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Town Meeting ’11, Session 1

I plan on continuing my Town Meeting note-taking as much as I can.  Now that I’m a selectman, there may be times where I can’t write.  I’ll do the best that I can – and I like doing it.

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 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 notes 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 meeting was called to order at 8:00 by Moderator John Leone.

The Menotomy Minutemen marched in to fife and drum.  They lead the meeting in the national anthem.

Former Town Counsel and current Town Meeting Member John Maher introduce Major Carroll of the Salvation Army.  He’s retiring, and Mr. Maher gave a description of how he has served the town.  Major Carroll gave an invocation.

The Moderator pointed out some new technology that is available.  There is a new projector up on the stage.  There are new clocks that track the time limits of the speakers, and green, yellow and red lights.  I am completely delighted with the projector – it’s very visible, and it’s going to be very helpful at clearing up confusion later in the meeting.  I’m curious how well the clocks work.  I was initially worried that people would speak to fill the time, but the early returns were good.

The Moderator swore in new members of Town Meeting, and they were greeted with a round of applause.  He also swore in re-elected members as well.

Students from Dallin, Hardy, Ottoson, and Bishop Schools were introduced.  They were recognized for raising $16,000 in the name of our Japanese sister city for the Japanese Relief Fund.

We heard a word of thanks from the representative from our sister city, Nagaokakyo.

Article 2 – State of the Town

Chairman of the Board of Selectmen Clarissa Rowe delivered the State of the Town.

We voted to set the next session of Town Meeting for Wednesday at 8PM.

Announcements and Resolutions

  • Ken Marquis objected to the use of term “unanimous vote.”
  • Eric Helmuth (Pct 12) announced the campaign kickoff for Yes For Arlington will be on Sunday 1-3 at the Masonic Lodge on Academy Street.  Learn more at
  • Town Manager Brian Sullivan presented the text of a motion under Article 31.  He asked that Town Meeting vote on this on Wednesday, taking the article up out of order.  Clarissa Rowe noted that the Board of Selectmen voted to support this 4-1.
  • Joe Marshall from Precinct 4 introduced Sean Harrington.  He announced the anti-override group would meet Thursday at Jefferson Cutter House.

Article 3 – Reports of Committees

  • Selectman Clarissa Rowe provided the Board of Selectmen’s report and supplemental report.
  • Finance Committee Chair Al Tosti entered the Finance Committee report.
  • Capital Planning Committee Chair Charlie Foskett provided the Capital Planning report.  He noted that he would be out of town on the day of the Special Town Meeting (May 9).  For that reason, he asked that the capital budget articles of the regular and special town meeting be postponed to May 16th.  May 16th would be our 7th meeting.  An optimist would say that could be our last session of town meeting.  A pessimist would call it the halfway mark.
  • Bruce Fitzsimmons, Arlington Redevelopment Board gave the ARB report.
  • Clarissa Rowe did introductions of the elected and appointed officials and town employees at the front of the hall.
  • Al Tosti stood to say that the FinCom supported the resolution on Article 31 unanimously.  His main report of the Finance Committee will come later.
  • Town Meeting then voted to make recommended votes within the various reports be the main motions considered under the respective articles.  This vote is very quick and easy, but it’s very important.  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, 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.  Of course, this also has the effect of making those various reports very important.  The proposed motion is available for all to see in the report, far in advance.  Unless, of course, the board has chosen to say “will report” and leave it up in the air. . . .

Article 3 was tabled.

Article 4 John FitzMaurice was appointed Measurer of Wood and Bark.

Article 5 – Election of Assistant Town Moderator

Christine Deshler nominated Jim O’Conor.  No other nominations.  He was elected.

Article 6 - Zoning Map Amendment. Voted no action.

Article 7 - Zoning Bylaw Change.  Cremation Remains in Open Space.

Andy West of the Arlington Redevelopment Board explained that it would mean no gravestones, mausoleums, or things like that – just small cremains in areas approved by the Conservation Commission and the ARB.  Paul Schlichtman spoke against it.  He argued that this is a change for perpetuity – you can never take back a cemetery, like you can any other zoning change.  He thinks Town Meeting should not give up its rights to make these decisions.  He worries about additional cemeteries sprouting up in other conservation lands – Mt. Gilboa, Turkey Hill, etc.  Clarissa Rowe explained that it’s a joint work of the ARB, Conservation, and Cemetery commission.  Mrs. Fiore agrees with Mr. Schlichtman.  Five of the parking spaces at Public Safety belong to Cook’s Hollow, not public safety.  Several speakers noted that it was a long time process and asked that we trust the boards.  In answer to a question, there were some slides projected.  The cremains would be put into low walls installed at Cook’s Hollow.  Roland Chaput: I wanted to be buried there.  Harry McCabe noted it was the 50th anniversary of being in Town Meeting with Elsie Fiore, though he disagreed with her in this case.  He wants more cemetery space and is in favor.  Fifty years is a noteworthy anniversary – I’m very impressed with their dedication to the town and the institution. There was a question on how many cremains – maybe 76?  Would you have to pay to be put there?  Yes.  Judith Phelps Pct 16 moved to terminate debate.  Debate terminated by voice vote. Article failed with 122-67 – it required 2/3 vote and missed by a few votes. A few misguided town meeting members applauded, but were reminded by the moderator that the applause wasn’t appropriate.

We had a 14 minute break.

Article 8 -Zoning Bylaw Amendment.  Wireless Communication Facilities.

Redevelopment board explained that the ZBA is better suited for these cases – special permits and environmental reviews aren’t very useful.  Questions about the criteria that ZBA will be using.  We changed the word “vote” to “votes” in the actual vote.  Can the town review on a health basis?  No, driven by FCC. Passed 168-4.

Article 9.  Zoning Bylaw Amendment.  Minimum Lot Size. Bruce Fitzsimmons explained the intent of the bylaw is not to block rebuilding on a lot, but to make sure that rebuilding on a lot is covered by Section 9, and NOT Section 6.  I think he did a great job explaining a reasonably complex vote. Gordon Jamieson questioned about lots and sizes.  There were other questions about setbacks and side yard setbacks.  There was a question about modifications on the plot, like driveways.  Is there a grace period – essentially none, unless you have a lot over 7500 sq ft.  Passed 166-12.

Article 10.  Zoning Bylaw Amendment.  Floodplain/Wetlands. Bruce Fitzsimmons explained that this will make it easier for an applicant to make their case – save the applicant from going to two boards for the same project.  The Conservation Commission still hears the case. 167-2.  There were no unanswered questions, and no speakers against the article – I don’t know what the no votes were about.

Article 11.  Zoning Bylaw Amendment. Floodplain District. Carol Kowalski explained that last year we inadvertently weakened the bylaw when we did the flood insurance map changes.  This new language would restore the bylaw.  There was a question about the wording of the article, but Town Counsel Juliana Rice said that she had written this article, unlike the other ones, and she was sure it was well written. Juliana got the best laugh of the night with that line. 171-1.  Again, there were no unanswered questions, and no speakers against the article – I don’t know what the no vote was about.

Article 12.  Zoning Bylaw Amendment.  Wetland and Floodplain Overlay Map. ARB member Mike Cayer explained that the rights and responsibilities of the land owner are not changed by this; it’s just updating the map.  There was yet another discussion about whether or not the language of the vote was well written.  I missed the vote count, but I know it passed. I think the discussions of whether or not the language of consecutive articles was parallel or not was and irrelevant.  We don’t get points for style.  The only question is if the language is sufficient – then we need to just move on.

Bill Hayner asked to pull Article 22 out of order.  It’s not ready for debate, replied the Moderator. The effect of Article 22 will be to make these clear 2/3-vote voice votes go faster by skipping the vote count.  When the vote is 171-1, it’s a clear voice vote that 2/3 are in support; the standing vote is slower and in some cases not needed. It depends on the language, but when Article 22 comes, I’m likely to vote yes.

Article 13. Voted no action.  There was yet another question from Lyman Judd about language.  As the moderator so eloquently said: “Dude, it’s no action.”

Article 14.  Zoning Bylaw Amendments.  Affordable housing and assisted living. Bruce Fitzsimmons of the ARB explained that you can’t make assisted living subsidized without making the health care also subsidized, and that is financially prohibitive.  This vote would remove the requirement that assisted living have an affordable housing component.  Voted unanimously.

Article 15. No action

Article 16. No action.

Article 17.  Zoning Bylaw Amendment.  Outdoor Advertising at Peirce Field. ARB member Mike Cayer explained that if this was passed, the School Committee would come to the ARB and get a special permit.  The schools would manage the signs.  There was a question about graffiti – the property owner (the town) would be responsible for cleaning.  Question asked: is this spot zoning?  Julianna Rice – yes, this might be spot zoning.  A couple speakers talked about the benefits of this as a funding source for sports.  Because of the dubious spot zoning language, Schlichtman moved to postpone until 5/2.  The hope is that better language can be proposed. Postponement was approved.  In general, I think this is a good idea.  If better language is not put forward, I’ll probably still vote for it.  If it gets struck down, we can try again next year, and if it passes muster, we get what we want.

A few notices of reconsideration were made – I missed the details.

The meeting was adjourned at 10:55.


Comment from Eric Helmuth
Time: April 26, 2011, 3:01 pm

I believe I heard a notice of consideration for Article 7, among at least one other.

Comment from Timothy Moloney
Time: April 27, 2011, 9:12 am

Congratulations Dan and hope your notes will continue, but understand given the increased responsibilities.

A comment on #7. Came to TM leaning “No” and was not persuaded by the proponents. I believe Bill Hayner asked how many spaces the Cooke’s Hollow example contained and no definitive answer was provided. Seems to me at least, this would be one of the top two or three numbers to have on hand.

Congrats again. How about notes from the BoS meetings;)

Tim Moloney