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Zoning-bylaw recodification process, from October into January

Arlington zoning map

UPDATED, Jan. 8: The latest public information about recodifying the town's zoning bylaws was made available Dec. 14. See links to documents here, and the main document here >>

Redevelopment Board logo, Jan. 23, 2013Word about the yearlong process aimed at making the bylaws easier to read moved ahead toward a February Special Town Meeting, with an ambitious public-outreach schedule beforehand, the Redevelopment Board learned Monday, Dec. 4.

Leading up to the Special Town Meeting, the Redevelopment Board, Zoning Recodification Working Group and Department of Planning and Community Development staff have scheduled several opportunities for the community to learn about the proposed zoning bylaw and the process of its development, and ask questions.

The schedule of meetings

Neighborhood meetings (all at 7 p.m.):

Wednesday, Jan. 17, Brackett School, Media Center

Thursday, Jan. 18, Thompson School, Media Center

Wednesday, Jan. 24, Peirce School, Media Center

Thursday, February 1, Hardy School, Media Center

Office Hours: Informal Q & A with planning staff and Zoning Recodification Working Group members: 5 to 7 p.m. Thursday, Jan. 4, first-floor conference room of Town Hall Annex.

The proposed zoning bylaw and supporting documents are available at or at the Department of Planning and Community Development, the town clerk's office and the Robbins Library reference desk.

What affected the schedule

At the Dec. 4 Redevelopoment Board meeting, John Worden asked, "What's the rush?" He is the former longtime Town Meeting moderator who was active in town when the bylaws were last changed, in 1975.

To be adopted, the bylaws need a two-thirds' vote of Town Meeting. Worden noted "lots of concern" among members. He asked why the board is "bulldozing" the effort in the middle of a holiday season."

Board member David Watson explained that after hearings in July and October, comments from the public led the Zoning Recodification Working Group to push out timeline out further, from a January Town Meeting to one a month later.

Worden asked whether extending the process another three months is "beyond the pale."

Board Chair Andrew Bunnell said he would like to see this important effort come before a Special Town Meeting, which would focus on only on this matter.

The concern to which Worden referred involves, in part, lack of trust in the community that the zoning bylaws would not only be made easier to read and understand, but that the substance of the zoning bylaws themselves might be altered.

Patricia Worden, John's spouse, has expressed this distrust publicly on the Arlington email list and in a letter to The Advocate, referring to the zoning-bylaw effort as a "pig in a poke," a phrase suggesting that something is sold without the buyer knowing its true nature.

Worden explained the phrase to board members, who appeared to know what it meant. One of them, Eugene Benson, called the phrase inaccurate. When this warrant goes out, all will have access to all changes," he said.

The board approved the proposed Special Town Meeting article, 4-0, as amended. Kin Lau was absent.

Jenny Raitt, director of planning and community development, said all groups involved in recodification believe they are ready to continue the process as scheduled to conclude at the Feb. 12 Special Town Meeting.

The latest revised documents are made public are expected to include all comments made at the October hearing as well as consultant feedback.

Redline document?

One suggestion made in October -- to have a "redline" document; that is, one showing all changes to the current zoning bylaws -- remains under discussion.

Steve Revilak, a member of the audience and a member of the Zoning Recodification Working Group, said thos einvolved have had to balance comments from October from those seeking more detail and those seeking less.

The town master plan adopted in 2015 recommended recodifying and updating the zoning bylaw to make it more clear, updated, and consistent. It stated that "As a first step in any zoning revisions following a new master plan, communities should focus on instituting a good regulatory foundation: structure, format, ease of navigation, updated language and definitions, and statutory and case law consistency."

Future Town Meetings will include opportunities to discuss and vote on substantive policy changes in support of the master plan. 

Comments and questions about the proposed zoning bylaw can be sent to zoningrecod[@] 

 Jan. 4, 2018, opinions: Two views of recodifying town bylaws
July-October 2017: Documents online as zoning-code forum held
Aug. 9, 2017: Let's fix our zoning recodification process

This news summary was published Tuesday, Dec. 5, 2017, and updated Dec. 20 and Jan. 8, 2018.

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