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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.


  • 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.


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.


Comment from Daniel Jalkut
Time: May 5, 2016, 9:30 am

Thanks as always for the write-up. In light of Belmont’s rejection last night of the Minuteman rebuild project, I wonder if there is any merit in debating and voting on our own town’s article? It seems like the rebuild project will either be put to a district-wide popular vote, or else it’s not going to happen.

Comment from dunster
Time: May 5, 2016, 9:33 am

We absolutely should still debate the Minuteman building project. If 15 towns think it’s a good idea, there are opportunities to get Belmont to reconsider. If Arlington also votes “no” then it really is dead. We should have the debate and answer the question.

Comment from Eric Helmuth
Time: May 5, 2016, 9:50 am

Another reason to debate the Minuteman project is to help Town Meeting Members be fully informed about the pros and cons should Belmont decline to reconsider and the project goes to a district-wide vote. I know my neighbors will be asking me for information, in that event.

Comment from Daniel Jalkut
Time: May 5, 2016, 10:33 am

Good points!

Comment from Michael Jacoby Brown
Time: May 5, 2016, 11:30 am

Dan Dunn, thanks for these notes, even though I was there as TMM, it helps to have the notes.
Regarding the school budgets, I generally approve of funding education and I think we should work to make the funding come, not from the local property taxes, but from the State and Federal budgets, where the taxes are less regressive. (Imagine if we all had to pass a Prop 2 and a half type over-ride to fund the war in Iraq, for instance. What would that debate look like?)

Comment from dunster
Time: May 5, 2016, 11:49 am

Daniel – I was hasty in my reply this morning, it’s a good question that deserves a longer answer.

The specific scenario I’m thinking about is if 15 towns approve the building, the Minuteman School Committee will have the option to re-vote the bond for the building project and send it back to the 16 towns. Then, the 16 towns can each choose to do nothing, or they can call a Special Town Meeting to vote the project down.

Arlington (having voted yes the first place) would presumably do nothing, and permit the building to go forward. Belmont would presumably call a Special Town Meeting and have their debate again.

I’m hopeful that with more time, and with the lobbying of 15 other towns, that Belmont might come around. At last night’s meeting in Belmont they acknowledged that there is no real plan without a new building. I think that the more Belmont explores what the options are, they’re going to come around to agreeing that the new building is indeed the best option.

That’s why it is important that Arlington bring the debate to conclusion. If Arlington doesn’t want a new building, then we really do need to figure out what the next-least-worst option is. If Arlington wants a new building, then we should say so – it’s the only way to make it happen.

Comment from dunster
Time: May 5, 2016, 11:50 am

Michael – All the more reason that we should support the Minuteman project. That is the highest level of state support that we can reasonably hope for. If we vote this building down, all of the renovation costs will be paid by the towns alone.

Comment from Eric Helmuth
Time: May 5, 2016, 2:11 pm

Thanks for the additional detail, Dan. This scenario explains why the Minuteman superintendent said today he won’t recommend going to a district-wide vote, at least not now (reported on Sounds like your job as the Great Negotiator of all things Minuteman isn’t over yet!

Comment from Bob Sprague
Time: May 5, 2016, 3:14 pm

The story Eric references is at