Zoning Board of Appeals - Jul 26th, 2021

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Meeting held via remote participation. Materials were available from https://arlington.novusagenda.com/agendapublic/DisplayAgendaPDF.ashx?MeetingID=1379.

Comprehensive Permit - 1165R Mass Ave

The board continues its discussion of the draft order of conditions for 1165R's Comprehensive Permit application.

The draft conditions are leaning towards no local preference requirement, but this will be a topic for future meetings.

The board will need to discuss a financial cap on funds for technical review.

The board wishes to verify that electric lines from Ryder Street will be run underground. They will.

The board will request an earth removal plan, to be provided before construction begins.

The board proposes to modify condition E.25, which restricts the hours in which construction vehicles may use Ryder St. The modified condition allow the hours to be changed by the construction manager and Town Transportation Planner, in the interest of public safety.

Next, the board moves on to the Department of Planning and Community development (DPCD) memo regarding waivers. The memo suggests different ways to word the use and dimensional waivers sought for building an apartment in the industrial district.

The department suggested a hydraulic assist system like Dero Decker for providing stacked bicycle parking. The applicants are agreeable to this condition, but would like it stated more generally. We settle on stacked bicycle parking with mechanical assist for the upper level.

DPCD suggests that the design guidelines waiver isn't necessary, because the design guidelines are not codified in town bylaws.

(Steve Revilak, ZBA) Mr. Revilak asks about the Conservation Commission bonding requirement in the town bylaws. He'd like a general estimate of the amount -- is it $10k, $100k, or $1M?

No one is sure.

(Path Hanlon, ZBA) Mr. Hanlon asks if the amounts could be looked up.

(Emily Sullivan, Conservation Planner) Ms. Sullivan offers to look up past projects where the bonding requirement was applied, to see what the amounts were.

(Steve Revilak) There's a condition that requires the applicant to provide a portal that abutters can use to report parking violations (e.g., tenants or visitors that park on the street). Mr. Revilak asks what that would look like, and if the applicants are amenable to that condition.

(Daniel St. Clair, Slye and Spaulding) Mr. St. Clair said he'd picture a website with an email address, or a form that could be used to send email. He'd be okay with that condition.

(Steve Revilak) Mr. Revilak suggests a change in wording to make the condition more technology agnostic. Next, he asks if tenants will be allowed to store bicycles in their rooms.

(Mary Winstanley O'Connor, Attorney for the applicant) Ms. Winstanley O'Connor doesn't see anything which would prevent them from doing so.

(Daniel St. Clair) Mr. St. Clair would prefer to see tenants use the long-term bike storage provided in the building. Bringing bicycles through hallways tends to lead to wear and tear. He thinks they could allow bike storage in apartments, perhaps with a separate deposit to cover wear and tear.

(Roger, Dupont, ZBA) Mr. Dupont would like to understand the nuts and bolts of how off-street parking will be managed.

(Mary Winstanley O'Connor) Ms. Winstanley O'Connor says that tenants will have stickers and a pass to get into the garage. The property manager will have the license plate numbers of all tenants vehicles. They will rely on abutters to report parking violations.

(Kelly Lynema, Planning Department) Ms. Lynema asks how many buildings the site currently has. The assessors cards show three buildings, but the draft conditions mention six.

(Daniel St. Clair) Mr. St. Clair says there's a difference in what's on the property cards, and what's on the town's inventory of historic buildings. He says it's accurate to say there are six buildings now, and the proposed project will contain three.

(Pat Hanlon, ZBA) Regarding the utility pole in the Mass Ave right of way, Mr. Hanlon says that he understands (from Ms. Winstanley O'Connor's memo) that burying the electric lines would cost between $300--$500k and make the project uneconomic. He asks how much it would cost to move the pole.

(Mary Winstanley O'Connor) Ms. Winstanley O'Connor estimate that it will cost $75--150k to move the pole. Relocation would require moving grandfathered lines, which pass over properties not served by the pole. They'd also need to obtain easements in order to move the wires. The costs to obtain easements are not included in the $75--150k figure.

(Emily Sullivan) Ms. Sullivan has an answer to the bonding question. The Hotel Lexington had a $6,000 bond. She believes the bond for this project would be in that ballpark.

(Christian Klein, ZBA Chair) Mr. Klein asks the applicants if they have a sense of the time scale needed to deal with the pole.

(Mary Winstanley O'Connor) Ms. Winstanley O'Connor says they don't have a sense of how long it will take to resolve the issue of the pole. Utility companies work at their own pace.

The chair opens the hearing to public comment.

(Alex Tee) Mr. Tee says thanks the applicant for their efforts to address parking concerns. He'd like the electronic violation reporting mechanism to be transparent and easy to use. He feels the applicants need to address the operational aspects of parking. He's not comfortable with lease non-renewal as a penalty for repeated violations. He asks if parking will be monitored during construction period, and says it's tough to enforce parking regulations on a private way.

(Robert Annese) Mr. Annese takes issue with the idea that utility companies work at their own pace. He contacted Verizon's office in NYC months ago, found that the applicants had started the process of addressing the pole, but never followed through. He had a conversation with Ed Mirak (owner of the Hyundai dealership on the other side of the right of way) and registered his objections to overburdening the right of way early in the process. He thought the pole would be removed, but now understands that it won't. Regarding the costs to obtain an easement, Mr. Annese says he owns a good portion of the land where an easement would be needed and he wouldn't charge for one. Filing costs for an easement are minimal. He believes the developer's return on investment should be sufficient enough to allow them to move the pole. He's asking for fairness, and intends to file an appeal if the disposition of the pole is left to a future date. He says it's time for the applicant to pull the trigger on the pole.

(Peter Maradianos) Mr. Maradianos asks what the resident parking stickers will look like, what color they'll be, and where they'll be placed on tenant vehicles.

(Naren Deshponde) Mr. Deshponde asks if the number of parking spaces is correlated with the number of families who'll be living in the apartment.

(Mary Winstanley O'Connor) Ms. Winstanley O'Connor says that ordinarily, the number of parking spaces requires is determined by the number of bedrooms in each apartment. For this project, there will be 124 apartments and they're providing 128 parking spaces.

Ms. Winstanley O'Connor would like to address Mr. Annese's earlier comments. She doesn't know who Mr. Annese spoke with (at Verizon). The applicants hired Bohler Engineering to work with Verizon, and they were unsuccessful in making any progress. They hired another engineering firm, one that specializes in coordinating work with utility companies; they weren't able to make progress with Verizon either. She asks Mr. Annese if he'd be okay if the pole could be moved to the edge of the right of way.

(Robert Annese) Mr. Annese says he'll reserve judgment until he sees a plan.

(Mary Winstanley O'Connor) Ms. Winstanley O'Connor says she's participated in three meetings with Mr. Annese, and the pole was never brought up; his concern was traffic.

(Robert Annese) Mr. Annese says that Bob Mirak told him the pole would be moved.

(Mary Winstanley O'Connor) Regarding quarterly parking review, Ms. Winstanley O'Connor says that's intended to monitor the parking utilization between tenant parking, guest parking, and parking allotted to Workbar.

There are no further comments from the public.

(Steve Revilak) Mr. Revilak would like to make a few comments on parking and traffic. He understands that parking and traffic are concerns for the abutters, and that Ryder street has it's own set of challenges. He sees the anxiety that's caused.

We've reached a set of agreements when it comes to parking and traffic. Tenants will not be able to make a right turn onto Ryder Street, and tenants will not be allowed to park on Ryder street. We've also negotiated a mechanism for enforcement -- lease non-renewal for repeated violations of parking rules -- and the applicants are prepared to give the abutters a way to electronically report parking and traffic violations.

Mr. Revilak wants to recognize that we've created a list of restrictions that apply uniquely to this affordable housing project, and not to any other Arlington residents. Mr. Revilak says that if he owned a car, he'd be free to drive down Ryder Street and take a left turn on to Beck Road. Residents of this apartment will not be able to do so.

He also wants to recognize that these restrictions will exist in perpetuity. Mr. Revilak has mixed feelings about creating a set of restrictions that apply to a particular affordable housing project, and not to anyone else.

Finally, Mr. Revilak wants to acknowledge that there's a significant constituency that's had no representation in this process: the future tenants. They've had no representation because the building hasn't been built, and we don't know who they are. Buildings last for a long time, and it's quite possible that many of the tenants haven't even been born yet.

In conclusion, he understands the abutter's desire to have these restrictions, and doesn't plan to oppose them. But he has very mixed feelings about doing so.

(Pat Hanlon) Mr. Hanlon wants to say that the draft decision is still a draft. He feels the board's obligation is to serve all residents, and future residents will be residents too. Regarding the pole, Mr. Hanlon doesn't want to get in the middle of the dispute. From the board's perspective, the main focus should be the fact that we have a utility pole in the middle of the road. He hopes the applicants are able to reach a resolution, and stresses that the draft decision is not final.

(Christian Klein) Mr. Klein asks if there are any areas where board members feel they need more information.

(Roger Dupont) Mr. Dupont says that as long as town staff and our peer reviewers are comfortable, then he's okay.

(Kevin Mills) Mr. Mills recalls Mr. Annese's statement that Ed Mirak may be amenable to having the pole moved onto his property. He asks if there's a way to ascertain whether Mr. Mirak is amenable.

(Mary Winstanley O'Connor) Ms. Winstanley O'Connor says Mr. Mirak isn't at the point yet. They've initiated discussions, but it's still a continuing dialog.

Aaron Ford and Steve Revilak agree with Mr. Dupont and Mr. Hanlon.

(Laura Krause, BETA) Ms. Krause believes they have enough information about the civil, site, and environmental aspects of the project.

(Marta Nover, BETA) Ms. Nover believes that all of the issues that BETA raised were addressed to their satisfaction. She notes that BETA worked with the Conservation Commission in drafting some of the project conditions.

(Laura Krause) Ms. Krause believes all of the traffic issues have been addressed.

(Emily Sullivan) Ms. Sullivan says the Conservation Commission feels that all of their comments have been addressed. She also appreciates the applicant's responsiveness.

(Kelly Lynema) Ms. Lynema has no outstanding issues. She agrees that the applicants have been responsive.

The board votes to close the public hearing.

The board votes to begin deliberations on the order of conditions on August 24th.

Upcoming Dates

Upcoming dates for the board are:

  • 8/3. Thorndike Place
  • 8/24. Deliberations on 1165R Mass ave decision.
  • 9/2. Deliberations on 1165R Mass Ave decision.
  • 9/4. End of 40-day period to render a decision on 1165R.

Meeting adjourned.