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The plan for a 43-unit affordable housing project proposed to be built at 10 Sunnyside Ave. by the nonprofit organization Housing Corporation of Arlington by 2026 has been approved unanimously, with conditions, by the Zoning Board of Appeals.

“Conditions, which we are prepared to meet,” said Erica Schwarz, executive director of the HCA. “They [ZBA] are now finalizing the letter that they will forward to us,” she told YourArlington via email after the meeting.

For nearly two hours Sept. 12, the acting chair, Patrick Hanlon and the other board members went through the final draft of the HCA’s proposal, continuing this process from its previous meeting, at which the board covered findings, waivers and about half of the conditions.

Some conditions discussed at the Sept. 12 meeting focused on project design and construction -- and included a requirement that HCA maintain a frequently updated website, open to anyone who might wish to view it, to keep people informed on the construction process.

This artist's rendition shows what 10 Sunnyside Ave. in East Arlington might look like three years from now.Other conditions were as follows:

    • Utilities such as telephone, electric and cable coming into the property will be located underground.
    • Parking of construction vehicles is to be allowed only on the property. Language was added to ensure that no construction vehicles or construction workers park on nearby Michael Street.
    • Applicant is at all times responsible for removing snow or any other obstructions from the sidewalk.
    • There are to be 60 long-term and five short-term bicycle spaces.
    • Safety at the front of the garage is required, with auditory or visual warning systems for safe exit from the garage door. 
Board members weigh in

Prior to the vote, board members were given the chance to comment.

ZBA member Christian Klein said, “I think we’ve had some very good discussions and conversations with the applicants, with the neighbors, with the abutters and with those likely to be impacted both by the construction and by this change to this neighborhood.”

Klein said he hoped that everyone who experienced this process came away from it with the sense that what the board was looking to approve was a project that would provide residences for both current and future residents of Arlington who otherwise might not have an opportunity to share in the benefits of living in the town.

Klein added, “I think that the package that has been proposed by the HCA is a strong package, and I understand they still have a ways to go in terms of funding, and we wish them the very best with that. I think that we have come up with a decision that meets not only their requirements for providing a facility that they are able to actually construct and manage, but also serves to minimize the impact on the [other] residents, both short-term and long-term, who currently are in this neighborhood and [who] would like to really see their neighborhood continue to flourish in the way it has today.”

Roger Dupont said he was gratified to be part of the process, saying, “I think that all of the people involved, the applicant, all of the consultants on both sides, and the public, who I thought, expressed their concerns in a way that were very constructive and very supportive, even given some of the concerns and doubts that they had about it. I just really appreciated the collegiality and the collaborative nature of the process through all of this [and I] would like to commend the other members of the board, as well as the other participants, as to the amount of attention, and focus that they gave to the process.”

Dan Ricardelli said he was looking forward to voting for this because a couple of other board members are from East Arlington, and, as East Arlington residents, they look forward to having affordable housing in their area. 

He added,“I don’t know if many of you know this, but one of my projects in my day job is an all-affordable development that’s also Passive House. I know how hard it is to make these projects work, and I've been impressed with everyone [who] has been involved in this process, so I’m going [to] look forward to seeing this get built.”

Sunnyside is the HCA’s second new-construction project and will meet Passive House standards; Passive House is a certification for making a building healthy and energy efficient.

Venket Holi commented, “Affordable housing is important for the town, for the state in general but mostly for the town, and all the units are affordable. It’s well deserved.”

Adam LeBlanc, an associate member of the board with non-voting privileges who lives in East Arlington said, “[I’m] right down the street from this project, and it’s nice to see what I think is a pretty well designed project going up. It’s really nice to see a nice well-designed piece of affordable housing going up, and that’s a rare feat in and around Boston.”

Hanlon said he was proud of the process and thanked all who took part. “It’s been my experience with 40Bs that even in the ones where there’s a considerable amount of hostility, antagonism and when feelings are high, that isn’t necessarily true here, but when people just settle down to the public process, the public helps us through. I think that every project that I’ve been on has been better because of the public participation and I think that that’s probably that’s probably a true here as well.”

Next step: state review

Schwarz, commenting some days after the meeting, said she appreciated the board’s heartfelt comments and the approval of the 100 percent affordable project that will play a role in addressing the local housing crisis.

“I believe their comments came from the fact that Arlington’s ZBA sees all 40B requests, but until now, our ZBA has only reviewed projects from for-profit developers who, like HCA, are using the 40B zoning tool to allow for a larger development than zoning would otherwise allow, but who have [I believe] included only the minimum 25 percent affordable units that is required under the 40B state law.”

Chapter 40B Housing is a program created by Massachusetts allowing developers to override local zoning bylaws in order to increase the number of affordable homes in municipalities in which less than 10 percent of the housing is defined as affordable.

“40B was designed to incentivize developers who otherwise would not create any affordable housing to do so, but it is also a useful tool for a nonprofit housing developer like HCA,” Schwarz told YourArlington in an interview over the summer.

The next step, she said last week, is submitting the intensive “One Stop” application to the state’s Executive Office of Housing and Livable Communities (formerly called the DHCD or Department of Housing and Community Development) to apply for federal Low Income Housing Tax Credits and other state subsidies that are essential for the project.

“To date, we do already have awards of funding from the Arlington Community Preservation Act Committee ($500,000) and the Arlington Affordable Housing Trust Fund. ($250,000).”


April 5, 2022: Zoning demystified

This article by YourArlington freelancer Tony Moschetto was published Tuesday, Sept. 26, 2023, based on the ACMi public television station recording of the Sept. 12, meeting of the Zoning Board of Appeals and then a later brief interview with Housing Corporation of Arlington Executive Director Erica Schwarz.