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Town Meeting, 4/23, Session One

I take notes during Town Meeting. They are not official in any way. As I listen to people speak, I scribble notes. I’m sure that, at times, I mishear or misunderstand the speaker, but my notes represent what I hear at the time. I then publish the notes every night after the meeting. I do go back and make a few edits as errors are pointed out to me.

I do not try to reproduce my entire notepad for this online version. Sometimes I relay a quote from a specific speaker. Most of the time I only summarize the discussion. At points I give a purely personal opinion; those are clearly labeled like this: Personal note.

The State of the Town was at 7PM. I didn’t make it in time for the State of the Town speech from Selectman Annie LaCourt. I hear I missed a good one.  You can read the text of the speech here.

Shortly after 8PM, Town Meeting began.

A color guard of Revolutionary War reenactors carried the flag to the front of the meeting. The fife and drum played the national anthem, with the meeting members and audience singing.

Steve Carrol of the Salvation Army gave the invocation.

Moderator John Worden called the 201st Town Meeting of Arlington to order. He read a message from recently-elected Moderator John Leone. Mr. Leone’s son died in a car accident last week and Mr. Worden is continuing as moderator until Mr. Leone chooses to take the office. There were several tears in several eyes.

Newly elected and reelected members were sworn in. The moderator advised the new to seek advice, and the veterans to give advice.

The meeting voted to permit non-members who are on committees, press, employees, consultants, etc. to sit on the main floor (everyone else is required to sit up in the balconies).

The warrant was certified as delivered by the Town Clerk.

The next meeting was scheduled for the 26th.

There were several announcements:

  • Allan Tosti gave an emotional plea to parents to remind their children that speed kills. He remembered the loss of his daughter, John Leone’s loss, and several recent accidents in the area that have claimed the lives of teeagers. This was very emotional. I appreciate the message that he is sending.
  • Annie LaCourt announced several upcoming events related to Arlington’s 200th Anniversary.
  • Annie LaCourt announced on May 3 there is Youth Health and Safety meeting at Town Hall related to substance abuse issues.
  • Annie LaCourt reported that the Selectmen again were asking the meeting to consider starting at 7:30 and finish at 10:30. The moderator told her that this had already been voted and to try again on Wednesday. This was a singularly unhelpful answer on the moderator’s part; he could have re-voted the question with zero fuss had he wished. On the substance of the issue, I’d rather lengthen the meeting to 7:30 to 11. I’d rather fewer nights. Otherwise, I don’t care much.
  • Glenn Koenig spoke about how to use the microphones to their best effect.
  • There were several announcements about the Friends of Robbins Library events.

Article 2 – Reports of Committees. Town Meeting accepted several reports:

  • Board of Selectmen’s report was submitted by Ms. LaCourt.
  • Allan Tosti submitted the Finance Committee’s report, and noted the recommended votes for the upcoming Special Town Meeting.
  • Roland Chaput submitted the Redevelopment Board’s report.
  • Town Counsel John Maher submitted a report from the bylaw review committee.
  • Mr. Maher asked that the newsrack committee be discharged, and it was.
  • Rich Carreiro gave the report of the Town Meeting Procedures committee.
  • John Bilafer gave the report of the OPEB (other post employment benefits) study group. It was requested that copies be made available to meeting members.
  • Patricia Worden gave the report of the Arlington Housing Task Force.
  • Mr. Flaherty gave the report of the Zoning Bylaw Review Committee. He noted there were two vacancies.

Alan Tosti moved to incorporate any motions within the reports as the main motion under any pending articles. This matters more than you’d think. It sets the basis for almost every vote in the meeting.

The moderator called on Mr. Tosti, but before he could speak he was interrupted by Lyman Judd. Mr. Judd suggested that Article 2 needed to be tabled. When Mr. Tosti was permitted to speak, he moved to table Article 2. It was tabled. First time Mr. Judd spoke. Won’t be the last.

Annie LaCourt introduced the people at the tables in the front of the room, including the recently hired DPW Director Mr. Bean.

Article 3 – John FitzMaurice was appointed Measurer of Wood and Bark.

Article 4 – Election of Assistant Moderator. The article was tabled. This will come back up when Mr. Leone assumes office.

Article 5 – Zoning Change to Permit Shared Vehicles. Mr. Chaput explained that Zipcar wants to expand further in Arlington. This article would allow the town to grant permits for up to 4 spots in any given parking lot as spots for shared cars. It also allows certain zoning (commercial) to do it when they wish. This was the first substantive debate of the meeting, and it took a while for people to find their bearings. The opening explanation was murky and sent people down the wrong paths, which didn’t help. I think the explanation failed to outline the key point that this only allows the use, but the actual revenue etc. is in the permitting – and that wasn’t in the article. There were several questions and points made. They included complaints that the cars had too much advertising, that the town would lose excise taxes from cars that aren’t purchased, that the cars weren’t appropriate for people who can’t walk, that there would be too many cars in town, confusion on how cars were “reserved,” and that the town needed to get more revenue for the spots. The Transportation Advisory Committee was strongly in favor. A couple of Zipcar users supported the change and explained how it helped them avoid purchasing another car. A motion to terminate debate carried. The article was approved by 126-19. It was clear that the discussion had left the rails when someone worried that this change would incite someone to convert green space to parking spaces. The fact that they could already do that, and make money at it, apparently escaped them. I’m glad the article passed despite the stumbling.

Article 6 – Compact Car Parking Change. ARB member Andy West explained that compact car spaces are currently too small and too hard to park in. Also, there are fewer compact cars than there used to be, so the number of compact spaces can be smaller. There was no discussion. It passed 104-34. An odd “debate,” especially on the heels of the last article. No one for it, no one against it, no questions asked, and it was withing 20 votes of getting shot down. I don’t know why people voted no. I voted yes because the explanation satisfied me that it was a good idea.

Article 7 – Parking and Open Space. Kevin O’Brien explained that last year Town Meeting voted this article down, and then reversed itself and approved the article. There was some notification that was not made, and the article had to be revoted. It was approved 126-8.

Article 8 – Permeable Paving. This article is to permit environmentally-friendly surfaces that permit rainwater to pass through into the ground be legal. There was a question about whether this permitted leaking oil into the ground, which it did, but was no worse than going into the sewer. A question was asked why was this not allowed before, and the answer was “no one thought of it before.” Think about that for a second. The town’s well-intentioned zoning bylaws explicitly forbid environmentally friendly parking surfaces. Right now, you could try to do the right thing, but it wouldn’t be legal. This is why I’m biased against restrictive bylaws. There are so many things that seem like good ideas at the time that turn out to be wrong. (Not to mention the ones where the main idea is right, but there are unintended consequences). It was approved unanimously.

Article 9 – Affordable Housing. Chris Loreti explained that the proposed changes are to make the rules relating to rental be “more useful” and to make the bylaw consistent with state law. There were a couple of questions about 40B and how utilities are calculated. It was approved unanimously. I continue to think that the affordable housing bylaw is a bad idea. The way to make housing more affordable is to make more housing available. When you force 5 owners to subsidize every 6th owner, you’re just shuffling deck chairs. That said, the state law is something that we have to deal with. I voted for this as a pragmatic move for the town to work its way out of 40B.

Article 10 – Stormwater Management. Kevin O’Brien explained that this year’s proposal is better than last year’s version. He explained that the square footage calculations that trigger this requirement are calculated against the impermeable surfaces of the roof, driveway, patio, etc., not just the building itself. Patricia Worden proposed an amendment to move the limit from 1500 to 1000 sq. ft. She was concerned that this proposal simply made it easy for developers to skirt. A few speakers followed in the same vein, saying that it didn’t go far enough because it didn’t block existing floods. Mr. Canaday pointed out that the actual administration was undefined. Furthermore, the bylaw didn’t contain definitions of runoff or how it would be measured. He questioned how the article could be enforced without definitions or administration. I think he nailed it. I understand what the planning department is trying to do, and I support it in principle. But I’m not going to support an expensive inhibition to development until there is a reasonably clear way to measure the effects and/or compliance of storm water management rules. Just look back to Article 8 for a clear and highly relevant example. It does not make sense to regulate runoff when you are unable to explain how it is calculated and/or measured. The debate will continue on Wednesday.

The meeting was adjourned. There were no notifications for reconsideration.


Comment from Rich Carreiro
Time: April 24, 2007, 8:05 am


Comment from dunster
Time: April 24, 2007, 8:52 am

Cool, thanks. I updated the name in the text so it reads better.

Pingback from Dan Dunn’s Podium » Town Meeting ‘08 Session One
Time: April 29, 2008, 2:59 am

[…] sorry and disappointed that I missed some business tonight. Some things I’ve seen before – ceremony and swearing in, for instance. However, I’m sorry that I missed Selectman Clarissa Rowe’s State of […]