Zoning Bylaw Working Group - Nov 5th, 2020
Held via video-conference. Meeting materials were available from https://www.arlingtonma.gov/Home/Components/Calendar/Event/22977/18.
Erin Zwirko says she's received additional comments from on the draft industrial zoning from Charlie, Christian, and Ralph.
John Worden asks if there's a final draft of the proposed industrial zoning changes. Mr. Worden wants to be sure that there won't be any residential uses allowed, with the exception of artists who want to sleep in their studios. He says he's having a problem finding footnotes in the document.
Erin Zwirko asks about the proposed residential allowances. The requirement is that the entire ground floor of mixed-use buildings be dedicated to commercial or industrial uses, and that residential uses must be less than 50% of the building's gross floor area. These restrictions appear in footnote E. Ralph Wilmer and Steve Revilak are okay with the current working. David Watson is also okay with the wording, but feels the matter needs to be treated sensitively. Christian Klein would like to see clearer wording; he wasn't sure if the 50% requirement applied to live/work studios or residential uses in general.
John Worden says that the redevelopment board has decided they can do anything they want, regardless of what our zoning bylaw says. He's anxious about allowing any kind of mixed-use in the industrial district, unless residential uses are really locked down. He insists that zoning changes should not allow any more people into the town, and that the Miraks are vandalizing our industrial district with a 40B development.
Ralph points out an inconsistency between footnotes. One says "mixed use" and the other says "artist mixed use". He feels that allowing some residential in mixed use could help encourage redevelopment of Arlington's industrial properties.
Charlie Kalauskas thinks there may be a compromise in terms of what kind of housing is allowed. He asks if we could discuss different kinds of housing.
Steve Revilak goes back to the economic analysis of our industrial district, and the estimate that Arlington could add about 250,000 square feet of commercial and industrial space. Mr. Revilak says that would be half a building in Cambridge or Somerville. He sympathizes with Mr. Worden's desire to have a larger commercial tax base. However, communities that have 40--50% commercial bases are communities that allowed that level of commercial development. Arlington did not; about 4.5% of our land is zoned for non-industrial commercial and 1% of our land is zoned industrial. The commercial tax base is about dollars and square feet, and we're only going to increase the tax base to the extent that we allow more square feet. Mr. Revilak likes the height bonus, but feels it's far more limiting that what neighboring communities allow. He sees mixed-use with a residential component as a way to encourage at least some redevelopment.
David Watson thinks we may need flexibility with residential mixed-use; otherwise, we run the risk of making redevelopment economically unviable. He'd like to see the residential limits pulled out of the footnote, and placed somewhere more prominent.
John Worden says there are pre-existing non-conforming residential uses in the industrial district; Dudley Street, for example. He thinks there are enough options available to people who want to live in an industrial district. He says he's open to affordable and senior housing, but not in the industrial district.
Pam Heidell wonders what the building community would want to do. She's interested in senior housing. Erin Zwirko says that RKG and Harriman are putting together a study of the cost of the performance standards.
Pam Heidell asks if there's been any real interest from businesses that want to locate in Arlington. Ali Carter says there aren't a lot of inquiries for anything besides breweries. She says there's some turnover, where landscaping and auto businesses are turning into labs and life science facilities (e.g., Tetragenetics). She says that larger firms are looking at Bedford and Lexington, but small operations might be interested in Arlington.
Pam Heidell asks if other communities are including residential uses in redevelopment of their industrial districts.
David Watson would like better understanding of what percentage of residential use would make redevelopment economically viable, before putting a limit on the percentage of residential GFA.
Steve Revilak says that the redevelopments he's been watching are mostly in Cambridge and Somerville. At Cambridge Crossing, there are plans for two million square feet of residential and two million square feet of office and lab space. The plans for union square in Somerville include both residential and lab/office space. However, this is all happening along the green line extension -- it's transit-oriented development. We don't have that kind of transit infrastructure in Arlington. It's also at a much larger scale than Arlington allows. Mr. Revilak believes that Ms. Carter is right. Arlington might attract some small operations, but large anchor tenants will go to Cambridge or Somerville, because developments in those cities have enough floor space to accommodate them.
Ralph Wilmer believes that standards should be removed from definitions and placed elsewhere in the bylaw. We made a very conscious effort to do that during zoning recodification.
Erin believes the 50% limitation on residential grew out of a 26' first-story plus a 13' second story configuration. It would allow mixed-use in a two-story building. Ms. Zwirko feels there's disagreement about how much and what kinds of residential uses to allow.
John Worden says that if we talk about height, then we have to talk about the Gold's Gym site. He says there are people who've invested in houses and condominiums around that site, and those people need to be protected from change. Mr. Worden wants to see a "real" public engagement process. He asks "If you allow more residential, then who's going to pay for the new school".
Charlie Kalauskas asks where storage and fitness facilities would fit into the table of uses. Erin Zwirko says we have a storage facility in an industrial district off Grove Street. She thinks it might have been permitted because they also rent moving trucks. She asks the group how they feel about storage and fitness facilities.
Steve Revilak thinks that storage facilities would be a good fit. Ralph Wilmer believes they're a low-impact use, but they're not attractive looking. He thinks health clubs are a good idea. Erin Zwirko agrees that storage facilities are not architecturally stimulating. John Worden thinks that storage facilities are a good idea. He says they don't look good, but neither do the buildings that the ARB has been permitting. He asks if gym uses could be more specific.
Erin Zwirko says the last engagement activity with Harriman and RKG will have to be virtual. She asks the group for ideas of how that might be done.
Steve Revilak says he recently took the town's net zero survey. It contained a mixture of presentation materials and survey questions, and he felt it was very effective.
Ralph Wilmer says the combination of visual presentations and survey questions can be effective. He suggests an evening meeting, followed by a virtual open house with presentation materials and questions.
Charlie Kalauskas asks if it would be possible to postpone the public engagement until January. Ms. Zwirko says that our contract with Harriman and RKG ends in December, and it might not be possible to extend the end date. However, the group can continue to work on this after the contract ends.
The group approves minutes of their Oct 7th meeting. The next zoning bylaw working group meeting is scheduled for December 2nd.