Zoning Bylaw Working Group - May 8th, 2020

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Today, we had guests from RKG and Harriman: Camillo Espitia, Eric Halvorsen, Ryan Kiracofe, and Emily Innes. Their presentation consists of several test builds in the industrial districts (plus fiscal impact studies), along with suggestions for how the I district zoning might be changed. The presentation is available from https://www.arlingtonma.gov/home/showdocument?id=51128.

Goals for today's presentation: to understand current uses and assets in the industrial districts; to establish a picture of the market; and, to test the capacity of current zoning regulations to attract development, create jobs, and improve the public realm.

The presentation beings with a series of test builds. RKG presented three options for most industrial districts: two-story commercial (26' + 13'), three-story commercial (26' + 13' + 13'), and three-story residential (10' + 10' + 10'). Each scenario included projections for tax revenue and expenses, along with shadow studies.

There's a discussion about allowing 52' height with development standards. We currently allow 52' by special permit. The 52' height is likely to improve commercial viability. It would allow two 13' office floors on top of a 26' industrial ground floor.

Steve Revilak asks about the capital value implied by the tax revenue projections. By this analysis, the capital value of a residential build is 3--4 times higher than that of a commercial build. He asks why the capital value is so much higher for residential, and if there are scenarios where commercial builds would have higher capital values. Ryan attributes this to high demand for residential properties in the Boston area. Arlington really doesn't have an established commercial sector, which makes our commercial property less valuable. Industrial properties tend to have lower parking requirements and development costs. Commercial development generally has a lower cost of services.

Christian Klein asks if the shadow studies consider topography. No, they're rough models that assume a flat area. John Worden is concerned about the creation of shadows on residential areas.

Eric Halvorsen reiterates that we're talking about the difference between 39' and 52'. It's an incremental change, but there is a tradeoff.

Emily Innes says the shadow studies assumed blocky buildings; they're just test fits. Actual buildings are likely to differ. One could incorporate a requirement for shadow studies into development standards. She also notes that the amount of shadow created by a building varies greatly by time of year and time of day.

Camillo suggests we consider how buildings are positioned on the lot. Setback requirements can allow buildings to positioned closer to the street, and further away from residential areas.

David Watson likes the idea of a shadow study requirement. He feels that studies should compare existing conditions with proposed changes.

Camillo moves into suggested changes. The general themes are allowing increases in size, increasing the diversity of uses, and addressing environmental concerns and sustainability. They suggest making the changes applicable to new development, or 50% GFA expansion.

We might consider allowing more uses in the industrial districts: offices, production facilities, flex space, breweries, maker spaces, work-only artist studios, co-working spaces, vertical farming, and mixed use.

Harriman suggests allowing restaurants that are larger than 2000 square feet by special permit, in order to support the other uses.

They suggest allowing 5000 square foot offices by right, rather than 3000.

They suggest removing the 25% floor area limitation on packaging and assembly, and allowing 10,000 square feet of mixed-use by right.

They also recommend a maximum front yard setback of 10', to push buildings towards the street and away from adjacent properties.

Christian asks whether sidewalks are assumed to be on or off properties. Camillo says generally off, but this should be considered on a case-by-base basis, as some of the sidewalks in these districts are very narrow.

Ralph Wilmer asks why live/work spaces were excluded from the recommendations, and whether they might be appropriate in some situations. Camillo said they were trying to keep residential and commercial uses separate. Emily notes that use regulations could be tailored to the individual districts.

John Worden believes that automotive uses need parking space in front of buildings. Camillo sees this as a tradeoff. It's a question of how pedestrian-friendly we'd like the spaces to be, and whether we'd prefer to see parking vs (say) landscaping in front of buildings. Again, this may need to be considered on a case-by-case basis.

Harriman suggests reducing parking requirements, due to proximity to the bikeway, and to reduce the amount of asphalt on each property.

Christian Klein asks if there should be different treatment for short- and long-term (bicycle?) parking. Camillo believes that industrial spaces generally have little need for short-term parking.

Christian notes the difference in parking requirements for commercial and industrial spaces, and asks how this would work with a flex space. Camillo says that a change in use would trigger a change in parking requirements. Christian believes that more parking would be needed by a brewery which hosts special events.

David Watson feels we shouldn't abandon the distinction between short- and long-term bicycle parking. The accommodations are very different.

Camillo suggests moving automotive parking spaces to the rear of buildings, and requiring treatment for stormwater runoff.

Ralph asks Harriman to elaborate on requirements to use pervious materials for parking spaces. Camillo says they were trying to reduce the amount of asphalt, and avoid stormwater runoff. Emily notes that some pervious materials don't do well with freeze/thaw cycles, and they tend to be more expensive than asphalt. This motivated the suggestion that pervious materials be required for excess parking spaces. Camillo suggests development standards that require light-colored parking surfaces (to avoid heat islands), rain gardens, or solar panels to shade parking spaces.

Christian asks if park-under solar panels would encroach upon adjoining property lines. Emily says they assumed that solar panels would have to be outside buffer areas.

Charlie Kalauskas asks about the parking photo from Glenview. He's wondering if Glenview is in the snowbelt, and whether the type of paver would be appropriate for our climate. (I found the parking ordinance that Harriman cited here: https://www.glenview.il.us/government/Documents/Parking_Lot_Landscaping.pdf. It's Glenview, IL whose winters are cold enough to produce a freeze/thaw cycle).

Harriman suggests adding requirements for pedestrian amenities to standards for new development. These could include lighting, trees, plant boxes, rain gardens, and interactive art.

Development standards required to obtain the 52' height bonus could include: green or reflective roofs, solar panels, clean heating and cooling systems, on-site treatment of storm water, and the institution of transportation demand management programs.

Ralph points out that we'd need to add numerous definitions to our ZBL in order to adopt these suggestions. We'd have to explain what some of the uses are (e.g., flex space). Emily says they'd like to get a general idea of what goals and standards are desired. Once we've figured that out, we can start to work on the specific changes.

Christian likes the list of development standards, though he thinks that a requirement to generate 25% of power via solar panels might be hard for a brewery.

Charlie asks how they envision handling changes in parking requirements, for example, when the use of a flex space changes. Emily says we'll need to think through the process. For now, we're just trying to determine whether the idea of flex space is okay.

Eric Halvorsen points to a requirement in our existing zoning that limits 25% of floor area to be used for packaging and assembly. He asks how that's enforced. Erin Zwirko isn't sure; she'd have to check with inspectional services.