Zoning Board of Appeals - Nov 9th, 2021

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Meeting held via remote participation. Materials were available from https://arlington.novusagenda.com/agendapublic/DisplayAgendaPDF.ashx?MeetingID=1447.

Approval of Decisions

The board approves written decisions for:

  • 5 Cheviot Road
  • 14-16 Egerton Road
  • 43 Cutter Hill Road

Docket 3668 - 125-127 Webster Street

The applicants would like to expand the third floor of their two-family home. They've brought two proposals to the board this evening. Plan one adds dormers and requires a special permit due to an open space non-conformity. Plan two requests a variance to create a full third story.

(Luke McKenna, Applicant) Mr. McKenna says they've brought two plans to the board tonight: the original plan requiring a variance, and an alternate plan requiring a special permit. They'd like to add extra space, beyond a half-story on the third floor, to make room for a three-generation household.

(Pat Hanlon, ZBA) Mr. Hanlon encourages the applicant to start by presenting their case for a variance. Mr. Hanlon is particularly interested in the criteria involving soil, topography, or shape of the lot. He notes that this lot has a regular shape, the ground is flat, and it's similar to surrounding lots in the area.

(Christian Klein, ZBA Chair) Mr. Klein notes that applicants have to satisfy four criteria in order to receive a variance, and these criteria are established by state law. The one that Mr. Hanlon is referring to involves conditions of soil, shape, or topography that exist on the property, but in not the district in general.

(Bruce McKenna, Applicant) Mr. McKenna says that all of the work will happen within the existing footprint of the building. If the three-story proposal doesn't meet the criteria for a variance, then he doesn't understand why it wouldn't meet the requirements for the new ADU provisions in the bylaw.

(Christian Klein) Mr. Klein explains that the ADU bylaw doesn't change the dimensional regulations in the zoning bylaw; it simply allows an additional use within those limits. One can (for example) subdivide the interior of each dwelling in a two-family home and create two ADUs, but you can't go beyond the 2.5 story limit.

(Bruce McKenna) Mr. McKenna thinks it would be advantageous to the town if this were allowed.

(Christian Klein) Mr. Klein explains why going beyond 2.5 stories has to be submitted as a variance request. Variances are intended to be few and far between, and they should be due to conditions involving the lot. He tells the applicants that the zoning bylaw simply doesn't allow them to have as large a third floor as they want.

(Bruce McKenna) Mr. McKenna acknowledges that soil conditions aren't a factor in this proposal, because all of the work will happen in the existing footprint.

(Pat Hanlon) Mr. Hanlon reiterates that variance criteria come from state law, and the board doesn't have the ability to alter them. He tells Mr. McKenna that the board will have to say "no" if he can't make a case for how his proposal meets those conditions.

There's back and fourth about how the zoning bylaw can be changed. It's not something that can be done quickly.

(Steve Revilak, ZBA) Mr. Revilak understands what the applicant is trying to do -- to create more space in order to accommodate a growing multi-generational household. He feels that three-story zoning would make the zoning bylaw easier to administer in some regards, but we have 2.5 story zoning and the board is bound by that. Variances are really intended to handle very narrow and extenuating circumstances.

The applicant decides to withdraw the variance application, and proceed with the plan that involves only a special permit.

(Christian Klein) Mr. Klein has some questions about the interior design of the third floor and the minimum ceiling height under the state building code.

(Rick Vallarelli, Building Inspector) Mr. Vallarelli says those matters will be taken up when the plans are formally reviewed. However, the applicant needs to get by the board first.

The chair opens the hearing to public comment.

(Steve Moore) Mr. Moore has a question about the planning department's memo. He asks if the department revises their memos when an applicant's plans change.

(Rick Vallarelli) Mr. Vallarelli doesn't believe so.

(Steve Moore) Mr. Moore appreciates the way that Mr. Klein and Mr. Hanlon explained the situation with variances; he thought the explanation was very clear. He realizes the applicants are disappointed, but he thinks the criteria are clear.

(Christian Klein) Mr. Klein acknowledges that the applicant submitted several letters of support for the variance proposal, and petition signatures suggesting the variance be granted. He assumes there'd be the same support for the alternate plan.

There's no more comment from the public.

(Christian Klein) Mr. Klein explains that the second application requires a special permit because there's no usable open space on the lot. He says this is a fairly common issue because many of Arlington's homes were built before open space requirements were added to the bylaw. The lot has no usable open space now, and will have no usable open space after the work has been done. The board has a precedent of interpreting this as not increasing the non-conformity.

(Pat Hanlon) Mr. Hanlon is sympathetic to what the applicant's trying to do. He lives near the applicant's house. If he weren't on the board and Mr. McKenna had asked him for a letter of support, he probably would have written one.

(Christian Klein) Mr. Klein summarizes the set of conditions that the board routinely applies to special permits.

(Pat Hanlon) Mr. Hanlon moves that the board grant the special permit, and deny the variance request.

Motion passes, 5--0.

Docket 3679 - 31 Melvin Road

The applicants own a single-family home. They're seeing a special permit in order to add a large addition.

(Brian Kelder, Applicant) Mr. Kelder says that he's applying for a special permit in order to add an addition that's greater than 750 square feet. This will provide space for an additional bedroom and bathroom, to make room for growing teenagers.

(Paxton Shelduhl, Architect) Mr. Shelduhl says the existing house has around 1000 square feet of space, and the addition will bring it up to approximately 2000. They've proposed to put the addition in the rear of the house rather than going up, in order to avoid creating steps in the middle of the existing structure. The addition is intentionally nestled behind the house.

(Pat Hanlon) Mr. Hanlon asks Mr. Klein to show one of the photos in the applicant. He notes that there's a large tree in front of the house, and another one in the rear.

(Brian Kelder) Mr. Kelder says the front tree is an oak. His family really likes that tree and wants to avoid harming it at all costs. The one in the rear is a beech tree. It's in poor health and has to be taken down regardless of whether the addition is added. He says there are no other trees near the footprint of the proposed addition.

(Pat Hanlon) Mr. Hanlon asks if the applicants plan to remove the shed in the back yard.

(Brian Kelder) Mr. Kelder says they're keeping the shed.

(Steve Revilak) Mr. Revilak visited the site over the weekend. He says there are a number of homes that look like they were expanded by adding a second story. He's curious why the applicants decided to add in the rear, rather than going up.

(Ms. Kelder) Ms. Kelder explains the reason for that decision. They'll be able to continue living in the house while the rear addition is built. If they added a second story, they'd have to move out. In addition, stairs to the second floor would have taken away more floor space than they'd have liked.

(Steve Revilak) Mr. Revilak comments on window alignment on the proposed addition. He thinks there's little relation between the window placement on the first and second floors. He asks the applicant to consider aligning the centers or edges of the windows.

(Paxton Shelduhl) Mr. Shelduhl says the windows are placed to provide the most benefit to the interior spaces. But the placement may change a little.

(Kevin Mills, ZBA) Mr. Mills asks about the seam where the roof of the existing house will meet the addition. He wonders if water could be a problem there.

(Paxton Shelduhl) Mr. Shelduhl says there will be cricket across the seam, sloped so that water flows down either side. This was part of trying to keep the addition compact.

The chair opens the hearing to public comment.

(Steve Moore) Mr. Moore is a member of the tree committee. He appreciates the board bringing up trees. He thinks the oak tree in front of the house will make it difficult to bring construction materials and equipment into the back. He says it might need significant root protection. He notes that the beech tree in the rear is a protected tree, and they'll need a tree plan approved by the tree warden in order to remove it.

(Brian Kelder) Mr. Kelder says they haven't approached the tree warden yet, but will do so. He notes that the beech tree is in poor health and has to come down anyway.

(Steve Moore) Mr. Moore says he also had questions about the roof transition, but it sounds like that's been taken care of.

(Paxton Shelduhl) Mr. Shelduhl says they'll make tree and root zone protection part of the contract when selecting a general contractor.

There's no further comment from the public.

(Pat Hanlon) Mr. Hanlon says the planning department's memo suggests consulting with the town engineer regarding a stormwater management plan.

(Paxton Shelduhl) Mr. Shelduhl says they haven't done runoff calculations yet. But he'll consult with the town engineer to see what's best.

(Roger Dupont, ZBA) Mr. Dupont has a question about the Beech tree. The applicant said it's not healthy, but it has green leaves in the picture. He asks if the applicant can talk more about the trees health.

(Brian Kelder) Mr. Kelder says the applicant has a fungal disease that's destroying its vascular system. It has leaves, but they get smaller each year because of the vascular disease. He says the tree was assessed by two different arborists, and both gave the same opinion.

(Steve Moore) Mr. Moore suspects he knows what that fungal disease is, and he believes it's common in Arlington. Eventually, the tree will have to be taken down.

(Rick Vallarelli) Mr. Vallarelli notes that tree warden sign-off is now required for the issuance of a building permit.

Motion to approve the special permit application granted, 5--0.

Upcoming Dates

Upcoming dates for the board are:

  • Nov 11. Thorndike Place
  • Nov 16. Thorndike Place
  • Nov 23. Four new cases.

Meeting adjourned.