Zoning Board of Appeals - Nov 22nd, 2021

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Meeting held via remote participation. Materials were available from https://arlington.novusagenda.com/agendapublic/DisplayAgendaPDF.ashx?MeetingID=1474.

Our meeting began with a Zoom hiccup -- this particular account was double-booked for the Select Board and the ZBA, so we had to do the digital version of moving to a different room.

Comprehensive Permit - Thorndike Place

(Christian Klein, ZBA Chair) Mr. Klein summarizes the close of the public hearing and the deliberations that have taken place since them. He reminds the public that the board needs to render a decision by Nov 30th, as required by state law.

The decision now stretches into seventy-something pages, and we're going to go through it top to bottom, to review the last set of changes.

Finding 3. The Board's attorney, Paul Haverty, says there's no need to list the dates of board deliberations (i.e., after the close of the public hearing). So, we'll strike them.

Finding 6. The Board adds a note saying the property is sometimes referred to as the "Mugar Property". A few places in the decision refer to it that way.

Finding 12. The board changes "spring" to "April".

Finding 21.b. The board changes "proposed project" to "Approved Project". Mr. Hanlon notes that the use of this language is not a presumption that the board will ultimately approve it.

Finding 26. The board adds the date of the Weston and Samson memo, which was submitted by the Arlington Land Trust.

Finding 27. The board adds the dates of the applicant's flooding memo, and BETA's peer review response. This is to clarify the documents that the decision is referring to.

Finding 27(a). The board changes "part" to "portion".

Finding 27(e). The board adds a note to clarify that the ZBA and the Conservation Commission requested the use of NOAA14+ precipitation data.

Finding 27(f). Reworded for clarification.

Finding 29. Added a comma.

Finding 40. The board changes "apartment" to "senior living and duplexes".

Finding 43. The board adds "or raised elevation" to clarify the meaning of "mounding".

Finding 44. The board adds a few words to elaborate on what the town's Net Zero Action Plan is intended to do.

Finding 47. Minor wording change.

Finding 48. The board adds the distances between the Project and the Alewife MBTA station, the Minuteman Bikeway, and bus routes on Mass Ave.

Finding 60. The board strikes the word "today".

Finding 62. The board adds a few commas.

Finding 65. The board performs some wordsmithing on this paragraph, such as changing "impact" to "additional impact".

Finding 66(a). The board strikes "not surprisingly".

Finding 70. The board changes "paddle tennis" to "pickleball".

Finding 74. This is a new paragraph which states that post-construction traffic monitoring would be desirable. The language comes from Arlington's Transportation Advisory Committee.

Finding 78. The board adds "one of the few, if not the only".

Finding 79. Mr. Hanlon offers a new version of this paragraph, which the board adopts.

Finding 80. Minor rewording.

Finding 81. The board adds language to show how the number of parking spaces changed over the various iterations of the proposal.

Finding 82. The board adds a paragraph about bicycle parking.

Finding 83. The board strikes this paragraph as duplicative.

Finding 84. This is a long paragraph, which the board splits up. The first half becomes the new finding 83, and the second half is finding 84.

Finding 85. This is a new paragraph on staging modular units for delivery.

Finding 86. The board fills in a blank, noting that construction is expected to take 12--18 months.

Finding 89. The board finalizes a paragraph on construction hours.

Finding 90. This is another new paragraph, about construction impacts.

Finding 98. The board adds a new paragraph about wildlife habitat.

Finding 99. This paragraph involves a Memorandum of Understanding that will be negotiated between the Applicant and the Select Board. The board will not be a party to these negotiations, so we'll use this paragraph to state our opinions about what the MOU should include. Several board members ask how a conservation restriction would work, if the applicant ends up maintaining ownership of the land. Mr. Haverty says that state law requires a third-party to have control of a conservation restriction (e.g., a non-profit). He doesn't see an issue if the applicant ends up maintaining ownership. The board adds a subsection to describe how the proposed handling of the conservation parcel changed over the course of the hearings.

There are no further changes to finding, and the board moves on to conditions.

Condition C.1(d). Added "non-cultivar".

Condition C.1(e). The board changes "rational" to "rationale".

Condition C.2(h). The board changes "following" to "foregoing".

Condition D.22. The board adds "except as specifically waived".

Condition D.33. This is a new condition on the staging of construction materials and equipment.

Condition E.2. The board adds a condition that it should receive a copy of the MOU, for administrative approval.

Condition E.4. This is a new condition, that will require the applicant to participate in post-construction traffic monitoring efforts.

Waiver 32. This waiver involves hours of construction. The board rewords it so that the waiver is all-or-nothing.

Those are all of the changes we have. Now, it's on to making a decision.

(Christian Klein) Mr. Klein reiterates that the board has three options: to approve, to approve with conditions, or to deny. He believes it's safe to assume that the board will not approve the project without conditions, which means choosing between the latter two options.

(Pat Hanlon, ZBA) Mr. Hanlon moves acceptance of the decision as written. He says it isn't perfect, but believes the applicant has gone just about as far as the Conservation Commission requested. He wishes the board could do more, but acknowledges that we have to operate within a legal matrix. He thinks this decision tries to consider quality of life issues for residents, whereas the Housing Appeals Committee might be more likely to say "oh, it's just those Arlington NIMBYs". The neighborhood is under pressure from flooding, and that might just be a stormwater system issue. He hopes that this is a start at relieving some of the pressure that people feel.

(Kevin Mills, ZBA) Mr. Mills thinks the board has done the best job it possibly could. He thinks this will be a painful pill for the neighborhood to swallow, but voting against it would be the wrong move.

(Roger Dupont, ZBA) Mr. Dupont says he personally wrestled with the desire to stop this project from moving forward, but we have to deal with the realities of state law.

(Steve Revilak, ZBA) Mr. Revilak says this has been a very long process. He's proud of some of the things that came out of the Board's negotiations with the applicant. Like Mr. Hanlon, he hopes that there will be long-term improvements for the neighborhood. He recalls a statement that Brian Rehrig made during the public testimony -- that in fifty years, the thing people will remember the most about this project is the Conservation Parcel. He hopes Mr. Rehrig turns out to be right.

(Shawn O'Rourke, ZBA) Mr. Rourke says he's reluctant to approve this decision, but feels the final project is much better than the one we started with.

(Aaron Ford, ZBA) Mr. Ford says he's not happy with the project at this site, but agrees with his peers.

(Christian Klein) Mr. Klein agrees with the other board members. This is probably the largest undeveloped parcel in Arlington. It was originally envisioned as a shopping center along route 2. The town made several attempts to purchase the property, but unsuccessfully. This may allow for the final disposition of the conservation parcel, so that the land can be cleaned up, restored, and brought back. He understands the new housing will be an imposition on the neighborhood; there will be new neighbors and they will become an integral part of the neighborhood. This is a special place to the residents who live here. As Chair, Mr. Klein's goal was to ensure that the board listened to everyone. We can't do everything that everyone wants. There have been two main problems: wetlands and access to the site. Mr. Klein thinks we got to a good solution for the wetlands, but traffic and site access are less clear. He thinks the decision is as strong and defensible as it can be. He hope this will eventually become an asset to the neighborhood.

The board approves the decision by a vote of 5--0. (Mr. Ford and Mr. Revilak are associate members, and were unable to participate in the vote.)

Upcoming Changes to the Board

Mr. Klein takes a moment to mention changes that will be taking place within the board. Tonight is Mr. Revilak's last night as a board member, and tomorrow will be Mr. Ford's last night. Mr. O'Rourke will step down sometime in the next few weeks. Mr. Klein thanks these members for their service.

Meeting adjourned.