Inside Arlington

Experimental News Digest for Arlington, MA

Town Meeting, May 06, 2024

Article 30: Zoning Bylaw Amendment, Shading Parking Lots

Amendment of Zoning Bylaw

This article, proposed by Susan Stamps, sought to amend zoning bylaws to require shade in parking lots with more than 25 spaces by using trees and/or solar panels. The amendment aimed to mitigate the heat island effect and contribute to a more livable environment. It was specified that this would only apply to new parking lots or lots expanded to more than 25 spaces, and would not affect existing ones.

Considerations and Board Opinions

The proposed amendment had a mixed reception from the Arlington Redevelopment Board (ARB). Some board members believed the requirement would add to the town’s tree canopy on private property, while others felt it was overly prescriptive and could burden developers. The ARB ultimately voted 3 to 2 recommending favorable action on the article.

Details of Planned Shading

The amendment detailed the planting of one tree per eight parking spaces, ensuring each space was no more than 32ft from a tree. Alternatively, solar canopies covering at least 50% of their location in the parking lot could be used. Provisions were included for tree selection and maintenance, emphasizing contractor responsibility.

Example of Application

Using the Whole Foods parking lot as an example, proponents showed a simulated outcome had the bylaw been in place at its construction. The simulation included shade trees and solar panels, suggesting that few if any parking spaces would be lost due to the 8% landscaping area already required in large lots.

Support and Concerns

Supporters of the amendment praised its potential environmental benefits and saw it as an innovative way to generate revenue from solar energy while creating better parking lot experiences for users. Concerns were raised about whether it might limit new commercial developments and the possible challenges in implementing shading in lots with irregular sizes.

Outcome of the Vote

An amendment by Susan Stamps to clarify the application of the shading requirement was passed with 185 affirmative votes. Subsequently, the main motion for Article 30, as amended by Stamps, was also passed, requiring more than two-thirds majority with 184 affirmative votes. This concluded the session on Article 30.



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