Zoning Recodification Working Group - Jun 14th, 2017

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RKG will attend our next meeting, on June 29th. The remaining sections of the first reading draft should be ready in a few days. We should provide feedback on these sections, when they become available.

The second reading draft will be provided in advance of the June 29th meeting. We should provide feedback on this as well. There will also be a third reading draft, which will come before the ARB and ultimately town meeting.

We move on to discussion about the public forum, scheduled for July 13th. We'd like to use the public forum to educate people about our motivations for recodifying the ZBL, along with the process we've followed. RKG will (probably) present this introductory material. The main part of the meeting will involve table exercises. ZRWG members will act as facilitators for the table exercises.

Would the introduction talk about some of the specific problems with Arlington's ZBL, and our decision to limit scope for this phase? Yes, we want to talk about these things.

We expect to have a handout to summarize changes in the ZBL.

For the table exercises, would we like to have a common set of questions/topics that all tables can address, or would we like to dedicate certain table to certain topics? We lean towards having a common set of questions, and having people stay at one table for the duration of the exercise.

Table facilitators should try to discuss the questions/topics with their groups. Policy suggestions (which are out of scope for the first phase of the recodification) should be noted. Although they're out of scope for now, policy suggestions will be valuable in later phases. Facilitators should try to answer questions, or delegate questions they don't know the answer to.

Table exercises will be followed by report-outs. Each table will have a facilitator and a notetaker; these individuals will provide the report.

RKG consultants will probably listen in on discussions. They'll also be available to answer technical questions.

The proposed agenda gives 15 minutes for reports, and that might not be enough. We could shorten the introductory presentation, to leave more time for reports.

What topics should we discuss? We brainstorm ideas.

  • Questions that are commonly asked to the building inspector -- gross floor area, usable open space, ceiling height in the attic, height of a basement, buildings of uneven height, definitions in general.
  • Ask people if they've had technical problems with the ZBL. What challenges did they run into?
  • What would make the ZBL more readable, or easier to use?
  • What have you used the ZBL for? What would you use the ZBL for?
  • Questions to the effect of "this other house did it, so why can't I", which gets into issues of grandfathering, different zoning districts, conservation districts, and historic districts.
  • What does "neighborhood character" mean to you?

Who are we expecting to see at this meeting? Will it be mostly residents, or will there be commercial developers and architects? (During the interview process, most of the commercial developer feedback focused on the permitting process, and not on the ZBL itself.)

What kind of feedback mechanisms can we offer the public? The recodification drafts are available from the town's website. Some residents may have specific comments. The planning department will likely set up a dedicated email address for public comments.

During the introduction, we should show a timeline of our work; what we've done, where we are, and what's still to come.

We can use the table exercises for education, as well as soliciting feedback.

How should we start the table exercises? We could do a round of introductions: who you are, where you live, and have you used the ZBL.

Notetakers should pay attention to whether people understood the ZBL from reading it, or if they had to seek explanations (e.g., from inspectional services).

Town meeting members may have different experiences with the ZBL. Debating a zoning article is different than (say) planning an addition.

Do people understand the different codes involved: ZBL vs the building code, for example? People tend to have less problems complying with the building code.

It may be nice to have RKG talk about how zoning changes have impacted other communities.

A more refined agenda for table discussions:

  • Introductions
  • Have you used the ZBL?
  • Based on your experiences, what parts of the process could be improved? How could we make it better?
  • What did you hear tonight that surprised you? What did you learn?
  • Do you think we're moving in the right direction? Will you stay engaged? (Perhaps these questions should be on a comment form, which people could fill out at the end of the meeting.)
  • What would you like to see during the next public hearing.