Inside Arlington

Experimental News Digest for Arlington, MA

Redevelopment Board, September 11, 2023

Establishment of an MBTA Community Zone
At its September 11 meeting, the Arlington Redevelopment Board reviewed the MBTA Communities draft map, the Working Group’s final report, and proposed amendments to the Zoning Bylaw that are necessary to comply with state guidelines.

The Working Group presented two alternatives for the MBTA Communities zone that it had developed over the past 10 months. The board commended the Working Group and the Department of Planning and Community Development for their comprehensive process and public engagement. The final recommendations and details are still to be reviewed and refined by the board and through public comment.

The committee discussed the transformative potential of the Working Group proposal, which would affect approximately 0.3% of Arlington. The proposal would primarily impact areas along Mass Ave and Broadway, and would not include any commercially zoned parcels.

The public was invited to comment, the hearing procedures were explained to the attendees, and it was clarified that the board would reserve deliberation and voting on each article until the last night of special Town Heeting hearings on October 2.

Discussion on Increasing Building Height
The committee discussed the possibility of increasing the maximum building height in the MBTA Community Zone from three to four stories. This decision was earmarked for further discussion after public comment.

Solar Bylaw Section
The committee discussed the solar bylaw section, which is currently limited to projects requiring Environmental Design Review. The committee considered whether this should be updated to include site plan reviews and whether this should apply to the Mass Ave and Broadway locations or also the neighborhood subdistrict.

Preferred Rating System for Sites
The committee discussed the preferred rating system for sites. They considered whether a specific rating system should be identified and whether a building should be certifiable rather than actually certified to qualify for a bonus of a full story.

Minimum Open Space Percentages
The committee discussed the derivation of minimum open space percentages. The open space is not part of the formal written zoning but is put into the model as a substitute for the space that would be carved out by the required setbacks.

Elimination of Landscaped Open Space
The committee discussed the elimination of the landscaped open space in the proposal. The committee expressed concerns that the current percentage does not guarantee any green space.

Affordable Housing Requirements
The committee discussed the affordable housing requirements. The current proposal states that any affordable housing requirements must be eligible for inclusion in the subsidized housing inventory.

The committee discussed the bonus for affordable housing. The current proposal limits the bonus to 10%, but the state guidance requires it to be at 80% of the Area Median Income (AMI).

Public Comments
The committee opened the floor for public comments. The committee expressed appreciation for the work that has gone into the proposal and expressed a desire to hear as many public comments as possible.

Housing Affordability Program
The committee held a public hearing to discuss the town’s housing affordability program and the proposed changes to zoning bylaws to allow for greater housing density near public transit. The meeting was attended by numerous residents who voiced their opinions on the matter.

Proposed Plan to Increase Population Density
The board discussed the proposed plan by a working group, which would increase the population density in town. The plan was met with mixed reactions from the community. The board assured attendees that all comments were being recorded and would be reviewed.

Housing Issue
The committee discussed the responsibility they felt towards the Town Meeting, which had initiated their current program. They agreed that if the Town Meeting felt their proposal was not ready, they could simply amend it or vote it down.

Items for Further Discussion and Research
The committee discussed a list of items that needed further discussion and research. These included evaluating the site’s rating standard, discussing parking and affordable housing requirements, reviewing site plan review requirements, and discussing the definition of multifamily housing.

Continuation of Public Hearing
The committee agreed to continue the public hearing for the fall 2023 special town meeting to September 18. The committee also planned to set a date for a short meeting to review and approve the Arlington Redevelopment Board report to the town meeting.



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