Zoning Bylaw Working Group - Jun 5th, 2019
Attending: Jenny Raitt, Christian Klein, Charlie Kalauskas, Steve Revilak, David Watson, John Worden, Ralph Wilmer.
Observers: Don Seltzer, Beth Malofchik, Joanne Preston
FY2020 Initiatives. Jenny Raitt talks about several of the town's 2020 initiatives, particularly those that relate to our group. The planning department hasn't released an RFP for the industrial zoning study; that will happen in FY2020. Working group members should review the economic development section of the master plan, and also consider how the area was affected by the recession and intervening economic changes. Also, note that a number of I zones aren't completely industrial. For example, Dudley street is an industrial zone that contains an entire residential neighborhood.
Charlie Kalauskas asks about employment and the number of jobs contained in our I districts. Ms. Raitt says there's some data in the master plan, but it's a few years old by now. At some point, we could enrich that with other data or perform additional study.
Steve Revilak asks if we're going to look at B zones as well as I zones. Ms. Raitt says we're just looking at I zones.
John Worden asks the working group to remember what Al Tosti said at town meeting. Mr. Worden states that we do not need more people in this town. He feels that more people will mean more taxes, and that will squeeze people out. Ms. Raitt asks how this relates to industrial zoning.
Mr. Revilak has a different take on what Mr. Tosti said during town meeting. Mr. Tosti noted that Arlington has a relatively small amount of land devoted to commercial use. Mr. Revilak says that our small percentage of commercial land is a self-inflicted condition. The amount of commercial land is a function of the zoning map; the zoning map was recommended by the ARB, and approved by town meeting. If we want something different, we can change it. Mr. Revilak would like to consider the option of rezoning some of our residential areas as commercial. This might benefit sections of Mass Ave (for example), where narrow commercial lots are a constraining factor.
Mr. Worden says we have to get mixed use out of the picture. He doesn't like the idea of expanding commercial zones if a portion of them could be used for housing.
David Watson says that the ARB has been thinking about this. However, it's hard to expand the commercial base while keeping the residential.
Ralph Wilmer hopes the consultant will look at our industrial zones from an economic point of view. Given what we have to work with, what could we reasonably hope to achieve?
Charlie Kalauskas knows a number of seniors who are interested in downsizing, and are looking for affordable places to live. He asks Mr. Worden if he's opposed to the creation of more senior housing. (I don't believe Mr. Worden answered the question.)
Ms. Raitt moves the conversation to design guidelines. These would be focused on the low-density residential districts: R0, R1, and R2. The planning department received an appropriation for this effort. The intention is to figure out what kinds of guidelines to propose, and what type of committee should own them.
Ms. Raitt says that the planning department will present a report on residential development to the select board. The report was prepared by department staff, working in conjunction with the Residential Study Group. It speaks to a number of housing issues.
DPCD is working on updated stormwater guidelines. These are likely to culminate in amendments to the EDR process, and warrant articles for the spring 2020 town meeting. They'll likely come before this group for review. However, we will be reviewers rather than policy creators. The longer-term goal is to get to a climate action plan.
The town has been working with engineering firm Weston and Samson on a stormwater policy audit. This is part of our efforts towards MS4 compliance.
David Watson summarizes MyRWA's June 4th presentation to the ARB. He was impressed with the bio-retention basin built at the corner of Egerton and Herbert, and he'd like to see more green infrastructure done in conjunction with development.
There are plans to move into a second phase of work for mixed-use and multi-family zoning. The intention is for the select board and ARB to have numerous public conversations. We should look forward to several joint ARB/Select Board meetings later this year. Multi-family zoning will likely get the initial focus.
Mr. Worden asks if anyone is listening to Mr. Tosti. Ms. Raitt says that we are, and she hopes he comes to some of these meetings.
Mr. Watson says the ARB was unanimous in wanting to continue conversations about commercial growth. There are also a number of housing issues to address, including affordability. He hopes we can have a good conversation that touches on a variety of policies, not just zoning.
Mr. Wilmer asks about the timing. He'd like to know when we can expect to see the RFPs. Ms. Raitt would like the group to review the RFPs, hopefully in August.
Christian Klein asks if changes to the zoning map are on the horizon. This is a good segue into our next agenda item, which is the Arlington Height's Action Plan.
Arlington Heights Action Plan. Mr. Watson feels that consolidating business districts in the heights could provide better opportunities for business development.
The heights action plan recommends the creation of a new committee. Ms. Raitt plans to discuss committee formation with the town manager. Such a committee would be a subgroup of the Master Plan Implementation Committee. There's a business group in the heights that meets regularly, and provided input for the heights action plan. They should be represented. We may also want a liaison from this group. However, the action plan involves more than zoning (there's a sizable economic development component).
The heights action plan suggests consolidating four existing business districts into a single business district. It also recommends rezoning one of the I districts as AH-PUD (Arlington Heights Planned Unit Development district).
Mr. Worden believes it's very important that AH-PUD not include any residential uses. Except, perhaps, for a small amount of affordable housing.
Minutes. The working group approves minutes from Feb. 27, 2019.
Summer Schedule. The group decides to cancel our July 3rd meeting. Our next meeting will be Aug 7th. We'll discuss RFPs, if they're ready then.
Other Business. A working group member asks if the town has applied for any planning grants for the industrial zoning study.
Mr. Worden asks if MAPC will perform the study. He believes MAPC has an agenda, which "isn't Arlington's agenda".
Don Seltzer says he's been paying attention to pre-existing (pre-2016) mixed use buildings, and he's surprised at how many there are. He suspects that apartments are the driving force for current mixed use development, and he'd like to see commercial become the driving force.
Joanne Preston says that her neighborhood is being destroyed by teardowns. She says that design guidelines only affect what gets built afterwards, and don't prevent teardowns from taking place. She believes the town needs a way to prevent houses from being torn down and rebuilt.