Zoning Board of Appeals - Oct 26th, 2021

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Meeting held via remote participation. Materials were available from https://arlington.novusagenda.com/agendapublic/DisplayAgendaPDF.ashx?MeetingID=1440.

Approval of Minutes

The board voted to approve minutes for July 13, July 26, and October 5.

Approval of Decisions

The board voted to approve decisions for

  • 20-20A Lafayette Street
  • 24 Ottawa Road
  • 43 Foxmeadow Lane
  • 18 Heard Road

Docket 3666 - 14-16 Egerton Road

The applicant wishes to add a dormer to the third floor of a duplex dwelling, along with a second driveway. The property is located in East Arlington and has no usable open space.

(Brendan Lyons(?), Applicant) Mr. Lyons says he'd like to add a dormer to the third floor of the duplex. This will provide more windows and more headroom for a shower in the third-floor bathroom. He'd also like to add a second driveway on the left side of the house. Mr. Lyons says he plans on converting the two-family home into a pair of condos, and this would provide one driveway per condo. Egerton Road is a one-way street, and this will make it easier for residents to pull out due to less on-street parking.

(Pat Hanlon, ZBA) Mr. Hanlon asks if the dormer on the left side is an existing dormer.

(Christian Klein, ZBA Chair) Mr. Klein says the applicant is asking for permission to build a new shed dormer on the other side of the building.

(Pat Hanlon) Mr. Hanlon says it looks like there's very little space between the proposed driveway and the adjacent property. He asks if there will be any separation between the driveway and the property line.

(Brendan Lyons) Mr. Lyons says there's a 2' retaining wall there now, and that it will provide separation.

(Roger Dupont, ZBA) Mr. Dupont asks about the driveway and front setback dimensions.

(Rick Vallarelli, Inspectional Services) Mr. Vallarelli says the existing front setback is 14.1 feet, which is a pre-existing non-conformity. The proposed parking space is a little to short in length.

(Steve Revilak, ZBA) Mr. Revilak notes that the zoning bylaw requires 30' between driveways on an interior lot, and this proposal has only 26.5'.

(Christian Klein) Mr. Klein asks if the applicants need to provide a vegetated buffer.

(Rick Vallarelli) Mr. Vallarelli says that section 6.1.10(A) of the Zoning bylaw requires a vegetated buffer, but it doesn't say how wide the buffer has to be.

(Christian Klein) Mr. Klein asks about the procedure for obtaining a curb cut.

(Rick Vallarelli) Mr. Vallarelli says the applicant would have to use a contractor that's been approved and bonded by the town. Curb cuts are done via utility permits through the town's engineering department.

(Kevin Mills, ZBA) Mr. Mills asks about the floor area under the half-story.

(Christian Klein) Mr. Klein says it will increase from 400 square feet to 560 square feet.

(Rick Vallarelli) Mr. Vallarelli says the third floor will have 47.8% of the gross floor area of the second floor, which meets the criteria for a half story.

(Christian Klein) Mr. Klein notes the shed dormer has a slope of 3:12, which also meets the half-story requirements.

(Kevin Mills) Mr. Mills thinks the dormer is set back far enough from the front of the building.

(Christian Klein) Mr. Klein says the dormer is set back 5' from the front of the building.

The chair opens the hearing to public comment.

(Steve Moore) Mr. Moore thinks the gambrel dormer on the left was an earlier addition, and another dormer will extend the third floor enough for this to become a three family home. He says the house is filling up the lot and asks how hard it will be to add an ADU. He asks how many sorts of expansions will be precursors to ADU development. He believes the developer is asking the board to increase the non-conformity of the property, and asks the board how they can do that.

(Christian Klein) Mr. Klein explains that non-conformity is related to usable open space; the property has none now, and will have none after the dormer is built. The board has a long-standing precedent of determining that this doesn't increase the non-conformity.

(Steve Revilak) Mr. Revilak points out that this house is in the R2 district, and three family dwellings are not allowed.

(Steve Moore) Mr. Moore says this will be a house with a large third floor and a lot of driveway.

(K. Leahy) Mr. Leahy thinks there will be too much driveway. He lives to the left of the property, and thinks the second driveway will inhibit his ability to remove snow. He also thinks the driveway should have a vegetated buffer.

(Pat Hanlon) Mr. Hanlon would like clarification; he asks if Mr. Leahy normally shovels snow from his driveway into his neighbors side yard.

(K. Leahy) Mr. Leahy says he piles snow on top of the retaining wall; he doesn't shovel it into his neighbors yard. But he thinks the driveway will be too close.

(Michael Boulet) Mr. Boulet thinks that another curb cut will make it more difficult to pile snow in the street, and create a pedestrian hazard. He doesn't see the need for a second driveway. The property is close to Mass Ave, and people already park on Egerton Road when they're visiting businesses there. He asks if the driveway will impact the street tree in front of the house.

(Will McMillan) Mr. McMillan lives across the street and has spent most of his live trying to avoid burning fossil fuels. He's also concerned about the health of the three. The town built two swales at the bottom of the street, which was a nice addition. Our culture is doing a horrible job at paving over everything.

(Joe Cook) Mr. Cook says he's lived here for 30 years, and that the town is trying to get away from making things more appealing to cars. He doesn't think we want to make it more attractive to cars.

(Steve Moore, Tree Committee) This time, Mr. Moore wishes to speak on behalf of the tree committee. He says the concerns about the street tree are valid. A tree's critical root zone generally follows the drip edge of the tree. It extends roughly 2' out for each inch of DBH. The street tree is protected by state law and its removal would require a tree hearing.

(Pat Hanlon) Mr. Hanlon asks if there are pervious driveway surfaces that would allow water to penetrate the soil around the tree.

(Steve Moore) Mr. Moore says that permeable paving will allow water through. But he's concerned that constructing the driveway would cut into the critical root zone.

There's no further comment from the public.

(Brendan Lyons) Mr. Lyons is concerned about the unsafe sidewalk conditions that the tree's root heaves have created. It's a tripping hazard that gets worse each year. The house on the left has no trouble pulling out of their driveway. It will be easy for a small car, but harder for a large vehicle. He notes there's a garage in back of the house. He's planning to take the garage down and re-vegetate the area.

(Rick Vallarelli) Mr. Vallarelli says that removing the garage won't create any usable open space on the property.

(Christian Klein) Mr. Klein asks if the board has any concerns about the dormer.

(Pat Hanlon) Mr. Hanlon says the dormer meets the half-story requirements. Clearly this can't become a three-family building, but an owner could add an ADU.

(Steve Revilak) Mr. Revilak thinks the dormer is fine as proposed. He says that town meeting was very receptive to the ADU bylaw that was passed last spring. Without particularity to this project, Mr. Revilak would be happy to see people adding ADUs to their homes.

(Christian Klein) Mr. Klein asks the board if they have any concerns about the driveway.

(Steve Revilak) Mr. Revilak has two concerns about the driveway. First, the proposed off-street space is only 15' long, and our bylaw requires 16' even for a compact space. Second, the bylaw requires 30' between driveways on a single lot, and we only have 26.5' here. Mr. Revilak says he's unlikely to support the driveway as proposed.

(Roger Dupont) Mr. Dupont says the bylaw has dimensional requirements for parking spaces, and he doesn't think the board has the authority to approve a space that's too small; that would be more along the lines of a variance. He's also concerned about the amount of pervious surface.

(Pat Hanlon) Mr. Hanlon thinks that the failure to meet dimensional requirements is contributing to some of the concerns people are expressing. There's only one other house on the street with two driveways, though several have double driveways. He thinks there's not enough feet in the side yard for the second driveway.

The board discusses how to word the decision, to make it clear that they're approving the dormer, but not the driveway. Mr. Hanlon suggests something to the effect of "the second driveway is not approved as part of the final plans and its construction is prohibited".

Here's also discussion about window placement on the shed dormer. The board will accept the placement as shown on the plans.

Motion to approve the dormer and not the driveway passes, 5--0.

Docket 3670 - 5 Cheviot Road

The property owner would like to rebuild their front porch. They need a special permit under the bylaw provision that deals with projections into minimum yards.

(Charlotte Nunez, Owner) Ms. Nunez says they plan to replace their front portico with a porch. She introduces her architect.

(Lidia Szydlowska, Architect) Ms. Szydlowska says the existing porch is not in good condition; they plan to replace it with a wider porch that has wider stairs. They also plan to have a flat roof and railings above. The front setback will not change. They're also proposing landscaping.

There are no questions from the board.

This chair opens the hearing for public comment.

(Steve Moore) Mr. Moore asks if the architects consulted the residential design guidelines for this porch.

(Lidia Szydlowska) Ms. Szydlowska believes that they did.

(Steve Moore) Mr. Moore commends the architect for consulting the guidelines.

(Claire Caswell) Ms. Caswell lives next door. She asks if this hearing is just about the front of the house.

(Christian Klein) Mr. Klein confirms that the hearing is only concerned with the work being done in front of the house. The applicants are also doing work in the rear, but that work is by right.

There's no further comment from the public.

The board will use the three standard conditions, plus the two conditions they've been imposing for front porches (not part of the building foundation, must remain unenclosed).

Motion to approve with conditions passes, 5--0.

Docket 3674 - 9-11 Adams Street

The applicants have a non-conforming two-family home, and they'd like to rebuild their garage.

(Heidi Wettach) Ms. Wettach says they're asking to demolish and rebuild their detached garage; the new garage will be 125 square feet larger. That will provide enough room for two cars, plus bikes and snow removal equipment. The addition won't be visible from the street and will mimic the existing structure.

(Someone is appearing with Ms. Wettach. I didn't get his name, but he answered some of the questions directed towards the applicant.)

(Christian Klein) Mr. Klein asks if the proposed garage has three windows in the rear.

(Applicant) The applicant answers in the affirmative. There's currently one large window in the rear of the garage.

(Christian Klein) Mr. Klein would like to confirm that a 1' setback is allowed if the garage is built as Type I construction.

(Rick Vallarelli) Mr. Vallarelli confirms that a 1' setback is allowed in the R0, R1, and R2 districts.

(Christian Klein) Mr. Klein says that Hardie board over wood framing won't meet the criteria for Type I construction.

(Applicant) The applicants thank Mr. Klein for that information. They intend to use type I construction.

(Kevin Mills) Mr. Mills asks about the slope of the roof. It looks like 1:12 and he'd like to confirm that.

(Christian Klein) Mr. Klein asks if there will be a gutter on the rear of the the garage.

(Applicant) The applicants confirm that the roof slope is 1:12, and they are planning to have a gutter. There's currently no gutter in the rear of the garage, and the water just drains off the back of the roof.

(Rick Vallarelli) Mr. Vallarelli says that 2:12 is the minimum slope, unless a suitable roofing material is used. But that's not an issue for the special permit.

The chair opens the hearing to public comment.

(Chris Loreti) Mr. Loreti has several concerns. First, the legal notice advertised this hearing as applicable to Section 8.1.3(B), but he believes it really falls under section 8.1.4. He believes the property is non-conforming due to an excess of lot coverage, and that the new garage will be significantly larger and taller. It will be larger than the other garage. He asks if some other use is intended, like a detached ADU. The planning memo says the new garage won't increase the non-conforming nature of the parcel, but Mr. Loreti thinks it will.

Also, Mr. Loreti asks what a member of the ARB is doing serving on the ZBA, and who he's representing (he's referring to Mr. Revilak). Mr. Loreti said that he used to serve on the ARB, and if he went to a ZBA hearing he'd be asked what he was doing there.

(Christian Klein) Mr. Klein explains that Mr. Revilak has been a member of the board for over a year and a half. He submitted a letter of resignation after being accepted as the gubernatorial appointee to the ARB, but will remain a member of the ZBA until the board renders a decision on Thorndike place. Mr. Klein notes that Thorndike Place is a substantial project, and he thinks it's important for the ZBA to maintain continuity through the hearings.

(Pat Hanlon) Mr. Hanlon says he's happy to have Mr. Revilak serving on both boards.

(Jared Klein) Mr. Klein lives across the street, and has seen the applicants renovating their house by hand. He thinks the new garage will be consistent with others on the street, and appreciates their desire for a little more space.

(Steve Moore) (missed Mr. Moore's comment)

There are no further comments from the public.

(Christian Klein) Mr. Klein asks why the applicants want to demolish the existing garage.

(Rick Vallarelli) Mr. Vallarelli believes the garage is structurally compromised.

(Applicant) The applicant says the concrete roof failed; it's cracked and leaking. And, the extra space would serve them well.

(Pat Hanlon) Mr. Hanlon wonders if there's a history of interpretation for rebuilding accessory structures.

(Roger Dupont) Mr. Dupont doesn't recall any cases like that, but he does remember ones that involved replacing an unsafe structure with one that's the same size. He feels the zoning bylaw is ambiguous as to whether the lot coverage requirements apply to accessory structures. Two-family dwellings have a maximum lot coverage of 35%, but the lot coverage column for accessory structures has a set of dashes.

(Rick Vallarelli) Mr. Vallarelli says the lot is already non-conforming, and there will be a small increase to the non-conformity because the applicants are adding 125 square feet. Rebuilding the garage in the same footprint could be done by right. The garage is structurally compromised, and the property never had any open space.

(Pat Hanlon) Mr. Hanlon believes that all structures on the property contribute to the non-conformity. There's no particular regulation for lot coverage that's particular to garages, or to accessory uses. If one considers attached vs detached garages, then separating the garage from the dwelling seems arbitrary.

(Christian Klein) Mr. Klein says the bylaw doesn't have a maximum size for accessory structures. He believes the non-conformity comes partially from the building's floor area.

(Roger Dupont) Mr. Dupont believes the board's job is to synthesize a rational response based on the text of the bylaw and the surrounding situation. He feels that 8.1.7(E) allows the board some latitude to approve this via special permit.

(Christian Klein) Mr. Klein proposes a condition that the garage be of Type I construction.

Motion to approve with conditions passes, 5--0.

Docket 3672 - 43 Cutter Hill Road

The owner would like to add a covered porch to his home. This requires a special permit under provisions for projections into minimum yards.

(Sai Lee, Owner) Mr. Lee briefly describes the proposal and introduces his architect.

(Shawn Liang, Architect) Mr. Liang says the building is an existing one-story single-family home. The owner would like to build a covered porch, so that packages stay dry. The porch would be 5' deep and 20' wide, for a total of 100 square feet. It will be fully open and they don't intend to enclose it.

There are no questions from the board.

The chair opens the hearing to public comment.

(Steve Moore) Mr. Moore asks if Cutter Hill Road is a private way.

(Sai Lee) Mr. Lee answers in the affirmative.

(Steve Moore) Mr. Moore says he was just curious about the chain link fence right next to the street.

(Wayne Parsagan) Mr. Parsagan says he's perfectly fine with what Mr. Lee is proposing. He's only concerned that Cutter Hill Road is a private way and it's in rough shape; he doesn't want the road to be damaged by construction vehicles.

(Shawn Liang) Mr. Liang says they plan to use Johnson Road for construction deliveries.

There's no further comment from the public.

(Christian Klein) Mr. Klein thinks the proposal is well thought out and designed. He proposes the standard five conditions for porches.

Motion to approve with conditions passes, 5--0.

Docket 3668 - 125-127 Webster Street

The applicants are seeking a variance to add a third floor to their 2.5 story two-family home.

(Rick Vallarelli) Mr. Vallarelli says the applicants have submitted new materials. They're seeking a variance for a third story and a special permit for a usable open space non-conformity. Mr. Vallarelli says the new application materials arrived at 6:30 this evening and he hasn't had a chance to review them.

(Pat Hanlon) Mr. Hanlon isn't comfortable going through a hearing when the board hasn't seen the application materials yet. He feels that puts the board in a difficult spot.

(Kevin Mills) Mr. Mills agrees with Mr. Hanlon.

(Roger Dupont) Mr. Dupont also agrees; he'd like the opportunity to review the materials before conducting the hearing.

There's a motion to continue this hearing to November 9th at 7:30pm. Motion passes.

Upcoming Dates

  • Oct 28. Deliberation on the Thorndike Place decision. Mr. Klein would also like the board to set a deliberation schedule during this meeting.
  • Nov 2, Nov 4. Possible dates for deliberation.
  • Nov 9th. Two hearings. Possible deliberation on Thorndike Place.
  • Nov 16, Nov 18. Possible dates for deliberation.
  • Nov 23. Four hearings. Possible deliberation on Thorndike Place.

Meeting adjourned.