MBTA Communities Working Group - Sep 5th, 2023

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Meeting held via remote participation. Materials were available from https://www.arlingtonma.gov/Home/Components/Calendar/Event/32739/.

Approve meeting summaries from prior meetings

The working group approved minutes from their August 29, 2023 meeting by a vote of 4--0--2 (Ms. Aamodt and Mr. Lau abstained).

Working Group report

(Sanjay Newton, WG Chair) Mr. Newton says he's received edits from many members of the working group. The final report is approximately 35 pages plus appendices. He thinks it's a good piece of work which explains the process and the thinking behind the proposed multi-family district. Mr. Newton says there's still a placeholder section, to incorporate comments from the DEI Division.

(Vince Baudoin, WG) Mr. Baudoin thinks the DEI memo is very content heavy, and perhaps more than this working group is qualified to adopt.

(Steve Revilak, WG) Mr. Revilak appreciates the DEI department's memo. He thinks it's a good reminder that these zoning changes are just one piece in a complex puzzle of policies needed to address our regional housing challenges. He's prepared to offer a motion for the affirmative vote requested in the DEI memo.

(Mette Aamodt, WG) Ms. Aamodt thanks Mr. Newton for his work on the final report. She thinks the DEI memo is really informative, but that it's arriving late for inclusion. She doesn't think the working group has a mandate to endorse it, and would like more time to absorb what it says.

(Shaina Korman-Houston, WG) Ms. Korman-Houston doesn't feel like she has the ability to make specific recommendations at this time.

(Sanjay Newton) Mr. Newton doesn't want to ask the working group to endorse the entire set of policies listed in the DEI memo, and he agrees that understanding them is beyond the scope of the what we were tasked to do. He agrees with Mr. Revilak's statement about the zoning changes being one piece of a bigger puzzle.

(Steve Revilak) After discussion with the working group, Mr. Revilak motions that the Working Group affirms that the MBTA Communities legislation is one piece in a complex puzzle, and that other actions and policies -- such as those listed in Arlington's Equity Audit and Fair Housing Action Plan -- are needed to address the region's housing challenges.

Motion passes, 6--0.

(Kin Lau, WG) Mr. Lau would like to know how the capacity would change if we required a minimum of one parking space per dwelling. He thinks this will be a useful piece of information to have for Monday's ARB meeting.

(Sanjay Newton) Mr. Newton agrees that would be reasonable piece of information to have.

(Kin Lau) Mr. Lau is concerned about the percentage of affordable units required for the affordable housing bonus. When he did development, the rule of thumb was that you needed three market-rate units to cover the cost of an affordable unit. He's concerned that the 22.5% and 25% requirements will be too high to pencil out.

(Vince Baudoin) Mr. Baudoin says that those calculations are based on assumptions. Ms. Korman-Houston and Ms. Wiener figured out something that they felt would work, and he believes them. He thinks that the bonus requirements should be an easy thing to tweak in the future.

(Sanjay Newton) Mr. Newton says he thought the affordability bonus assumed that the incremental cost to add one or two stories was less than the cost to build the first three.

(Shaina Korman-Houston) Ms. Korman-Houston says that assumption was correct.

(Kin Lau) Mr. Lau notes that Cambridge's affordability requirements have a sliding scale, where larger buildings require a greater percentage of affordable units. For him, the three-to-one ratio is important for having projects pencil out.

(Mette Aamodt) Ms. Aamodt also has concerns about whether the affordability bonus requirements are too high.

(Steve Revilak) Mr. Revilak notes that a three-to-one ratio is 25%, which matches the top tier of the affordability bonus. He believes the bonus satisfies the ratio Mr. Lau is looking for.

(Vince Baudoin) Mr. Baudoin thinks the bonus won't get used if the requirements are too high. If that turns out to be the case, we can change them in the future.

(Shaina Korman-Houston) Ms. Korman-Houston agrees that there's a balance. She'd talked to a few market rate developers in order to check her assumptions, and she's happy to share them with Mr. Lau. She was also wondering if we could top Cambridge's requirements. Ms. Korman-Houston says that Newton recently updated their inclusionary zoning requirements; they're requiring 35% affordable for larger projects, but less for smaller ones. She says the affordability bonus basically matches up with what Newton requires for smaller projects.

(Kin Lau) Mr. Lau would like to have a look at Ms. Korman-Houston's assumptions. He thinks we can leave the affordability percentages as they are for now.

(Sanjay Newton) Mr. Newton says that one of the report appendices includes all of the map iterations, so that people can see how the proposal changed over time. Other appendices include recommendations from the Equity Audit and Fair Housing Action Plan, along with a SITES scorecard.

(Vince Baudoin) Mr. Baudoin noticed a few typos, and will send these to Mr. Newton for correction.

There's a motion to approve the Working Group's final report, with the provision that minor corrections to spelling and grammar can be made before the report's publication.

Motion passes, 6--0.

Designate approval of 9/5 minutes

(Sanjay Newton) Mr. Newton notes that the working group doesn't have any meetings scheduled after tonight. He suggests that the working group appoint someone to approve the minutes from tonight's meeting, so they can be posted to the town website.

(Mette Aamodt) Ms. Aamodt motions that Mr. Newton be authorized to approve the minutes from tonight's meeting.

Motion passes, 6--0.

Discuss ARB meeting prep

(Claire Ricker, Planning Director) Ms. Ricker says she'll notice a working group meeting for the same time as the September 11th ARB meeting, so that working group members will be free to attend the ARB hearing. The ARB is meeting at town hall, from 7:30 to 10:30 pm.

(Sanjay Newton) Mr. Newton acknowledges all of the work that people in this group have done. He's excited to see the proposal moving forward.

Meeting adjourned.