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Impact of the Proposed Zoning Changes on Arlington Homeowners

Arlington homeowners, please take a moment to understand the implications of the proposed zoning articles being presented and educate yourself before voting at Town Meeting. These are important issues for us all. The proposed changes to date have been vague and confusing, and have not been adequately communicated to the public.

Below is a commentary from Steve which also appeared in The Arlington Advocate. We welcome your thoughts and opinions, and be sure to communicate your ideas to the Town Committee Members as well.

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Arlington is a wonderful, vibrant and diverse town that draws on the depth and diversity of the citizens, neighborhoods, housing styles, restaurants and shops. As a homeowner and local real estate professional who has been living and working in Arlington for 30 years, I feel compelled to speak up about the proposed zoning by-law changes. Given my profession, I have seen a lot of homes, and I have the expertise and confidence to say every home is different – and so are the requirements of families who live there. The proposed zoning changes will impede many homeowners’ rights to renovate their home.

I realize these changes have been proposed because of some of the new homes being built. Instead of implementing changes that affect every homeowner across the board, there should be a meeting between builders and the town to advance the quality of new construction. Only 27 new homes were built in Arlington last year and I am concerned this knee-jerk reaction could have a long term, damaging effect on every homeowner. Driving around town, you see more contractor signs than For Sale signs. Lifestyles are changing, and the fact is families are growing and people need more space, which sometimes includes having an elderly parent move in. More and more homeowners want to stay in Arlington, but these restrictions may force them to leave the home and town they love.

As is the case with many legal documents, the proposed changes are very difficult for the average person to understand, and mask the devastating consequences to all homeowners. Before voting on any of these changes, a complete study should be prepared by the Redevelopment Board and it should provide information and depict, in laymen’s terms, just how these changes in conjunction with the current zoning by laws will affect every homeowner. Town meeting members and homeowners should have a full understanding of each proposal so they can comprehend the overall impact.

  • The zoning by-laws are supposed to protect every property owner and treat everyone fairly. These proposed changes do not. For example:
  • The determination of the height of a house will be changing. As a result, the height of a new home or addition will be restricted. If your home happens to be on a hill, like many homes, your opportunity to add on is much more restricted than someone having a flat lot.
  • It is proposed new additions should be 30’ from the neighbor’s house on either side. In many cases, this would allow you to only have a 10’ wide addition located in the middle of your home.
  • The Gross Floor Area is now to include basements, cellars, mechanical rooms, garages and porches. These spaces are often not habitable, yet will add to the overall size of your living area. Not only is this unreasonable; but think of how that may affect your assessment and taxes.

 

The economic effects of these changes are widespread. We have just recovered from the worst recession in history and it is a proven fact the real estate industry has the biggest impact on the economy. The home building and renovation industry provides millions of dollars of revenue in Arlington each year. Many builders and contractors are residents and employ other residents of the community. The economic effect will trickle down and be felt by our retail shops, hardware stores, restaurants and property owners.

Another major concern is property values. Arlington has one of the strongest real estate markets in the area. We are a community for first-time home buyers. They come to Arlington because of our schools, parks, bike path, restaurants and shops. Buyers want a home they can grow into and live in for decades. If these changes are approved, they will not be interested in buying the smaller home with the hopes of adding on later. Once the limitations and restrictions of these proposed changes are fully realized, buyers will buy elsewhere in communities that provide them the opportunity to expand. Many of our seniors have lived in the same home for decades and have relied upon their home as being the biggest part of their retirement and savings. What impact will these changes have on them, as well as every homeowner? We need a plan that will maintain our property values while preserving Arlington’s values.

I support most of the Master Plan. It recognizes the need for growth and development and offers many positive opportunities for development on our main corridors and will help with the future of Arlington. I appreciate the concerns of the Redevelopment Board and some citizens that have proposed these changes. However, these proposed zoning changes are too restrictive and we need to encourage a more balanced approach that is sensitive, fair and reasonable, which is something that every Arlington homeowner and citizen deserves.

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