Precinct 1 Meeting -- April 23, 2017

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Wynelle Evans (a member of the residential study group) presents a set of warrant articles that the residential study group has proposed.

The residential study group came out of the 2016 town meeting; it's goal is to address the size and scale of residential development. Group members come from a mix of backgrounds, and all of their decisions are made by consensus.

Article 8 pertains to driveways. Driveways would be limited to a 15% downward slope, for safety reasons. This limitation applies only to new construction. Article 8 also requires an 18" vegetated buffer between a driveway and an adjoining property. Article 8 will also reduce the parking requirements from two spaces to one space, in the hope of discouraging "pit" driveways.

Chris Loretti plans to submit a substitute motion for article 8, which would remove the reduction in parking space requirements. Mr. Loretti believes that as worded, the parking reduction would apply to all single, two, and three family homes; not just newly-constructed ones.

Article 8 will not change front setback requirements. Mr. Loretti notes that developers have the option of using average setback (of existing buildings), rather than the setback given in the dimensional and density table of the zoning bylaw.

Article 8 tries to incentivize developers to put parking at grade. There's a discussion about whether this is necessary for single family homes.

Article 2 will reduce the minimum dimension for usable open space from 25' to 20'. It will not change the existing requirement for 30% usable open space. (30% refers to 30% of gross floor area.)

The residential study group is proposing a set of four warrant articles that constitute a "good neighbor agreement". The provisions of this agreement include: written notice to abutters within a 200' radius, written notice shall be 7 days in advance of construction starting, notice must include site plans and a construction schedule, plans for site maintenance and noise abatement. One article will amend the town's noise bylaw, to reduce the hours where heavy equipment can be operated.

Why is it necessary to regulate parking at all? Can people be allowed to manage their own parking needs?

Current zoning regulations require two parking spaces for a house. These parking spaces must be located behind the front setback, but need not be located behind the front foundation wall.

Changing the required number of parking spaces can affect the size of a house. Floor area in a garage is not counted towards gross floor area, and gross floor area determines the amount of usable open space required. (Usable open space must be 30% of the house's gross floor area).

Article 8 contains a series of provisions, which were meant to go together. It's a compromise.

There may not be a lot of development in Arlington, but Arlington is a dense town, so development has a lot of impact.

Article 11 contains abutter notification requirements. Will this present a challenge for a homeowner doing their own work? Article 11 applies to demolition, large additions, and new construction. The large additions already require a special permit.

Would the notification requirements of article 11 apply to someone remodeling a kitchen, or rebuilding a back porch? They shouldn't, particularly if the construction work doesn't change the footprint of the house.

The zoning bylaw requires two parking spaces per unit. Residents are allowed to park a car in the front setback, but space in the front setback cannot be counted towards minimum parking requirements.

Steve Revilak brings up the noise abatement changes in Article 14; he's concerned that the wording doesn't limit the changes to heavy construction. Article 14 changes section 3(A) in the noise bylaws. Section 2(J) references times set in 3(A). There's discussion about whether one will be able to (say) run a lawnmower after 5pm on a summer weekend. Wynelle Evans states that Article 14 changes are only intended to apply to heavy construction. Steve asks if the residential study group will consider a substitute motion, to clarify what activities are allowed.

Greg Dennis provides a summary of Article 17, which would ban single-use plastic bags from point of sale. Other proponents of article 17 are here as well.

Plastic bags are the most ubiquitous consumer item in the world, according to the Guinness Book of World records. These bags don't break down, and they wind up everywhere.

Forty-seven municipalities in Massachusetts have banned single-use plastic bags, including Cambridge and Somerville.

Single use bags will only be prohibited at checkout. A store could still have (say) plastic bags in the produce section, for bagging produce.

The proponents of article 17 have spoken to several businesses. In general, businesses support the measure. Some have even endorsed it. Article 17 proponents would like to encourage the use of reusable shopping bags.

The proponents of article 17 have developed a list of frequently asked questions. This FAQ should be distributed to the town meeting member list in the near future.

In the United States, we use over 100 billion plastic bags per year. Fewer than 5% of these are recycled.

There's discussion about how article 17 will affect low-income residents. The Housing Corporation of Arlington and Food Link -- who serve low-income residents -- have both endorsed Article 17.

Arlington cannot force businesses to charge for single-use plastic bags. Cities can do this, but towns cannot.

There is a typo in the article. Where it says "4 millimeters", it should say "4 mills" (a mill is one-thousandth of an inch). There is already a substitute motion to correct this typo.

San Francisco banned single-use plastic bags several years ago. Since then, they've seen a slight positive effect to the local economy.

The meeting ends with a discussion about warrant articles relating to marijuana. One warrant article would have established a buffer zone for medical marijuana facilites. The ARB voted no action on this article, so it will not be coming up. Another article would create a moratorium on facilities that sell recreational marijuana until sometime in 2017. There's concern about the degree in which "reefer madness" has crept into discussions of these warrant articles.