Arlington Redevelopment Board - Oct 2nd, 2023

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Meeting held in the town hall auditorium. Materials were available from

Review Meeting Minutes

The board approved their September 11, 2023 minutes by a vote of 4--0.

The board approved their September 18, 2023 minutes by a vote of 4--0.

Warrant Articles for Special Town Meeting

(Rachel Zsembery, ARB Chair) Ms. Zsembery informs the public that tonight's hearing is reserved for ARB deliberations and voting on the warrant articles for Special Town Meeting.

Article 12 - MBTA Communities Overlay District

(Claire Ricker) Ms. Ricker begins with a presentation, of the two alternatives presented on September 11th, plus a number of other scenarios.

Ms. Ricker begins with the two alternatives from September 11th. Alternative 1 stretches from East Arlington to the Lexington town line. Alternative 1 has 109 acres and a capacity of 7,268.

Alternative 2 moves a section of the district from Paul Revere Road to an area North of Mass ave. Alternative 2 has 115 acres and a capacity of 7,391 dwellings.

The next group of scenarios are based on options the board wanted to explore on September 11th. The significant changes involve (a) changing the maximum height in the neighborhood multi-family district from four stories to three, (b) having a minimum parking requirement of one space per dwelling, and (c) eliminating parcels east of Orvis Road, in the vicinity of the Capitol Square business district.

Reducing the neighborhood multi-family district from four stories to three reduces the unit capacity to 6,330. Adding a parking minimum of one space per dwelling further reduces the capacity to 3,351. Four stories and a parking minimum of one gives a capacity of 3,939.

The next set of scenarios involves removing parcels with Mass Ave frontage, east of Orvis road. Scenario 3a.1 allows four stories in both districts with no parking minimums, giving a capacity of 7,137. Scenario 3a.2 uses the same map as 3a.1, but with a three-story limit in the neighborhood multi-family district. 3a2 has a capacity of 6,012 dwellings. Scenario 3a.3 adds a one space/dwelling parking minimum to scenario 3a.2, for a capacity of 3,184.

Scenario 3b.1 removes all parcels east of Orvis road. With four stories in the neighborhood multi-family district, the capacity is 6,570. 3b.2 reduces the neighborhood multifamily district to three stories, for a capacity of 5,594. 3b.3 adds a one space/dwelling parking minimum to 3b.2, for a capacity of 2,996.

Ms. Ricker outlines the main decision points for the board:

  • Having a maximum height of three or four stories in the Neighborhood Multifamily district.
  • Removing parcels east of Orvis road, to allow for a more holistic rezoning of that area in the future.
  • Determining which of the two September 11 alternatives are preferred.
  • Determining minimum parking requirements.

The board spends several hours deliberating these points, along with a number of smaller changes to the main motion. In the end, the board adopts a main motion and map that are based on the working group proposal, with changes that include the following:

  • The board prefers the Alternative 2 map
  • The neighborhood multi-family district will be limited to three stories and 35' in height.
  • There will be a one space/dwelling parking minimum, and parking reductions in section 6.1 of the zoning bylaw will apply.
  • East of Orvis Road, the board will adopt a map similar to 3a.2, but with the some changes. The board opted to remove eight parcels near Mass Ave to allow for future expansion of the business districts, and to widen the neighborhood multifamily district by one parcel.
  • Sign regulations in the overlay district will apply as follows: the neighborhood multi-family district will become part of the neighborhood sign district; residential-only developments in the Mass Ave Broadway multi-family district will become part of the neighborhood business sign district; and mixed use developments will become part of the business sign district.
  • Solar energy standards will apply to the Mass Ave Broadway Multifamily District.
  • Rather than using SITES certifiable as the basis for a one-story bonus, the board will use LEED Gold Certified, or similar green building standard.
  • Height buffers will apply to the sixth story in the Mass Ave Broadway multi-family district.

The board votes favorable action on article 12, 4--0.

Article 3 - Administrative Correction

Article 3 corrects a citation in the zoning bylaw.

The board votes favorable action, 4--0.

Article 4 - Reduced Height Buffer Area

Mr. Benson isn't sure whether the main motion is in scope of the warrant article language. Mr. Revilak favors a re-evaluation of the height buffer areas, because the buffer dimensions come from a time when Arlington allowed much taller buildings. He thinks the board needs to spend more time considering what the appropriate buffer distances are.

The board votes no action on Article 4, 4--0.

Article 5 - Open Space in Business Districts

Mr. Revilak suggests including the definition of "Open Space" in the main motion, for context. As a member of town meeting, Mr. Revilak feels the body has a difficult time understanding what open space is. People often think it means "green space" or "public space" or "pervious space", but it's none of those things -- it's a defined term in the bylaw with a different definition.

Mr. Revilak asks the board to consider leaving the definitions as they are. He feels that town meeting has a harder time getting their heads around the fact that we allow balconies and rooftops to count as open space under some circumstances.

Ms. Zsembery is reluctant to remove the definition changes, as balconies and rooftops have come up several times in permit hearings. She agrees that we'll need to be very clear with town meeting about what the proposed changes will do. Mr. Lau agrees that we'll need to be very clear. Mr. Benson thinks we can make a case for why the open space changes are beneficial.

The board votes favorable action on Article 5, 4--0.

Article 6 - Rear Yard Setback in Business Districts

Article 6 will change rear setback requirements in the business districts. The current setbacks are based on a formula, and vary with the length of the building. The main motion would make the setback dependent on building height, and what's around it.

The board votes favorable action on Article 6, 4--0.

Article 7 - Step Back Requirements in Business Districts

Mr. Benson proposes leaving the height of the step-back requirement as-is, so that it applies to the fourth story and above. Ms. Zsembery and Mr. Revilak agree. Mr. Lau would prefer to have the step-back start at the fifth story.

The board votes favorable action on Article 7, 3--1 (Mr. Lau voted in the negative).

Article 8 - Height and Story Minimums in Business Districts

This article would establish a two-story minimum height in the business districts.

Ms. Zsembery believes this article is about getting higher-value developments on the 4% land that's zoned for business uses. Mr. Revilak agrees: it's about encouraging higher value redevelopment that generates more tax revenue and reduces the need for overrides.

The board votes favorable action on Article 8, 4--0.

Article 9 - Corner Lot Requirements

Article 9 would allow corner lots to use the setback requirements of the district that the corner lot is a part of, rather than the setbacks of adjoining parcels, which may belong to different districts.

Mr. Revilak notes that section 5.3.16 allows the board to adjust yard setbacks during Environmental Design Review. He thinks this article codifies how the board has been making those adjustments.

The board votes favorable action on Article 9, 4--0.

Article 10 - Street Trees

Article 10 would apply the street tree planting standards to all new construction, substantial renovations, and redevelopment. The standards currently apply to B zones, but not R zones.

Mr. Revilak suggests a wording change to section 6.3.2, to make it clear that the tree standards apply to projects in all B and R districts, and are not limited to cases that come before the ARB or ZBA.

The board votes favorable action on Article 10, 4--0.

Article 11 - Residential Uses in Business Districts

Article 11 would remove single-family dwellings as an allowed use in the B districts.

The board votes favorable action on Article 11, 4--0.

Review Meeting Schedule

(Claire Ricker) Ms. Ricker says the board has a meeting scheduled on October 10, for the purpose of approving their report to town meeting. There's an additional warrant article hearing schedule for October 16th. She asks if the board wishes to have meetings scheduled before town meeting nights. The board is in favor of doing so, as it provides an opportunity to discuss late changes or amendments.

Meeting adjourned.