Precinct 16 Meeting - April 14th, 2021

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Meeting held via remote participation. The organizers chose a different format for this meeting: they created four breakout rooms, and I was in the room for zoning and affordable housing.

Article 25 - Real Estate Transfer Fee

Pam Hallet presents. Massachusetts doesn't have local option legislation for a real estate tranfer fee, so this warrant article would have the town file a home rule petition.

The fee would apply to every transfer of property, and the rate would be set between 0.05% and 2% of the sale price. It will probably be around 1%, and the Select Board will choose the specific amount.

There will be exemptions for properties sold for less than $445k (the state median sale price), municipal properties, and family transfers.

The fee could generate between $226k and $9M year, depending on the percentage. Money generated from the fee would be put into the Affordable Housing Trust Fund, to be given out as grants for affordable housing.

They expectation is that fees would be split between the buyer and seller, but that could be negotiated as part of a property sale.

The fee would apply to the entire sale price, not just the amount over $445k.

At least five towns in Massachusetts have similar real estate transfer fees.

Article 35 - Industrial Zoning

Steve Revilak presents. The master plan recommended reviewing and updating zoning bylaws for the Industrial districts. They comprise 1% of Arlington's land area, have little turn over, and generally high land to value ratios.

The proposed changes would introduce a new set of allowed uses and add performance standards related to stormwater management and sustainability. Auto parking requirements would go down, bike parking requirements would go up, and we'd allow residential uses above the first floor (the first floor would have to be completely devoted to commercial and industrial uses).

There's a question about town efforts to bring new businesses in. The zoning bylaw working group focused more on market analysis than efforts to recruit businesses. Most of the industrial district properties are owner occupied, and there's not a lot of vacancies. This effort is more about creating incentives to redevelopment.

Article 38 - Energy Efficient Homes on Non-conforming lots

Pasi Mietinen presents. Under the current zoning bylaw a home on a small non-conforming lot can't be completely rebuilt. This is a barrier to constructing highly energy efficient homes, since they generally entail reconstructing the basement, and insulating around and underneath it. This article would allow homes on non-conforming lots to be completely rebuilt, as long as the replacement home meets a high standard for energy efficiency.

Article 43 - Accessory Dwelling Units

Barbara Thorton presents. This article would allow accessory dwelling units to be constructed by right. They're independent living spaces. An ADU could be as large as 900 square feet, or a third of the size of the overall structure, whichever is smaller. They couldn't be turned into condos or sold separately, and could not be used as short-term rental units.

Article 46 - Teardown Moratorium

Lynette Culverhouse presents. This article would create a two-year moratorium on the demolition of small, less expensive cape homes. She doesn't like to see capes being replaced with larger more expensive homes. She'd prefer to see the buildings renovated and re-used. She fears that Arlington is becoming more gentrified, and is asking the town to create a study group to resolve this issue.

Article 44 - Parking reductions

James Fleming presents. A prior town meeting adopted a parking reduction for the B3 and B5 districts. Article 44 would extend the same conditions to the other business districts. This removes one barrier to starting a new business in Arlington, and could provide more tax revenue for a given lot size. It would benefit locations where's there's no ability to create additional off-street parking on site.

Article 66 - Traffic Study

Joe Solomon presents. Mr. Solomon says there are frequently accidents at the intersection of Appleton Street and Park Ave. The town studied this in the past and MassDOT believes that a signal would be appropriate. There needs to be a follow-up study before installing a signal, and that study was never done. TAC endorsed this article. The finance committee voted no action because DPW plans to perform the study with ther own money. The study will ensure that traffic to Park Avenue is not impeded.