Zoning Bylaw Working Group - Mar 3rd, 2021

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Meeting conducted via remote participation. Materials were available from https://www.arlingtonma.gov/Home/Components/Calendar/Event/26113/18.

Warrant Articles

The group discusses zoning articles for this years town meeting.

Erin Zwirko she's been in touch with each citizen petitioner, and has attempted to get main motions.

Christian Klein notes that recent changes to 40A have set different voting threshold for certain kinds of articles. He'd like to see the voting requirements noted with each article. Jenny Raitt says she's been in contact with town counsel regarding the voting thresholds.

Article 39 - Clarification of Mixed use

John Worden supports article 39; he says the ARB has decided that they can do whatever they want.

Erin asks the group how they feel about moving the regulatory part of the article out of the definition and into section 5.

David Watson says he'd like to see the regulatory requirements moved out of the definition. He also says the ARB disagrees with the article's proponent.

Steve Revilak thinks there's an overall tension in our zoning bylaw -- the bylaw took buildings and uses that existed in 1975 and codified them into law. He feels that's made it difficult for the community to change and adapt; it's a bigger issue, which is beyond the scope of this article.

Christian Klein asks if article's scope would allow regulatory changes to be moved out of the definitions, since the warrant article doesn't mention section five.

Article 40 - Conversion of residential to commercial in mixed use

Erin Zwirko says the ARB discussion focused on funding sources.

David Watson says the board was concerned that this would reduce the amount of affordable housing built in Arlington, because of the way affordable housing is funded. Suppose someone wanted to convert a commercial building to mixed use. As written, Article 40 would require every unit to be affordable, and that's not economically viable.

Steve Revilak asks Mr. Worden how he was expecting the economics of this to work. Mr. Worden didn't have an answer, and didn't see why it should be a consideration.

Christian Klein says there are lots of parcels that don't get developed because there's no economic incentive to develop them.

Jenny Raitt says that changes to a special permit require an applicant to re-appear before the board. That would include the conversion of commercial space to residential.

Pam Heidell has mixed feelings. She not sure that all residents want more density.

Charlie Kalauskas says he's worked in development for 40 years. He thinks that banks probably won't finance a project that consists only of affordable housing. Without subsidies, it won't work.

Marijuana Uses

Erin Zwirko explains that the cannabis control commission recognizes a category called "delivery-only retailer", but our zoning bylaw does not. The use involves retail outlets that are delivery-only, and there's no sales on premise.

Christian Klein asks why the B4 and I districts were selected for this use.

Erin Zwirko says there's no public-facing component, so they're similar to a production facility. B4 and I are where production facilities are allowed.

John Worden asks if we have to allow this use.

Erin Zwirko says that we do, since the town voted to allow recreational marijuana establishments. If we don't provide local regulations, then things revert to what's allowed by the cannabis control commission. Ms. Zwirko says that only equity applicants are allowed for the next three years, and none of Arlington's existing retailers fall into that category.

Definition of Foundation

There's a question about whether it would be useful to adopt an established definition, perhaps from the state building code.

Christian Klein says that the building code doesn't have a definition of foundation.

Jenny Raitt says that none of the other Communities in the commonwealth have a definition of foundation in their zoning bylaw. So there's a question about what the petitioner is hoping to achieve.

Energy Efficient Homes

Steve Revilak asks if this provision would allow a 10,000 square foot lot to be subdivided into two 5,000 square foot lots, provided that an energy efficient home was built on each lot. Erin Zwirko thinks that it would, as written. The goal is to allow more energy efficient buildings to be constructed, in the same footprint as an existing homes.

Pam Heidell suggests adding an exemption to building height for buildings in a flood plain. This would allow them to be raised, so flood water would flow underneath. Steve Revilak supports this idea; he lives in a flood plain. Such a proposal would be a future warrant article.

Approval of Minutes

The board approves minutes from their January 6th meeting.

Back to Warrant Articles

Another article proposes to increase the percentage of affordable housing required by inclusionary zoning. The warrant article says "between 25 and 30 percent", and Erin is trying to get a specific number from the proponents.

Christian Klein asks if there have been any recent studies about inclusionary zoning. Steve Revilak said that Somerville's planning department conducted a study in 2016, when they were re-writing their inclusionary zoning laws. John Worden asks what Somerville's percentage is. Steve Revilak says it's tiered -- 15%, 17.5%, or 20%, depending on the number of units built. Larger projects have a greater inclusionary requirement.

(Note: the Somerville Planning department's study is available from https://www.somervillema.gov/sites/default/files/inclusionary-housing-staff-report-draft-2-18-2016.pdf.)

(Had to leave at this point, for a 9:30 work meeting. The rest of the group intended to continue for another half hour.)