Arlington Redevelopment Board - Jan 8th, 2018

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This was the ARB's first hearing on the proposed zoning recodification. Approximately 40 people attended.

DPCD director Jenny Raitt introduced members of the zoning recodification working group. The group tried to tackle the first land use recommendation in Arlington's Master Plan: recodifying the zoning bylaw. We wanted the recodified ZBL to have a more logical structure, to be easier to navigate, and to have clearer language. This project started in Fall 2016.

The process started with a zoning diagnostic, interviews with town staff and residents, and an all-boards meeting. The first reading draft was delivered in late winter 2017, and the second in July 2017. There were two public forums and six open houses after the second reading draft was published.

Tonight, we're discussing the third (hearing) draft, dated December 14, 2017. There are plans for four additional neighborhood meetings and a Special Town meeting on Feb 12th.

We received a lot of feedback about residential zoning issues; those issues were out of scope for this process.

The hearing draft needs several amendments. The board is aware of this, and will vote on the amended draft.

The ARB chair opens the meeting to public comments.

(John Worden). Mr. Worden calls this a very flawed document. He talks about attending an ARB hearing in 1978, during the big blizzard of that year. Believes the intent of section 6.20(a) (in the current ZBL) has changed, along with the wording in 6.08. Mr. Worden asks the ARB to "please throw in something for the neighborhood". He'd like to see "foundation" added to the list of the definitions. He'd like to see the recodification vote wait, "there's no urgency to do the recodification in 15 months".

(Liz Pyle). Ms. Pyle supports the goals of the recodification, and efforts to make the ZBL more accessible. She'd like more time to review the document, and believes there's no need to rush. Ms. Pyle believes there are too many substantive changes. She cites 6.20(a) as an example, and the elimination of the words "containing a principal building" from 6.06(a). 6.08 no longer makes reference to the section on special permits. She thinks there are too many unintended changes, which could cause unintended consequences. She'd like to prolong the process, perhaps with another draft.

(Wynelle Evans). Ms. Evans recognizes the amount of effort that's gone into the process, and would like to offer constructive criticism. She believes that the removal of filing and department procedures was out of scope for this process. She's found typos in the table of dimensional and density regulations. She's concerned that town meeting will not thoroughly investigate the document.

Ms. Evans asks about outreach and communication to town meeting members. Jenny Raitt summarizes outreach efforts: there was a survey mailed (or emailed) to town meeting members. About 20% of them responded. There was another mailing in December.

Ms. Evans asks the board to take no action on the recodification amendment.

(Chris Loretti). Mr. Loretti believes the hearing draft is not ready for a vote. He believes that section 9 (Non-conforming uses) contains policy changes, particularly section 9.02. Believes that the removal of section 9.03 was improper, because part of 9.03 appears in the state zoning law, but not all of 9.03 is reflected.

Andrew Bunnell notes that section 9 is one of the areas that requires amendment.

Mr. Loretti disagrees with fines being taken out of the ZBL, and being left to the discretion of the building inspector.

(Mike Ruderman). Mr. Ruderman commends the working group for efforts so far; our ZBL is sorely in need of cleanup. He asks if the ZBL will have a Map. The director informs him that the zoning map is part of the bylaw. Mr. Ruderman doesn't feel that town meeting will approve of moving fines into department regulations. He hopes the recodification effort succeeds, but is concerned about the level of discomfort. He would prefer to see line-by-line changes, and would also like the effort to be given more time.

(John, whose last name I didn't get). Could you tell us about some of the survey responses?

Several members of the ARB answer: having enough time to review the document, requests for a redline, and the volume of the document. Some people wanted more detail, others wanted nothing more than a 1--2 page summary. Some respondents mentioned substantial issues -- things that the residential study group is working on -- but those were out of scope for this process.

(Chris Loretti). Mr. Loretti provides feedback on several definitions: attic and gross floor area. "Accessory Use" and "Use, Accessory" are redundant. There should be a limitation on the number of service bays (for an auto service station). There should be a definition for building front face. The table of use has both "catering" and "catering service". How does the definition of "dwelling unit" work with a single family building? Also mentions Home Occupation, Hotel and Motel, Light manufacturing, open space, and porch. The definition of right-of-way doesn't contemplate private paths. Doesn't understand why "shed" was added to the definitions. There's no definition for minor accessory use. Believes there's too many mistakes to fix before a special town meeting.

(Pat Hanlon). Thanks the working group for their effort. Considering how complicated and contradictory our current ZBL is, he isn't surprised that the recodification produced something that's still somewhat complicated and contradictory.

Mr. Hanlon encourages us to remove definitions that aren't use. Thinks town meeting will need something to help them decide whether a change is substantive. Even if you take all the time in the world, you'll never have all the time that you need.

(John Leone). When will the final document be available for town meeting members?

The director answers: right after the ARB votes, which should be Wednesday or Thursday evening.

(Paul Parisi). Paul reviewed numerous sections, and would like to echo specific comments made so far. Believes there are discrepancies and misrepresentations. Agrees with the goal of the recodification, but would like to see the ARB delay their vote. Wants to see a good document, but doesn't feel we're there yet.

There are no more public comments. The hearing will be continued on Wed. Jan 10th, at 7:30 pm