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Further traffic study puts off Heights hotel plan to Aug. 17

Redevelopment Board logo, Jan. 23, 2013
“We need to make decisions soon.”

-- Andrew Bunnell

UPDATED: Watching Monday's Redevelopment Board meeting was seeing the changing faces of Mass. Ave. developments in Arlington. The variety of expressions reflect the complexities in moving projects forward.

As many as 50 people saw the board continue to deal with the many questions raised by hotel in the Heights, proposed for nearly a year, and put the project on hold pending further traffic and shadows studies until the Aug. 17 meeting.

Board members met a revamped project planned for across from Arlington High School with praise and concern, and its developers expect to return July 20. This hearing will be reported separately.

Both projects drew questions about stepback provisions of town zoning, as many residents targeted their own issues.

Further board questions lodged about the proposed Hotel Lexington, at 1207-11 Mass. Ave., drew objections from James Doherty, the developer and a former member of the town Board of Assessors.

Calls latest plea 'unrealistic'

He said he thought requested changes to the stepback – that is, how far the top level of the hotel must be set back -- had been addressed in May. He called the latest plea “unrealistic,” saying he had spent “a tremendous amount of revenue” on this issue.

Board Chair Andrew Bunnell, who said he likes the hotel plan and understands the economic pressures involved, said he hopes to learn more about traffic issues from the Transportation Advisory Committee . “We need to make decisions soon,” he said.

hotel mockup, Lincoln ArchitectsHotel mockup, Mass. Ave. eastbound. / Lincoln Architects

Mary Winstanley O'Connor, the attorney for Doherty, discussed parking and traffic, among other issues.

She said that under the bylaw, the hotel is required to have 50 spaces. The project has 24 spaces onsite to be used only by overnight guests. The hotel plan has 48 percent of the 50 spaces required and more than the number of spaces a mixed-use project maybe required to have. The plan allows for employee parking, with 11 spaces at other locations.

Spaces are primarily for overnight guests, with no space for a tour bus. The latter is to be parked at a service center along Route 128 near Route 2 in Lexington.

As to traffic, the developer's study counted 52 vehicles in the in morning and 57 after that, for a net increase of one added trip every three minutes. Requested is a flashing light at Appleton Street following a fatal car-cyclist accident in May.

February data

Later, board member Dave Watson noted that the MassDOT traffic data was recorded in February, when temperatures were in the 20s. He asked that the Select Board's Transportation Advisory Committee consider the data, as well as other data abut Lowell Street. That panel's ability to do this in a timely way helped put off the next hotel presentation to Aug. 17.

Board member Gene Benson raised questions about two similar-sounding terms, setback and stepback.

He said the former, referring to how far the proposed hotel be from Clark Street, should be 20 feet in an R-2 zone. He asked O'Connor why this case should be an exception, but she declined to say, and he said he would have to disagree with her view.

As to a stepback, he asked O'Connor for a citation supporting the bylaw, and she said she would get it. Watson said he shares Benson's concern about the stepback.

Watson asked about visibility on Clark for vehicles and pedestrians, and he cited the large trash truck shown in the presentation. Doherty called the slope is modest, and the truck the largest vehicle to enter site.

Adam Darlow, of 6 Clark, across from the parking lot, said that the 29 feet allowed might put a big truck “right on our front lawn.”

Shadow study

Board member Kin Lau said he had asked for illustrations of elevations of the surrounding neighborhood in May, and he was asking again..

Board Chair Andrew Bunnell asked planning Director Jenny Raitt whether a shadow study could be done in her department, and she thought it could.

Fifteen residents provided comment. Among them was Don Seltzer, of Irving Street, who commented about noted differing parking requirements because the planned hotel is in two zones, B4 and B5. He also tried to show shadow illustrations, but his three minutes were up, and Bunnell cut him off.

Ben Rudick, Steve Revilak and Barbara Thornton praised the project.

A number of neighbors raised questions. Ann LeRoyer asked that the numerous children in the area be considered.

Chris Loreti, a persistent critic of the project, provided testimony following the hearing, raising two points related to the draft minutes for the May 18 hearing. They are summarized here:

  • He asks that the record include Town Meeting testimony of Bunnell and then-colleague Mike Cayer, “in which they stated clearly that individual uses not allowed within a particular zoning district could not be permitted as part of a mixed use development.”
  • After recounting exchanges involving Benson and Town Counsel Doug Heim, Loreti suggests the ARB seek outside counsel counsel to address the question of how a prohibited use can be allowed as part of a mixed-use development.

A summary of the hearing about 882-892 Mass. Ave. will have a separate report.


May 19, 2020: Mass. Ave., hotel developers told to come back in July

May 3, 2020: Toraya closes as 22-apartment project planned for block
Jan. 30, 2020: Proposed Heights hotel-restaurant draws opposition
July 26, 2019: Hearing held for town's 2nd hotel proposed near Heights
March 11, 2015: Articles to regulate signs, sell DAV, support master plan supported

Nov. 26, 2014: Short-term tenancy for former DAV could lead to co-working

This news summary was published Wednesday, July 8, 2020. It was updated the same day, to clarify parking figures.

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