Inside Arlington

Experimental News Digest for Arlington, MA

Zoning Board of Appeals, January 23, 2024

9 Morton Road

The owners proposed to build a 10×20 accessory unit to be a backyard office and potentially a dwelling unit for a family member in the future. Due to the lot’s narrow width, the existing structure would be difficult to replace without infringing on the setback requirements. The owners initially applied for both a special permit and a variance to accommodate the structure.

Considerations and Board Discussion

The board deliberated on whether the structure qualifies as an Accessory Dwelling Unit (ADU) since it might be used primarily as an office rather than a residence. The presence of a kitchen would categorize it as a dwelling unit. Without a kitchen, it would be an accessory building, which must meet a 6-foot setback criterion. The board pondered if more detailed drawings were needed.

Continuance and Next Steps

After discussion and acknowledging the applicant’s flexibility to remove the ADU classification, the board decided to continue the hearing to discuss further with the zoning enforcement officer and to provide the applicant time to consider any modifications to their proposal. The next hearing date was set for February 13, 2024.

53 Lansdowne Road

The homeowners’ representative presented plans for demolishing an existing Cape-style residence at 53 Lansdowne Road and constructing a new two-and-a-half-story Colonial-style home. The team aimed to align with Arlington residential design guidelines and sought relief for reducing the front setback requirement.

Unique Lot Conditions and Setback Concerns

The property’s location on Lansdowne Road does not allow the use of section 5.3.10, a bylaw offering an average setback reduction for developed lots due to less than 50% of the block being developed. The applicants argued that because of this, their property is uniquely disadvantaged, constituting a hardship for the variance criteria. They also mentioned improvements to the dimensional setbacks and the plan to align with conformity more closely.

Board Deliberation and Public Comment

During board deliberation, members recognized the quality of the project but faced challenges interpreting the bylaw and identifying a unique hardship related to the lot that differs from the neighborhood’s general conditions. No members of the public commented.

Continuance and Council Consultation

The board decided to continue the hearing to consult with town council and the zoning enforcement officer to clarify the interpretation of the relevant bylaws and the potential avenues for granting a variance. The hearing was continued to February 13, 2024, and the applicants were invited to submit any supporting case law or other material that may aid in the board’s decision-making process.



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