • 1306--1308 Mass Ave (Embassy Cleaners)
  • 111 Broadway. (Formerly Arlington Automatic Transmission)

Finally, 1021--1027 Mass Ave has filed for a Comprehensive Permit. That will be heard by the ZBA, who may be interested in receiving feedback from the Redevelopment Board.

Review of FY 2022 Goals/Proposal of FY 2023 Goals

The Redevelopment and Select Boards adopted the updated Housing Production Plan, but we have yet to advance zoning changes to support it.

Another 2022 goal involved zoning amendments for the Mass Ave and Broadway corridors. The board proposed (and town meeting adopted) several small changes, but nothing comprehensive. We might consider overlay districts in this area, as part of MBTA community zoning.

Arlington heights could be a pilot for an overlay district, or changing the base zoning altogether.

The Clean Energy Future Committee is interested in advancing the fossil fuel ban in new construction and substantial renovations. This will require Arlington to comply with MBTA community requirements several months ahead of DHCD's deadlines.

We'd like to refine/clarify stormwater standards for the industrial district. The 34 Dudley St. hearings demonstrated a lack of clarity in that part of the zoning language.

Board members are interested in having more supporting graphics to accompany future zoning warrant articles.

Arlington's Master Plan expires in the not-too-distant future, and we have CDBG funding to perform an update. The board discusses timing of this effort, in relation to MBTA zoning. To participate in the fossil fuel ban, we need to have an MBTA compliant district by January 2024. DHCD believes that certification may take up to three months, and we'd have to leave time for the Attorney General to approve the bylaw changes. Working backwards, that means having a special town meeting in August or September 2023 for the MBTA zoning. We could kick off the master plan update effort around that time; perhaps for next town day.

The board discusses what kind of process we'd like to use for formulating an MBTA-compliant district. This could be done with a separate committee, or delegated to the zoning bylaw working group. We also have to determine whether to make a small set of changes, or do something more comprehensive. Nearly all of the board members are interested in taking an active role in the MBTA zoning. We'll likely form a special working group that works closely with the ARB. It would preferably have a more diverse composition, possibly including members of the Disability Commission, Council on Aging, Clean Energy Future Committee, Transportation Advisory Committee, and Human Rights Commission (for example).

The town is working on implementing a digital workflow for handling permit applications. This may be built on top of Munis. Board members didn't feel a need to take an active role in this process.

Planning Staff are working on a consultant RFP for the development of new commercial design guidelines.

At the beginning of 2022, staff gave a presentation outlining the ARB's urban renewal powers. This may be a project for next year. There are several nodes along the main corridors that could become of the focus of urban renewal or rezoning efforts. Arlington Heights probably has had the most public engagement, through the Arlington Heights Neighborhood Action Plan.

The planning department oversees or works with a large number of committees. It's probably worthwhile to examine this list, and see which ones can be combined or retired, as each committee consumes some level of staff resources.

Finally, the Board discusses some high level ideas for MBTA community zoning. Part of the effort should involve conveying the benefits of compliance (e.g., eligibility for MassWorks grants, and the ability to participate in the pilot fossil fuel ban).

There could be benefits to allowing apartments that are four or more stories tall. Buildings of that height require elevators, and could provide a way for older residents to downsize and age in place.

The board would like to have another goal review/retreat in six months. February seems like a good time (before things get busy with town meeting).

Meeting adjourned.