Zoning Board of Appeals - Mar 16th, 2021

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Meeting held via remote participation. Materials were available via https://arlington.novusagenda.com/agendapublic/DisplayAgendaPDF.ashx?MeetingID=1285.

1165R Mass Ave Comprehensive Permit

This is a continued hearing of the 40B/Comprehensive permit proposal for 1165R Mass Ave. Tonight's topic is transportation.

(Mary Winstanley O'Connor, Attorney for the petitioner) Ms. Winstanley O'Connor says their Traffic Impact Report (TIR) was amended, due to responses from BETA, the Transportation Advisory Committee, and comments from neighbors. She's met with Robert Annese (an abutter), and he won't be appearing in opposition tonight.

She says the town of Arlington owns part of Ryder street in front of 9 Ryder, and that 23 Forest street is encroaching on the Ryder St. right of way. She feels that concerns about truck traffic should be referred to the town manager. She says the ZBA could add parking restrictions in front of 9 Ryder. The (TIR) doesn't consider the effects of MBTA service cuts resulting from the pandemic, because those cuts are supposed to be temporary.

(Bryan Zimalka, Nitsche) Mr. Zimalka says the project contains 130 dwelling units and 187 bedrooms. There are 135 parking spaces: 124 in the garage, and 11 surface. 40 spaces will be dedicated to Workbar on the weekdays, and 10 during evenings and weekends.

There are three points of access to the site: Mass Ave, Quinn Road, and Ryder street. Currently, all three have two way access.

There are bicycle lanes on Mass Ave. The site is also close to the Minuteman Bikeway. There are publicly accessible sidewalks all around the site and transit stops at the intersection of Mass Ave and Appleton Street.

The petitioners would like to change the road configuration, so that tenants can exit (but not enter) via Ryder street. Quinn Road will remain two way. They'll provide an accessible route to the site via Forest and Ryder streets.

Mr. Zimalka expects the project to add fifteen trips in the morning and 29 in the evening. These are net changes, and most of the additional traffic should be on Quinn Road.

Nitsche performed a traffic capacity analysis. They believe there will be minimal increases in queuing and delay.

The petitioners looked at the Legacy, Arlington 360, and the Brigham Square apartments when assessing parking demand. Their comparison is mostly based on parking data from the Legacy.

(Julia Mirak, Property owner) Ms. Mirak says her family constructed the Legacy in 2000. At that time, they anticipated a lot of parking need. The demand for parking has declined over the last 20 years, and they see tenants using cars less frequently.

(Bryan Zimalka) Mr. Zimalka says they collected parking counts and confirmed their numbers with management. They anticipate a need of 0.55 parking spaces per bedroom, or 107 spaces for residents. They expect an 18% reduction in demand during weekdays, and a 9% reduction on weekends. He believes 135 spaces will be enough to meet this demand.

Mr. Annese said he wanted to maintain two way access from Mass Ave to his building, and they will do that. Mass Ave will be one way (entering) for tenants. They plan to work with Mr. Annese on signage, to make parking restrictions clear. They also plan to add speed bumps on the west driveway (to Ryder street).

Mr. Zimalka says that Ryder street will be exit only, and there will be a left-turn-only restriction for tenants. The left turn restriction is to prevent tenant traffic from going into the neighborhood.

The proponents intend to institute a transportation demand management (TDM) plan. Tenants will receive orientation packets, the apartment will provide bike storage, there will be a transportation coordinator on site, and new tenants will receive a $100 gift certificate to a bike shop. Parking spaces will be rented at market rate, and they'll use placards or stickers for parking control.

(Greg Lucas, BETA) Mr. Lucas says BETA sent an initial review and received responses. Their comments focused on access and parking, and they're still discussing parking demand with the applicant. They provided comments on the site and garage layout. With the shared parking arrangements, they want the garage to be adequately maneuverable.

(Bryan Zimalka) Mr. Zimalka says the Transportation Advisory Committee's (TAC's) review largely mirrored BETA's. TAC requested subsidized MBTA passes as part of the TDM plan. Mr. Zimalka says they expect around 20% of tenants to use transit, and they'd prefer to emphasize use of the Minuteman Bikeway.

They considered providing a sidewalk along the Mass Ave entrance. They don't believe they'll be able to narrow the access road enough, and it would be too steep for an ADA-compliant sidewalk. Instead, they'll build an accessible sidewalk on Forest and Ryder.

(Mary Winstanley O'Connor) Ms. Winstanley O'Connor says they can't alter the access of abutters who have easements.

(Bryan Zimalka) Mr. Zimalka wants to speak to concerns that were raised by the neighborhood.

Volume. Mr. Zimalka doesn't expect Beck road to be impacted, due to the left-only restriction on the Ryder St. access point.

Traffic Patterns. Mr. Zimalka says that Tuesday and Wednesday are standard measurement days in the traffic engineering industry, and there are established conversion factors to derive peak traffic from measurements taken in February.

Mix of Pedestrian Traffic. Mr. Zimalka says they did pedestrian counts on Ryder, and measured a morning peak of 32 pedestrian trips.

Parking. The proponents expect tenants and visitors to park on-site, and not on Ryder street.

Signage. They proponents plan to install a "no right turn" sign where the driveway intersects with Ryder. They plan to repave part of Ryder street and install wheelchair ramps in front of 9 Ryder. He says that part of Ryder is a private way, and they're unable to change the parking regulations there.

Having more than one access point. Mr. Zimalka says the number of access points to the site are not changing. But they will put restrictions on how traffic can move through them.

Mass Ave Access. There are two points of access from Mass Ave: 1165 Mass Ave (the driveway), and 1125 Mass Ave (via Quinn Road).

Improvements. Mr. Zimalka says they plan to construct two wheelchair ramps, repave Ryder street from Forest, and add a crosswalk.

Traffic Study. Mr. Zimalka says they consulted with the town regarding potential future projects, and considered that in the design estimate.

(Greg Lucas) Mr. Lucas says that Beck road wasn't considered in their peer review, because the petitioners are restricting traffic in that direction. He agrees that there are conversion factors for traffic counts taken in February, and that Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday are typical days for conducting traffic counts.

The intersection crash rate is not a high crash location, according to crash data. The crash rate is below the district average. Mr. Lucas says they can only factor in developments that they're aware of; future developments will have the burden of doing their own traffic plans. Mr. Lucas says that the abutter's "disproportionate graph" did not match his measurements. He thinks that graphic is perhaps informative, but may be misleading.

(Roger Dupont, ZBA) Mr. Dupont has questions about traffic flow and the enforceability of signs.

(Daniel St. Clair, Spaulding and Slye) Mr. St. Clair says that new tenants will be given tutorial material on their mobility options, which includes parking and traffic flow. The management company will actively manage this, and they plan to build responsibility into the lease agreements.

(Aaron Ford, ZBA) Mr. Ford asks what times the traffic counts were taken.

(Bryan Zimalka) Mr. Zimalka says that morning counts were taken between 7:00 am and 9:00 am, while evening counts were taken between 4:00 pm and 6:00 pm. He says these are standard times for traffic engineering, and the peak volumes are the highest hourly volumes within these period.

(Aaron Ford) Mr. Ford asks about existing commercial traffic from the site, and how that factored into the study.

(Bryan Zimalka) Mr. Zimalka says they start with the number of trips from the site, and then estimate trip rates using ITE data. Next, they determine a mode share. Here, they looked at the master plan and census data. They felt that the census more accurately represented trip data, and used the census mode split for their report. They also considered other factors, such as the Minimum Bikeway. That's what went into the conclusion that 65--70% of trips would be made by vehicle. Finally, they obtain ITE trip data for the new use, and use that to determine the net change in trip counts. They distributed the net value across access points, to derive totals for each driveway.

(Greg Lucas) Mr. Lucas says you'd start by calculating trips for the current office building, then reduce by mode share. Next, do the same thing for the proposed residential development. Then, take the delta between the two. The rates come from ITE data, which is based on an average of uses. He says the key is to think of the rates as the number of trips per hour; you can derive frequency from that.

(Pat Hanlon, ZBA) Mr. Hanlon has a question about mode split. It seems like assuming more vehicle trips would lead to a more conservative estimate (i.e., assuming more cars). These estimates used the census mode split, which had a higher percentage of vehicle traffic, which would make them more conservative. Mr. Hanlon asks if that's correct.

(Bryan Zimalka) Mr. Zimalka says that Mr. Hanlon is correct. The Master Plan's mode share considered all of Arlington, while the census tract data is more specific. They also considered proximity to the bus stop and bikeway.

(Christian Klein, ZBA Chair) Mr. Klein would like to confirm that tenants won't be allowed to enter via Ryder Street.

(Bryan Zimalka) Mr. Zimalka says that's correct.

(Christian Klein) Mr. Klein asks if there will be two-way traffic over the bridge and heading towards Mass Ave.

(Bryan Zimalka) Mr. Zimalka says yes, but there will be signs directing tenants to exit the property via Quinn Road.

(Christian Klein) Mr. Klein asks about the telephone pole near the Mass Ave driveway.

(Daniel St. Clair) Mr. St. Clair says they've considered the pole, but there doesn't seem to be a viable path to removing it. They plan to leave it in its current location.

(Christian Klein) Mr. Klein ask who's served by the utility pole.

(Daniel St. Clair) Mr. St. Clair says the pole serves a number of the abutters, but not this site.

(Christian Klein) Mr. Klein says the sidewalk on Ryder street drops off, and he thinks that turning it into an accessible sidewalk will require some effort. He suggests that continuing the sidewalk along Ryder Street, all the way to the bikeway, would be a useful improvement. He acknowledges that Ryder is a private way with multiple owners, and that the local businesses seem to use the street as a parking lot.

(Daniel St. Clair) Mr. St. Clair says they're planning to construct an accessible path along Mill Brook. They've looked closely at the grades, and will correct the grading to make an ADA path. He says that extending the sidewalk to the bikeway might create legal challenges that are beyond their control. As a result, they don't plan to extend the sidewalk further down Ryder.

The chair opens the hearing to public comment.

(Peter Maradionas) Mr. Maradionas asks if anyone has measured with width of Ryder street. He says the street's not wide enough for two cars.

(Daniel St. Clair) Mr. St. Clair says that Ryder street is 40' wide, not counting the encroachment and space used for parking. He says they don't own the space where cars are parking and can't stop people from parking.

(Mary Winstanley O'Connor) Ms. Winstanley O'Connor says that the petitioners can place parking restrictions on the sections of Ryder street that they own by deed.

(Peter Maradionas) Mr. Maradionas says he's concerned about the number of trips.

(Bryan Zimalka) Mr. Zimalka says they're structuring the driveway so that tenant traffic can only turn left onto Ryder.

(Peter Maradionas) Mr. Maradionas likes the idea of having a sidewalk down the length of Ryder street. He says there's lots of traffic, and that sometimes the landscaping company blocks the street.

(Pat Hanlon) Mr. Hanlon says he often goes walking on Ryder Street. He asks what time of day he should walk through in order to see the traffic.

(Peter Maradionas) Mr. Maradionas suggests 3:00 pm to 6:00 pm.

(Nicole Weber) Ms. Weber thanks members of the ZBA for visiting her neighborhood. She's a scientist and would like to see the traffic calculations. A net change of 15 trips doesn't make sense to her. She asks how parking will be monitored on Ryder street. She says that speed bumps at the end of the driveway won't help the middle school; this street is a huge through-way for middle schoolers. She says it would be great if Ryder was pedestrian and bicycle only.

(Mariah Contreras) Ms. Contreras says she'd like to see the deed showing that her property is encroaching on Ryder Street.

(Mary Winstanley O'Connor) Ms. Winstanley O'Connor says that information is contained in ALTA's survey, but she can also provide it to Ms. Contreras.

(Mariah Contreras) Ms. Contreras said she's heard various things about access points. She thinks the site should have one access point. She asks if the left-only restriction on Ryder will apply to cyclists.

(Mary Winstanley O'Connor) Ms. Winstanley O'Connor says no, it won't apply to cyclists.

(Mariah Contreras) Ms. Contreras asks if there will be a separate driveway for cyclists.

(?) No, both cyclists and automobiles will be able to use the driveway that exits to Ryder Street.

(Mariah Contreras) Ms. Contreras believes that will lead to unpredictable behavior. She asks the petitioners to consider including a direct path to the bikeway.

As for repaving, Ms. Contreras says that potholes are the only thing that slows traffic down, and she'd rather stand in the potholes before seeing them paved over.

There's discussion about Arlington's betterment bylaw, and the paving of private ways.

(Mariah Contreras) Ms. Contreras says the status quo is not safe, and no one thinks that it is. She asks why there's been no creative consideration of Ryder Street, and says that logic is skewed.

(Mary Winstanley O'Connor) Ms. Winstanley O'Connor says they'll consider traffic calming measures.

(Mariah Contreras) Mr. Contreras says there've already been problems with construction equipment. She says that construction will be very disruptive.

(Alex Tee) Mr. Tee says that his neighborhood is atypical, and people aren't going to trust engineering studies. He says that replacing the sidewalk and making it ADA compliant will start to address the problems. He's concerned about speed, and says that people feel like they've been blocked out and steamrolled. He wants to address qualitative aspects. He asks what if Ryder was an ingress route, rather than egress. He says it's hard to capture his neighborhood's traffic with a number in a table.

(Bryan Zimalka) Mr. Zimalka says they'll look at traffic calming measures.

(Alex Tee) Mr. Tee says that 9:30am, noon, and 4:30pm are the best times to see traffic.

(Tom Taylor) Mr. Taylor thinks that February is not a representative time for a traffic study, and that a 3% adjustment is too small. He suggests doing a traffic study in June or July. He says that lots of construction workers go in and out, and they have to put signs on the street. The encroachment on Ryder was done around 2000. Construction vehicles roar out and they destroyed some bushes. He says there are rapidly moving vehicles and they want traffic to go slow. He asks the board for additional study during traffic hours. He says that Ryder Street gets overflow parking from the skating rink. People are interested in working with developers to get a project that's safe.

(Nicole Weber) Ms. Weber says that residents feel like construction is already happening. They feel their buildings shaking. She's concerned about middle school children.

(Alex Tee) Mr. Tee says that an excavator came in to do soil sampling. He says people would like to know when this will happen.

(Ann LeRoyer) Ms. LeRoyer is concerned about traffic speed. She says there's not enough consideration given to pedestrians. A lot of people walk in the street and the sidewalk isn't useful. She thinks traffic calming would be great. The intersection of Forest and Mass Ave also has problems, and Pierce Street is used as a cut-through. She says it's a messy, strange neighborhood with a lot of historic problems.

(Christian Klein) Mr. Klein says the town is looking at the intersection of Mass Ave and Appleton street, and that group's first meeting is next week.

(Alex Tee) Mr. Tee asks where he can direct ideas to.

(Mary Winstanley O'Connor) Ms. Winstanley O'Connor says people can send ideas to her.

There are no further comments fro the public.

(Pat Hanlon) Mr. Hanlon says that bicycle access on the egress route to Ryder will mostly be a problem for tenants, but it's worth thinking that aspect through.

(Daniel St. Clair) Mr. St. Clair thinks they can come up with a better way to manage traffic flow. Instead of re-doing the sidewalk and re-paving, they can consider other solutions. He'd prefer to have these conversations earlier rather than later.

Hearing continued until March 23rd, 7:30pm.