Zoning Bylaw Working Group - Oct 3rd, 2018

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Signs. Erin Zwirko reports that so far, her experience with LWC has been fantastic. We're planning to ramp up efforts for stakeholder interviews. Erin will send the current stakeholder list to the group for feedback.

Via written comments, Christian Klein suggested adding a question about enforcement. Currently all ZBL sign regulations are enforced by the department of inspectional services.

There was a suggestion for more discussion about "notices", how they relate to the Reed decision, and how duration might be enforced.

Pamela Heidell notes that not all questions are applicable to all interviewees. We'll probably need to tailor each interview.

Who will conduct the interviews? Erin, Ali Carter, and a new planner who's about to start working with the department.

David Watson wonders if it would be appropriate to reach out to people who've applied for sign permits, to get their feedback on the experience. We might also reach out to people who've been the subject of enforcement actions (e.g., because they were not familiar with the sign bylaws).

Will the interviews include a primer on the need for regulations to be content neutral? Yes. This kind of information could be distributed in the interview invitations.

How many interview parties have we identified so far? Beyond the list from our last meeting, we have the Arlington Chamber of Commerce, members of the sign industry, the Historical Commission, the Historical Districts Commission, religious leaders, realtors, the Conservation Commission, the Parks and Recreation department, the DPW, Select Board, and the ARB.

There's a discussion about new technology and signs. For example, LED message board signs are inexpensive; in some communities, residents are putting them up on their houses. One can also buy equipment that projects a sign onto the wall of a house.

The current plan is to hold a community forum on Oct 22nd, to get people interested in thinking about signage in their community.

During one of Portland's public forums, they did a table exercise where residents were shown different types of signs, and asked to provide feedback. For our forum, we'll likely send LWC a list of pictures, and get their opinion on which ones to include. Ralph Wilmer suggests not including pictures of signs from Arlington -- there may be surrounding circumstances that cloud people's opinions.

Another question to consider: what's the difference between seasonal decorations and signs, and does that matter for our purposes?

Updates on Other initiatives. Arlington will hold a special town meeting on Dec 5th, to discussion recreational marijuana. The ARB considered warrant article language on Monday night. Oct 12th is the deadline for advertising STM warrant articles. The ARB plans to hold a public hearing on Nov 5th, with the possibility of continuance on Nov 7th. The ARB's report to special town meeting will be due Nov 19th.

What about the current moratorium, which ends on Dec 31st? The cannabis control commission has indicated that it will respect proposed legislation that's pending review by the Attorney General. DPCD will share the proposed language with this group, once it's ready.

DPCD is working with MAPC on proposed residential zoning changes in the R4-R7 districts. The department is looking at amendments to ease restrictions on multi-family housing in these zoning districts. MAPC has done a parcel analysis and made general suggestions, but there are no specific recommendations at this point. One or more articles may be ready in time for the spring town meeting.

Related to this -- Arlington is part of a Metro Boston regional task force, whose goal is to create 185,000 new housing units by 2030. Arlington's commitments include goals stated in the housing production plan; the town will likely adopt additional goals.

We have a discussion about affordable housing. Mr. Worden doesn't like teardowns, and feels that density increases are only acceptable if they increase the amount of affordable housing. I'm more ambivalent about teardowns: they seem to take houses in the $500k--$1M range, and turn them into houses in the $1M--$1.5M range. They take a house I can't afford and turn it into another house I can't afford, with no net change to the number of units. In the majority of R0 and R1 lots, the value of the land exceeds the value of the house. In order to address affordability, we will have to consider approaches that amortize the cost of land, and that means more multi-family development.

Next meeting: Nov 7th, 8:30am.