Town Meeting ’12, Session 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 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.
Arlington Town Meeting, 2nd Session was called to order by Moderator John Leone.
The meeting sang the National Anthem led on the piano by Town Meeting Member Jane Howard.
A few new town meeting members were sworn in, and were applauded. The Town Moderator explained the new language for the oath being used this year. He said that the Town Meeting Procedures committee had suggested the language. They were seeking to make the tone and tenor of town meeting more respectful and collegial. There was disagreement from Charlie Gallagher; he thought the oath needed to be published in advance and adopted by all town meeting members, not without warning and taken only by some members.
We agreed to come back Monday for our next session.
Kevin Greeley gave a few quick notes. He said he had back surgery, and that was why he was walking with the cane. He said that some people asked about a joke he made last session, and that Marie Krepelka is not really the Mayor of Arlington but is the “mayor” of Arlington – she’s one of the people who gets stuff done for the Selectmen and the town. He asked the meeting to think and pray for Bill Shea who is unwell.
- Assistant Moderator Jim O’Conor gave a few quick words of thanks for his election.
- Al Tosti said that two boxes of copies of the FinCom report were taken last session. If you got extras, please bring them back. If you need a copy, please download it from the town website.
- Ted Peluso noted that he proposed the new oath of office.
- Stuart Cleinman thanked Josh Lobel for the Town Meeting Member identification pins. Mr. Lobel noted that the red stars on the pin signify 25+ years of service. He was applauded.
No reports were given (though Article 3 came up later in the night).
Article 9 – Zoning Bylaw Amendment/Memorial Park
Mike Cayer of ARB introduced the article. He noted that the town is running out of burial space. This zoning change would permit certain open spaces to be used as a “columbarium,” a sort of cemetery; that would be permitted only with the approval of several committees. He showed a map that showed all the open space in town. He also showed a map that showed the sub-set of spaces that this article would apply to. He talked about the many commissions and committees that worked on this proposal and supported it, including the Conservation Commission, Historic Commission, and Cemetery Commission. He talked about the relation of this space with the other cemeteries. Paul Schlictman spoke against it. He said there was insufficient notice of the proposal. He said this was an attempt to circumvent the process and backdoor the change. I totally understand and respect that Paul Schlictman doesn’t want this burial use at Cooke Hollow or other places. I think that is a point where reasonable people can disagree, and an excellent and appropriate debate for Town Meeting to have. I have disagreements with two of his arguments. First, and most strongly, I wish he hadn’t accused the proponents of having nefarious intentions. Words like “backdoor” and “anti-democratic” are challenging the motives of the proponents. I find that very inappropriate. The members of those committees and commissions who worked on this are volunteers who are acting in what they think is the best interest of the town. For Paul to assault their intentions damages the culture of volunteerism that keeps Arlington great. My second disagreement is with his attack on the process and the notification. I believe that he is trying to create controversy where there is none; the meetings and this proposal have been public and noticed. Town Meeting would be better served if we all stuck to the real issues, not fictional ones. Clarissa Rowe spoke, and said she did invite Paul to a meeting. She said we have a problem we need to address. She talked about how this is a creative solution to that problem. She talked about the demands of the many religions that are accommodated in the town cemetery. There were a couple questions about the wall that would be used and how it would work. A speaker said the change applied to too many parks. We hit the meeting’s low point so far, when a speaker complained that this change would lead to ”a dog peeing on Uncle Joe.” Elsie Fiore talked about the history of Cooke’s Hollow, reading from the Town Report of 1972. She thinks that the proposed plan is contrary to the original intent of the park. She is opposed. Question about funds – yes there are funds already to make this happen. Martha Scott said the she disagreed with Mr. Schlictman that there is not a great conspiracy. She has faith in our elected officials and volunteers. I think Martha was well spoken in defense of volunteerism. There was concern that this was insufficient, a bandaid, and other parks would be used for this purpose. It was noted that there are no “pre-need sales” of lots in Arlington; they only sell a lot if you have already died. There are less than 500 spaces left in Mt. Pleasant cemetery. That information lead to the best line of the night. Alan Jones polled the meeting and asked members to raise their hands if they wanted to be buried in Arlington. Several raised their hands. “There will be room for you,” he said. “If you hurry!”
Break for 10 minutes.
A speaker asked us to come back to the question of cemetery space, not meeting notice requirements. Mt. Gilboa came up and how it might be affected. Carl Wagner moved to terminate debate, approved by voice vote. The motion failed with 75 in favor, 95 against. In the end, I think this failed because it applies to too much land. I suspect if it was just Cooke’s Hollow (somehow), it would have a better chance than the version that failed tonight.
Article 3 was taken off the table.
Charlie Foskett entered the Capital Planning report. He asked that we take that budget up the same night as special town meeting because they are linked.
Article 8 - Zoning Bylaw Amendment/Accessory Apartments
The article was taken from the table. Bruce Fitzsimmons explained the article. It would permit accessory apartments in areas R0 and R1. He described the process of crafting the amendment, the surveys done, and the public hearings that were made. He talked about the restrictions on where this is possible – the house must be owner occupied, must have enough parking, must obtain a special permit, etc. John Worden proposed several amendments. He thinks the proposal is too loose, and permits manipulation by a developer. In particular, he would make the permit expire more aggressively. Patricia Worden proposed another amendment to require that the rent be capped at an affordable rate. She was opposed to the article. Her speech was insulting to many town residents. Unfortunately, that has become her trademark. Anyone who disagrees with Mrs. Worden is labeled and maligned. I wish that she saw that reasonable people can have different opinions about housing and zoning. There were questions about the legality of the amendments – is it permitted to require relationship by marriage, or restrict eligibility to the disabled? The answer wasn’t certain. Joe Curro pointed out to me from his copy of the bylaws – our bylaws do not permit us to discriminate on these bases for housing. See Article 9, Section 2 (D). Several speakers characterized this as spot zoning, opening big loopholes, and the same as changing to R2. Other speakers were in favor of the change because of the flexibility it offers the towns’ residents. Speakers were opposed to it because they fear that it would change the nature of neighborhoods.
We adjourned just after 11 without taking a vote on the article.