Forum on Zoning and Town Bylaw Amendments -- Apr 6th, 2017

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Jenny Raitt introduces the proposed zoning articles.

The residential study group (RSG) has been meeting weekly for several months. Nine articles came before the 2016 town meeting, attempting to address concerns about residential development. All of these articles were voted down; instead, town meeting voted to form the residential study group.

The residential study group's goal are to regulate new residential construction, and to look at what other communities are doing, and find policies appropriate for the town. The priorities have been construction impacts, parking, driveways, and streetscapes. Future priorities include setbacks, irregular lots, building height, and the special permit and variance process.

40A is the state zoning act. Arlington is currently undergoing a zoning recodification process, to modernize and clean up our zoning bylaw, and to make it conform to current case law.

ZBL section 1.03 states the zoning bylaw's purpose. The purpose includes appropriate review, quality of life, health and safety, and quality standards.

The department of planning and community development (DPCD) has a 13 person staff, four of which are professional planners. The Arlington Redevelopment Board (ARB) serves as a planning board and redevelopment authority.

Zoning can only be changed by a 2/3's vote of town meeting. Assuming that an article passes, the changes will take effect on the day the article was first advertised.

The RSG has researched building permits. The volume of new construction isn't that high, but it happens all over town.

The warrant articles are designed to control the size and scope of new residential development.

The RSG sent a survey to 680 abutters of new construction projects which took place in the last three years, and to the developers who did these projects. The top complaints were a lack of notification, and a lack of knowledge about the construction plans and schedule.

Some of the articles are based on a Good Neighbor Agreement, aka the Residential Construction Control Agreement. Articles 11--14 implement the good neighbor agreement. The recommendations will be accompanied by additional staffing at inspectional services, primarily for enforcement.

Article 11 requires notice to abutters within 200' before new construction, large additions, or significant demolition. The notice must include construction plans, a proposed project schedule, and the developer's contact information.

Articles 12 and 13 require on-site maintenance, and protection of abutter properties.

Article 14 deals with noise abatement. It changes the hours that heavy equipment use is permitted. Health and Human Services is also looking at ways to improve the town's noise bylaws (this might come before a future town meeting).

Articles 11--14 propose changes to the general bylaws, not to the ZBL.

Article 8 caps the downward slope of driveways to 15%. MassDOT and several traffic engineering groups believe that slopes over 15% present safety issues. Many other municipalities have some kind of regulation about driveway slope. The article also reduces parking space requirements for 1--3 unit houses, from two spaces to one. The requirement for two spaces/unit has contributed to the proliferation of steep drive-under garaging. A one-space requirement should encourage more surface-level parking.

Article 8 should also help to control the size of houses, by way of the relationship between gross floor area and the requirement for usable open space. Finally, Article 8 would require a vegetated buffer for side yard driveways (between the driveway and the lot line).

New construction will happen, and we're just trying to control it. The ZBL requires a 6000 square foot lot, but a lot of our lots have irregular shapes, or irregular slopes.

Special town meeting article 1 will reduce the minimum dimension for usable open space from 25' to 20', for new construction with surface parking. It's meant to be paired with Article 8.

Question: How would these changes affect lots with 50' of frontage, instead of 60'? Do you have a diagram showing the impact to a 50' lot?

We haven't prepared any diagrams with 50' of frontage. Arlington's residential lots come in all shapes and sizes, and we can't do diagrams for them all.

Question: What is a vegetated buffer?

It's defined in the zoning bylaw.

Question: would we still be able to have garages behind the house?


Question: What's the definition of "newly constructed"?

If these article pass, they'd apply to any building permits issued after the day of the article's advertisement.

Question: How do the time limits for heavy construction equipment compare to other time limits in the noise bylaw?

This article affects heavy construction equipment only; it doesn't change any other part of the noise bylaw. We don't have a comparison handy, but we should prepare one for town meeting.

Question: will the parking changes cause more people to ask the board of selectmen for off-street parking spaces?

We don't know.

Question: What about permitting a second curb cut for a second driveway?

You can have a second curb cut by special permit, but not by right.