TOWN OF ARLINGTON
PLANNING COMMISSION MEETING
Minutes of Meeting – Thursday August 25, 2022
Members Present: John Williams, Garret Siegel, Elliott Nachwalter, Sebastian Massey, Tom Williams and Nick Zaiac (Interim LUA).
Attendance Formats: Town Hall, Zoom Video Conferencing or Phone
Other Attendees: Cat Bryars (BCRC), Allyson Shimizu, Cynthia Eisenstein, Helen Engel, Alexandra Ernst, Bill Henry, Kirsten Dahlgren, Kristian Larsen, Steve Gilmore, William McCabe, James McCabe
The meeting was called to order at 7:01
Acknowledging the resignation of the previous chairperson and the absence of the Commission’s secretary, there was a motion to appoint Garrett Siegel as chairperson by Mr. Nachwalter, seconded by Mr. Williams. Motion approved unanimously by members present, acknowledging Member John Williams was not present at this time.
Mr. Siegel made a motion that premature discussion of a personnel issue would cause the municipality substantial disadvantage. Seconded by Mr. Nachwalter. Motion approved unanimously by members present, acknowledging Member John Williams was not present at this time.
Mr. Siegel made a motion to enter executive session and allow the Town Administrator and any parties being interviewed to remain in the room. Seconded by Mr. Nachwalter. Motion approved unanimously by members present, acknowledging Member John Williams was not present at this time.
The group exited executive session with no decision. Mr. John Williams joined during the session and was present throughout the remainder of the meeting.
The group considered the site plan put forward by Big Big LLC, and their principal, Kirsten Dahlgren. Applicant Dahlgren gave an overview of the project, including a summary of the proposed additional parking and river access. There was a request for two members to recuse themselves from the discussion due to an appearance of conflict of interest associated with a separate appeal, which was considered but rejected by the members in question.
Member Nachwalter offered a motion to interpret the site plan as not correctly depicting a base of operations, and thus rejected such that the applicant shall reapply. Seconded by John Williams. Motion passed unanimously by members present.
With the matter already closed, the Committee heard comments from members of the public present, acknowledging that there were certain boundaries on comments due to rules on ex parte communication. Citizen Eisenstein asked about the status of any legal matter associated with the applicant, to which the town did not comment. Citizen Ernst asked whether there is an existing base of operations permit for the property, which was answered negatively. Citizen Engel asked why permitting was being pursued due to the individual’s understanding that a non-locally-registered business has used the property for storage in the last few years, with the committee responding that this was in response to a town enforcement action.
With the applicant charged with reapplying for a new permit, Member Siegel offered a motion to waive the fees associated with a new permit application for a base of operations permit by the applicant. Seconded by Mr. Nachwalter. Motion passed unanimously by members present. The Interim LUA noted that typically this is not a power reserved for the committee, but the unique circumstance of the matter would allow such an action as a one-off item.
All members of the public exited sans BCRC Planning Director Bryars and Mr. Zaiac as the group moved to the bylaw revision portion of the evening.
Director Bryars began by distributing her new proposed Article 1 of the revised bylaw, an 8-page document as presented. She noted the planned alternate workflow for the remainder of the revision, with presentation of revised articles in sequence, from this session on the introduction to a final section in approximately December with the definitions section.
The group proceeded to read through the document and raise questions as they occurred to them. There were initial questions led by Member John Williams on section 1.1.4 on the clarified and simplified definition of “development”. No change requested on discussion. The same Mr. Williams asked about this section in relation to the floodplain, to which Director Bryars replied that section 1.2.1 explicitly notes that these are general provisions that state from the beginning that they do not override overlay districts, particularly with relation to floodplains rules. There were questions from Mr. Tom Williams related to the definition of “exterior alteration” in 18.104.22.168, clarified on reading of 22.214.171.124. Member Tom Williams questioned changing the rule on exempted fence height from 8 to 6 feet. The group universally agreed to reject the change. The group discussed whether the proposed requirement that the “nice side” of fences to face outward, to which no change was made. On a question from John Williams, Director Bryars noted that some changed items are not being pulled from specific model policy, but are include items that have proven to be general best practice in the state.
John Williams raised a point about whether to associate all overlay districts with the floodplains overlay, but that was generally rejected to allow flexibility to add other overlay districts in the future, including for historic districting.
The discussion moved on to item 126.96.36.199, “Special events”. The group agreed to replace “auctions” with “estate sales”, and drop “festivals”, while retaining the exemption for mobile food service. There was a brief discussion on the exemption for transit shelters.
Led by Tom Williams, the group considered item 1.2.4, which clarifies agricultural and farm exemptions. There was extensive discussion on the continuity of fences regulation in 188.8.131.52.e, with the item retained. The group also discussed 184.108.40.206.a, which newly requires farm structures submit a zoning permit application to be confirmed as exempt (with an exception from zoning fees).
The group briefly discussed 1.2.6 with the Town Administrator’s comments in support of the rule as written. The group, led by John Williams, discussed item 1.2.5, the protection of group homes from land use regulation, with Director Bryars noting that this is exempt specifically because of not-in-my-backyard-ism concerns.
Director Bryars discussed how the bylaw handles the definition of “change of use” in the new section 220.127.116.11, which should give more clarity to the interpretation. The group noted a couple of items to further define, including “substantially altered” and “discontinued use”.
Member John Williams questioned the lot size minimum of 1/8 acre noted in 18.104.22.168.b, with Director Bryars explaining that this item is grounded in statute. The Town Administrator noted that there have been legislative efforts to further reduce this minimum in certain circumstances, discouraging setting a minimum higher than the stated amount. He noted that wastewater constraints are likely to bind prior to land use rules on this margin.
Motion to adjourn the meeting by Mr. Nachwalter, seconded by Mr. Siegel, meeting adjourned at 9:21 pm.