Master Plan Update Informational Webinar - Feb 29th, 2024

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Meeting held via remote participation. Event information is available from

Planning Director Claire Ricker gives the presentation and handles Q&A along with Assistant Director Sarah Suarez.

Ms. Ricker says this process is about identifying goals that we want to achieve by 2035.

A master plan is a general comprehensive plan for a community. It's an expression of goals and how to achieve them. It's also a plan for managing change over time, while supporting a community's values. A master plan is a collective vision for a community. These plans primarily focus on physical development, assets, and services.

The general process involves oversight (forming an advisory committee to oversee the process), data collection, public outreach, and then drafting goals and recommendations. The public plays a significant role in this process, as stakeholders, and a source of feedback and ideas.

Planning should be a proactive, rather than reactive process.

Massachusetts state law requires Master Plans to address nine subject areas. These are:

  • land use and growth
  • housing
  • economic development
  • arts and culture
  • open space and recreation
  • public services
  • transit and mobility
  • a statement of goals and policies
  • an implementation plan

Work on Arlington's 2015 Master Plan started in 2012, and the document was expected to last for ten years.

The next steps for this process will include:

  • Forming an advisory committee (perhaps 12--15 people)
  • Drafting a work proposal and selecting a consultant
  • Monthly meetings for approximately two years. The committee may meet 2x/month at times

The goal is to have the updated plan ready for adoption in 2026.

For more information, see

We move into the question and answer part of the presentation.

Question: How will the town conduct outreach to get diverse points of view?

Answer: We want to take the plan to the public. This includes identifying stakeholder groups and holding events in a variety of locations around town. We'll also make use of interpretation services, and work with the DEI department.

Question: How does Envision Arlington fit in?

Answer: We can work with them. The more community members we get involved, the better. That may involve working with existing committees, to take advantage of their expertise.

Question: What kind of working groups will there be?

Answer: A traditional approach is to have one working group per topic area, but this process will be informed by the advisory committee. It may make sense to combine of some of the topic areas and have them handled by a single group.

Question: Who determines the study areas?

Answer: The Commonwealth of Massachusetts.

(note: the specifics are in Mass General Law Chapter 41 Sec 81D).

Question: Will disability be considered?

Answer: Absolutely.

Question: Are there areas that have already been identified as a priority.

Answer: New growth is something to look at; where and how much we can support. Arlington could benefit from budget sources that are not overrides.

Question: How can you ensure that the Redevelopment Board and Planning Department will be open to different points of view?

Answer: We'd like to hear different voices in this process. The 2015 Master Plan struck a good balance between growth and preservation.

Question: Is there a plan to reach out to existing boards and committees?

Answer: Existing boards and committees are a significant stakeholder group, and it will be important to bring the plan to them for input.

Question: How will we consider climate resiliency?

Answer: Going forward, nobody will be able to enter into a planning process that doesn't consider climate resiliency. The state should include this in the required list of master plan topics.

Question: How will environmental concerns be prioritized, versus the state priority for housing?

Answer: As we continue to develop and redevelop, we need to encourage and require contributions to our tree canopy. We should also look for ways that the town itself can do more.

Question: Will the master plan address development versus the need to get to net zero.

Ms. Ricker describes a development where a number of trees were removed -- I think she was referring to 1021 Mass Ave. However, that developer will have to do a lot of tree replanting, and bank restoration along the Mill Brook.

Question: Will the master plan address the rising cost of housing?

Answer: Yes, it can. We can look at what levels of affordability we'd like to pursue (in inclusionary zoning), and have more flexibility to target different income levels.

Question: What about renters? Is the master plan supposed to benefit them.

Answer: Renters might be one of the most underrepresented groups in town. We'd like to get representation from that group.

Question: Will the master plan incorporate elements from the Fair Housing Action plan and Housing Production Plan?

Answer: Since 2015, we've used the master plan goals to do more planning, and that includes the Fair Housing Action Plan and Housing Production Plan. These more focused plans allow us to go into more detail around specific goals.

Question: There's a misconception that housing and climate resilience are opposed. Having a lot of single-family homes isn't as beneficial as more multi-family with fewer cars.

Answer: We have room for a better mix of housing types, and as much variety as we can get.

Question: How do schools and education fit into the picture?

Answer: The master plan really focuses on physical aspects. But we can look at district planning and schools through the lens of those seven topics.

Question: Where do we apply?


Question: How does the AMPUp committee write something that's totally approved? Is there a revision process?

Answer: A master plan is a general plan, and it should be done through a robust community process. We'd like to take drafts to the public as often as possible. This is an opportunity to have a good dialog where we're not on a compressed schedule, as we were for MBTA Communities.

Question: I'm excited about having a new vision for the future. Please consider embracing the 15-minute city model.

Webinar adjourned.