Zoning Bylaw Working Group - Feb 2nd, 2022

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Meeting conducted via remote participation. Materials were available from https://www.arlingtonma.gov/Home/Components/Calendar/Event/28895/18.

Discussion of 2022 Annual Town Meeting Warrant Articles

(Jenny Raitt, Planning Director) Ms. Raitt says that warrant articles were due last Friday. She summarizes the set of articles submitted by the Redevelopment Board. Four originated from the Department of Planning and Community development: administrative corrections, ground floors in business districts, standards for planting street trees, and solar energy systems. Six others came from ZBA chair Christian Klein: ZBA rules and regulations, definition oh half story, definitions and regulations for porches, yard encroachment, large additions, and unsafe structures.

(John Worden, ZBWG) Mr. Worden asks about citizen-submitted articles.

(Jenny Raitt) Ms. Raitt says she hasn't received the final warrant yet, but believes there are eight citizen articles. She expects the full list to be posted with the agenda for Monday night's ARB meeting.

(Steve Revilak, ZBWG) Mr. Revilak asks if any of the ZBL's illustrations will need to be changed if the warrant articles are adopted.

There's a general consensus that it would be a good idea to check.

(Jenny Raitt) Ms. Raitt says the ARB has warrant article hearings scheduled for every week in March, and will draft their report to town meeting in April.

Zoning for Flood Resilience

Ms. Heidell wrote a memo on zoning for flood resiliency, which was distributed to working group members. Ms. Heidell describes her memo.

(Pam Heidell, ZBWG) Ms. Heidell explains that her memo is a collection of zoning changes for flood resiliency, which were adopted or are under consideration in other municipalities.

State laws are based on FEMA's flood insurance maps, which in turn are based on historical precipitation patterns. Precipitation levels are increasing and will continue to increase. The Woods Hole Group has been studying sea level rise, and they believe sea level rise and storms could result in flanking the Amelia Earhart Dam and flooding parts of Arlington and Cambridge. She notes that the Wood's Hole model extends into East Arlington.

Common zoning measures to address flooding include providing more freeboard (i.e., height above base flood elevation), and using 0.2% flood risk areas as the basis for flood plain overlays, rather than 1% risk areas.

(John Worden) Mr. Worden thinks it's a thorough and interesting report. In ancient times, the edge of the ocean came all the way up to where Pleasant Street is now. He hopes we're not going back to that. He wonders if we should allow any more building in East Arlington, and if we should continue to cram more buildings into an area that might be under water.

(Eugene Benson, ZBWG) During the time Mr. Benson has lived in Arlington, he's seen flooding around the Alewife Brook, Mill Brook, and the no-name brook that runs along the bike path. He thinks we should also think about the possibility of the Mystic River backing up.

(Steve Revilak) Mr. Revilak thinks the memo is a good summary of what other municipalities are doing in response to the increasing risk of flooding. He's familiar with some of the measures, and the memo contained others he hadn't heard of before.

Mr. Revilak lives in a flood plain along the Alewife Brook, and would like to share his personal feelings about being in that situation. He has flood insurance, which covers damage to buildings and their contents, but it doesn't cover the cost of land. Land costs in the area are high enough that he thinks there's an incentive to rebuild in-place, and incorporate resiliency measures into the process. He thinks that more precipitation and flooding is the way it is now, and we'll have to learn how to adapt.

(Charlie Kalauskas, ZBWG) Mr. Kalauskas feels that Cambridge is ahead of us in this area, and asks what kind of work the town has done so far.

(Jenny Raitt) Ms. Raitt says there were a set of municipal vulnerability planning (MVP) workshops and a plan came out of that effort. The plan included a vulnerability assessment. She says that Sustainable Arlington has a broad scope, which includes climate resilience. There's also an Arlington/Belmont/Cambridge (ABC) flood working group.

(Steve Revilak) Mr. Revilak regularly attended the ABC working group meetings. He believes that it's been years since Belmont provided a representative, and the group has generally been inactive.

(Pam Heidell) Ms. Heidell believes flooding is a regional issue, but parts of addressing it will be Arlington-specific.

(Eugene Benson) Mr. Benson thinks that reducing flooding is part of the challenge. Another part is knowing what to do when flooding occurs.

(Jenny Raitt) Ms. Raitt points out that our Zoning Bylaw has a flood plain overland district, and an inland wetlands districts. She thinks it would be worthwhile to examine these, and see if they'd provide a suitable basis for enacting resiliency measures.

(Kristin Anderson) Ms. Anderson founded a group called Save the Alewife Brook. When we talk about flooding around the Alewife Brook, it's a regional issue that affects Cambridge, Belmont, and Arlington. We need regional solutions. She appreciates Ms. Heidell's efforts, and thinks the town needs to look at the best flood data, which comes from Cambridge. She says Arlington needs to get it's hands on that data. She had nightmares from looking at this report over the weekend. She thinks we can figure out what to do, if we see what the hazards are.

(Pam Heidell) Ms. Heidell says a colleague from UMass sent her a copy of the Woods Hole model data. She suggests using that data model as a starting point.

(Kristen Anderson) Ms. Anderson says that Cambridge received money for their climate change assessments, and we should be able to get a copy of their data.

(Pam Heidell) Ms. Heidell thinks the Woods Hole data is the best set to work with.

(Kristin Anderson) Ms. Anderson thinks we have to start by getting hold of some modeling data.

(Eugene Benson) Mr. Benson notes that we have two overlay zones. He thinks we need to look at those sections of the zoning bylaw to see if that's the place to start. We also need to figure out where those zones should be, and we need the model data to determine that.

(Pam Heidell) Ms. Heidell says that one could also make assumptions. For example, that increased precipitation will lead to more riverine flooding. This is what motivated some communities to base their flood districts on the 0.2% risk zone rather than the 1% zone.

(Steve Revilak) Mr. Revilak thinks there's another side to this. If we were to (say) discourage further development in some areas, we'd have to find other areas and encourage development to happen there.

(John Worden) Mr. Worden thinks the MBTA shouldn't promote intensive development in areas that will be under water.

(Kelly Lynema, Assistant Planning Director) Ms. Lynema asks about next steps for this process.

(Jenny Raitt) Ms. Raitt thinks there are a number of steps. The first will be obtaining access to model data, and getting a better understanding of what other communities have done. Then we'll have to look at resource needs and budgets; we'll likely need to hire a consultant.

(Eugene Benson) Mr. Benson asks how the floodplain overlay district has affected the town.

(Mike Ciampa, Director of Inspectional Services) Mr. Ciampa says there are properties that weren't in the flood plain, but are now. He says the flood plain has moved, and that's been a huge problem for some property owners. He says it will affect the construction industry as things move forward.

(Eugene Benson) Mr. Benson thinks it would be helpful to know where flooding has happened.

(Pam Heidell) Ms. Heidell says she'll contact her colleagues at Woods Hole, and ask about use of their model data.

(Jenny Raitt) Ms. Raitt notes that the Conservation Commission has been updating their rules and regulation. Zoning changes should probably reflect what they're doing.

(Pam Heidell) Ms. Heidell says that town bylaws give the Conservation Commission authority over the 100-year flood zone, and that the Commission already requires applicants to demonstrate resiliency against climate change. They use newer precipitation models and require 2:1 compensatory flood storage. Things like building heights and elevations are zoning issues, though.

(Jenny Raitt) Ms. Raitt thinks the overlay districts could be the basis for some of this. But we'll need research and data first.

(Eugene Benson) Mr. Benson notes that the state's precipitation models are very old.

(Pam Heidell) Ms. Heidell says that none of this should be done in a vacuum, because it has implications for everyone.

(Kelly Lynema) Ms. Lynema says that the planning department doesn't have the bandwidth to take on new projects right now, and that March will be very focused on town meeting. She suggests that ZBWG members might look more as Ms. Heidell's memo in the interim.

Approval of Minutes

The working group approves meeting minutes from Jan 5th, as amended.

(John Worden) Mr. Worden says he hasn't seen the draft of the Jan 19th minutes, but he doesn't dislike children. He asks what law makes it illegal to ask about the burden that children place on school systems.

The working group approves meeting minutes from Jan 19th, as amended.

Next meeting: March 2nd at 8:30 am.

Meeting adjourned.