Main menu:

 

Subscribe by email:

Delivered by FeedBurner

Categories

Archive

Site search



Town Meeting ’17 – Session 5

I take notes during Town Meeting. They are not official in any way. As I listen to people speak, I type notes. I’m sure that, at times, I mishear or misunderstand the speaker, but my notes represent what I hear at the time. I try to publish the notes every night after the meeting. I do go back and make a few edits as errors are pointed out to me.  Sometimes I relay a quote from a specific speaker. Sometimes I only summarize the discussion. At points I give a purely personal opinion; those are clearly labeled like this: Personal note.

Selectman Kevin Greeley played the National Anthem on the piano and the meeting sang along.

Moderator John Leone said that we might finish tonight. I was doubtful, but he was right. We finished tonight! He did a test question on the clicker about Ghandi, the vote was 80-98-11.

Chairman of the Board of Selctmen Joe Curro moved that we’d come back on May 10 if we didn’t finish tonight.

Announcements

  • Bill Hayner announced May 23rd Mock Town Meeting with elementary students.
  • Susan Stamps – Arlington did get a tree grant. Tree committee is looking for volunteers to help with tree inventory.
  • DeAnne Dupont – announced recycling day on Saturday.

Reports

  • Juli Brazile gave the report of the Vision2020 committee.
  • Anne LeRoyer gave the report of the Open Space committee.

At 8:21 we got to the articles.

Article 33 Budgets, continued

Education, continued

Len Kardon. He thinks that we’re not spending enough on education. He noted that our spending as a fraction of state budget is flat over the last several years. He noted the average elementary school sizes are going up. He suggested that one path is to have an early override so that the tax increase can be smaller. I understand and respect Len’s argument about school budgets, but I don’t agree with him. We have a tension between the demands for higher school spending and our fiscal constraints. I think we’re picking the right compromise. On his second point, I have given a lot of thought and discussion about when we should do our next override, and how big it should be. I’ve been generally supportive of doing an earlier, smaller tax override, but the devil is in the details. The timing has been hard because of school building votes. My current thought is that we should do our operating override at the same time as the high school building vote. Karl Wagner moved to terminate budget on education. Termination approved on voice vote, but 5 people stood, so we did a counted vote on the clicker. 122-71-4, terminate failed. Joe Tully was upset that “a member of the school committee” had admonished the meeting to not ask questions. Paul Schlichtman tried to rise on a point of personal privilege but the moderator ruled him out of order. I think Tully was reading too much into Schlichtman’s comments on Wednesday; I think Schlichtman was encouraging more questions, not fewer. Brendan O’Day reviewed the history of the multi-year budget projections, and that each year we’re wrong to the upside, and the date that we think we’ll need an override keeps pushing out. He said that our fiscal situation is better than our predictions say, and the predictions are generally wrong. I think O’Day is making an interesting point, but I don’t look at it the same way that he does. Predictions are the best estimates we have, but they have significant error margins. In budgeting, you have to think about what direction you want to be wrong. If your budgeting isn’t biased one way or the other, you’d expect your budget to be too high 50% of the time and too low 50% of the time. If half of the years our budgets were overdrawn, it would be a rolling, multi-year catastrophe. We would regularly have to call a special town meeting to adjust the budget, and if we don’t have reserves to draw on, we would have to make unplanned mid-year cuts in education and DPW and public safety. To avoid that, we deliberately bias our predictions to be conservative. We want our mistakes to be “to the good” because the downside would be so bad. The point that Al Tosti makes is that if we enter a recession, our budgets will start to miss “to the bad” and our conservative budgeting will ensure that is only painful, but not catastrophic. Paul Schlichtman: I wasn’t admonishing, I was encouraging participation. Ed Starr – terminate on voice vote.

Libraries

Jennifer Susse – Fox Library conversations ongoing about hours. Ted Paluso asked how we can change the budgets – they are finely constructed. John Worden noted that we can debate and change budgets if we want.

Insurance

No discussion

Water and Sewer

Gordon Jamieson noted that the tax rate and other items are discussed at the Long-Range Planning Committee. He noted there is a lot of public information about the budget. The Moderator suggested that he stick with the water and sewer budget. Jamieson had a question about the revenue estimate.

Recreation

No one spoke.

Arlington Youth Counseling Center.

Gordon Jamieson is in favor of this budget. He noted the effect on pensions.

The budgets were approved 211-0-1

Article 27-32 were taken from the table.

Article 27 – Special Education Reserve Fund

Selectman Joe Curro explained that this vote is part of the Municipal Moderation Act. We use a reserve fund today, but the act changes how the fund is created, funded, and operated. School Committee Member Kirsi Allison-Ampe noted that taking money out of it is different than it used to be. The School Committee supports it. Approved 208-0-1

Article 29 – Endorsement of CDBG

Steve Revilak had a question on planning expenses. For Housing Production Plan and others. 205-1-3

Article 30 and 31- Revolving Fund Bylaw, Revolving Fund

Chairman Joe Curro made two administrative changes to the votes. This article is also a part of the Municipal Modernization Act and codifies all of the the revolving accounts in one place. Article 31 is the regular votes for the funds. Gordon Jamieson – why are we putting this in a bylaw? Because the new law requires us to. Zarina Memon had a question about private ways fund. Bethann Friedman had a question about the Gibbs Energy fund. It’s included in this year, but not for next year, because then it will be a school expense. Mark McCabe moved to terminate 30 and 31. Article 30 approved 204-4-1. Article 31 approved 196-1.

Article 32 Positions Reclassification

The Moderator noted that 2a and 3a were removed in a previous announcement. John Leonard moved an amendment to rename the the Board of Selectmen to the Board of Administration. The Moderator ruled the motion out of scope – we would have to make a change to the bylaws and Town Manager Act. The amendment was passed on voice vote. 208-1 approved.

Article 38 – Zoning Bylaw Recodification

Town Manager Adam Chapdelaine said that the working group is already in progress. They’re not making policy changes. They’re making the bylaw more readable, and making it consistent with state law and case law. This is for retaining a consultant and paying for advertising of the pending changes. Deborah Sorotkin Butler had a question about the advertising budget. Greg Christiana – when did we do this last? 1975. Cost of not doing this? Town Manager explains that we want a bylaw that is accessible to the public. BethAnn Friedman asked if the Arlington Redeveloment Board will be holding a hearing. She thinks that sometimes the ARB hearings aren’t sufficiently open. The answer is that they will. Peter Fuller wants to know if the appropriation is large enough – this isn’t something to cheap out on. The answer is, by current research and scope of work, yes it is. Approved 206-7-1.

Article 39 – Parking Operating Costs

Peter Fuller wants to know how did we arrive at these numbers. Town Manager Adam Chapdelaine says it’s 50% of the personnel costs. The parking meter operation costs include credit card fees, software fees, coin collection, leasing parking from First Parish, maintenance, and lease payments on the meters themselves. 203-5-3

break 7 minutes

Article 40 no action

Article 41 Real Property $300,000

155-2-4. This vote count was low as many people were slow coming back from the break.

Article 45 Committees and Commissions $52,000

Annie LaCourt asked about the appropriation for public art. FinComm Chair Al Tosti explained the history of paying for arts in the last couple of years. He explained they consolidated it to Arlington Commission on Arts and Culture. That was a unanimous vote. 10-8 vote on $25k – some people thought it was too much. Ian Goodsell is opposed to spending so much on arts compared to the other budgets. Barbara Costa announced the work on the arts being done in town. Budget approved 198-5-1

Article 48 Water Bodies $55,000

Ed Trembly wants to know if we study the salt in water. David White says that most of the money is for invasive plants, there is some water testing. John Worden asked about the pump in Menotomy Park. Approved 196-0-1

Article 49 Community Preservation Act $2,200,000

Clarissa Rowe asked for 10 minutes and got it. Eric Helmuth reviewed the CPA funding sources. Rowe explained the projects. Ed Trembly asked how much is spent on planning, and how much is being spent on doing. $2m in construction and $401k in studies. Allan Reedy asked if we were spending too much on the reflecting pool. Rowe: We’re trying to fix this for good, not a bandaid. Greg Christiana asked if affects high school rebuilds. Rowe: looking for creative ways to fund the high school, but it’s the beginning of the process. Gordon Jamieson did we appropriate money for the fountain already? No we didn’t. Peter Fuller had a few questions. Carl Wagner moved, and debate was terminated on voice vote. The expenditures were approved 198-5.

Article 51 Pension Adjustment $0
approved on voice vote

Article 52 Other Post Employment Benefits $500,000
200-0

What is OPEB? Health care costs for retirees. This is to defray part of the costs. The liability is far larger than this appropriation.

Article 53 no action

Article 56 Free Cash 4.8m

What is Free Cash? I prefer to call it “unencumbered funds.” It is the money that has been returned to the town by budgets. It is our policy to use half of it every year. 185-1

Article 58 Stabiliztion Fund $211,000

No discussion. Approved 188-0

Article 59 Sanctuary Town/Trust Town

The Moderator noted that it was a resolution, not a binding vote. He is limiting discussion to 10 minutes for each side, and then discussion. Joe Curro spoke in favor of the article. Joe Monju spoke against it. Monju listed many, many criminal acts. He listed communicable diseases. He didn’t make any logical connection between those and the sanctuary town resolution. It was a ham-fisted attempt to scare town meeting members, devoid of any logic or reason. Approved 173-19-10.

Town Meeting was dissovled.

Town Meeting ’17 – Session 4

I take notes during Town Meeting. They are not official in any way. As I listen to people speak, I type notes. I’m sure that, at times, I mishear or misunderstand the speaker, but my notes represent what I hear at the time. I try to publish the notes every night after the meeting. I do go back and make a few edits as errors are pointed out to me.  Sometimes I relay a quote from a specific speaker. Sometimes I only summarize the discussion. At points I give a purely personal opinion; those are clearly labeled like this: Personal note.

Moderator John Leone called the meeting to order at 8:00.

The AHS Madrigal Singers performed until 8:15, including the National Anthem.

Test vote on the clicker was about Farenheit 451, count was 126-55-15

Chairman of the Board of Selectmen Joe Curro moved that we return May 8

Announcements

  • Joe Curro – Saturday and Sunday AHS Pops concert.
  • Barbara Costa – She advocated for Article 60 and referred to a handout on the resolution.
  • John Maher – Symmes Medical Use Fund is accepting applications until June 2nd. They fund any group that provides medical services to Arlingtonians. It’s his 44th Town Meeting. He praised the discourse. He noted that his voting clicker was missing, and someone had used it. It turned out that Diane Mahon had it.
  • Stephen Gilligan – Boy Scout Troop #306 is here. They are celebrating their 100th anniversary in town.
  • Dave Levy – Selling “I Drive 25 for Arlington Kids” bumperstickers, donating to AYCC.
  • Carol Band and Betty Stone – Arlington Porchfest has 120 bands signed up for June 3rd. She talked about Arlington Center for the Arts fundraising.
  • DeAnne Dupont – gave an announcement for Foodlink – Sunday May 21st 2-4pm 117 Broadway.

At 8:33 we got to Reports

  • Barbara Thornton gave the report of the Facilities Committee. The committee works to maintain and protect our $300 million in town property. She introduced the director of Facilities Ruthie Bennet. She updated on the department activities.
  • Eric Helmuth reminded the meeting that the report of the Community Preservation Act was in the back.

8:42 we got to the School Committee budget. It wasn’t clear to me at first exactly what budget we were tackling at this point. I think the moderator was running through the relevant reports/committees in anticipation of the capital budget.  I think it worked well. Jeff Theilman gave the report of the committee and introduced Superintendent Kathleen Bodie. She gave a high-level view of the budget. She talked about the increase in enrollment. She gave an overview of the school building projects in motion.

Charlie Foskett gave the report of the Capital Planning Committee. He reviewed that the votes tonight include both exempt and non-exempt debt. He talked about the votes will be in both the Special Town Meeting and the Regular Town Meeting. He noted that the Stratton project came in $1.5m under budget.

John Cole got a standing ovation for his committee’s work, and gave the report of the Permanent Town Building Committee. He asked for 10 minutes. He reviewed the many building projects in town.

Special Town Meeting Article 3 – Hardy School – $3.5m

Town Manager Adam Chapdelaine reviewed the work of the School Enrollment Task Force. They had considered temporary and permanent solutions of several sizes. They opted for a permanent, 6-classroom addition. Carl Wagner noted that it was a good thing that we hadn’t sold the Gibbs. He commented on the evolution of the town. Kate Leary spoke for several Hardy parents. She talked about the changes at Hardy as it grows. She supports the plan and thinks it is needed. 215-1 approved.

Article 4 – Gibbs School – $24.5m

Town Manager Adam Chapdelaine reviewed the details of the Gibbs renovation. The total cost is $2m higher than thought last year because the windows and other exterior work was found to be needed. 96% will come from the debt exclusion, and 4% will come from regular capital budget. William Burke is in favor of this article, but he thinks the town is letting too much building happen and enrollment is going up. Approved 217-0.

Al Tosti noted that the capital budget had changed at the last minute because of the Gibbs budget and the Mystic Street bridge work. He thanked Charlie Foskett and many others for the last-minute revisions of the capital budget.

Special Town Meeting was dissolved.

Regular Town Meeting returned.

Articles 27-33 were tabled.

Break 8 minutes long

Article 34 – Capital Budgets

Gordon Jamieson thanked the town employees and town meeting members for their work. He asked if the presentations would be put online. He asked about the accounting of bond premiums. He thinks we should spend more on parks and fields, and Charlie Foskett said that capital planning was hoping would be paid for out of Community Preservation. Ted Sharpe had a question about the math, and it was explained. Steve Revilak had questions about drainage rehab and Chapter 90 money. Peter Fuller had a question about elementary school ventilation. 205-1 approved.

Article 36 – Application of Bond Premium

Charlie Foskett explained that when we sell bonds, we often get cash payments (premiums). The state has codified how we should apply these payments. Approved 199-0

Article 33 – Budgets

Article was taken from the table. Al Tosti ran through the 5-year projection. He said that the plan has become slightly less conservative over the last few years. He noted that next year, FY2019, we start withdrawing money from our savings. FY2020 will withdraw more from savings. FY2021 we don’t have enough money. We will need an override of 14-16%. He asked everyone to support keeping spending down, and seek additional revenues, particularly from the state.

The moderator uses a “hold” system where each budget gets called, and if not held, then not discussion. Budgets 1, 5, 18, 19, 23, 24, 27, water and sewer, and youth counselling were all held.

Finance Committee – Gordon Jamieson asked for meeting notifications to be emailed.

Information Technology – Peter Fuller asked why that budget was so different. David Good explained that we had a new MUNIS collections package, and a messaging solution. He wants to focus more on security. He’s also working on the construction projects. He’s hiring so he can work on more long-term planning. Susan Stamps wants to know if there are updates to the town website. Town Manager Adam Chapdelaine: we always accept suggestions, improvements are made regularly. There was a question about the software fees. John Deyst asked about security, particularly the finance area. Annie LaCourt asked about disaster planning.

Public Works – Ed Trembly asked about how much salt we used. He thinks town drivers should use snow tires.

Facilities – Barbara Thornton had a question about how we save money with facility software. Steve Revilak wants to know the facility’s information security – same as the other systems.

Education – John Maher asked for an update the relative compensation of our teachers to other towns. Bodie answers, comparable on master’s level, not on other levels. Gordon Jamieson had a question about grants, and special ed, and interventions. This was Gordon’s second time speaking, and he should have been restricted to 5 minutes, and the next time he speaks it will be his third time this article. He was at the podium 13 minutes tonight, out of about 160. Bill Berkowitz thinks the school should use more volunteers. Frank Ciano asked why administration expenses went up faster than janitorial and clerical. Paul Schlichtman reminded the meeting that the school budget line items can’t be modified by the meeting, only the bottom line can be modified. He said that no one was attending the school committee budget hearings, and he welcomed questions in those venues.

We adjourned for the evening.

Town Meeting ’17 – Session 3

I take notes during Town Meeting. They are not official in any way. As I listen to people speak, I type notes. I’m sure that, at times, I mishear or misunderstand the speaker, but my notes represent what I hear at the time. I try to publish the notes every night after the meeting. I do go back and make a few edits as errors are pointed out to me.  Sometimes I relay a quote from a specific speaker. Sometimes I only summarize the discussion. At points I give a purely personal opinion; those are clearly labeled like this: Personal note.

Jane Howard played the National Anthem on the piano, and the meeting joined in song.

There was at least one new town meeting member appointed tonight to fill a vacancy, and he was sworn in by the moderator.

The test vote on the clicker was 19-145-19 – it was a question about Jackson Pollack. That count of votes was pretty low, but I think people just skipped this test vote. Later on in the meeting we had as high as 214 votes. Our attendance has been higher this year than years past. Looking at my past notes, 2015 had 195 voters on Session 3. Farther back you see a big dropoff.  The infamous leaf blower vote was only 169 voters, in Session 4 of 2008.  In 2002, Session 3 was only 160 attendees.  I found one vote in 2008 that was 110 votes.  I attribute the higher attendance to electronic voting.  It has increased accountability both in attendance and in the substance of votes taken, and has driven turnover at the ballot box.  More people are showing up, night in and night out.

Board of Selectman Chairman Joe Curro moved for us to reconvene on Wednesday May 3, and it was approved.

The representative of the school committee of our sister city in Japan, Nagaokakyo gave a brief speech. She talked about the students’ 10-day visit. She thanked everyone for their welcome.

Article 3, Reports

  • Al Tosti updated the Finance Committee report. In Article 32, he deleted Section 2, item A and Section 3, item A. The Moderator said the change was made administratively, without further vote.
  • John Ellis gave the report of the Tree Committee. 187 trees removed, 175 added by the town last year. He reported on other programs the committee is working on, including working with the new Tree Warden.
  • Rich Greco, Retirement Administrator, gave the report of the Retirement Board. I thought this was a great report. The retirement system has a big impact on our town budget, and I don’t think it is generally well understood. It was a good education piece. I’ve asked Rich to post it on the town’s website.

Announcements

  • Michael Ruderman announced that today’s bake sale are items made today at the Minuteman Voc High School.
  • Steve Revilak announced that his neighbors had removed 42 bags of trash on the Mystic. He commended the town and volunteers for removing the trash.
  • Jane Howard announced Spy Pond cleanup day is May 13 9am to 1pm, they are focused on the section along Route 2. Rain or shine.
  • Betty Stone announced May 24th evening at the library is a film and discussion about women and immigration issues.
  • Selectman Curro June 6th 6:30-9 visioning session on Arts and Culture.
  • Angela O announced that the ATED visitor center is open, and the Uncle Sam Plaza site work is finished. “They Want You” to work at the visitor center.

Article 3 is tabled.

Al Tosti moved 19 be 43 be tabled.

Article 44 – Minuteman Vocational Regional High

FinComm member Steve DeCourcey asked for 15 minutes for the presentation. He gave the FinComm’s recommendation of the budget. He explained that the school district budget is down, but Arlington’s budget is up. Dr. Bouquillon gave a presentation about the school’s status and the changes to the budget. Gordon Jamieson asked about how Minuteman was able to shave a year off the school build: Bouquillon answered that it was an aggressive bid. Bond premium paid, he asked? yes – projected at $6million if they hit what they are planning. Topher Heigham: what is in the debt service? Why did the assessment jump so much? Answer: the rolling average includes some high years. Dean Carman – note that member towns get preference in acceptance if the enrollment gets larger than capacity in the new building.  Michelle Durocher had a question about the “academy model” at Minuteman. It’s an organization oriented at supporting students. Teachers are in academies organized by program, math and english aren’t separate departments, but are aligned within the academy. Mark McCabe moved to terminate debate on Article 44. Terminated on voice vote. Budget approved 216-3.

19 and 43 were removed from the table.

Article 19 – Appointment of Treasurer, continued

Al Tosti spoke on his behalf, not on behalf of FinCom. Tosti spoke in favor of the change. He argued that the position is not political, and is professional, among other arguments. MaryEllen Bilafer shared former Treasurer Bilafer’s thoughts. He now supports making this an appointed position. Ms. Bilafer joined her father in supporting this change, saying that now is the time. She had a great quote: “Now it the time to take chance out of the process.” John Worden was opposed, and thinks the voters should decide who the treasurer is. BethAnn Friedman is favor, but had a question about the transition. Dean Carman said that he was already farming out most of the job to the deputy treasurer. Town Manager Chapdelaine gave a general picture of how it would work in three years if approved by the voters. Gordon Jamieson had several questions about the current appointment processes of various finance officials. Jud Pierce is opposed to this because he is worried that this will lead to a merging of school and town’s finance departments. I disagree with Jud on two levels. First, I think this vote should be taken on its own merits, not on future concerns. This issue isn’t a slippery slope change; the boundaries are clearly defined. Any future changes would be carefully scrutinized by town meeting. My second disagreement is that I do think that much of the school finance department should be merged with the town’s. I believe that Jud and I agree that the School Committee and Superintendent must retain independence to run the school system, and use the authority granted them by state law and the town’s charter. The School Committee should not need to ask permission of the Town Manager or anyone else (beyond reasonable checks) in order to run the school department. However, there are a lot of processes and systems that are entirely about execution, not policy, and those are the type of things that would be improved by merging the departments. Payroll is an excellent example. The Superintendent decides who gets hired and at what payscale, but the actual checkwriting is done by a joint team. Still, there are systems that are separate that should be integrated. The invoicing system is one of them. The schools are still using an outdated paper system, and invoices are not entered into the town’s electronic accounting system on a timely manner.  This is both expensive and increases risks of budget overruns. As with payroll, the actual invoice, the decision about spending, should be controlled by the school management. But once that spending decision is made, the actual flow of the money should be managed by a joint department. This is why we need integration. It’s an argument for another day. Adam Auster thinks that this is an appropriate position to be professionally chosen, not elected.

break for 10 minutes

Joe Tully is opposed to the change, and thinks it should be elected. Andrew Fischer also thinks it should be elected. John Deyst thinks that Dean Carmen and Adam Chapdelaine are the right two people to figure out the right structure, and supports the change. Steve Gilligan spoke next, in opposition to the change. He thinks that local, passionate candidates are the best choice. He noted other towns and cities that are unhappy with elected treasurers. There were too many points in Mr. Gilligan’s speech for me to capture them in detail while he spoke. I think that some of his points were factually correct, but many of them served in support of the change, not in favor of his position. Some of his arguments (and facts) were wrong.  He also brought some personality-driven elements to the debate, the elements that had made previous discussions less productive and more unpleasant.  It’s unfortunate that he chose to do that.  The debate had been generally focused on the merits, and there was no need to re-open those irrelevant issues. There was a question about how a treasurer could be removed, and Town Counsel Doug Heim gave an overview of the town’s recall procedures (Town Manager Act sections 36-44).  Steve Gilligan rose with a “point of information” and said that Town Counsel was wrong, and that the Board of Selectmen can remove an elected Treasurer for “malfeasance.” Neither Town Counsel nor I are aware of any such power of the selectmen to remove the treasurer, for any reason.  There used to be a statute where the state Commissioner of Revenue had the power to remove a treasurer, but it was never used and was regarded as unenforceable, and was ultimately repealed.  I think Gilligan was entirely wrong on his point of information. Ted Paluso argued that the “we need to trust the voters” argument means that if we trust the voters, we should send this question to the voters. Mark McCabe moved the question and it was terminated on voice vote. The change was approved 154-57-1 and will go to the voters.

Article 21 – Surveillance

The moderator asked who had held this off the consent agenda. A gentleman stood up, but he didn’t have a substitute motion. I believe the speaker is confused about the difference between a warrant article and a motion under an article. The warrant article serves as notice to the town residents that something will be discussed, but it is not actually a proposal for change. If you look at the language in the warrant, the articles all start with “To see if. . . .” They aren’t actions, they are considerations.  Later, the actual motions all start with “It is moved that. . .”  They are actions. No action was approved on voice vote.

Article 22, 23, 24, and 25 – Senior Tax Relief

Selectman Joe Curro thanked the town employees for their work on these. John Leonard had a series of questions about the programs. Gordon Jamieson had questions. Several speakers passed. Charlie Foskett wanted to understand what work was being done, and what effect it would have on collected taxes. Zarina Memon moved to terminate debate, done on voice vote. The four articles passed, 202-5-1. 199-7-1. 201-5-0. 199-4-1.

Article 26 – Parking Benefits District

Selectman Joe Curro said that it is part of the town’s economic development plan for Arlington Center. Last year town meeting did a bit of stick with the vacancy regulations, and this vote tonight is a carrot. The parking meters have encouraged turnover in parking spaces on-street, and usage of the off-street lots has increased by 20%. This district would permit us to put the revenue from the meters into improvements in the business district. Gordon Jamieson had a series of questions about the financial details. That was the fourth time he was called on tonight, the same number as Joe Curro. I didn’t clock Jamieson’s exact time at the podium, but I estimate it was 15-20 minutes out of the 160 minutes we met tonight. A speaker asked who spends the money, and why we’re doing this vote now. Chapdelaine: we’re doing it now because we want to use the money sooner than later, and this permits us to start looking at projects. Andrew Fischer had questions about the amount of anticipated new revenue ($150k) and what it would be used for. He is opposed. Phil Goff moved to terminate debate, and it was approved on voice vote. 170-28 we approved the district.

We adjourned a few minutes early.

Town Meeting ’17 – Session 2; Special Town Meeting 1

I take notes during Town Meeting. They are not official in any way. As I listen to people speak, I type notes. I’m sure that, at times, I mishear or misunderstand the speaker, but my notes represent what I hear at the time. I try to publish the notes every night after the meeting. I do go back and make a few edits as errors are pointed out to me.  Sometimes I relay a quote from a specific speaker. Sometimes I only summarize the discussion. At points I give a purely personal opinion; those are clearly labeled like this: Personal note.

Meeting called to order at 8:00.

Eric Helmuth played the National Anthem on the piano, and the members of the meeting sang along.

The moderator noted that many members didn’t get written reports mailed to them this year – they had signed up last year to get it electronically.

The moderator said that Town Meeting was not a political body, and that people should remove their political buttons. I don’t agree with the Moderator on this one. This has never been a rule of the meeting before that I recall; I don’t think a rule of this type would be legal on state law and First Amendment grounds; and I would oppose any rule of this type if it were proposed. I decided to exercise my First Amendment rights and put on a Cindy Friedman for Senate button during the break.  I did it because I’m proud to support Cindy, and because I wanted to make the point. I got some thoughtful comments about the merits of that choice.  I haven’t decided whether I’ll wear the button again on Monday.  But I’ll be supporting Cindy, whether I’m wearing the button or not!

The moderator swore in two members who didn’t get sworn in on Monday. They got a round of applause.

The Special Town Meeting was called to order.

Selectman Joe Curro blazed through the same opening motions that we did for the regular town meeting yesterday.

Reports

  • Master Plan Implementation Committee gave their report
  • Cyrus E. Dallin foundation created on this night in 1995.
  • Treasurer Dean Carman gave his first annual report. He walked through balances, collections, and debt status.

Article 1 – Zoning Bylaw Amendment

Arlington Redevelopment Board Chair Andrew Bunnell expressed the ARB’s support for the amendment and introduced Elizabeth Pyle and Steve McKenna of the residential study group. They described that this bylaw change is a part of the package of changes. They are meant to be taken as group to solve the design problems that they see. The change wouldn’t allow a bigger envelope, but it would permit the open space’s longest dimension to be smaller. Gordon Jamieson was in favor. Carl Wagner is opposed – he believes the package of changes should be rejected, and that this will lead to bigger houses. Andrew Fischer was confused about how this changes the 2.5 stories – it doesn’t. Zach Grunko asked if it will accelerate the rate of tear downs – Director Inspectional Services Mike Byrne doesn’t think so. Daniel Jalkut doesn’t think larger houses are a risk and supports the change. A speaker whose name I missed asked a good question – is this change purely for aesthetics? The answer was partially yes, but also to create a good alternative to the garage-under design. Joe Tully – why not just ban the garage-under design? Bunnell: they talked to a lot of people, and there were a lot of people who still wanted versions of the design. This proposal was a compromise. John Deyst moved to terminate debate. 179-29-1 terminated debate. 185-25-1 change was approved.

Article 2 – Recreation Marijuana Zoning Moratorium

ARB Andrew Bunnell asked for a moratorium through June 30, 2018. In general, I’m opposed to delaying the implementation of zoning for recreational marijuana. The town approved it at the ballot box, and we shouldn’t stand in the way. However, the state is moving so slowly on this issue that they won’t be issuing anything until spring of 2018 anyway. I supported this because it makes some people feel more comfortable, but it doesn’t actually delay anything. Michael Ruderman moved an amendment to make the moratorium expire as late as possible, even if new rules are applied. Stephen Revilak noted that the town supported recreational marijuana in November, and is opposed to the change. He asked whether we can make local regulations of marijuana – the answer is yes, in a limited matter, but we don’t know the parameters yet of what will be allowed. Chris Moore – would this change be legal, because it is setting an indefinite date. Town Counsel Doug Heim indicated that he thought June 30, 2018 was the latest possible date. Patricia Worden is in favor of Ruderman’s amendment and is very unhappy with permitting recreational marijuana. She went on a tirade about marijuana that can be best summarized as “reefer madness.” One of her arguments was one that I’ve heard several times from opponents: She is concerned that her grandchild will be going to the pediatrician in the same building as a medical marijuana dispensary. I can’t for the life of me figure out why that is a problem. First of all, how many children go to the doctor without their parents? Doesn’t the doctor’s office make a good place for parental and medical education about marijuana and other substances? Furthermore, there could not possibly be a more low-profile marijuana sales location than behind a closed door in a medical building. In a town where marijuana sales are legal, isn’t this the best possible option for the people opposed? To me, this line is a clear demonstration of the hollowness of the arguments of the opponents of marijuana. Paul Schlichtman is in favor of the moratorium so that we can take the time to decide where the business should be. Mustafa Varoglu is opposed to the moratorium. The next speaker, John Ellis, brought the house down: “The downside of this moratorium is that next year at town meeting the tennis team will still be selling only traditional brownies.” This was one of the best one-liners I’ve heard in town meeting in years. 44-167-1 amendment failed. 161-51-2 the moratorium passed.

Al Tosti moved to postpone Articles 3 and 4 to Wednesday May 3 so that we can do all finance articles on one day.

Article 5 – Special Ed Stabilization
Al Tosti said that special ed costs were high this year, and we needed the money this year. It was approved 211-2-1.

The Special Town Meeting was adjourned to May 3.

Break for 12 minutes

We reconvened and came back into the regular town meeting.

Article 17 – Plastic Bags, continued

Jim DiTullio is one of the original proponents of the bag ban. He focused on the million plastic bags that are used in Arlington each year. He is opposed to Schlichtman’s amendment because it is hard to implement in places like CVS where some of the products are paper. John Leonard attempted to make a point of order but the moderator ruled that it was actually just debate. This was the first such ploy this year, where one person thinks they are above the rules and has a license to waste the time of the entire meeting.  If we’re lucky, it’s the last. Annie LaCourt was in favor.  She thinks this is putting the cost of bags in the proper place, with the people who use them. Several speakers got applause after they talked on this issue.  As I’ve said before, I don’t think the applause is appropriate.  Part of the town meeting process is talking, disagreeing, and getting over differences.  The applause only serves to harden feelings and make future compromise more difficult. Gordon Jamieson moved to terminate. Terminated on voice vote. Klein’s amendment approved unanimously by voice vote. 12-193-3 Schlichtman’s amendment defeated. Main motion was approved 188-21.

Consent Agenda

The moderator put forward the consent agenda. Several articles were “held” out of the consent.  We approved Articles 20, 28, 35, 37, 42, 43, 46, 47, 50, 54, 55, 57 and 60 by a vote of 190-3-3.

Article 15 – LBGTQIA+ Rainbow Coalition

Selectmen Chairman Joe Curro explained the acronym and why the Board of Selectman supported this article. There are people and families in town who need support. He talked about the relationship with the Human Rights Commissions. Mel Goldsipe of the HRC endorsed the creation of the group and thanked town leaders for supporting it. Greg Christiana was in favor of it. Joe Monju was opposed – he thinks it will cost too much, and doesn’t think that voting against it makes someone a bigot. Wagner moved to terminate, on voice vote. 189-12-3 approved.

Article 18 – Appraisals of Town Property

Selectman Joe Curro: codifies a process but still permits flexibility. Annie LaCourt supports the article, but wanted to talk about it. Michael Ruderman explained that at previous Town Meetings there had been debate over how to value easements, and this change was to help resolve this. John Worden moved to strike the option of using an appraiser and make it required. Ted Sharpe noted that fair market value is determined by more than one thing and appraisal wasn’t only way. Brian Rehrig was opposed to John Worden’s amendment because, in part, the appraisal might cost more than the transaction.  I spoke in opposition to the amendment because I think the flexibility is important, and the amendment would remove it.  Christopher Moore moved terminate, approved on voice vote. 24-176 amendment failed. 198-5 approved. I didn’t find this discussion to be a productive use of Town Meeting’s time. It would have been better to resolve it on the consent agenda.

Article 19 – Appointment of Town Treasurer

Selectman Joe Curro noted the trend across the commonwealth to make the position appointed. And he noted the only 3 other towns of Arlington’s size that still have an elected treasurer. He talked about how the new Treasurer Dean Carmen was already delegating parts of his position to his professional deputy. Bill Hayner was opposed, and wanted a one-year delay on the change. Michael Ruderman was opposed to it. He thinks that we need a firmer plan before we approve it. I actually think that the points Ruderman made in his presentation were an argument in support of the change – he was pointing out all of the good things that are happening. The difference is, he doesn’t think this new way of doing things should be codified, and I think it should be.  I strongly believe that most of the work of the treasurer is professional, and that belongs in an appointed position.  There is very little of the political/policy work that remains, and Dean Carmen is working on ways to retain that in a decision-making board. Annie LaCourt is in favor of this change, as she was when she was on the board of selectmen. She made the point that it’s not about who is in the office, but about the office itself. She reminded Town Meeting that the reason it has taken so long (10+ years) for the treasurer’s office to convert to the same software as the rest of the town is that there was no way to compel the treasurer to cooperate. Eric Helmuth asked about whether the one-year delay would be a problem – Town Manager Adam Chapdelaine said a delay wouldn’t be a deal breaker. Helmuth is in favor of the change.

It was 11pm, and Al Tosti moved to adjourn.

Town Meeting ’17 – Session 1

I take notes during Town Meeting. They are not official in any way. As I listen to people speak, I type notes. I’m sure that, at times, I mishear or misunderstand the speaker, but my notes represent what I hear at the time. I try to publish the notes every night after the meeting. I do go back and make a few edits as errors are pointed out to me.  Sometimes I relay a quote from a specific speaker. Sometimes I only summarize the discussion. At points I give a purely personal opinion; those are clearly labeled like this: Personal note.

At 7:59 Moderator John Leone started calling the meeting to order. The meeting started at 8:00.

The Menotomy Minutemen marched in and lead the meeting in the National Anthem.

A rabbi from Temple Isaiah in Lexington gave the benediction.

The moderator walked through the ground rules about submitting amendments, speaking time limits, and the electronic voting, aka “the clicker.” He announced that the budgets would be discussed on May 3. He did a test question about Mount Rushmore for people to test their vote.

The moderator announced that meeting documents are now online in an article-by-article format. This is a step towards reducing paper in meetings and I think it’s great!

The moderator administered the oath of office for newly elected and returning town meeting members. They were greeted with a round of applause afterwards.

Chairman of the Board of Selectmen Joe Curro made the traditional motion about permitting town officials and employees to sit “on the floor” with town meeting members. Non-members are seated in the viewing gallery on the 2nd floor.

Town Clerk certified that the meeting was properly convened and called by the Town Constable.

We voted to return on Wednesday for the rest of the business.

Article 2 – State of the Town.

Joe Curro gave the state of the town.

There were no announcements.

Article 3 – Reports

  • Chairman Joe Curro submitted the report of the Board of Selectman. He introduced the department heads. The moderator also introduced other elected officials.
  • Finance Committee Chairman Al Tosti gave the report of his committee and introduced the members of the Finance Committee.
  • Chairman of the Arlington Redevelopment Board Andrew Bunnel gave the report of the ARB.
  • Charlie Foskett gave the report of the Capital Planning Committee.
  • Clarissa Rowe gave the report of the Community Preservation Committee.

At Tosti moved that the motions contained in the reports be the main motions for each article. For new town meeting members the importance of this vote is not obvious, but it is a big deal. This vote sets the starting point of each article’s debate, and that is very powerful in the long run.  If we didn’t make this motion, at the start of every article, the Moderator would have to call on someone to start the debate process by making a motion under that article, then find a second for the motion, etc. Instead, through this vote, we automatically start each article with a motion already made and ready for debate. That becomes key later on – the first motion sets the debate, and other amendments and substitute motions alter the debate.

Article 3 was tabled.

The moderator said that the consent agenda will be voted on Wednesday since some of the reports just came out.

Article 4 – Measurer of Wood and Bark. Elsie Fiorie was re-appointed without opposition.

Article 5 – Assistant Town Moderator. Eric Helmuth nominated Jim O’Conor and he was elected without opposition.

Article 6 – Mixed Use

ARB Chairman Andrew Bunnel gave the introduction. Last year town meeting approved mixed use. The feedback is that our law is too restrictive on interior usage. This change wouldn’t affect the outside or building envelope. This only changes mixed use zones, does not affect residential zones. It was approved 207-7-2.

Article 7 Artisinal Fabrication

Bunnel said that the ARB has found the current law to be too restrictive. We want to encourage businesses that use larger square footage, like shared workspaces, breweries, things like that. This change will encourage growth of our industrial-zoned areas. Approved 216-2.

Article 8 Resdiential Zoning Changes

Chairman Andrew Bunnel asked for extra time, 15 minutes. Some people voted no on the extra time. I just don’t get that vote. We’re making a significant alteration to our zoning bylaws. The bylaws are complex, the problems are complex, and the potential impact of these changes is quite large. The extra 8 minutes of education and discussion are worth it. Bunnel reminded the meeting of the debate on this issue we had at town meeting last year. Since that time, the Residential Zoning Study Committee had dozens of meetings, lasting 900 hours. The committee had a wide diversity of opinions. Driveways was consensus place to start. Looked at other towns, did walking tours in town, worked with many groups in town. Elisabeth Pyle and Steve McKenna walked through the details of the proposal. It would limit driveway slope to 15%. Steeper driveways are unsafe because of visibility. This change will also discourage garage-under-house design. That design removes front yards and creates badly-massed buildings that look 3.5 stories tall. The article would give builders/owners the choice of having only one parking space, not two, in the area behind the setback. Diagrams of proposed parking configurations were showed. They explained how cars can also be parked on the side of a building. The change requires a vegetative buffer for the side parking configuration. Ted Sharpe moved an amendment that would remove the changes to the parking rules. Chris Loreti is the author of the amendment, and he spoke in favor of the amendment. He does not think cars should be parked in front of houses because of the streetscape. Carl Wagner spoke in favor of Loreti’s amendment. McCaben moved to terminate debate, failed 105-100-3. Paul Schlichtman thinks that we are requiring too much parking and eating green space, and is opposed to the amendment. Zarina Memon supports the amendment. She wants to know why the motion has two changes in it, not one. Elizabeth Pyle explained that the problem is the under-house design, and that both changes are needed to fix that problem. Memon thinks that Town Meeting should do one thing at a time. What the speaker didn’t understand, or didn’t want to understand, is that the solution to a problem sometimes takes more than one change. Jalkut said that many households don’t want or need cars, and we shouldn’t require people to use space on parking

Break. 10 minutes.

Mr. Hanlon is in favor of the main motion and opposed to the amendment. There is a package of solutions over several articles tonight. The package is a compromise. Town Meeting shouldn’t pick and choose which parts of the compromise to take. He wants this process to keep going, and the process will halt if we disrupt the compromise. Ed Trembley thinks the long view supports having more parking spaces, not fewer. Brian Rehrig had a question about the phrase “for residential purposes.” A new town meeting member wanted to make an amendment, and was informed to make it in writing. Ed Starr moved to terminate debate, approved 190-21-1. Amendment failed 37-172-1. 200-13-2 main motion approved.

Article 9 no action.

Article 10 no action.

Article 11-14 – Construction Bylaws

We discussed them together, but take individual votes on the articles. Selectmen Chair Joe Curro expressed the support of the Board of Selectmen for all of the articles. They would increase notification requirements and other changes. Christian Klein proposed an amendment to Article 11 to add developer contact information to the notice. Bill Berkowitz asked if this changes were notification only, or more substantive. The moderator realized there was a prepared presentation by the proponents. Adam Auster asked for 10 minutes for the presentation for the 4 articles. He described the experience of site visits, and what the committee learned from site visits. Bill Copithorne gave a description of the notification requirements. Winnel Evans talked about Article 14. Bill Berkowitz thinks the changes don’t go far enough and wants more changes in the future. There was a discussion about the enforcement and fines on the noise violation. Annie LaCourt had several questions about how onerous these changes would be for the developer. She thinks these rules are overkill. I often agree with Annie, but I disagree with her in this case. The reason we’re proposing this set of change is that the more informal path she proposes did not work on the construction problems we had last year. I’m persuaded that we need a more formal set of rules to manage situations like we have had recently. Pete Howard asked why there wasn’t action taken against the developer at the Irving site. The answer was that the developer didn’t break the rules. Paul Schlichtman moved to terminate debate on all articles, approved 171-29-2. Klein’s amendment passed 195-9-2. Article 11 as amended was approved 205-3. Article 12 and 13 are taken together. 205-4 approved. Article 14 apporved 199-9.

Article 15
Postpone to April 26.

Article 16 – no action

Article 17 – Plastic Bags

Selectman Joe Curro reviewed the selectmen’s comment recommending the plastic bag ban. Christian Klein offered an amendment about the bag thickness that was accepted. Paul Schlichtman offered an amendment to exempt book sales. Juli Brazile opposed the amendment. Charlie Foskett is opposed to the ban – he thinks the bags are useful and not problematic. Jim Ballin asked for 10 minutes to make a presentation. There was a 10-minute presentation about the proposed change.  If the proponents had just let it go to a vote, they’d be home in bed tonight with an approved bylaw. I think doing the presentation was a tactical error.

We adjourned for the evening just after 11.

Town Meeting ’16 – Session 7

I take notes during Town Meeting. They are not official in any way. As I listen to people speak, I type notes. I’m sure that, at times, I mishear or misunderstand the speaker, but my notes represent what I hear at the time. I try to publish the notes every night after the meeting. I do go back and make a few edits as errors are pointed out to me.  Sometimes I relay a quote from a specific speaker. Sometimes I only summarize the discussion. At points I give a purely personal opinion; those are clearly labeled like this: Personal note.

I skipped Wednesday’s meeting – went on a little vacation.  Sorry for the hole in the notes!

Jane Howard lead the meeting in the National Anthem.

Test question: Is corn the most produced grain? Answer was yes, corn then wheat then rice. But we got the vote wrong 26-95-6.

We voted to come back on Wednesday if necessary. It won’t be, thankfully.

Announcements

  • Jim O’Conor asked for a sense of the meeting about when precinct organizational meetings should be. On voice vote, the meeting indicated a preference for doing all of the organization on the first night.
  • Moderator John Leone announced that the special legislation for the change in the director of assessments had been approved and signed by the Governor.

Articles 35-42 were taken off the table.

Article 35 – Budgets, continued

Inspections
Steve Revilak: Is the number of permits going up? Head of Inspections Michael Byrne: yes. Do you have the resources you need? Yes.

Education
Al Tosti: He moved the FinCom proposed modified education vote, with more money from Chapter 70 funds. He noted that the education increase is 6.7%. He said that it was generous – maybe even too generous. Peter Fuller with a question about Arlington Community Education. Last year we said we were going to reduce the rate of education budget increase – he’s glad we’re not. He was pleased with the detail in the School Committee’s report. Linda Hanson revisited Arlington’s high performing schools for low costs. But she noted that part of that was that school salaries are very low. Gary Tibbets: do we go for grants? Yes, full time grant writer. Brendan O’Day Pct 14. He showed how our projections have been wrong for the last few years – we’ve out performed several years in a row. Al Tosti: no recession. I spoke on O’Day’s points. When you build a model, financial model or otherwise, you think about how you want it to fail – you want it to fail in a “safe” way. Our model is inherenty conservative so that if there are errors in projection, they are manageable. We’ve been lucky, and the errors have moved in our favor. That’s not bad forecasting – it’s safe forecasting.  Janice Weber – are the teacher salaries relatively low? Kathy Bodie: yes there are. Override would cost $250 per year? Yes. Carl Wagner moved termination, done on education. Budget amendment was approved.

Libraries
Len Kardon: Weekend hours were successfull. We should get away from formula budgeting, and make sure we’re delivering good things like this. Jennifer Susse: Friends of the Fox want to have more hours in the east; she encouraged the town to take the money. Jalka: Not clear why the Fox Library is being treated differently.

Retirement
Gordon Jamieson spoke about retirements. Zarina Memon spoke about nuclear weapons and retirements.

Insurance
No questions.

Reserve Fund
Gordon Jamieson: question about management of snow-and-ice budgets.

Ed Burns Arena
no questions.

Voice vote. Approved. The electronic voting clicker failed again here – but it got better towards the end of the meeting.

Article 36 – Capital Planning
Chairman Charlie Foskett gave the report of the committee. John Leonard found out the Senior Center Feasibility study will be available in a couple weeks. He had questions about Town Hall Work. Susan Stamps asked about the plan for the DPW renovation. There is rehab/renovation in the future. Gordon Jamieson was not happy with the use of CPA funds. Zarina Memon was confused about how many water heaters there were in the new fire station. Andrew Fischer – Lombard bleachers? Town Manager Adam Chapdelaine: will try for CPA funding next year for them. Peter Fuller: Stratton funding from selling the DAV? Going to RFP. Danuta Forbes on DPW: Can we put the high school there? Unlikely, but will be looked at. Schlichtman moved terminate. vote 1: approved. vote 2: approved unanimously. vote 3, the bonding: 193-4 approved. Votes 5 and 6 Yes. We moved on, then realized we forgot Vote 4 and came back. Vote 4: Unaninmous vote.

Article 37 – Rescind Borrowing
Voted yes

Article 38 – Mugar Application Fees
What is the current status? Waiting for them to file. Fuller: under what jurisdiction will this be spent? Amended to be the Town Manager. Amendment approved. 173-6

Article 39 – Public Art
No action. Approved.

Article 40 – School Capacity
Handled in the special. No action approved.

Article 41 – Sewer Facilities
Worden: Lead in pipes? Rademacher: Our records aren’t great. We don’t see a lot in the field. We’re looking for it as we replace the home meters. Andy O’Brien: Arlington has very low dissolved solids – never looked specifically at the lead though. Carl Wagner said he found lead in his house’s water in the morning samples. Gordon Jameison thinks we should spend more money on testing in schools. Schlichtman terminate on voice vote. 188-1 approved.

Article 42 – Water Facilities
188-0 approved. I think I missed getting my vote in on that one because I was typing!

Article 47 – Water Bodies Funds
182-2 approved.

Article 50 – OPEB
188-0-1

Article 51 – Long Term Stabilization Fund
190-0

Article 53 – Special Ed Stabilization
Tosti: Money taken from this year’s budget: $135,000. Only be spent by vote of Town Meeting.
186-0

Article 55 – Use of Free Cash (Unencumbered Funds)
185-1

Article 56 – Fiscal Stability Stabilization Fund
Tosti: set the number. 191-0

Article 57 – Community Preservation Fund
Vice Chair Eric Helmuth: vote on each question separately. Approved on voice vote. Chairman Clarissa Rowe explained the 5 proposed projects. Helmuth explained the votes. Jalka is in favor. Michael Ruderman wanted to know why so much money was planned for administrative expenses. Rowe: to manage the projects and to relieve the pressure from other budgets, like Town Manager. Ed Trembley had a question about the Kimball House – answered by AHC Executive Director Pam Hallet. Christian Klein is in favor. Phil Goff moves to terminate on all articles. Terminated on voice vote. Vote 1: Approved. (7 against, forgot to write down the votes in favor). Vote 2: approved 171-15-1. Eric Helmuth moved to amend the 3rd vote to no action. Pedantically, I’ll note that the moderator had accepted a motion to terminate debate, so this motion should have been ruled out of order.  But the will of the body was done even if the rules are slippery sometimes..  Amendment approved. 185-1-1.

Article 59 – Resolution Parking
Darcy Devney gave presentation. 183-4

Article 60 – Precinct 17 to Highland.
John Leonard moved a substitute resolution – he would like the polling location to be in Highland fire station. Chief Jefferson explained why using a garage for voting was a bad idea. Stuart Cleinman is in favor of the resolution. He proposed an amendment to remove the words “Highland Station.” Amendment passed. Motion to substitute 108-69-5 passed. Substituted motion passed 109-67-9.

Town Meeting was dissolved.

Town Meeting ’16 – Session 5, and Special #2

I take notes during Town Meeting. They are not official in any way. As I listen to people speak, I type notes. I’m sure that, at times, I mishear or misunderstand the speaker, but my notes represent what I hear at the time. I try to publish the notes every night after the meeting. I do go back and make a few edits as errors are pointed out to me.  Sometimes I relay a quote from a specific speaker. Sometimes I only summarize the discussion. At points I give a purely personal opinion; those are clearly labeled like this: Personal note.

Jane Howard lead the meeting in the National Anthem.

Moderator John Leone lamented that Wednesday’s debate had lacked civility. During debate, some speakers made insinuations made about meeting members’ and volunteer boards’ motives, and other inappropriate language. He called on the meeting to behave better going forward.

Announcements

  • John Maher spoke about the Salvation Army programs.
  • Bob Tosi – Saturday is the Postal Service food drive – leave non-permishable items, carrier will pick it up.
  • Mark Spengler – Upcoming Schwamb Mill events
    Sarah Burks – Cyrus Dallin supplemental report available in back. Renovations at Jefferson Cutter House. Updates.

Test question for the electronic voting system: Is Lake Superior the world’s largest lake by surface area? Yes, was the answer. But the vote was 50-109-18.

Reports

  • Clarissa Rowe put in the Community Preservation Act (CPA) report, and moved the motions within the reports. She introduced her committee members.
  • Finance Committee Dean Carman – Gave a supplemental report of FinComm, Article 3 of the Special Town Meeting – School Enrollment.
  • John Cole – Permanent Town Building Committee. He gave a report on fire station renovation, police station renovation, and stratton renovation.
  • Jennifer Susse Chair of the School Committee – She asked for 7 minutes of time, and was granted. She gave a report on the successes of the school and the challenges.  She kindly provided me with a copy of her remarks.
  • Ann Leroyer – Open Space Committee – State approved our Open Space plan last Septemeber. She announced the “Experiencing Open Space” site/app.

Article 3 was tabled

Articles 35 through 42 were tabled.

Article 43 – Minuteman Appropriations
FinComm Member Steve DeCourcey asked for 15 minutes to speak, was granted. Superintendant Ed Bouquillon gave the presentation – he noted that the budget is lower this year than last. He talked about achievements and budget forces.  Gordon Jamieson asked about student applications. Other questions, OPEB is only partially funded. Retirement fund is 95% funded.  John Deyst asked about special ed – half of the students at Minuteman are on an IEP, highest in the state. 14% of the budget is focused on special ed. 100% passed on English, 95% math on MCAS. Paul Schlichtman noted that the state continues to fail to meet its commitment to fund transportation costs. Janice Weber asked if Minuteman has robotics program – it does. 195-2-3 budget was approved

Tosti moved to adjourn to the special town meeting.

Special Town Meeting Article 6 – Minuteman Building
Al Tosti said to follow the language approved by FinCom last week, not the amendment that he’d prepared.  The FinComm motion would approve the building, contingent on the debt exclusion vote on June 14.  Steve DeCourcey asked for 25 minutes. Several people were opposed to giving the extra time, but it was granted by a vote of 134-59-6.  Steve DeCourcey: reported on that the approval of the FinComm was 10-8. Belmont has said no, so the current debt proposal is dead, but we still want an informational vote here. He ran through the costs of the building, the funding sources.  Dr. Bouquillon spoke next.  He described the MSBA process, the 9 options considered, the building project proposed,  and the physical campus. He talked about the academy plan. He talked about student role in the design process, the cost savings measures of the building, and asked for Arlington’s support.  Charlie Foskett opposed, as himself.  He asked for 10 minutes, got it. He is opposed to the building on the issues, and the form of the article. I understand Charlie’s arguments, though I disagree with most of them.  My only beef with his remarks was that he appeared to use 120 Arlington students for some calculations, but 144 students for others, depending on what point he was trying to make.

We took a break.

I spoke for 7 minutes – here are my slides. Al Tosti asked Town Counsel Doug Heim about the contingency on the debt exclusion.  Heim responded that the bond votes presents no risks to Arlington. Michael Ruderman spoke favorably of Minuteman and in favor of the project. Andy O’Brien talked about his experience with vocational education and how it’s changed. Leba Heigham spoke against the building. She brought in a red herring about the plan depending on bringing in other towns – no one had made that argument. It was mentioned as a possibility, but not as a part of the plan. She pointed out that if enrollment goes up, our costs go up. John Deyst noted that Minuteman was expensive, but it is in the range of reasonable. He voted against the building in FinComm, but he has changed his mind, and he is now supporting it. I was delighted by this development.  As I said in my speech, reasonable people can disagree, and I respected Deyst’s vote at FinComm.  But his change of heart to support the project was most welcome.  Steve Gilligan is opposed to the building. He thinks we should move vocational education into Arlington High School. This argument was not at all well-thought out.  The number of programs you could put together with just Arlington’s students is maybe 5.  And then, for every student who wants a program Arlington doesn’t have, by state law, we would have to pay for out-of-district tuition when that student goes to another school.  Simply “bringing the students home” is not a viable strategy. He said that voting “no” didn’t kill the building.  I was boggled by the number of factually incorrect or totally confused statements Gilligan made. Reasonable people can disagree – but still, there are some facts that are incontrovertible.   He totally misunderstood what I said during my speech about the role of bond counsel. The cost numbers for the schools that he put forward were so far out of whack as to be nonsense – we’re not spending $20 million on portables. And, voting no does kill the building project – there’s no pencil-sharpening recovery step as he suggested.  I think that the meeting as a whole was equally confused by what he said.  Julia Ruderman, a student at Minuteman and a Town Meeting member, addressed the issues as a student, and urged support. Ed Trembley asked about the remediation expenses if there is renovation – they are high.  Annie LaCourt asked about the alternatives we have considered.  She agrees the risks are real and correctly considered, and she supported building within that consideration. Thomas Michelman asked if Minuteman could build if we vote no – the answer is not for a long time. Michelman also wanted to understand the economies of scale at different enrollments. Helmuth moved to terminate debate, and it was 138-45-3. Foskett’s motion: 41-151-2 against. Main motion: 165-31.

I’m obviously very pleased with this result, and I thank Town Meeting for its vote, and I thank everyone who has worked and volunteered for Minuteman for their time and effort.  There’s still a lot to do to get this done.  We need approval at the ballot box on June 14th.  And then we have to figure out how to get Belmont to reconsider.

Town Meeting ’16 – Session 4

I take notes during Town Meeting. They are not official in any way. As I listen to people speak, I type notes. I’m sure that, at times, I mishear or misunderstand the speaker, but my notes represent what I hear at the time. I try to publish the notes every night after the meeting. I do go back and make a few edits as errors are pointed out to me.  Sometimes I relay a quote from a specific speaker. Sometimes I only summarize the discussion. At points I give a purely personal opinion; those are clearly labeled like this: Personal note.

The Board of Selectmen ran late – we were having a vigorous discussion about the language for the debt exclusion vote to be held on June 14th. I arrived a few minutes late, just as the anthem started.

Eric Helmuth lead the meeting in the National Anthem.

Chairman of the Board of Selectmen Diane Mahon moved that we reconvene on May 9th.

Announcements

  • Chairman Mahon thanked the meeting for their patience while we held our vote.
  • FinCom Chair Al Tosti – Minuteman vote is Monday, and school building vote for Gibbs is Wednesday.
  • Adam Chapedelaine – He announced a Mass Ave Rebuild Phase 2 “Walkshop” for Thursday May 12.
  • Mr. Chapdelaine apologized for an incorrect answer he gave on Monday. The removal of the exterior lines did create another buildable lot. Later the moderator said that notice of reconsideration had been given by Christian Klein, and anyone who wanted to reverse their vote should talk to him. He has the option of moving reconsideration, and if he does, Town Meeting could reverse the approval vote.  We would first have to approve the motion to reconsider (a 2/3 vote, I think), and then we’d re-do the debate and final vote.
  • Jane Howard announced May 14 is Spy Pond trail days – come help maintain the pond.

The moderator announced that the owner of the electronic voting system was here to supervise.  On Monday, the system kept losing connection with the clickers.  It seemed to work without incident tonight. We held a test vote, on this May (the) 4th (be with you): Are you a Star Wars fan? 134-60-14.

Article 3 – Reports
Charlie Foskett announced that the Capital Planning Committee report was available.

Article 3 was tabled.

Article 8 – Residential Zoning
Patricia Worden introduced Chris Loreti and made a substitute motion. After fixing a typo, he argued that the change had minor effects and made for larger yards, and should be supported.  He alleged that the ARB pulled their support from pressure from the selectmen, who “have close connection with the developers.” I couldn’t help but smile – this allegation is so absurd.  I work and socialize with geeks, engineers, venture capitalists, and even hedge fund managers.  I don’t have anything against developers, but to suggest that I am somehow beholden to them, or inappropriately acting on their behalf – it’s a laugher.  Maybe he meant that I have connection with software developers, in which case he’d actually be right.  I’ll add it to the list of false allegations he has made about about me over the years.  Diane Mahon introduced Lynne Lowenstein. She said that zoning changes shouldn’t be done piecemeal. She is in favor of zoning changes, but not pick-and-choose, unvetted changes. They have unintended consequences. Nicole Knobloch is a realtor, she spoke and then introduced Mr. Niberg. He said that we’re dealing with puzzle pieces, and we need to look at the full picture. John Worden is fine with a committee to consider a zoning overhaul, but only if there is a moratorium on building. He doesn’t think zoning is confusing, but he thinks the anonymous propaganda was incorrect and confusing. ARB chair Andrew Bunnell agree with previous speakers that it is on the ARB to make zoning understandable. That is why they voted no action – the feedback was that the proposals weren’t clear and needed more work. Andrew Fischer clarified what we were actually voting on. He thinks the 7-foot rule is reasonable and he was voting in favor. Gordon Jamieson moved the question – terminated on voice vote. Ted Paluso tried to continue the debate, and was ruled out of order.  The vote to terminate debate was questioned, so we had a counted vote.  By 135-71-5 not terminated. Ted Paluso then was permitted to speak, and he demanded an apology for the insults by Chris Loreti to the selectmen. Mark McCabe moved to terminate debate again. 160-57-3 we terminated. 70-146-1 we did not substitute the motion. No action approved on voice vote.

Article 8 – Residential Zoning
No action.

Article 10 – Residential Parking Zoning
Elizabeth Pyle moved the original ARB suggested language (which they had withdrawn). She argued that steep driveways are a public safety issue. Steve Robilak isn’t convinced this is a safety measure. Gary Tibbets is opposed to the change. He introduced Mr. Copperthorne who advocated to follow the ARB, and that it is not a safety issue any more than usual. Janice Weber is opposed – she lives on a hill and the proposed rule would impact her negatively. Christian Klein gave examples of various grade percentages in practice. He noted that more special permits cost money, and ZBA would need more budget if this pased. John Hoppe is in favor – his street has new houses at 30% grade, and they are holes in the streetscape.  Phil Goff asked the ARB why they pulled support at the last minute? ARB Chair Andrew Bunnel answered that the ARB decided that all of the residential articles needed more work; the commercial ones were fine, but the residential ones were not clear and did not have consensus.  Goff is concerned with the “pit houses,” the ones with below-grade garages.  I see a lot of merit in this proposal.  I’m particularly concerned with flooding. In the lower, flatter parts of Arlington the downslope driveways into a dugout garage have terrible flooding problems. The people buying the houses don’t understand that their new garage is actually a flood control cistern. But this is exactly why I voted against it. It might be a bad idea in East Arlington, but a good idea on the side of Mt. Gilboa. We need a more comprehensive approach, not a one-size-fits-all restriction. Mustafa Varoglu asked about what the effect on existing driveways would be. If you have an existing non-conforming driveway, there wouldn’t be a restriction on repaving, but there would be on extension, renovation, or other new building. Annie LaCourt asked about the source of the idea – it came from Master Plan Implementation Committee. There was no data about how often these driveways happen. She asked when the ARB would consider the residential questions – Andrew Bunnell said a timeframe is forthcoming, and his goal is to have something for next year’s Town Meeting.

Break

Several speakers passed. Mr. Worden noted the support of the Master Plan Implementation Committee for the ARB language. He said that if this is voted down, and anyone is hit by a car, it would be on our conscience. I was reminded of what political debate looks like in Springfield. Paul Schlichtman moved to terminate debate. 160-37-4 terminated. 74-126-3 motion failed. No action approved on voice vote.

Article 11 – New Residential Construction
Adam Auster moved a resolution to refer residential building to a committee appointed by the Town Manager to report back to Town Meeting. He talked about some of the rebuilding in East Arlington, how some of it was positive, but how some of it wasn’t fitting. ARB Andrew Bunnell is in favor.  Patricia Worden was in favor. John Belskis wasn’t sure if he was in favor, but was concerned with the power of developers. Gordon Jamieson is opposed; he thinks we have the committees in place already. Len Kardon said that people should vote yes only if they think there is a problem to be addressed. Andrew Bengtson had questions about getting visualizations from an intern. Steve Robilak wondered about committee overlaps. Adam Chapdelaine, in answer to a question, said he would likely use the Master Plan Implementation committee to do this. Debbie Edelstein was uncomfortable with some of the editorializing in the motion. She’s opposed. Mark McCabe moved terminate debate. 174-22-4 terminated. Adam Auster’s substitute motion passed 107-95-2. 118-85 final approval.

Article 30 – Gilboa
No action

Article 31 – Local Option
No ation

Article 32 – CDBG Expenditures
I gave an explanation of Community Development Block Grants, our process, and recent updates.  There was a request for more historical data. There was a question about administration costs.  Approved.  Someone was opposed, but I’m not sure what they were opposed to . . .

Article 33 – Revolving Funds
Adam Chapdelaine noted there is report and an extended report. Approved unanimously.

Article 34 – Position Reclassifications
Approved unanimously.

Article 35 – Budgets
There was question if we should postpone the budgets- Adam Chapdelaine said that several department heads were here for budgets, and we should go forward.  We went forward with the budgets.  Every budget name was read, and some were tacitly approved, while some were “held” for discussion.

FinComm Budget – Mostly wasn’t questions – there were people who approved or disapproved of some of the choices FinComm has made.

Town Manager  Budget – John Leonard – deputy town manager was vacant for several months – where did the money go? Unused money returned to free cash (aka unrestricted funds). John Leonard had questions about the assistant and deputy town manager roles and costs. Carl Wagner asked about the decision to give the Town Manager a raise. John Deyst spoke in favor of the Town Manager’s budget. Zarina Mamon asked why the expenses didn’t go up. She had questions about salaries, steps, and longevity. I answered about why we gave a housing allowance. I noted the allowance was for this manager, not future ones. Al Tosti spoke in favor of the assistant town manager position.  Paul Schlichtman moved to terminate debate, done on voice votes.

Remaining budgets with holds: IT, Treasurer, Assessors, ZBA, Public Works, Facilities, Community Safety, Inspections, Education, Libaries, Retirement, Insurance, Reserve Funds, Ed Burns Arena.

We adjourned.

I believe the plan for Monday is to table the remaining budgets and take up the Minuteman annual budget, then go into the Special Town Meeting and vote on the Minuteman building project.

Town Meeting ’16 – Session 3

I take notes during Town Meeting. They are not official in any way. As I listen to people speak, I type notes. I’m sure that, at times, I mishear or misunderstand the speaker, but my notes represent what I hear at the time. I try to publish the notes every night after the meeting. I do go back and make a few edits as errors are pointed out to me.  Sometimes I relay a quote from a specific speaker. Sometimes I only summarize the discussion. At points I give a purely personal opinion; those are clearly labeled like this: Personal note.

Jane Howard played the “Star Spangled Banner” and the meeting sang along.

We did a test question on the vote clickers: Will the Red Sox win the pennant this year 76-50-16, the vote was yes. That’s a pretty low number, but I think people were still arriving.  Later vote totals were much larger.

Many people were still at the School Enrollment Task Force meeting, including Board of Selectmen Chair Diane Mahon. So, I made the motion for us to reconvene May 4th.

Announcements

  • Ted Paluso talked about the many tourist attractions in town and showed a handout from ATED.
  • John Worden noted that in 1921 Arlington adopted “Limited Town Meeting” which we call “Representative Town Meeting.” That’s 94 years under that format – and Mr. Worden has been here for half of them.
  • Chamber of Commerce  is seeking nominatinons for citizen of the year.

Article 3 – Reports of Town Committees

  • FinComm Chair Al Tosti – supplemental report available. Minuteman votes will be held on Monday the 9th.
  • Treasurer Stephen Gilligan announced his written report was available. And, presumably, in time, on the town website.

Art 3 was laid on table.

Article 18 – Expanding Equal Protection
Vice Chair of the Human Rights Commissioner Mel Goldsipe spoke in favor of the change. Unanimously approved on voice vote. So last week we didn’t have the contractor to run the electronic voting system. The new guy was here, but he wasn’t ready – we couldn’t get the vote running, hence the voice vote.

Article 19 – Human Rights Committee Executive Director
Moderator Leone noted that this had been on the consent agenda, and someone asked to take it off the consent agenda. But then no one spoke! Adopted unanimously.

Article 20 – Human Rights Committee Chair
Consent agenda again – unanimously approved.

Article 22 – Tree Bylaw
Selectman Chair Diane Mahon related the history of the three hearings on the issue. Susan Stamps gave the presentation. She noted the bylaw does not affect taking down a tree in your back yard. It only affects trees in the setback, and only during major construction. Two changes came from Town Counsel Doug Heim. Gary Tibbets spoke in favor. He proposed an amendment to change the deadline from 90 days to 180 days to allow for seasonal difficulty in planting trees. Bill Berkowitz in favor. He spoke on the importance of trees. Daniel Jalkut was in favor, and had a question about the correction. Zarina Memon with a question on invasive species. Paul Schlichtman moved to terminated debate. It was terminated after some confusion on the clickers. The amendment passed, 203-5.   The amended motion passed 200-9-1.

Article 23 – Electronic Distribution of Town Meeting Materials
Karl Wagner started with some prop comedy about all the paper, spoke in favor. Eric Helmuth – in favor. Barbar Boltz was confused about the process of opting in v. opting out – you must opt yourself in, and once in, you may opt yourself out.. Molly Flueckiger reminded everyone to keep their messaging ADA compliant. Daniel Jalkut had a question about document standards. Marian King had a question about how electronic documents would work in meetings. Steve Liggett is in favor. He advocated putting a version number on every document. Ted Sharpe thinks that the opt-out solution (once you’ve opted in) is too bureaucratic, and suggested during implementation that people be opted out if there are too many email bounces. Greg Christiana tried to terminate debate – but he spoke a few words first, and is not allowed to terminate debate if he does that. Zarina Memon moved to terminated detabe. Debate is terminated on voice vote. 202-7 in favor of the change.

Article 26 – Email Address for Public Bodies
Elizabeth Pyle introduced Chris Loreti who made a substitute motion. He wants certain boards to have town email addresses and have them listed on the website. It’s worth noting that the substitute motion was different from the original proposal that we heard at the selectmen’s hearing. The original proposal included a requirement that town email must be used for all emails by the various board members. The response of the board was to recommend no action on the bylaw, but to agree with the usefulness of town email addresses, and to ask the town manager to make emails available to town volunteers. The language was proposed tonight is much more relaxed than the original proposal.  The comments in our selectmen’s report were referring to the original proposal, not the one we voted on tonight. Paul Schlichtman asked the Town Manager his opinion. Adam Chapdelaine said that it is possible, and it would make public records requests easier. Schlichtman asked what would happen if he replied to questions about a debt exclusion on a ballot question using town email. Town Counsel Doug Heim said an email probably wasn’t a problem, but distributing political documents would be against campaign law. Schlichtman said he will be abstaining. Annie LaCourt is in favor. Gordon Jamieson asked if it was a resolution – no, it’s a vote of town meeting. Michelle Durocher thinks it would help some board members. John Maher believes that it would inhibit volunteers. Zarina Memon compared town officials to Hillary Clinton, and then noted that the motion was about “pubic” records, not “public” records.  As was quoted to me: “It puts a whole new meaning on combing through the records.” The change to the typo was accepted administratively.

We took a break.

Joe Tully spoke in favor. He thinks it is easy to implement. Christiana – opposed. Not clear division between “work” v. home email in this case. Karl Wagner terminated debate. By 96-92-11 it was substituted. 105-95-6 the motion carried.

Article 27 – Lobbying Public Officials
No action

Article 28 – Community Choice Aggregation
Selectman Diane Mahon noted the Selectmen’s notes and FAQ. Town Manager Adam Chapdelaine walked through the steps of how community aggregation would be adopted. Town Meeting authorizes the process, a plan is created, and then several state authorities and the Board of Selectmen have to approve the plan. He noted that if pricing isn’t favorable, we wouldn’t exercise a contract. Jacqueline Chakrabarty spoke in favor on climate protection arguments. Kevin Koch asked what happens if the costs change over the longer term – the answer is to adopt short contracts so you can reset if prices change. There was a question about Belmont’s Municipal Light Plant – not an option at this time. Flynn Monks asked and heard that 11% of the town uses competitive power already. He’s in favor of the plan. Town Meeting Member Tom Michelman works for an energy broker and he’s in favor. Michael Quinn related some history of the Municipal Power Aggregation Commiittee – a committee I served on with him. He is concerned that there are no guarantees that the price would be favorable. He also noted that this is Town Meeting’s only chance to vote on the issue.  Andrew OBrien supports the article. John Deyst is in favor because he trusts the Town Manager to get it done properly. Deb Butler asked if you can still use utility budgeting and you can. Steve Ligget is in favor. He asked for some usage numbers that were not available. Charlie Foskett had a question about how cost can be lower, if renewable energy is more expensive. Town Manager Adam Chapdelaine said that bulk negotiation enabled lower rates. There was an interplay about whether or not there were subsidies and whether they should affect the debate. It was clarified that the aggregation being contemplated was 5% more than the Eversource basic. Karl Wagner moved to terminate debate. Terminated on voice vote. 177-22-5 it was approved. More than 200 voters at 10:30! Attendance is stronger this year.

Article 29 – Removal of Easement on Pleasant View Road
Moderator John Leone stepped down as Moderator for this article because he negotiated on behalf of the property owner. Adam Chapdelaine explained that the exterior lines were for a road that was never built. He negotiated with the property owner in similar consideration of the 2014 agreement on the adjacent property. He described how he came to a price using a “rollback” tax calculation indicated by a related section of state law. Michael Ruderman asked a question about how the cost was computed. John Worden was opposed to the last exterior line sale, and he’s opposed to this one. It permits development that he doesn’t approve it. Dean Carmen is in favor. He thinks that the 2014 solution was a good example to be followed. William Burke was confused about which property was in question. Christian Klein is concerned that we don’t have a written plan and asked some questions about the lot dimensions. Christopher Moore moved to terminate debate.  After more failures of the electronic voting system, the debate was terminated and the agreement was approved on voice vote.

Town Meeting ’16 – Session 2 (And Special TM Session 1)

I take notes during Town Meeting. They are not official in any way. As I listen to people speak, I type notes. I’m sure that, at times, I mishear or misunderstand the speaker, but my notes represent what I hear at the time. I try to publish the notes every night after the meeting. I do go back and make a few edits as errors are pointed out to me.  Sometimes I relay a quote from a specific speaker. Sometimes I only summarize the discussion. At points I give a purely personal opinion; those are clearly labeled like this: Personal note.

8:02 call to order.

The moderator announced that the electronic voting operator wasn’t present. We have no electronic voting until he comes! The moderator said that we will run under the “old” meeting rules – use a voice vote most of the time, and if 5 people rise to doubt the ruling on the voice vote there will be a standing vote, etc.

Eric Helmuth played the National Anthem on the piano. I think he did a great job! Fast and energetic.

The Moderator swore in the one new member. He was applauded.

The Special Town Meeting was called to order.

We voted to return for the Special on Monday May 9th if it is not completed tonight.

The Special Town Meeting was called because we thought we might need very fast resolution on some school building projects.  That has turned out to not be the case.  Still, it was the right move at the time – it kept our options open while we considered the school building needs.

Announcements and Resolutions

  • Steve Decourcey announced the High School Girl Tennis team is selling baked goods.
  • John Maher noted that he has been here for more than half the 79 Town Meetings under the current system. He invited application to the Symmes Foundation for medical uses of the community.
  • Jacoby?. Early voting will be available in Massachusetts. Educate your neighbors!
  • (I missed the name!) from Arlington Cultural Council spoke about arts in the town. Arlington Center for the Arts, ACA. Commision on Arts and Culture ACAC. Arlinton Culturual Council ACC.  ACC gave 17 grants for $22,000 to support the arts in town.

Reports

  • Andrew Bunnell of the ARB: Letter on the chairs explaining the last-minute change in recommendation on Articles 8-10.
  • John Leonard: – Dissolve the CPA Study Committee. Question on the Building Maintenance Committee. Maintenance Study Committee dissolved – again.

Article 1 of Special Town Meeting – FY2016 budgets. No action

Article 2 Transfer Special Ed
$200k approved on voice vote.

Article 3 Capital School Capacity
Al Tosti explained that the School Enrollment Task Force has a hearing tomorrow night to hear from the architect. On Monday the Task Force will meet again and make recommendations. FinComm will meet and consider the recommendations and get a report to Town Meeting. He moved postponement to May 11 or earlier at the call of the moderator. Postponed on voice vote.

Article 4 Stratton
No action.

Article 5 Arlington High School Feasibility Study
Al Tosti: this is a first step for a new High School. Superintendent Kathy Bodie described the history of our application with the MSBA and outlined some of the problems with the current facility. Town Manager Adam Chapdelaine walked through the MSBA process, where we are in it, and what Town Meeting’s role is. Gordon Jamieson asked about the LABB collaborative and the role of the Permanent Town Building committee. The appropriation was unanimously approved, contingent on the success of the Proposition 2.5 debt exclusion vote set for June 14th.

Article 6 Minuteman Building
Al Tosti reported that the Selectmen’s Minuteman Task Force had voted on Tuesday morning 8-1 to support the building. Later Tuesday FinComm voted 10-8 to support the building. He said that it was a tough question with a difficult discussion. He asked that this be postponed to May 9th. Postponed.  I support the Minuteman building project.  I haven’t fully written out my thoughts, but the framework of my argument can be read here.

Adjourned Special Town Meeting.

Article 11 – Regular Town meeting – Garage Entrance Locations
Adam Auster put in a substitute motion, but moved to postpone until after Article 10.  Postponed.

Article 12 and 13 were already approved on the consent vote, so we moved on:

Article 14 – Increasing Space Between Buildings
John Belskis proposed a substitute motion. He wants to make a change in the side yard setbacks. He wants to keep larger buildings from being built and encroaching on neighbors. Gordon Jamieson is opposed – it’s too restrictive, particularly for those parts of towns with housing on small lots. ARB Chair Andrew Bunnel said the ARB had no opinion. Gregory Christiana – there isn’t enough information about what is affected. Another speaker was opposed. Mark Lombard was opposed, and showed pictures of his renovation. Tom Caccavaro introduced Don Westwater. He is opposed. There was an outbreak of rude mocking from the upper gallery. The moderator asked the meeting to act with civility. There was confusion about the content of the substitute motion. The moderator himself was confused. Mr. Belskis re-explained the motion. Andy O’Brien is concerned that these changes could lower property values. Kevin Greeley introduced Steve McKenna. McKenna was unhappy with some of the negative comments about the ARB on Monday. He thinks the zoning bylaws are too complex, and we need to start from the beginning. He wants to rewrite from the beginning. Mustafa Varoglu moved to terminate debate. Terminated on voice vote. Substitution failed on voice vote. No action approved on voice vote.

Article 15 – Large Additions
John Worden moved a substitute motion. He thinks there is an epidemic of “teardowns and mansionization.” He wants to protect neighborhoods. He would like to make it much harder to do a teardown. He said that much of the opposition information being distributed wasn’t true. Elizabeth Pyle supports the substitute motion. She thinks teardowns should be treated the same as additions. She pointed out that a teardown is easier than an addition, and that isn’t sound. I think that her argument was a compelling one. However, the substitute includes additional restrictions on additions and teardowns that I think were excessive.  Worden wants to restrict development much more than I do, and this language that he proposed went farther than I’m comfortable with.  I would support a “clean” change that treats teardowns the same as additions.  But I didn’t support the multiple changes in the substitute motion.

7 minute break

The moderator brought the Special Town Meeting back into session and certified that there was a quorum. I think this was an “oops” that needed to be corrected.

Patricia Worden spoke against tear downs. Steve Robilak noted the increasing complexity of the zoning regulations. Andrew Bunnell said the ARB doesn’t have a formal opinion on this article. He is opposed to the change. Annie LaCourt asked questions about the permits and the hearing processes – 120 days on the outside, and often close to that. She doesn’t think we have enough data about the current actions and the effect of these changes. She is opposed. Christopher Moore asked about ARB timing. He asked if there is a methodology for evaluating the effects of sun and shadows. Bob Jefferson is opposed. He thinks the ARB should be the ones to work on this. He introduced Mr. Niberg who said that houses should be evaluated on their finished state, not the unfinished pictures put up Mr. Worden. He thinks this change would impact small lots and homeowners particularly. Gordon Jamieson is opposed to the substitute motion. Carl Wagner is in favor of the substitute motion because it shouldn’t be easier to tear down. Guillermo Bahamon likes his neighbors, and would like this to be decided by the ARB. Bill Kaplan spoke in favor of his neighbors building larger houses. He pointed out that all of that new building will defray future tax increases. Joe Tully doesn’t think that this article should be lumped in with other articles. He wants to close the loophole. He commented on the effect of new building under Proposition 2.5. There was confusion about the effect of new building under Prop 2.5, but Bill Kaplan got it right.  Any new building – renovations, additions, teardown/rebuilds, building on vacant lots, anything new – is taxed and the revenue is in addition to the limits of Proposition 2.5.  That’s why towns with high growth rates don’t need overrides.  Their new buildings increase their revenue in excess of Prop 2.5 limits.  Kaplan was right: when your neighbors expand their houses, then the pressure on your tax bill is reduced.  Mark McCabe moved to terminate debate. Standing vote. 162-42, debate was terminated. The standing vote and the delay it caused was a good reminder of why we love electronic voting! 92-114 the substitute motion failed.  No action approved.

Article 16 Revision of Height Calculations
Elizabeth Pyle made a substitute motion. The substitute motion is different from the original proposal. She said her proposal is fair to all property owners. She thinks that the previous language could be taken advantage of, and the new language is more consistent. Steve McKenna was opposed. Gary Tibbets opposed to the change. He thinks the ARB is the right group to generate these changes to keep them clear and consistent. Bill Kaplan had mixed feelings. Gordon Jamieson asked if it was in scope – the moderator ruled that it was. Jamieson is opposed.  Allan Reedy moved to terminate debate.  Pyle’s vote went down by majority vote.  No action was approved.

Meeting adjourned.