Zoning Board of Appeals - Jul 19th, 2021

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Meeting held via remote participation. Materials were available from https://arlington.novusagenda.com/agendapublic/DisplayAgendaPDF.ashx?MeetingID=1375.

1165R Mass Ave Comprehensive Permit

(Christian Klein, ZBA Chair) Mr. Klein opens with a summary of the project. The applicants filed their initial application on 12/1/2020 and the first ZBA hearing was held on Jan 5th. The board did not assert Safe Harbor status. When deciding a 40B project, the board has three options: deny, approve without conditions, or approve with conditions. The applicant can appeal the board's decision to the Housing Appeals Committee. When approving a project with conditions, those conditions must relate to health, safety, or welfare.

The board will review the first draft decision tonight. The applicant plans to demolish two existing buildings, and construct new four- and six-story apartment buildings.

Almost the entire site is within the 200' riverfront area, but it has an exemption as a pre-existing mill complex. Concerns include parking and a telephone pole in the right of way that connects to Mass Ave. Mr. Klein anticipates that the board will continue the hearing tonight, and then close the public comment period after the following meeting. The board will discuss the draft decision, and comments made by town staff. Mr. Klein explains the structure of the decision document.

There's discussion about whether cultivar plantings could be used.

The town does not have a standard set of inflow and infiltration fees.

Ms. Winstanley O'Connor (attorney for the applicant) says they plan to submit an approval not required (ANR) subdivision plan, to separate Workbar from the apartment complex.

The applicants wish to strike a condition requiring test pits to monitor ground water level. Ms. Winstanley O'Connor feels that condition isn't necessary for this site. BETA (the town's peer review engineering firm) agrees that groundwater isn't an issue.

There's a condition that would require the applicant to add historic/interpretive signage to the site. The Planning Department suggested a sign to illustrates the history of the mill complex. Ms. Winstanley O'Connor is okay with this.

The plans don't involve a stormwater infiltration system, so there's no need for conditions regarding one.

With respect to vibration monitoring, the applicants will submit a monitoring plan to the board. They will also conduct a photo (or video) survey of adjacent properties before construction begins.

Fire access is the next topic. Ms. Winstanley O'Connor says the fire chief reviewed the site plans and was comfortable with the level of access provided. The fire department needs access to all sides of the buildings, but not necessarily vehicle access. The board discusses how to word this condition, and decides to reference requirements in the state building code.

Electric service will be via a combination of overhead and underground lines. The electric service to Workbar will be moved underground.

Most of the project lies within the Mill Brook's adjacent upland resource area (AURA). Normally, we discourage dumpsters from being located in the AURA, but that's not practical here. Instead, there will be a condition requiring dumpsters to be covered, and another condition that prohibits vehicle refueling in the AURA.

The applicants don't anticipate the need for de-watering. If de-watering is necessary, the water must be passed through a filter.

The town typically requires environmental monitoring during the construction of large or complex projects. Emily Sullivan (town conservation planner) and Ms. Winstanley O'Connor will work out language for monitoring requirements. The frequency of reporting is negotiable. The Conservation Commission's main concern is that erosion controls work during heavy rain.

The Conservation Commission requested a condition regarding invasives management. Their concern is that invasive plants don't return after removal, particularly before new plantings become established. They don't want new native plans to be overrun.

The applicants will provide a stormwater pollution and prevent plan (SWPPP) document.

For Ryder Brook, the concern is that flow capacity is maintained throughout the project. The applicants will have a separate NOI hearing with the Conservation Commission regarding relocation of the brook.

(Steve Revilak, ZBA) Mr. Revilak would like to discuss the local preference requirement in the draft conditions. Arlington is not a very diverse community, so a high local preference requirement is likely to reduce diversity in the project's affordable units.

There's a discussion about local preferences, and how much of a requirement to impose. The Select Board supposedly supports a 50% requirement. Mr. Hanlon (ZBA) states that Brookline typically uses a 25% local preference.

(Steve Revilak) Mr. Revilak is also interested in discussion conditions related to Title V, Article 6, Section 11. It's a bonding requirement for projects in flood-prone areas. We discussed this at an earlier hearing, but no one was sure what bonding amounts were typical.

(Kevin Mills, ZBA) Mr. Mills asks if there's been any progress on the telephone pole.

(Daniel St. Clair, Spaulding and Slye) Mr. St. Clair says they're still looking into the issue of the pole.

(Kevin Mills) Mr. Mills thinks that tunneling and burying could be an option. He'd like to know how much that would cost.

(Daniel St. Clair) Mr. St. Claire notes there are three different kinds of electric service on the pole -- 120, 208, and 240 volts -- and they can't be run together in the same underground conduit. These lines serve other buildings (not part of this project site), and burying the lines could require the utility customers to re-do their electric hookups.

(Mary Winstanley O'Connor) Ms. Winstanley O'Connor says they've hired a utility contractor and have tried to work with Verizon (the pole's owner), but there's been little progress.

There's discussion about what to say about the pole in the order of conditions.

(Kelly Lynema, Planning Department) Ms. Lynema says she had a conversation with Verizon about a number of poles, including this one. She's waiting to hear back from them.

(Daniel St. Clair) Mr. St. Clair would like to collaborate with the town on their efforts to work with Verizon and this utility pole.

Back to conditions.

The conditions request $6,500 for technical inspections. The applicants would like to have a cap on the amount of Chapter 44 Section 53G funds that can be used for inspections. Mr. Haverty says that a cap on the amount will limit the amount of inspections that can be done. Without getting estimates, he couldn't say what a suitable cap would be. He says the cap should reflect the amount of money required for outside consultants.

There's discussion of adding language stating how these funds will be used.

The Conservation Commission agreed to a 20% reduction of filing fees, per their letter of June 8th. The June 8 letter also lists the waiver requests that the Conservation Commission will agree to, and those that are no longer necessary.

The chair opens the hearing to public comment.

(Robert Annese) Mr. Annese finds it frustrating that we still don't have a roadmap with respect to dealing with the telephone pole. Section H.9 agrees that the pole is safety issue. He believes the applicant has delayed dealing with the pole. Mr. Annese spoke with Verizon; Verizon informed him that the applicant had started the process of dealing with the pole, but never carried it through. As worded, H.9 allows negotiations concerning the pole to carry on beyond the 20 appeal period. He'd be okay if new electrical service was installed in his building in order for the lines to be put underground. Mr. Annese says he'll contest the pole if he has to. And if he contests the pole, he'll also contest the overburdening of the private way.

(Alex Tee) Mr. Tee is incredibly worried about parking, and how it will be managed. He's concerned that eviction is not an equitable recourse for tenants who park on Ryder St. What recourse will abutters have if parking turns out to be a problem?

(Paul Haverty) With respect to the decision, Mr. Haverty notes there is a 20-day appeal period. If parking is not sufficient in the future, it will be an enforcement issue -- either for the town or the owner of the private way.

(Pat Hanlon) Mr. Hanlon says we discussed parking enforcement earlier in this process. Mr. Hanlon wants the public to realize that we're discussing a draft decision that Mr. Haverty wrote, which was revised by a number of sources. It only becomes a board document when the board votes to adopt it.

(Alex Tee) Mr. Tee is concerned that no one owns enforcement, and that the issue will get kicked around.

(Mary Winstanley O'Connor) Ms. Winstanley O'Connor says the town owns part of the right of way, and the Miraks own the other part. There's no gray area with respect to who owns the right of way, and who has enforcement power.

(Pat Hanlon) Mr. Hanlon asks if there could be no parking signs.

(Mary Winstanley O'Connor) Ms. Winstanley O'Connor says that would be up to the Select Board.

(Steve Moore) Mr. Moore says he feels Mr. Annese's pain. He asks who owns the property around the utility pole.

(Mary Winstanley O'Connor) Ms. Winstanley O'Connor says the land is owned by another member of the Mirak family.

(Steve Moore) Mr. Moore asks why the Mirak family can't figure out among themselves how to move the pole.

(Mary Winstanley O'Connor) Ms. Winstanley O'Connor says there have been discussions, but nothing has happened yet.

(Steve Moore) Mr. Moore hopes that efforts to reach an agreement among the Mirak family members could be re-doubled.

There's no further comment from the public.

Mr. Klein proposes to continue the hearing to July 26th, and to extend the hearing period until August 2nd. Once the hearing closes, the board will have 40 days to render a decision; that would be around Labor Day weekend.

Board votes to extend the hearing period to August 2nd.

Board votes to continue the hearing until July 26th.

Meeting adjourned.