ACMi-21
Media partner

Site stats: May traffic | Cambridge Day: News >> 

Your View

Your View is the place for opinion at YourArlington.com. It is the site's only blog. Please submit your opinions to be considered for publication on this site. The best opinions are those supported by facts. You cannot expect to be published if your views lack factual support or if you make personal attacks. For your views to be published, your full, real name is required.
3 minutes reading time (612 words)

Another way to look at E. Arlington impact of MBTA guidelines

UPDATED Feb. 24: Stephen A. Revilak offers the following viewpoint about zoning requirements for MBTA communities. He is a member of the Redevelopment Board, but these are his own opinions as a town resident, and he represents no group. Note that the Redevelopment Board plans to discuss this issue at its Feb. 28 meeting. Agenda >>

Arlington vua Google Earth: Your Town, Your Future

Massachusetts's 2020 Economic Stimulus Bill contained a set of multifamily zoning requirements for MBTA communities. The new law requires communities served by the MBTA to zone for more housing around transit stations, and brings the potential to address two of our most pressing regional challenges: a shortage of housing in the greater Boston area, and roadway congestion caused by automobile traffic. Arlington is an MBTA community and we'll have to make a choice between complying or losing access to certain sources of state funding.

The Massachusetts Department of Housing and Community Development has published a set of guidelines for compliance. Although the guidelines are still in draft form (and DHCD is soliciting public comment), I think it's worthwhile to start going through the exercise of considering what Arlington's MBTA district might look like. 

Not the only option

An earlier opinion piece, by resident Don Seltzer, opined that Arlington would have to allow high-rise apartments in East Arlington by right. While that's certainly one path to compliance, I believe it's far from the only option available. I'd like to share my thought process of figuring out what an MBTA district might look like, in the spirit of fostering more constructive dialogue.

I started with the capacity requirements (Section 5b in the draft guidance). Arlington is considered a "Rapid Transit Community," and our MBTA zone will need to accommodate a maximum capacity of 5,115 dwellings. I'd like to emphasize that this is not a mandate to construct 5,115 new dwellings -- it's simply the number of dwellings that the newly created zone has to allow for.

Next, I considered the density requirement of 15 dwellings per acre (Section 1). At that density, one could fit 5,115 dwellings into 341 acres, or 0.53 square miles. Finally, I looked at the requirement for "multifamily" (Section 2), which essentially boils down to allowing three dwellings per parcel. That is my basic starting framework: approximately half a square mile of triple-deckers.  It's quite possible that Arlington could do with a lesser number of acres, as East Arlington lots tend to be on the smaller side.  

Alewife T is in Cambridge

Finally, there's the matter of where the district is located. The Alewife T station is outside Arlington's borders, and the immediate vicinity contains both wetlands and public parks. Section 8b of the guidelines offers flexibility for this situation: Some of the district should be within within 0.5 miles of the train station, but parts can be farther away, as long as they're "easily accessible to the transit station based on existing street patterns and pedestrian connections." By my reading, there's nothing that requires the entire MBTA district to be located within 0.5 miles of a transit station.

Ultimately, I believe we'll be able to define a district that satisfies the new requirements and fits the fabric of East Arlington; we have options and shouldn't be afraid to explore them. At the very least, we should treat this as an opportunity to address the regional need for housing, and to encourage a shift away from single-occupancy vehicle trips. 


Feb. 2, 2022: MBTA zoning guide could revamp East Arlington, writer says


This viewpoint was published Monday, Feb. 14, 2022, and updated Feb. 24, to add link for Feb. 28 meeting. 

Do you agree? Disagree? Let the public know by posting your comments in the window below. You must include your full name.
Town of Arlington to LGBTQIA+ students: You belong
 

Comments

Guest - Grant Cook on Monday, 14 February 2022 10:41
Finding a way for multi-family homes is important

I think it is also worth noting the spirit of the law - which guides the formulation of these regulations. We are in a housing crisis - in Arlington, even a well-kept up Cape could sell for close to $1 million dollars, and the concept of a starter home is often a shill for pointing at a lower price while ignoring the significant renovation costs required to make the home viable for a new family. I have friends, not developers, that bought some of those smaller homes in prior years, and even they eventually expanded, built upon the foundation, to create a more larger, more appropriate property for today's world as their home.

We are seeing price appreciation due to scarcity. One of the reasons for that iconic scarcity is our towns decision, made and enacted over years to prevent the construction of multi-family homes - they are zoned out, regulated out, of viability. Our current zoning map has some multi-family, enclaves of fenced zones mostly enacted due to an multi-family building already being there. Most other land was locked into R0-2 (single or two family zones). We have gone out of our way to create a zone R0 - for single family LARGE LOT - and to diminish the zones of 3 or more family units. We have people opposing housing development living in homes with a density of 4 people per ACRE worried about the prospect of 15 units per acre. I think today's needs require us to do better serving the needs our neighbors and those that would be our neighbors.

The state is asking for us to create an area where multi-family units could exist. It has to be large enough to be impactful, to be a community. Those units don't have to be built in any time frame, if ever - they just have to be allowed. I believe if we put as much effort into creating this potential in our town as our predecessors worked to stifle it in years past, we can find a positive way to comply with the spirit and letter of the law.

I think it is also worth noting the spirit of the law - which guides the formulation of these regulations. We are in a housing crisis - in Arlington, even a well-kept up Cape could sell for close to $1 million dollars, and the concept of a starter home is often a shill for pointing at a lower price while ignoring the significant renovation costs required to make the home viable for a new family. I have friends, not developers, that bought some of those smaller homes in prior years, and even they eventually expanded, built upon the foundation, to create a more larger, more appropriate property for today's world as their home. We are seeing price appreciation due to scarcity. One of the reasons for that iconic scarcity is our towns decision, made and enacted over years to prevent the construction of multi-family homes - they are zoned out, regulated out, of viability. Our current zoning map has some multi-family, enclaves of fenced zones mostly enacted due to an multi-family building already being there. Most other land was locked into R0-2 (single or two family zones). We have gone out of our way to create a zone R0 - for single family LARGE LOT - and to diminish the zones of 3 or more family units. We have people opposing housing development living in homes with a density of 4 people per ACRE worried about the prospect of 15 units per acre. I think today's needs require us to do better serving the needs our neighbors and those that would be our neighbors. The state is asking for us to create an area where multi-family units could exist. It has to be large enough to be impactful, to be a community. Those units don't have to be built in any time frame, if ever - they just have to be allowed. I believe if we put as much effort into creating this potential in our town as our predecessors worked to stifle it in years past, we can find a positive way to comply with the spirit and letter of the law.
Already Registered? Login Here
Guest
Monday, 27 June 2022
If you'd like to register, please fill in the username, password and name fields.

Captcha Image

By accepting you will be accessing a service provided by a third-party external to https://www.yourarlington.com/

YOUR VIEW: Opinions: Alewife, poison, parents, poetry, news, letters

Your People

S. Nicholas Kriketos

Arlington resident honored for years of service to St. Athanasius

S. Nicholas KriketosS. Nicholas Kriketos' service to St. Athanasius the Great parish in Arlington nearly 30 years was recognized by parish members June 12. Now the building and facilities manager of the Appleton Street church, he has served with dignity, loyalty, respect and humility. When he was…
Corwin Dickson is ready to compete.

Arlington artist helps design women's hockey logo

Corwin Dickson is ready to compete. Arlington artist Corwin Dickson has helped design a Pride-inspired merchandise line for the Premier Hockey Federation (PHF), the home of professional women's hockey in North America. A series of unique, Pride-inspired PHF designs are available for a limited time…

Housing Authority

Your Businesses

Latest comments

Bob Sprague What do we do about Arlington's news desert?
27 May 2022
Good question, Eric. Since it became a nonprofit last fall, YourArlington has been led by a board se...
Guest - Eric Segal What do we do about Arlington's news desert?
25 May 2022
I wonder what it would cost to have a local, nonprofit digital news network -- like this but maybe a...
Bob Sprague What do we do about Arlington's news desert?
25 May 2022
I agree withg Mark's comment about democracy and local support for the press. One answer to this iss...

FACEBOOK BOX: To see all images, click the PHOTOS link just below

 



Support YourArlington

An informed Arlington
keeps democracy alive
:
Why we are your news source >>

Donate Button

YourArlington is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit.

Your contributions are tax-deductible.

Your Arts

Your democracy

Your housing

Your Police, Fire