Zoning Board of Appeals - Apr 14th, 2020

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Meeting held via Zoom teleconference. This was my first meeting as a ZBA associate member. As always, these are my own personal notes and not official minutes of a town body.

Acting ZBA chair Christian Klein reads a prepared statements about revisions to Massachusetts Public Meeting Laws due to the COVID-19 pandemic. The board has six agenda items tonight; five will involve deliberations between board members, and the board will take public comment on the sixth.

Introduction of newly appointed associate members. Mr. Klein welcomes the board's new association members, Aaron Ford and Stephen Revilak.

Acceptance of Meeting Minutes from Feb 25, 2020. The Feb 25th minutes are accepted without revision.

Final vote to accept the revisions to the Comprehensive Permit Rules. Board members offer two minor corrections: there's an extra word crossed out in section 2.3 and a set of bullet points in section 4.0 should be moved into a sub-list.

Mr. Revilak voices concern over the phrase "protect neighborhood character" that appears in Section 1.0. He feels that neighborhood character is a combination of land use and the people who inhabit an area; the former is clearly within the purview of the ZBA but the latter is not. Mr. Revilak asks about changing that wording to something like "conforms to the purpose statement and district definitions as set forth the Zoning bylaw of the town of Arlington".

Pat Hanlon sympathizes with Mr. Revilak's desire to prevent an embarrassing misreading of our Comprehensive Permit regulations. He advises against making any substantive changes while we have a 40B permit in progress. We don't want to be seen as changing the rules of the game while it's in progress. Mr. Revilak agrees with that assessment.

The board adopts the revisions to the Comprehensive permit rules.

Acceptance of Decisions from the Feb 25th Meeting. The decisions for 50 Cutter Hill Road is approved.

There's a fair amount of discussion on the decision for 41 Westminster Ave, as it involved both a special permit and a variance. Several board members felt that the variance and special permit criteria should be listed separately, to be clear about the variance aspect of the decision vs the Special permit aspects.

There's a suggestion that applicant's attorneys should be given the opportunity to draft variance decisions, subject to revision by the board. There's discussion about what should happen if a variance is granted and the applicant has no counsel. Town Counsel should probably weigh in.

The decision for 1314 Mass Ave is approved.

Election of Officers. Christian Klein is elected Chair and Pat Hanlon is elected vice chair.

Update on Thorndike Place (Mugar) Hearing. The applicant provided updated submission materials. The hearing will be continued until June 2020, with June 9th being the applicant's preference.

The town has hired special counsel to assist with the permit hearings; his name in John Witten. The town is working on hiring an engineering firm to perform peer reviews; this should happen during the next few weeks.

Board members ask about the process for handling technical questions. Questions should be submitted to Mr. Klein, who will see that they're handed off to the appropriate party.

Mr. Revilak points out work that Cambridge has done to model 100-year base flood elevations in the Alewife area. He asks if we've made any efforts to project these elevations onto neighboring land in Arlington. Rick Valarelli says he's just received new drawings, which might contain information along these lines. He'll try to distribute copies to board members during the next few days.

Mr. Klein opens the floor to public comment.

Don Seltzer asks if we've received a wetlands survey from the applicant. Mr. Valarelli offers to make plans available for Mr. Seltzer to review, and the two discuss logistics of how to do this.

The Board votes to continue the hearing until June 9th.