Redevelopment Board logo, Jan. 23, 2013

UPDATED Oct. 16: The Arlington Redevelopment Board has approved unanimously the delivery of a slightly modified 44-page report, including 10 warrant articles, to Special Town Meeting, scheduled to start this this coming Tuesday, Oct. 17.

Also approved unanimously at that 70-minute ARB meeting on Tuesday, Oct. 10, was the planned disbanding of the MBTA Communities Working Group at the conclusion of Town Meeting, a date not yet known.

Six residents witnessed Chair Rachel Zsembery leading the discussion on the report the board intends to present at the beginning of Special Town Meeting. The report contains warrant articles that focus on zoning bylaw amendments on open space in business districts, corner lot requirements and the MBTA Communities overlay to allow by right multifamily housing, or apartments.

Zsembery told the three other board members that her intention was to discuss an overview of the report, then go article by article.

To see the finalized version of the document, look at this>>

 General comments were made about the introduction, zoning articles overview and the table of contents.

Gene Benson asked which articles would need a two-thirds majority vote versus a simple majority vote; Zsembery said town counsel would need be consulted for a legal opinion.

Next, each individual article was discussed, and small changes to wording were made. These generally included adding or subtracting a sentence or a paragraph in an effort to add more clarity and fine-tune the report in general.

To Article 12, about the MBTA Communities Overlay District, two paragraphs were added with the intention to highlight the differences between the working group’s plan and the board’s recommendations, and the reasoning behind them. 

Board member Steve Revilak suggested adding a paragraph that projected the potential number and range of parcels that could be developed over the next decade. His colleagues agreed and added it. 

 The new paragraph reads, "The proposal before Town Meeting has a capacity of 3,216 units on 115.6 acres. The multi-family district has approximately 1,981 existing dwellings, such that the difference between existing conditions and modeled capacity is approximately 1,235 units. If adopted, the board projects that 15 to 45 parcels would be redeveloped over the next 10 years, leading to a net increase of 50 to 200 new units."

A motion to deliver this amended report to Special Town Meeting was approved, 4-0, at the Oct. 10 meeting.

Contacted Monday, Oct. 16, Revilak explained: "The purpose of the paragraph is simply to summarize the multi-family district in the ARB's main motion for Article 12.  The board made a number of changes to the working-group proposal; these happened to reduce the district capacity, and the paragraph is just saying what the new capacity is. "

End of mission nears for working group

Claire Ricker, the town’s director of the Department of Planning and Community Development, mentioned conversations that she had had with working-group chair Sanjay Newton, discussing at which point the ad hoc group should be disbanded.

Ricker said they discussed disbanding at the start of Special Town Meeting.

However, Zsembery suggested, and Ricker agreed, that doing so at the conclusion of Town Meeting would make the most sense. A vote to disband the working group at the end of Special Town Meeting was approved, 4-0.

The ensuing public forum was brief but gave residents another chance to voice opinions.

Three people, three opinions

Jordan Weinstein, a Town Meeting member, said the MBTA Communities overlay as currently envisioned is excessive, large and unnecessary. He praised the board for its recent decision to reduce building heights for new apartment buildings in the Neighborhood District and to have parking there. However, overall, he said he was disappointed by the packaging of it and also its inclusion of what he considers to be social-justice messaging in order to correct injustices such as exclusionary zoning from half-a-century ago.

He added, “The state mandate has nothing to do with affordability,”

Chapter 3a or, in full, Section 3A of MGL c. 40A, contains no provision that any new multifamily housing apartment units built in future in rezoned areas be required to charge lower rent than market-price rent or otherwise specifically be reserved for those of lesser income.

Susan Stamps of the relatively recently created Green Streets Arlington organization, thanked the board for its hard work and being receptive to her group’s suggestions, such as 15-foot setbacks. However, she had a question about the environmental "bonus" that her group had requested to encourage developers to build climate resilience into the landscaping.. Her specific concern was with the ARB’s decision to use LEED Gold, instead of SITES, which is what the working group had sought to require developers to use. Stamps asked how LEED Gold could accomplish the desired climate resilience.

Kristin Anderson said, “I have spent a lot of time watching how this elegant sausage was made. And I’m really happy that the Redevelopment Board has chosen to protect existing businesses while creating pathways for future commercial growth in the Heights, the Center and in East Arlington. We need commercial growth to provide more in-town jobs and services to Arlington residents.”

As usual, board members did not respond to the public comments made.

Sept. 5, 2023: Is pot-shop application going to pot? Proposed business still on slow track after 4-plus years

This news summary by YourArlington freelance writer Tony Moschetto was published Friday, Oct. 13, 2023. It was updated Sunday, Oct. 15, 2023, to include the finalized version of the document at issue, and Monday, Oct. 16, to add a paragraph from the finalized version.