Zoning Board of Appeals - May 18th, 2021

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Meeting held via remote participation. Materials were available from https://arlington.novusagenda.com/agendapublic/DisplayAgendaPDF.ashx?MeetingID=1343.

Comprehensive Permit - 1165R Mass Ave

(Mary Winstanley O'Connor, Attorney for the petitioner) Ms. Winstanley O'Connor thanks the ZBA and town for their work, and the neighbors and BETA for their input. Her team has reached an agreement with the Conservation Commission regarding the Ryder Brook relocation. Site civil issues have been resolved to BETA's satisfaction. The fire access issues are resolved. Most traffic access issues are resolved.

Alex Tee wrote a letter to board raising two issues. First was his belief that the parking data was insufficient, and that a lease restriction was necessary to prevent people from parking in Ryder street. The second issue involves the Ryder Street lane configuration. The street is not wide enough to stripe traffic in two directions, due to on-street parking and an existing encroachment. The traffic impact studies indicate there will be no increase in the number of peak hour trips.

There were some questions about utility poles. If the utility company cannot move them, then we'll propose a sidewalk bump out to provide handicapped access around the pole.

The petitioners have addressed Attorney Annese's concerns (he's an abutter). The Mass Ave driveway will be entrance-only for this apartment, and the Ryder Street driveway will be exit only.

Ms. Winstanley O'Connor notes there were questions raised about parking within 25' of Mill Brook, and she's provided a memo to the board detailing why these spaces are required.

They're planning a reduction of 130--126 units, which will be explained later in the presentation. They're proposing to reconfigure the parking garage layout. This will require eight compact spaces, which the board has the authority to allow.

(Randy Miron, Bohler) Mr. Bohler starts by describing fire department access. They've analyzed this using the fire department's largest piece of equipment, which is a ladder truck. The truck would enter on Mass Ave, cross the bridge over Mill Brook, and exit on Ryder Street. They'd propose a "No Parking Here to Corner" restriction where Ryder Street meets the driveway, to ensure adequate turn clearance. They're also proposing striping, signage, striping, sharrows, and directional signage.

Eversource and Verizon say that it will be nearly impossible to move the telephone pole by the Mass Ave driveway, so the plan is to leave it in place. But they will take measures to make the pole more visible.

The utility pole near building two also cannot be moved, and they plan to "notch" the building around it.

(Bill McGrath, BETA (peer review firm)) Mr. McGrath believes all of the changes are positive. The relocation of Ryder Brook enhances the site, and he has no further comments from a civil engineering or stormwater perspective. The applicants will need to develop a construction management plan in the future.

(Joel Bargmann, Architect) Mr. Bargmann begins by explaining the change from 130 to 124 units. The Ryder Brook relocation required them to move a ramp leading up to the second floor of the garage. The right corner of building four was pulled back 30', to bring it farther away from the property line. They've also removed a corridor, allowing the private courtyard to be enlarged. They've notched out a corner of the building to provide 10' clearance around the existing utility pole, and shortened and articulated the arcade along the Mass Ave Driveway. There are improvements to the outdoor spaces, and a larger main entrance. They've made several changes to exterior materials for a more residential look. Put together, these reduced the interior area of the building by 15,000 square feet. The number of parking spaces decreased from 135 to 128, and there are still 44 spaces for bicycles.

(Bill McGrath, BETA) Mr. McGrath asks how runoff from the new exterior parking spaces will be handled.

(Randy Miron) Mr. Miron says it will be drained as part of the garage.

(Christian Klein, ZBA Chair) Mr. Klein asks about the slope of the private courtyard.

(?) The private courtyard will have a 1:20 pitch.

(Pat Hanlon, ZBA) Mr. Hanlon asks if the petitioners can provide a copy of their slide presentation, so it can be included in the public record.

(Bryan Zimolka, Traffic Engineer) Mr. Zimolka says most of the traffic changes were made in response to previous comments.

(Greg Lucas, BETA) Mr. Lucas said BETA asked for additional data regarding parking demand. The new data confirmed the earlier conclusions, and he believes the project will meet parking demands. He has no outstanding issues for review.

(Mary Winstanley O'Connor) Ms. Winstanley O'Connor has nothing to add. She's excited about the project.

(Kevin Mills, ZBA) Mr. Mills asks how tenant parking regulations will be enforced.

(Mary Winstanley O'Connor) Ms. Winstanley O'Connor advises the residents to report parking violations to property management. Violation will be subject to lease termination.

(Christian Klein) Mr. Klein has a question about bicycle access on the Ryder Street driveway. They're proposing two way sharrows and one way vehicle traffic. He asks if that configuration has been used before.

(Bryan Zimolka) Mr. Zimolka says that kind of driveway configuration has been used before.

(Christian Klein) Mr. Klein asks if there's room for separate bicycle lanes.

(Bryan Zimolka) Mr. Zimolka says the driveway isn't wide enough for separate bicycle lanes.

(Greg Lucas) Mr. Lucas agrees with Mr. Zimolka.

(Christian Klein) Mr. Klein suggests striping, to accent the "no parking here to corner" sign.

The chair opens the hearing to public comment.

(Steve Moore) Mr. Moore asks about access to the Minuteman Bikeway.

(Randy Zimolka) Mr. Zimolka says cyclists will access the Minuteman by traveling north on Ryder Street. They're planning to have signs and striping. Otherwise, access will remain as it is.

(Steve Moore) Mr. Moore believes there will be bicycle traffic on and off the Minuteman. He wants to make sure the proponents consider bicycle traffic.

(Alex Tee) Mr. Tee appreciates the additional parking data. He asks how much risk there will be for overflow parking on Ryder Street. What if those assumptions don't hold true? He thinks that policing on-street parking will be a burden on residents.

(Bryan Zimolka) Mr. Zimolka reiterates that they've done numerous parking studies, and have researched parking demand at nearby apartment complexes. The proposed apartment will have a transportation coordinator on staff.

(Mary Winstanley O'Connor) Ms. Winstanley O'Connor says they cannot tow tenant vehicles from Ryder Street right of way as a matter of law. That land is owned by the town of Arlington. She says that nothing is foolproof, but she feels confident in their data. A call to the property manager should resolve parking situations.

(Greg Lucas) Mr. Lucas says that parking spaces will be leased, so there is control over the number of tenants that lease them.

(Pat Hanlon) Mr. Hanlon asks if anyone has asked the town about parking enforcement on the property that they control.

(Alex Tee) Mr. Tee says he's reached out to the town manager, but has yet to hear back.

(Roger Dupont, ZBA) Mr. Dupont agrees that the apartment owners and residents don't have the right to tow, as a matter of law. He asks if the leases could include language that explicitly gives the apartment owners the right to tow.

(Mary Winstanley O'Connor) Ms. Winstanley O'Connor says the town would have to consent, because they own the right of way.

(Paul Haverty) Mr. Haverty advises the applicants that any lease provisions should be run by the subsidizing agency, because they would affect residents of affordable housing. He says the board doesn't need to require specific conditions here; for example, they could require that enforcement provisions be reviewed.

(Mariah Contreras) Ms. Contreras thinks it's a lousy moral position to report a parking violation, knowing that the violation could result in someone's lease being terminated. She thinks that's very off-putting. She's concerned more about guest parking. Where will guests park? Even a little bit of overflow parking disrupts things. She echoes earlier concerns about cyclists riding to the Minuteman Bikeway. She doesn't think cyclists have been adequately considered. She thinks the removal of four parking spaces from the Ryder Street driveway will help. She asks why they're so important.

(Mary Winstanley O'Connor) Ms. Winstanley O'Connor says those four spaces were included in the parking ratio calculation. Their traffic engineer has testified to the effect that their location was okay. The applicants do not have any authority to make improvements on the north section of Ryder Street. She thinks parcels along that section of the street will be developed at some point, and whoever does that development will have to deal with issues there.

(Christian Klein) Mr. Klein asks about guest parking.

(Mary Winstanley O'Connor) Ms. Winstanley O'Connor says that guests will have to park on Mass Ave.

(Mariah Contreras) Ms. Contreras asks the applications to think about the number of cyclists and pedestrians that will be added to the area. She's concerned they'll be encouraged to visit Mill Brook. They don't live there. They'll enter Ryder Street. What will their commute look like? How many will there be? She doesn't how the applicants are caring for their experiences.

(Mary Winstanley O'Connor) Ms. Winstanley O'Connor believes that pedestrians will come down the sidewalk, and we've already discussed the Minuteman.

(Christian Klein) Mr. Klein asks if the planning department has looked at mobility in this area.

(Kelly Lynema, Planning Department) Ms. Lynema says they haven't looked at this area specifically. In the next couple of days, the department will put out an RFP for study and improvements to the Minuteman Bikeway. This is being done with CPA funds, in conjunction with the Bicycle Advisory Committee.

(Nicole Weber) Ms. Weber is concerned about safety. Ryder Street is a migration corridor for middle school students. She wants the town to think about this. She'd feel unsafe entering the street against traffic. She asks if older trees on the site will be left alone, and if the applicants are planning to use pervious services. There was a height reduction mentioned earlier -- how will that affect shading and shadows? She asks what a parking waiver is, and what does that mean.

(Christian Klein) Mr. Klein asks where middle school students cross the street.

(Steve Revilak) During non pandemic times, Mr. Revilak cycles to work along this stretch of Mass Ave. He usually sees students crossing by the Appleton Street intersection, where there's a school crossing guard.

(Christian Klein) Mr. Klein asks the applicants if they can speak to existing trees on the lot.

(Randy Miron) Mr. Miron says the old trees across Mill Brook are not on their property, and will not be removed. As far as surface drainage, the current site sheet flows onto Mill Brook. The new stormwater management system should substantially reduce untreated runoff. The system will treat runoff, before releasing it to Mill Brook.

(Joel Bargmann) Mr. Bargmann says the building height changed around the private courtyard on the east side of the property; it's the side opposite Ryder Street. There wasn't an overall reduction in height.

(Mary Winstanley O'Connor) Ms. Winstanley O'Connor states that this project will not increase peak hour traffic on Ryder Street, and the applicants have no control over what the businesses on the north side of Ryder Street do.

(Nicole Weber) Ms. Weber asks if any pesticides will be used. She asks why there isn't a gray water system.

(Susan Chapnick, Conservation Commission) Ms. Chapnick says the Conservation Commission prohibits the use of pesticides in resource areas as a standard permit condition. Pesticide use will not be permitted.

(Randy Miron) Mr. Miron isn't sure how the irrigation system will work. He says that's a question for Kyle Zick, who isn't here tonight. (I believe Mr. Zick is the project's landscape architect).

(Laura Krause, BETA) Ms. Krause says the applicants won't irrigate Ryder brook. They'll have to select plants that can survive with the natural water levels.

(Pat Hanlon) Mr. Hanlon asks what the peak hour traffic is, and how it's calculated.

(Bryan Zimolka) Mr. Zimolka says that peak traffic measurements are calculated between 7:00 - 9:00 am, and 4:00 - 6:00 pm. These are standard periods for traffic engineering. The hour with the peak traffic is the peak traffic hour. They don't expect project-related traffic during the afternoon, when the middle school lets out. Existing traffic flows in during the morning. With the apartment, it will flow out.

(Pat Hanlon) Mr. Hanlon wants to ensure the traffic won't create a danger to kids.

There's more discussion about the peak traffic measurements. In summary, we don't expect the number of trips during peak hour to change, but the peak-hour traffic will go in the opposite direction.

(Ann LeRoyer) Ms. LeRoyer says that Pierce Street, Ryder Street, and Mass Ave have a lot of traffic. Not all of the kids cross where the crossing guard is stationed. Students leave Ottoson between 2:00 and 4:00 in the afternoon. Where will overnight visitors park? She's concerned about the safety of pedestrians and cyclists. People speed through Mass Ave, and cars have driven in to the laundromat on the corner.

(Christian Klein) Mr. Klein says there's a working group who's investigating improvements to the intersection of Mass Ave and Appleton street. He asks if they'll be looking at the Forest Street/Mass Ave intersection as well.

(Kelly Lynema) Ms. Lynema says yes. While the intersection of Mass Ave and Appleton Street was the original focus, the group has expanded the area of study to include nearby intersections. She believes they're meeting next Thursday evening.

(Mary Winstanley O'Connor) Ms. Winstanley O'Connor says they're not providing any overnight guest parking spaces. Overnight guests will have to find off-site parking arrangements.

There's discussion about whether a guest could request an overnight waiver to park on Mass Ave. No one is sure how this would be handled.

(Christian Klein) Mr. Klein says he'll ask the Select Board how overnight parking waivers would be treated. He acknowledges that there are number of traffic issues in this area which deserve to be addressed. But many of them are outside the scope of this project.

(Steve Moore) Mr. Moore applauds the applicants for adding an extensive amount of landscaping, and their efforts to maintain existing trees. He suggests planting large shade trees, in preference to smaller ornamental ones.

(Laura Krause) Ms. Krause says the planting plans include some ornamental trees, but the majority are large shade trees.

(Peter Maradianos) Mr. Maradianos thinks that people will drive down Beck Road if there is a traffic jam. He thinks that tenants should have stickers on their car, so it's easy to identify them. He thinks that drivers are going to ignore the signs. The DPW moved their recycling facility to Ryder street; their trucks come and go. Were they counted? The DPW's recycling program causes traffic jams. They expect 240 people to come to a recycling event, and that's a lot of traffic. He wants more enforcement, and the ability to track tenants that make a right turn on Ryder St, and drive down Beck.

(Pat Hanlon) Mr. Hanlon says there are numerous studies being done in this area and he senses that residents might be interested in them. He asks if there's any way to steer residents towards the groups doing the work, or to keep them informed of the efforts.

(Kelly Lynema) Ms. Lynema says she can put residents in touch with Dan Amstutz, the town's transportation planner. She'd like to add interested residents to the planning department's contact lists. All of these efforts are advertised through the town notices mailing list. She encourages interested residents to sign up for town notices via the town's website.

(Steve Moore) Mr. Moore suggests that people review the town's annual report, which lists most of the significant projects going on in town.

(Mariah Contreras) Ms. Contreras says this project will create 126 apartments and cause an influx of new residents. We haven't talked about the developer's responsibilities to those new residents. She's concerned about the long-term responsibility and accountability of the property owners. She wants applicants to think about what the daily life of tenants will look like. She's concerned that the status quo is not acceptable in any way. She sits at her window every day and worries about things she has no control over. It's not safe here.

There are no further comments from the public.

(Christian Klein) Mr. Klein asks the board members what additional information they need in order to make a decision.

(Pat Hanlon) Mr. Hanlon would like the applicants to think about overnight guest parking. The town's overnight parking ban creates a problem here, but that ban has been in place for a long time, and it's likely to remain in place for a long time.

(Christian Klein) Mr. Klein feels that utility poles near the right of way are a point of concern. He'd like information on how they can be made more visible and more crash worthy. Perhaps "Left turn only" could be painted on the speed table where the west driveway intersects Ryder Street.

(Pat Hanlon) Mr. Hanlon says the board will need an updated waiver request. It would be nice to finish the hearings soon, and start thinking about the end game.

(Laura Krause) Mr. Krause says she's still waiting for a few wetlands comments to be addressed in writing.

(Paul Haverty) Mr. Haverty says he'll start writing a draft decision, but it may not be ready in time for the next hearing on June 1st.

The board votes to continue the hearing on June 1st at 7:30pm.

Upcoming Board Dates

  • 5/25. 83 Palmer Street and 34 Marathon.
  • 6/1. 1165R Mass Ave hearing
  • 6/10. Thorndike place hearing.
  • 6/25. Close of Thorndike Place public hearing
  • 7/2. Close of 1165R Mass Ave public hearing.

Meeting adjourned.