Zoning Bylaw Working Group - Aug 1st, 2018

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This was the first meeting of the zoning bylaw working group. The meeting began with an icebreaker, so that members could get to know one another.

Goals. One of our first tasks is the recodification of town sign bylaws. Presently, Arlington's sign bylaws are spread across three places: The zoning bylaw (Section 6.2, Signs), Title V of the Town Bylaws, and the town's Historic District Laws (Title VII, Article 4, Section 4). We would like to consolidate these. In addition, our sign bylaws need to be updated to reflect recent case law (e.g., Reed v Gilbert).

The town put out an RFP for the sign work, and to examine business districts. No one responded to this RFP. The DPCD will publish a new RFP, restricted only to signs. This should be posted in the next few days, and responses will be due by mid-August.

The new RFP borrows language from a similar one put out by Portland, ME. Portland got a response from a firm in Michigan.

Current and Future Efforts. DPCD director Jenny Raitt provided an overview of master plan implementation work. The ARB-owned items are most relevant to our group.

Item numbers refer to numbering in the master plan implementation schedule.

Item 1: Reduce the number of uses that require a special permit; replace some special permits with a system of uses by right, subject to performance standards.

The town is looking at options for creating multi-family housing by right, subject to performance standards. MAPC is assisting the town with this effort. An article to this end may go before the 2019 town meeting. This would affect higher density districts: R4--R7 and the B districts. MAPC is working on a parcel analysis, and recommendations for dimensional and density standards. This work should last through November.

Item 2: Consolidate and refine business zoning districts along Massachusetts Avenue.

Item 3: Create commercial and industrial district design guidelines and incorporate them by reference into the Zoning Bylaw.

Item 4: Amend the zoning bylaw to provide redevelopments in all or selected portions of the business districts on Massachusetts Ave, Broadway, and Medford street. (incentives may include more than zoning).

The goal is to stimulate development along Massachusetts Ave and in the heights. This would introduce mixed use into the heights.

Item 5: Amend the zoning bylaw to strengthen bicycle parking regulations in and adjacent to business districts and multifamily developments.

Mixed use development has shown an increased need for bicycle parking. We'd like to codify guidelines for the town.

Item 6: Create a comprehensive plan for the Mill Brook study area.

The Mill Brook study group is looking at this.

Several items were not addressed by the last recodification: signs, the inland wetland district, and floodplain overlay district. The Zoning recodification made minor updates to these sections, but there's more work to do.

The ZBL needs a small number of editorial changes. We are aware of six cross references that refer to sections of the old bylaw. These cross references need to be corrected.

David Watson states that there's an inconsistency in the ZBL section on commercial and off-site parking. We inherited this inconsistency from the previous bylaw; fixing it will require some kind of policy change.

Michael Byrne reports that inspectional services is learning their way around the new ZBL. They may suggest some small changes at a later time.

The residential study group is trying to get their legs again. They're deciding on what to work on for the spring. There's a plan to conduct a survey on the impacts of demolitions and home rebuilds.

The Housing Plan Implementation Committee is also interested in multi-family housing and accessory dwelling units. They may have an article for spring town meeting.

DPCD is working on a warrant article proposal for recreational marijuana. This effort has a short timeline.

I mentioned a change I'd like to see in the ZBL. As of May 2018, approximately 650 Arlington residents had flood insurance policies through the National Flood Insurance Program. I'd like to see our definition of building height take the 100-year base flood elevation into account. The building height would be measured from the higher of (a) the average exterior grade, or (b) the 100-year base flood elevation. This would allow homeowners to elevate their properties (out of the flood plain) without running into height restrictions.

Meeting times. The group decides to meet at 8:30am, on the first Wednesday of each month.