Arlington Redevelopment Board - Jan 23rd, 2023

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Meeting held via remote participation, due to inclement weather. Materials were available from Board member Melisa Tintocalis was unable to attend tonight's meeting.

Organizational Meeting

The primary purpose of this item is for the board to elect a chair and vice chair.

(Claire Ricker, Planning Director) Ms. Ricker informs the board that Melisa Tintocalis won't be continuing as an ARB member. She says we'll be seeking a new member and encourages interested parties to apply.

(Rachel Zsembery, ARB Chair) Ms. Zsembery asks if there are nominations for chair.

(Kin Lau, ARB) Mr. Lau nominates Ms. Zsembery.

The board elects Ms. Zsembery chair, 4--0.

(Eugene Benson, ARB) Mr. Benson nominates Mr. Lau for vice chair.

The board elects Mr. Lau vice chair, 4--0.

(Claire Ricker) Ms. Ricker wants to speak with the board regarding term expirations. Members of the ARB are supposed to serve for staggered three year terms. At some point, we've gotten off that staggered schedule, and the question is how to get back. Ms. Ricker notes that Mr. Benson's term expires in 2026, as does the seat vacated by Ms. Tintocalis. The chair's position expires in 6/2023, Mr. Revilak's term expires in 9/2023, and Mr. Lau's expires in 3/2024.

(Eugene Benson) Mr. Benson suggests that Ms. Tintocalis's replacement have an initial term of 1--2 years, and that Mr. Revilak have a two-year renewal term.

(Rachel Zsembery) Ms. Zsembery asks Ms. Ricker to summarize this with a memo.

Docket 3650 - 190 and 192--200 Mass Ave

The owners of this Capitol Square parcel are proposing to redevelop the site as a four-story mixed use building.

(Rachel Zsembery) Ms. Zsembery says we're re-opening this hearing from approximately one year ago. She notes that only four members of the board will be able to hear the case if we decide to move forward tonight. She believes it will take approximately six weeks to fill the vacant seat.

(Kin Lau) Mr. Lau believes that the board could approve the special permit with a majority vote of three members, rather than a super-majority of four, because of the state's new rules for multi-family housing.

(John Murphy, Project manager for the Applicant) Mr. Murphy says they'd like to proceed.

(Claire Ricker) Ms. Ricker summarizes the project proposal. It's a mixed use building on the corner of Mass Ave and Lake Street, which includes 30 residential apartments (five of which are affordable), approximately 5000 square feet of commercial space, 23 parking spaces, and 43 bicycle spaces. The building itself would be four stories tall.

(Robert Annese, Attorney for the Applicant) Mr. Annese says this project was the subject of an application about a year ago; it didn't go anywhere at the time because of the FAR limits in the zoning bylaw. The earlier proposal had 37 apartments, and they're proposing 30 now. He believes it conforms with and enhances the goals of the master plan, such as trying to revitalize areas that haven't been alive for many years. Mr. Annese notes there are buildings of similar scale in the immediate area, like the Capitol Theater building and Summit Apartments. He says his team has bent over backwards to include a larger commercial component, and he hopes this satisfies the board. One of the commercial spaces will be restaurant-ready and the other could be retail. He notes that the existing commercial spaces in this building haven't been rented out for a long time.

Mr. Annese introduces other members of the project team: Architect David Barsky and Civil Engineer Brian Jones. Mr. Annese says they submitted a traffic study a year ago, which was based on having more residential units; the study indicated there wouldn't be an adverse impact on traffic.

(John Murphy) Mr. Murphy says there will be two studios, 23 one-bedroom apartments, and five two-bedroom. The existing building basically goes to the property line, and the new building would shrink that footprint. The commercial spaces touche three sides on the first floor, and he thinks the current design relates better to the surroundings. He says the existing commercial spaces are deep, but tenants tend to want more frontage, so they've tried to do that.

(Robert Annese) Mr. Annese points out that the parcel is in the B3 district, where mixed use is allowed by special permit. He says the B3 district is inviting them to come forward with this proposal.

(Rachel Zsembery) Ms. Zsembery explains how the hearing will proceed. There will be questions from the board, then public comment, then a period of discussion among board members.

(Kin Lau) Mr. Lau thinks this is an improvement over the last iteration. He'd like the applicants to perform a light study along the sidewalk, garage ramp, parking garage, and the rear of the building. He'd like the plans to elaborate more on building elevations, and to see more contextual views of neighboring properties. He appreciates the courtyard in front of the building, but suggests removing the arch and pulling the building face back a bit. He also suggests lowering the brick parapets by a foot or so. Mr. Lau asks about the exterior finishes.

(David Barsky, Architect) Mr. Barsky says they're proposing a metal finish, with EIFS above. The finish will be smooth, not dimpled. He offers to submit material samples for review, and would be happy to provide a light study and fixture details. He says the applicants questioned whether or not to include the arch in the front plaza area.

(Kin Lau) Mr. Lau suggests removing the arch.

(David Barsky) Mr. Barsky agrees that the arch with the clock is a very bold gesture.

(Kin Lau) Mr. Lau asks if they'd consider adding a granite base to some of the brickwork.

(David Barsky) Mr. Barsky says they experimented with running the brick pilasters to the ground vs having a base, and thought that running them to the ground would be good. He says they wanted to be conscious of the theater building and the surrounding context.

(Kin Lau) Mr. Lau asks if the commercial space could have doors that open onto the plaza.

(David Barsky) Mr. Barsky says he envisions that.

(Kin Lau) Mr. Lau says he'd like to see more of that on the plans.

Mr. Lau has questions about the basement garage. He asks where the intake and exhaust ventilation louvers will go. He suggests the applicants think about that, and include the details on the building elevation. He also asks if the mechanical equipment on the roof could be pulled more towards the center.

(David Barsky) Mr. Barsky says the roof plan is very schematic, and the mechanicals could be moved towards the center.

(Rachel Zsembery) Ms. Zsembery would like the applicants to show the mechanicals in the elevation renderings, so the board can determine if they'll need to be screened.

(Eugene Benson) Mr. Benson says there's a lot to like about this proposal, but he has a number of questions and concerns. For example, the application lists different gross floor areas in different places, and Mr. Benson can't tell which one of these is correct. He'd like the applicants to present a consistent set of GFA numbers, along with material that shows how the values were calculated. He notes that our bylaw makes a distinction between basements and cellars, and explains how that difference is important for determining FAR. He asks how far the building is stepped back on the fourth story.

(David Barsky) Mr. Barsky says the measurements on the plans show distance from the building face, but the building face is set back from the property line to accommodate the pilasters.

(Eugene Benson) Mr. Benson asks how far the face of the building is set back from the property line.

(David Barsky) Mr. Barsky says it's at least two feet.

(Eugene Benson) Mr. Benson asks if the step-back is 7.5 feet from the property line.

(David Barsky) Mr. Barsky answers in the affirmative. There's 5.6' along the roof, and an additional 2' from the property line.

(Eugene Benson) Mr. Benson notes that he disagrees with his colleagues on the board about how the step back should be measured.

Mr. Benson says the zoning bylaw requires solar on 50% of the rooftop, and he'd like to see calculations which show that.

Mr. Benson says the board received a letter from a resident, opining that the garage height was insufficient. He'd like to see the ceiling height indicated in the drawings, along with dimensions for the parking spaces.

Mr. Benson asks how the tandem parking will work. He says he can see tandem parking for a two-family home, but not for 30 apartments.

(John Murphy) Mr. Murphy says there are five two-bedroom apartments. They were assuming the tandem spaces would be rented to those units.

(Eugene Benson) Mr. Benson asks about additional interior bike parking.

(David Barsky) Mr. Barsky says they looked at turning the basement utility closet into bike parking, though that isn't shown on the plans. Doing so would allow them to provide 48 long-term bicycle parking spaces.

(Eugene Benson) Mr. Benson would like to see that detail. He believes they need to provide at least 45 long-term bike parking spaces.

(David Barsky) Mr. Barsky says they found space for 48.

(Eugene Benson) Mr. Benson asks how many of the parking spaces will be for commercial tenants.

(John Murphy) Mr. Murphy says that all of the parking is for residential tenants.

(Eugene Benson) Mr. Benson says the board received letters of concern about the driveway slope.

(David Barsky) Mr. Barsky says he's comfortable with the slope proposed, and they've done projects with those slopes in the past. He says this will be refined when they do construction drawings.

(Eugene Benson) Mr. Benson believes the zoning bylaw would require a 30' rear yard setback, and states that the board has the ability to alter that requirement. He'd like the applicants to confirm the setback requirements, so the board understands what kind of relief they're asking for. He asks if the tandem parking area will be lit at night.

(David Barsky) Mr. Barsky says there should be a nominal amount light. He says they've been looking at fixtures, and possibly a 6' fence to prevent glare.

(Eugene Benson) Mr. Benson suggests adding screening to the parking area. He asks if the applicants can do anything about the transformer, either screening or relocation. He also asks about trash removal.

(David Barsky) Mr. Barsky anticipates that the hauling company would roll the trash containers out of the basement.

(Eugene Benson) Mr. Benson advises Mr. Barsky that will likely be a condition of the special permit.

Mr. Benson thinks it would be good to show surrounding buildings on the renderings. He also suggests an additional restaurant entrance on Mass Ave.

(Steve Revilak, ARB) Mr. Revilak asks the applicants if they'd be willing to unbundle parking as a transportation demand management measure, so that rent for parking spaces is separate from rent for the apartments.

(John Murphy) Mr. Murphy says they can do that.

(Steve Revilak) Mr. Revilak say he noticed the exhaust system for the restaurant shown on the plans. He says it's carried up through all four stories, but isn't shown on the roof. Mr. Revilak would like to see the exhaust added on the roof detail; he thinks it might come out in the area where the applicants are proposing solar panels.

Mr. Revilak has a question about exterior bicycle parking. He notes that the renderings show a wave rack but the construction details on sheet C-101 show inverted U racks. He encourages the applicants to use inverted U or post and loop racks, as these provide more stability.

Mr. Revilak asks if any of the renderings show the view that someone traveling north on Chandler Street would see.

(Applicant) One of the applicants answers in the negative.

(Steve Revilak) Mr. Revilak says he's like to see a rendering of that side, to get a sense of what Chandler Street residents would see as they travel north.

Mr. Revilak asks if the construction will involve pile driving.

(David Barsky) Mr. Barsky answers in the negative.

(Steve Revilak) Mr. Revilak asks if the applicants had any vision of asking Chandler street to be converted from one-way to two-way.

(John Murphy) Mr. Murphy answers in the negative. They envision Chandler Street remaining one-way.

(Rachel Zsembery) Ms. Zsembery sees challenges with the tandem parking arrangements. She'd rather give more parking relief and have the space for the tandem parking become retail. She'd also like to understand how relocating the utility closet in the basement will affect the commercial spaces.

Ms. Zsembery says she likes the sign band articulation. She suggests more variation and less heaviness in the facade, and changes to the cornice articulation. She says she likes the building overall, but would like to pull away some of the heaviness.

Ms. Zsembery asks if the applicants are planning to use real brick or thin brick.

(David Barsky) Mr. Barsky says they're planning to use real brick.

(Rachel Zsembery) Ms. Zsembery says she likes the canopy over the residential entrance, and asks the applicants to take a look at pulling in the more modern lines.

(John Murphy) Regarding parking, Mr. Murphy says they'd expect to have a wait list, based on other properties that they have. He'd actually prefer to have 30 spaces.

(Rachel Zsembery) Ms. Zsembery is concerned about the practicality of tandem parking, and having more retail space.

(Eugene Benson) Mr. Benson asks what will be in the fourth-floor step back area.

(David Barsky) Mr. Barsky says it will be a parapet with a rubber roof.

(Eugene Benson) Mr. Benson asks the applicants to consider a green roof, if possible.

(Kin Lau) Mr. Lau suggests relocating a door in the basement, to provide an additional point of access to the stair. He also suggests a layout change to apartment 402 -- moving the living room to the corner, so it will be lit more of the time.

The chair opens the hearing to public comment.

(Kellie Doherty, Chandler St) Ms. Doherty says she opposes the garage entrance. She says she's not a NIMBY, and that her concerns are mostly around traffic and parking. She doesn't think that loading and unloading were adequately addressed, as the bus stop is now in front of the building. She asks the board to look at loading and unloading. She says there were be 60 trucks if renters move every two years. She asks if part of the tandem parking could be a loading area. She's also concerned about the garage door and door sirens, and she's concerned about how trash trucks will get into the basement.

(Judith Halperin, Chandler St) Ms. Halperin says she's concerned about noise and traffic, and she feels that drawings without context are misleading. She says the earlier proposal had fewer parking spots, and that there are school children on the street. She says she likes the modern design, but thinks it's out of character.

(Don Seltzer, Irving St) Mr. Seltzer hopes the board has read his correspondence. He doesn't think the basement will have adequate ceiling height for vehicles and bicycles. He believes the building will violate state laws for accessibility.

(Elaine Maynard, Chandler St) Ms. Maynard says her home abuts the rear of this property, which is important for her to mention as a property owner. She says she needs to see more conceptual drawings of what the building will look like, and she'd appreciate a robust conversation about what the rear of the building will and will not be. She has concerns about noise, lines of sight, and traffic. She thinks the project is over-emphasizing Lake Street and Mass Ave, and under-emphasizing Chandler St.

(Chris Loreti, Adams St) Mr. Loreti says he's going to recommend that the town manager hire Mr. Seltzer as a consultant for EDR hearings. He believes that several zoning bylaws will be violated, and that the board is granting variances. He wants to hear attorney Annese explain how that works.

(Robert Annese) Mr. Annese objects to Mr. Loreti's characterizations.

(Rachel Zsembery) Ms. Zsembery says she believes that Mr. Loreti is wrong, but he has the right to object.

(Steve Moore, Piedmont St) Mr. Moore thinks this is a big improvement over the earlier proposal. He asks if the proponent will be installing the street trees, and suggests making provisions for tree irrigation. He applauds the applicants for including trees.

There are no more comments from the public.

(Rachel Zsembery) Ms. Zsembery wants to provide the applicants with a list of items to address for the next hearing. These include:

  • Providing a narrative that explains the process of trash removal
  • A narrative explaining how unloading and loading will be handled, both for commercial and residential.
  • More information about the garage door, including whether there will be audible sounds as vehicles are coming and going.
  • Ms. Zsembery would like the applicants to meet with the abutters
  • A statement of whether the applicants will install the street trees.

(John Murphy) Mr. Murphy says they will plant the street trees, and probably re-do the sidewalk.

(Rachel Zsembery) Ms. Zsembery continues her list:

  • A lighting plan, including the back of the building, garage ramp, and basement
  • Renderings which show the surrounding buildings
  • Removing the arch in the front plaza
  • Adding granite bases to the brick pilasters
  • Having the storefronts open to the courtyard
  • Showing the location of air intake louvers
  • Moving the mechanical systems more towards the center of the roof
  • Providing consistent FAR and GFA figures, with calculations
  • A plan sheet showing the basement ceiling height
  • Calculations showing what percentage of the roof will be devoted to solar panels
  • Parking space dimensions
  • A transportation demand management plan
  • Calculations showing the rear setback requirements
  • Adding screening to the parking spaces
  • Assessing the location of the transformer in the rear of the building
  • Unbundling parking
  • Considering a green roof on the upper story step-back
  • Changes to the building colors
  • Replacing the tandem parking with retail space
  • Drawings showing the new location of the utility room, and the increased bike parking
  • Changes to the accessible van parking space

Ms. Zsembery asks is there are follow-up questions or comments from the board.

(Kin Lau) Mr. Lau asks if there will be a buffer along the rear of the property, or just a fence.

(David Barsky) Mr. Barsky says they'll provide more detail.

(Eugene Benson) Mr. Benson things the board needs to have a discussion about the tandem parking spaces, and about the appropriate FAR for the project.

(Steve Revilak) Mr. Revilak says he appreciates that the applicants were using trees from our preferred list of native species.

(Kin Lau) Mr. Lau says he's okay with some tandem parking, but he doesn't think the board can give relief for bicycle parking requirements.

(Steve Revilak) Mr. Revilak doesn't understand Mr. Benson's earlier comment about FAR. He thinks the dimensional tables are clear about a FAR of 3.0 being allowed.

There's back and fourth between Mr. Benson, about whether the "20,000" in "mixed use $>$ 20,000 square feet" refers to GFA or lot size. Mr. Benson thinks the number refers to GFA; the rest of the board believes it refers to lot size.

(Kelly Lynema, Assistant Planning Director) Ms. Lynema notes that the board also asked for a rendering showing the building when looking north on Chandler street, and expressed a preference for inverted U bike racks.

(Robert Annese) Mr. Annese says he'll need time to respond to the board's requests. He also says the economics have to work, and his team will need to look at that.

There's discussion about when the applicants should come back before the board.

(John Murphy) Mr. Murphy suggests February 27th.

(Kelly Lynema) Ms. Lynema says the planning department will need to receive updated materials by February 20th.

There's a motion to continue the hearing to Feb 27th. Motion passes, 4--0.

Docket 3728 - 99 Mass Ave

(Rachel Zsembery) Ms. Zsembery says the applicants have requested a continuance to March 6th. She asks if staff have anything to add.

(Claire Ricker) Ms. Ricker believes the applicants just needed more time.

The board votes in favor of continuing the hearing to March 6th, 4--0.

Zoning Warrant Articles for 2023 Annual Town Meeting

This agenda items involves a review of the warrant article language, for zoning articles the board may bring to town meeting.

(Claire Ricker) Ms. Ricker says that she's worked with Town Counsel on the wording.

(Kelly Lynema) Ms. Lynema recalls that the board discussed these warrant articles on December 5th. The articles fall into several categories: incentivizing commercial redevelopment, usability improvements to the bylaw, and the Arlington Heights business district. Ms. Lynema says that the business district in Arlington heights is currently a mix of B2, B2A, B3, and B4 parcels. The uses across the districts are similar, and the proposed articles would consolidate these into a single business district. There are also a few articles that involve the industrial district, including changes to clarify the language added in 2021.

(Rachel Zsembery) Ms. Zsembery has questions about three areas: administrative corrections, clarifying how GFA is calculated, and a sentence in the Building Inspector Enforcement that the attorney general rejected.

(Kelly Lynema) Ms. Lynema says the administrative correction involves an internal citation; Town Counsel feels that correction could be made administratively, without going to town meeting. She says we can also administratively add a footnote to the sentence that's not enforceable, stating as much. Finally, she wasn't able to Coordinate with the building inspector regarding the GFA calculations, but she can draft an article for that.

The board will review the proposed warrant articles one at a time.

Article 1: Open Space in Business Districts. Mr. Benson suggests using the word "modify" rather than "increase" or "decrease".

Article 2: Rear Yard Setback in Business Districts. The board notes there's a repeated word, and suggests the language "any use in the business district".

Article 3: Step back requirements in business districts. Mr. Benson points out that the zoning bylaw doesn't have a definition for "principal facade", and suggests we might need one. He suggests looking at the housing production plan, which suggests step-backs on secondary streets, rather than on the main one.

Architecturally speaking, Ms. Zsembery thinks step back should be along Mass Ave. She thinks it would be useful to have flexibility over which facades the requirement applies to.

Article 4: Reduced height buffer area. Mr. Benson suggests removing the 25--50' measurement, and leaving that for the main motion.

Article 5: Corner Lot Requirements. Mr. Revilak suggests changing the word "reduce" to "amend". He thinks the corner lot requirements make sense when all three parcels are in the same zoning district. He challenge come when the parcels are in different districts, where different uses are allowed. He notes that setback requirements are use-specific, rather than district-specific.

Article 6: Height Minimums in Business Districts. Mr. Benson suggests noting that the minimum would be both in stories and in feet.

Article 7: Arlington Heights Business District. The board doesn't believe there's a need to change section 3, so we'll remove mention of that section from the warrant article.

Article 8: Map Amendment for the Arlington Heights Business District. Ms. Lynema says that Town Counsel is looking into whether all of the parcels need to be listed in the warrant article, or if listing them in the main motion is sufficient.

Mr. Benson notes that there are Business district parcels are broken up by several R districts. He asks why the R district parcels weren't included in the map revision. Ms. Lynema says the Arlington Heights Neighborhood Action Plan only looked at existing B districts, and not any of the residential ones.

Ms. Zsembery thinks it may be harder to move the article forward if we include parcels that are currently zoned residential. She'd like to see it move forward at town meeting.

Mr. Lau would prefer a continuous business district, rather than one which is broken up.

Mr. Revilak agrees with Mr. Lau, but shares the concern that residential parcels weren't part of previous conversations.

Ms. Ricker agrees that the district should be continuous. She thinks that's the best way to move forward.

The board expresses a desire to have general language in the warrant article, something to the effect of "Along Mass Ave, bordered by streets A and B, and streets C and D". Ms. Lynema says she'll work on this.

Article 9: Industrial District Uses. Ms. Zsembery agrees that we should look at the set of uses allowed in the industrial district, but doesn't think the board has come to any sort of consensus about what the changes should be.

Mr. Lau, Mr. Benson, and Mr. Revilak are okay with putting this off until a later town meeting.

Ms. Zsembery asks how important this article is from an economic development perspective.

Ms. Ricker says that more allowed uses are preferable. She thinks that doggy day care should be a no brainer, but deferring won't be a big problem.

The board will strike this article from the list.

Article 10: Solar bylaw in industrial districts. Mr. Benson suggests some wording changes.

Article 11: ARB Jurisdiction over the Industrial district. Mr. Revilak notes that the ARB already has jurisdiction over projects over 10,000 square feet GFA, regardless of district. He understands that EDR is a more flexible and thorough process, but expresses concern about applying it to small projects.

The board discusses whether there should be an article to remove the sentence the Attorney General deemed unenforceable. The board would like to have the sentence in question removed.

There's a motion to approve the warrant article language, as amended. Motion passes, 4--0.

Open Forum

(Don Seltzer) Mr. Seltzer would like to call the board's attention to the work taking place at 1500 Mass Ave. He believes that applicants need to come back before the board if they intend to make significant changes to their project. He believes the builders changed the parking and driveway areas, and should have to come back before the board.

New Business

(Eugene Benson) Mr. Benson hopes we can develop a better feedback loop, after decisions are made. For example, the ARB often asks applicants to do things subject to administrative approval. He'd like to see what was administratively approved. He'd also like to know when applicants pull building permits.

(Steve Revilak) Mr. Revilak asks if there's any update about the MBTA Communities working group.

(Claire Ricker) Ms. Ricker says the candidates have been selected and should be notified tomorrow. The working group will have its first meeting a week from Wednesday.

Meeting adjourned.