Arlington Redevelopment Board - Mar 6th, 2023

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Meeting held at 27 Maple Street. Materials were available from

Docket 3728 - 99 Massachusetts Avenue

This is the second hearing night for Docket 3728.

(Claire Ricker, Planning Director) Ms. Ricker says the applicants have submitted an updated application, based on feedback from the previous hearing.

(Kelly Lynema, Assistant Planning Director) Ms. Lynema informs the board that the applicants submitted a new rendering set earlier today, and it's included in the hearing materials.

(James Risling, Architect) Mr. Risling summarizes the changes made since the last hearing:

  • Moving the building identification signs.
  • Adjusting the cornice between the office and residential use.
  • Changing windows, and eliminating the hexagonal window from the front facade.
  • Adding additional landscaped open space, around the perimeter of the property.
  • Adding pavers between the parking and the building. The parking area remains bituminous.
  • Providing a bike locker in the rear of the building (2 bicycles), along with storage for two more bikes inside.
  • Adding articulation on the fourth floor.
  • Providing a shadow study.

(Kin Lau, ARB) Mr. Lau has a comment about the new renderings. Of the two, he prefers the natural brick. He asks if the applicants removed any trees from the rear of the property; a Google view photograph shows two trees there.

(Applicant) The applicant says he's owned the building for a year and a half, and he doesn't recall any trees being there.

(Kin Lau) Mr. Lau asks if the applicants would consider planting trees along the rear edge.

(James Risling) Mr. Risling says that area is intended to be landscaped space.

(Kin Lau) Mr. Lau suggests planting some kind of greenery, along with a fence to shield the neighboring property from headlights. He also suggests plantings along the west side of the building.

(Rachel Zsembery) Ms. Zsembery suggests the applicants provide a planting schedule.

(Eugene Benson, ARB) Mr. Benson says he likes this project, but he's concerned that it might not comply with the zoning bylaw. He says the ZBL requires solar panels on 50% of the roof, for any project subject to environmental design review; he's not sure if any of the exemptions to that requirement are applicable here.

Mr. Benson suspects that one of the parking spots will need to be accessible, but says the applicant can work that out with the building inspector.

Mr. Benson notes section 6.1.11(D)(1) which requires a 10' landscaped buffer around the parking area, or a 5' buffer and a fence.

Mr. Benson informs the applicant that the bylaw doesn't allow them to arrange parking such that drivers have to back out onto the street.

Mr. Benson asks if there are stairs leading to the indoor bike parking.

(James Risling) Mr. Risling answers in the affirmative. There's a half-flight of stairs leading down to the indoor bike parking spaces.

(Eugene Benson) Mr. Benson says that our bike parking regulations don't allow parking that requires a person to lift and carry their bicycle. He suggests moving those spaces outdoors, in a second locker.

Mr. Benson has a question about sheet Z.01. The table of zoning requirements shows 5% landscaped open space currently, and 3.6% under the proposed plans. He asks the applicants to explain the reduction.

(James Risling) Mr. Risling says that some of the landscaped open space was on the east side of the building, where they've installed a handicapped ramp.

(Eugene Benson) Mr. Benson says the board can't allow something that makes a non-conformity worse, and the applicants will need to find a way to get that space back.

(Rachel Zsembery, ARB Chair) Ms. Zsembery has a question about the cladding. She says the spec sheet makes it looks like a butted material, and asks the applicants to confirm.

(James Risling) Mr. Risling answers in the affirmative.

(Rachel Zsembery) Ms. Zsembery says the metal panels have shadow lines, and she's concerned that there will be an unpainted edge exposed. She'd like to see a material sample, to see whether that will be the case.

(James Risling) Mr. Risling says the manufacturer offers a system with a different kind of reveal, which would have a reverse shadow.

(Steve Revilak, ARB) Mr. Revilak has a comment about sheet Z.01. The summary table lists off-street parking requirements as 1.5 spaces per dwelling unit. Mr. Revilak says that's an older regulation, which was changed to one space/dwelling unit last year. He says this is just an FYI, and doesn't affect the application.

Mr. Revilak agrees with Mr. Benson regarding the landscaped open space non-conformity. During the last hearing, he asked the applicants to find a way to add 122 square feet of landscaped open space, which is what the new apartment would require. He says he didn't realize that some landscaped open space was being removed.

The chair opens the hearing to public comment.

(Kristin Anderson, Upland Road West) Ms. Anderson thinks it's a beautiful design. She prefers the rendering with the white painted brick.

There's no further comment from the public.

(Rachel Zsembery) Mr. Zsembery asks if the applicants would be willing to install solar panels on the roof.

(James Risling) Mr. Risling thinks they could install solar on 50% of the roof area.

(Kin Lau) Mr. Lau says he views the parking lot as a pre-existing non-conformity.

(Eugene Benson) Mr. Benson says the board could decide that it's pre-existing, or that a buffer is appropriate. He thinks the applicants might have a problem if inspectional services determines that one of the spaces needs to be accessible.

(Applicant) The applicant says he'd like to have pavers on the north edge of the property. Right now, there's not a lot of distinction between where his parking ends and the next property's parking begins. He says he doesn't want to ruffle feathers.

(Eugene Benson) Mr. Benson says he's trying to get some demarcation between the two properties.

(Steve Revilak) Mr. Revilak says the Town's Conservation Commission publishes a list of preferred native plan species. He asks the applicants to use species from this list in their planting schedule.

(Rachel Zsembery) Ms. Zsembery thinks the situation where cars have to back out of the parking area is an existing non-conformity. She asks if the applicants are willing to add a second bike locker outside, rather than the indoor spaces shown on the plans. She thinks that the accessible ramp is a worthwhile addition to the building.

(Kelly Lynema) Ms. Lynema notes that the bylaw allows walkways to be counted as landscaped open space. She thinks the ramp on the east side of the building might be okay in that regard.

(Kin Lau) Mr. Lau doesn't want the lack of landscaped open space to stop this project. He'd like to find a creative way to make it work.

(Steve Revilak) Mr. Revilak agrees with Mr. Lau.

(Rachel Zsembery) Ms. Zsembery lists the items that need addressing:

  • Calculations for open space, to verify that we're not increasing a non-conformity.
  • Specifications for the metal exterior panels, with reveals.
  • Adding a second bicycle locker in the rear of the building.
  • Having solar on 50% of the roof
  • Providing a planting schedule

(Kin Lau) Mr. Lau asks if these items could be approved administratively.

(Rachel Zsembery) Ms. Zsembery thinks the applicants have a limited number of things to address, and they're very specific. She'd like them to appear again.

(Kelly Lynema) Ms. Lynema says there are openings on March 27th or April 3rd.

(Applicant) The applicants would like to come back on March 27th.

(Eugene Benson) Mr. Benson notes that the board will need to make a finding under section 8.1, that the changes are not substantially more detrimental to the neighborhood.

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

Warrant Article Hearings

The board will conduct hearings on four warrant articles for the spring town meeting.

Article 31 - Industrial District Animal Daycare Use

Article 31 proposes to allow animal daycare by right in the industrial districts. It was submitted by Kristen Anderson and ten registered voters.

(Eugene Benson) Mr. Benson would like to recuse himself from the discussion of this article. He works with Ms. Anderson in an advocacy group called Save the Alewife Brook.

(Kristen Anderson) Ms. Anderson says that many people got new pets during the COVID lockdown. Now, people are going back to the office and these animals need companionship during the day. She's says there's only one animal daycare facility in Arlington, and they're not taking new clients. As a result, people who need animal daycare have to go outside town. Ms. Anderson knows a person who wanted to start an animal daycare business; that person found space in the industrial district, but couldn't move forward because the use isn't allowed.

(Steve Revilak) Mr. Revilak thinks this is a reasonable change.

(Kin Lau) Mr. Lau thinks this is a good article.

(Rachel Zsembery) Ms. Zsembery concurs.

(Claire Ricker) Ms. Ricker asks if it would be daytime only.

(Kristen Anderson) Mr. Anderson answers in the affirmative. She's proposing that animal daycare be allowed in the industrial district the same way it's currently allowed in the business districts.

The chair opens the hearing to public comment.

(Chris Loreti, Adams Street) Mr. Loreti supports the article. Mr. Loreti says he thought that kennels were allowed, and was surprised to see they aren't. He asks the board to consider allowing overnight care, which is currently only allowed for veterinary practices. He says the town bylaws have extensive regulations for kennels, despite the fact that the zoning bylaw doesn't contemplate them.

Article 26 - Industrial District Development Standards

Article 26 seeks to clarify the stormwater management requirements necessary for a height bonus in the industrial district.

(Kelly Lynema) Ms. Lynema says the industrial zoning regulations were changed in 2021. They established a set of standards for new construction, with additional standards for an extra floor. One of the standards for additional height was "to retain and treat all stormwater on site. We've discovered that wording is too vague, and the town's environmental planner worked with the town engineer to establish more objective criteria.

Ms. Lynema says that most municipalities with stormwater standards will refer to them in their zoning bylaw. Environmental planner David Morgan and Town Engineer Wayne Chouinard tried to do this, but with an additional threshold for the industrial zone. The two criteria are the design storm, and contaminant loading standards. Ms. Lynema says they wanted to refer to external standards (like NOAA precipitation models), which could change over time.

(Eugene Benson) Mr. Benson says he sent Ms. Lynema a set of suggested wording changes. If this article is adopted, the ARB will need to have the town engineer review stormwater mitigations.

There's discussion between staff and the board, about how such a review process would work.

The chair opens the hearing to public comment.

(Chris Loreti) Mr. Loreti asks why this is limited to the industrial zone, and not applicable to others. He suggests having the bylaw reference specific methodology for measuring TSS removal, and referring the language to the conservation commission for review.

There's no more comment from the public.

(Kelly Lynema) Ms. Lynema says she didn't mention a specific methodology for TSS removal because she didn't want the bylaw to be too prescriptive.

(Steve Revilak) Mr. Revilak recognizes that the town engineer will have to review the stormwater management proposals; he thinks the town engineer will know what methodologies are or are not applicable to any given case.

Article 27 - Solar Bylaw in Industrial Districts

Article 27 proposes to amend solar requirements in the industrial district, in light of the new solar energy systems section in the bylaw.

(Kelly Lynema) Ms. Lynema says this article consists of technical corrections, to make the industrial district regulations compatible with Section 6.4.

(Eugene Benson) Mr. Benson thinks the language may need some changes. For example, a building with a green roof can't also have 50% of the roof covered with solar.

(Steve Revilak) Mr. Revilak has a comment about the proposed change to 5.6.2(D)(1). He notes that Section 6.4 only covers projects subject to Environmental Design Review. He suggests adding language to cover projects in the Industrial district that aren't subject to EDR.

Article 28 - Building Inspector, Enforcement

This article proposes to remove a sentence from section 3.4, Enforcement. The sentence was added in 2020, and the attorney general tells us that it's unenforceable.

(Kelly Lynema) Ms. Lynema explains the problem with the sentence in question. It conditions granting of a building permit on compliance with town bylaws. Under state law, building permits can only be conditioned on compliance with the building code, and zoning.

The board agrees that this change makes sense.

(Rachel Zsembery) Ms. Zsembery notes that the board intends to deliberate and vote on March 27th.

There's a motion to continue warrant article hearings to March 13th. Motion passes, 4--0.

Vote to Refer Articles to next Special Town Meeting

(Kelly Lynema) Ms. Lynema explains that this is a vote to move eight proposed warrant articles to a special town meeting in the fall, or the next annual town meeting -- whichever comes first.

The board votes in favor, 4--0.

Open Forum

(Susan Stamps, Grafton Street) Ms. Stamps is one of the Tree Committee's liaisons to the Redevelopment Board, and she was glad to attend this evening's meeting. She's also trying to follow what the MBTA Communities working group is doing, and is excited about their work. Ms. Stamps says she's trying to be a bridge between housing and environmental advocates. She knows housing can be a divisive issue, and she'd like to be a bridging voice. Ms. Stamps says there's a lot being done around the country that increases density while making places more pedestrian-friendly.

New Business

(Kelly Lynema) Ms. Lynema tells the board that an MBTA Communities visioning session is scheduled for March 9th. The goal is to get some high level direction from the public, and this may also be useful for the business district amendments that the board will propose in the fall. In addition to the visioning session, we'll also launch a survey, along with meeting in a box kits. This part of the public outreach effort will wind down in April; at that point, we'll start looking at specific locations for the multi-family districts.

(Claire Ricker) Ms. Ricker says there's a public forum on March 15th, on the redesign of the Mass Ave/Appleton St intersection. It will have a presentation of the close-to-final conceptual design.

(Eugene Benson) Mr. Benson asks when the ARB can get an update on the MBTA Communities efforts.

(Claire Ricker) Ms. Ricker suggests doing this on March 27th.

(Kelly Lynema) Ms. Lynema says that a document preservationist visited the planning department last week. They're working on digitizing old planning documents and related records. They're also working with the library on a way to publish them.

Meeting adjourned.