Arlington Redevelopment Board Retreat - Dec 3rd, 2023
Held in the Public Safety Building Community Room. Materials were available from https://arlington.novusagenda.com/agendapublic/MeetingView.aspx?MeetingID=1965&MinutesMeetingID=-1&doctype=Agenda.
Review of Accomplishments and Objectives
The main accomplishments were passing a multi-family district for compliance with the MBTA Communities Act, and the suite of business district articles that were adopted by the Fall Town Meeting.
Discussion of 2024 Goals
Rezoning the Arlington heights business district has been one of the board's main goals for 2024. Ms. Ricker reports that the business association in the heights is curious to see what the rezoning would look like. Several landlords have expressed interest in making improvements to their property, but found that current zoning is too constrained to make their ideas economically feasible.
Board members expressed a desire to make the heights business district more cohesive, rather than the patchwork quilt it is today. Mr. Lau suggests looking at Quincy Center as a possible model.
Things have changed since the Arlington Heights Neighborhood Action Plan was written. There's discussion about bringing the Heights neighborhood group together to discuss this.
There's discussion about review standards -- when to use environmental design review vs when to use EDR.
It would be nice to do something with the MBTA property (Bus turnaround) in the Heights. The T is in need of funding and may be willing to sell or lease development rights. The T owns the building on the site, but their asking rent is high -- something like $60/square foot. This may be why the space is often unleased. The Heights action plan suggests an open space use for this parcel. With the right programming, that could be a nice amenity. Davis square, with its public benches and tables, might be a source of inspiration.
There's discussion about working with Sunrise or the MBTA to improve connectivity to the Minuteman Bikeway.
The Arlington Heights neighborhood Action Plan mentioned rezoning the Heights business district and creating a planned unit development (PUD) district on the Gold's Gym Site. The board had been planning to pursue the Heights business district rezoning this year. Ms. Ricker reports that the owner of the Gold's Gym site is interested in redeveloping, and that brings the PUD district back into the picture. Mr. Revilak would like to include the Arlington Coal and Lumber Company site in the PUD district; combined, the three Arlington Coal and Lumber Company parcels have a land/value ratio of 0.82, which means there's a lot of redevelopment potential for the site.
The board agrees that it would be preferable to consider both the business district rezoning and the PUD district at the same time. Doing both will take longer, which means (potentially) bringing something to town meeting in 2025, rather than this year. Staff will map out a schedule for planning, outreach, and stakeholder engagement. We'd like to take a comprehensive approach, similar to what was done for MBTA Communities.
Staff and the board discuss whether to update the Master Plan, or perform a full rewrite. The feeling is to update, perhaps focusing on specific sections, like economic development, and the three business centers.
The board discusses the lack of compliance with Arlington's sign bylaws. There's a suggestion that we ask the Select Board to provide business applicants with a copy of the sign bylaw when they apply for business licenses.
Ms. Ricker provides the board with an update on the Atwood house. The building has deteriorated to the point where it's no longer salvageable as a historic redevelopment. Ms. Ricker had two meetings with the property owner; Inspectional services has ordered them to demolish the porches. The owner has provided preliminary redevelopment plans for a mixed use building with two retail spaces and three dwellings.
The town has issued an RFP to lease 23 Maple Street. MyRWA is interested in the space. They're looking for a three-year lease with the option for two one-year renewals.
Staff provided the board with draft regulations for site plan review, which were based on Maynard's process. There's discussion about merging these with the existing rules and regulations, as some topics appear in both. Members of the board feel that site plan review and environmental design review should use the same fee structure.