Precinct 1, 3 Meeting - Apr 18rd, 2022

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Meeting held via remote participation. I facilitated the meeting, so my notes from the Q&A sections are sparser than usual.

Article 30 - Solar Energy Systems

Shelly Dein presents. Ms. Dein notes that Massachusetts has set a goal of reaching net zero by 2050 and Arlington has adopted a net zero action plan. Article 30 is similar to solar ordinances that were adopted in Watertown and Medford. This article would apply to projects that fall under Environmental Design Review. 50% of building roof area and 90% of parking roof area would be required to have solar energy systems installed. There are exceptions for insufficient solar exposure, structures that can't support the weight of solar panels, simple changes in use, and sign permits. Ms. Dein believes this would effect 3--5 buildings/year. The solar installations would have to allow emergency egress, would not be permitted to shed ice and snow, and would not count towards building height or GFA. A solar installation on one building won't prevent a nearby property owner from building up.

Ms. Dein says the solar energy systems could be photo-voltaic or hot water systems.

Article 8 - Civilian Police Advisory Commission

Sanjay Newton Presents. Mr. Newton says the goal is to increase trust between Arlington residents and the Arlington Police Department. Chief Flaherty was a member of the study committee, and she supports the article. The commission would be a technical resource, to assist residents who were submitting complaints or recommending a commendation. The committee recommended against a investigation/adjudication model. The Civilian Police study committee's report should be posted to the town website in the next day or two.

Article 10 - Tree Preservation and Protection

Susan Stamps presents. Ms. Stamps says the goal is to reduce the number of trees lost to development. The tree bylaw regulates protected trees in the building setback during development. This article would reduce the size of protected trees from 8" to 6".

Article 12 - Single Use Plastic Water Bottle Regulation

Larry Slotnick presents. Mr. Slotnick says that plastic is a forever material, and that we can't recycle our way out of our plastic problem. Only 9% of plastics manufactured to date have been recycled. Today, we see 75--80% recycling for beverages subject to the bottle bill, but only 15% for other kinds of plastic containers.

There are 1.5 billion plastic water bottles sold in Massachusetts each year, and approximately one-sixth are recycled; most go to landfills or incinerators. Mr. Slotnick says this is like a solid waste version of burning gas.

Zero Waste Arlington, who's sponsored this article, has been talking with retailers about the transition. We understand that it might impact them, because bottle water is a high markup item. However, it still creates lots of litter. They're promoting a program called Arlington on Tap.

Article 16 - Noise Regulations for Gas Powered Leaf Blowers

Susan Lees presents. Ms. Lees says that Article 16 will phase out commercial use of gas powered leaf blowers by 2025, and non-commercial use by 2026. These leaf blowers are powered by two-stroke engines, which are very polluting. Ms. Lees says that Cambridge has a summer ban on gas powered leaf blowers and Lexington has a similar bylaw to phase out their use.

There's a bill in the state legislature, H.868, which would provide money to landscaping companies to upgrade their equipment. The Facilities and Public Works departments are open to making a gas to electric transition.

The proponents of this article plan to file a few small administrative amendments to the language the Select Board adopted; for example, there's a place where the dates are inconsistent in the text.

Article 38 - Two-family construction allowed by right in R0, R1 districts

Annie Lacourt presents. Ms. Lacourt shows a slide of a small cape that was located near her house. She then shows a slide of the house the cape was replaced with -- a 5000+ square foot single-family home that sold for nearly two million dollars. Ms. Lacourt would like two-family homes allowed in these districts. Each dwelling in a two family is smaller, more modest, and less expensive than the large single family homes that developers are currently building.

Ms. Lacourt notes that the average size of new homes has been increasing over the decades. In the 1970's a typical new house was 1866 square feet. By the 2010's, that had increased to 3440 square feet.

Article 38 is not about creating affordable housing; it is about housing choice. New two-family homes in the R0 and R1 districts would be limited to 1850 square feet of heated living space per dwelling. Over the last several years, Arlington has seen an average of 27 teardowns/year, which means we might see 27 additional homes/year if Article 38 passes. She notes that Article 38 isn't changing any of the dimensional regulations in the bylaw -- they're staying as they are.

Article 39 - Floor Area Ratio for Mixed Use

Xavid Pretzer presents. Mr. Pretzer explains what floor area ratio (FAR) is. He shows pictures of existing buildings that exceed current FAR limits, and a picture of a proposed building that wasn't able to be permitted because it went beyond the FAR allowed.

Mr. Pretzer's article proposes a doubling of FAR, with a maximum FAR of 3.0. Currently, most mixed use FARs are limited to 1.0 to 1.5. He hopes this will encourage more mixed use development, which would be near transit corridors and would likely trigger the affordable housing requirements in our bylaw.

Article 41 - Apartment Parking Minimums

James Fleming presents. Mr. Fleming says that Article 41 would reduce parking minimums for apartment buildings to one space per apartment; this is the same requirement that exists for single-, two-, and three-family homes. He notes that several apartments in Arlington have empty space in their parking lots, and he thinks it's unreasonable for owners to be forced to create more off-street parking than they need. He notes that this article changes only the minimum amount of off-street parking that must be provided; owners are free to create more spaces if they feel the need to do so.

Article 42 - Open Space Uses

James Fleming presents. This article would effectively take some of open space uses that were temporarily allowed during the pandemic, and make them permanent. For example, it would allow a yoga studio to hold outdoor classes in a park.

Mr. Fleming notes that all uses of open space would still have to be approved by the Parks Department (or the department that happens to manage the particular piece of open space). This article just gives the Parks Department the option of approving them.

Article 44 - Restaurant Uses

James Fleming presents. This article would change the special permit threshold for restaurant uses. Today, restaurants over 2000 square feet need a special permit; Article 44 proposes to increase this to 3000 square feet. It would also allow small restaurants in the B4 district, where they're currently not permitted. Mr. Fleming believes restaurants are a desirable use, and he'd like to make it easier for a business owner to open one.