Redevelopment Board logo, Jan. 23, 2013From left, Arlington Redevelopment Board members Steve Revilak, Kin Lau, Rachel Zsembery and Gene Benson;  Planning and Community Development Director Claire Ricker; at the Oct. 3, 2023, ARB meeting. / Tony Moscetto photo

UPDATED Oct. 7: It was peaceful business as usual albeit late into Monday, Oct. 3, as the Arlington Redevelopment Board unanimously approved Article 12, the zoning bylaw regarding the MBTA Communities Overlay District, with several amendments.Articles 3, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10 and 11 were also approved; however, Article 4 got a unanimous vote of no action. 

Other than a few spirited exchanges among board members, this ARB meeting was in stark contrast to the one Sept. 11, to which the police had to be called to quell a brief eruption of unruliness once the public-comment session was halted.

Monday's meeting began at 7:30 p.m. with some 50 residents in attendance; by 11 p.m., when the vote for Article12 was taken, two-thirds had left; and by 11:30 p.m. when the meeting finally ended, only about half a dozen remained. 

Redevelopment Board logo, Jan. 23, 2013Director of Planning and Community Development, Claire Ricker presented the MBTA Working Group’s two alternatives, along with nine new scenarios.

Alternatives 1 and 2 were the same, but the scenarios were new.  Some examples of the scenarios focused on acreage, unit capacity and units per acre; one was for three stories instead of four. Another scenario was one parking space, and yet another called for removal of parcels along Massachusetts Avenue east of Orvis Road from the overlay. 

Board Chair Rachel Zsembery opened things up for discussion. When the vote was taken, Article 12 was approved with amendments as follows:

Buildings in the Neighborhood multi-family district – encompassing areas neither on Mass. Ave. nor Broadway – will have a height limit of three stories and 35 feet. 

A minimum of one parking space will be allowed per dwelling unit.

The Board decided on the second of two previous choices regarding the zoning for the Arlington Heights (west Arlington) neighborhood, in an area north of Mass. Ave., a total of 115 acres,  and an estimated potential of 7,400 units and up to 65 units per acre.

As ARB member Steve Revilak mentioned in notes that he prepares/provides as a public service, along with this PDF of a 31-slide presentation, the ARB chose a modified scenario 3A, which consisted of removing eight parcels from the Neighborhood multifamily district, all of which were adjacent to very narrow B district parcels, and widening the Neighborhood multifamily district overall.

Being required to rezone a minimum percentage of acreage in each Eastern Massachusetts municipality to allow by right multifamily housing, or apartments – those communities served by public transportation, hence the moniker MBTA Communities – is an effort to provide additional housing. Arlington's current plan calls for rezoning more than triple the 32-acre minimum required by state law.

The matter is set to go to Special Town Meeting starting Oct. 17.

According to the town website, the ARB's purpose is as follows: 

"The Arlington Redevelopment Board (ARB) is the Town’s Planning Board, under M.G.L. Chapter 41 § 81, and serves as the Town’s special permit granting authority for projects which require an Environmental Design Review (EDR) as identified in the Zoning Bylaw. The ARB’s goal is to guide the physical growth and development of the Town of Arlington through adoption and implementation of a master plan, proposing and considering citizen petitions for zoning bylaw amendments, proposing regulations, rules and plans to implement the Master Plan, and applying those bylaws, regulations and rules. Additionally, the ARB serves as a special permit granting authority. 

Sept. 17, 2023: ARB, MTBA Working Group, residents speak out at Sept. 11 meeting in Town Hall

This news summary by YourArlington freelancer Tony Moschetto was published Wednesday, Oct. 4, 2023. It was updated Saturday, Oct. 7, 2023, to add a photograph taken by Moschetto at the Tuesday, Oct. 3, 2023, meeting of the Arlington Redevelopment Board.