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Town Meeting ’19 – 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 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 the order shortly after 8pm.

Eric Helmuth played a brisk rendition of the National Anthem and the room sang along.  Unfortunately, I think you had to be in the front of the room to see the exceptional socks that he was showing off as he pumped the piano pedals.  Perhaps ACMI’s cameras captured them?

The moderator swore in a couple re-elected members who were not sworn in during last session.

The Moderator urged the body to disregard unsigned materials that are distributed to members. “If it’s not signed, throw it away.”

Select Board Chair Diane Mahon moved that we will come back on Monday 29th for our next session.


  • Steve DeCourcey – Arlington High School tennis team is doing a bake sale in the hall. They are off to a 12-2 start this year.
  • James O’Conor – Do your precinct meeting during the break tonight.
    Jennifer Susse – Build Arlington’s Future campaign is having a kickoff event on Sunday, 3-5, at the Elks Club
  • Peter Fiore – He handed over his mother’s Measurer of Wood and Bark ceremonial tools to Mr. Worden. He passed along her comments that it was appropriate for a younger man to take it up, and someone with less Town Meeting experience than her.
  • Len Diggins announced the ACMI open house on May 2nd Thursday 7pm.

We tested the voting clickers: Toy Story was the first CGI movie, True or False 112-89-11

Paul Schlichtman complained the names on the screen weren’t the full names and there was some ambiguity on how votes were being recorded and displayed. The moderator instructed him to speak with the electronic voting team.

Article 3 – Reports

  • Charlie Foskett provided the report of the Capital Planning Committee.
  • Allen Reedy gave the report of the Permanent Town Building Committee. He announced the on-time and under-budget completion of renovations at Gibbs and Hardy. A woman up in the gallery audience started watching/listening to the Red Sox. The moderator asked her to stop, and her reaction was to run to the back of the room – but not out of it. It was actually kinda funny to watch. He explained that next up for construction are the DPW building and Central School.
  • Juli Brazile Chair of Envision Arlington. She talked about the education efforts of the committee, and the updates to the town survey.

Consent Agenda – Majority Votes

The moderator read the consent agenda. Several articles (10, 43, 64, and 65) were held (removed) from the consent agenda. We approved:

Article 12 Zoning Bylaw Amendment/Corner Lot Requirements
Article 13 Zoning Bylaw Amendment/Apartment Building Parking Requirements
Article 23 Zoning Bylaw Amendment/Publication of Supporting Docs – Zoning Board of Appeals
Article 25 Zoning Bylaw Amendment/Driveway Slope
Article 31 Bylaw Amendment/Rename Community Preservation Committee
Article 42 Home Rule Legislation/Town Treasurer
Article 46 Acceptance of Legislation/Establishment of a Commission on Disabilities Fund
Article 49 Acceptance/Local Option Taxes
Article 55 Positions Reclassification
Article 66 Appropriation/Miscellaneous
Article 67 Appropriation/Water Bodies Fund
Article 69 Appropriation/Harry Barber Community Service Program
Article 70 Appropriation/Pension Adjustment For Former 25 Year/Accidental Disability Employees
Article 71 Appropriation/Other Post Employment Benefits (OPEB) Trust Fund
Article 73 Transfer of Funds/Cemetery
Article 74 Use of Free Cash
Article 78 Resolution/Indigenous Peoples’ Day
Article 79 Resolution/Overnight Parking Exemption Program For Medical and Financial Hardships

They were approved 201-8.

Consent Agenda – 2/3 votes

60, 72 and 77 were held. We approved:

Article 59 Rescind or Reappropriate Borrowing Authorizations from Prior Years
Article 61 Appropriation/Financing of Construction or Reconstruction of Sewers and Sewerage Facilities
Article 62 Appropriation/Financing of Construction or Reconstruction of Water Mains and Water Facilities
Article 76 Appropriation/Long Term Stabilization Fund

They were approved 213-4-1

Article 16, continued

Moderator called on Arlington Redevelopment Board Chair Andrew Bunnell. He said the ARB still believes in the articles, but the ARB heard Town Meeting Members who wanted more information and input. They changed their recommended to no action so more work can be done.

John Gersh’s substitute motion was still “live” and it was debated. Steve Revilak asked why inclusionary zoning wasn’t adding more units. Director of Planning Jenny Raitt said that it was because there were very few developments of the size to trigger the bylaw. Ted Paluso talked about the need for change in the town’s zoning laws, and said the town was the best he’d lived in. Daniel Jalkut moved to terminate debate. 164-55. We voted on Gersh’s substitute motion, and it failed 90-123-3. No action  208-10-1.

Article 6, 7, 8, 9, and 11
All voted no action on voice vote.

We took the next zoning articles off the table.

There were then a series of confused people about what was and wasn’t on the consent agenda, or the table, or moved, or not moved.  I think that the consent agenda is a good thing, but it does require people to do some homework beforehand, and not everyone did it. I’m also pretty confident that we did the right thing.  Every important article is getting debate.

Article 10
No action on voice vote

Article 14 Parking

ARB Chair Bunnel explained that this is to reduce the parking requirements for R7. The program has been working for the town. This vote aligns R7 with the R5 and R6 – the parking program for them. Marian King is concerned that parking won’t be available for low-income residents, who actually often need cars more to get to their jobs/caregivers. Daniel Jalkut is in favor. Andrew Fischer had questions about how many spaces were affected. Gordon Jamieson made the point that this is affecting only a small part of the town – Jenny Raitt noted it’s only 3 parcels in town in R7. This was a really key point.  I’m surprised it wasn’t in the ARB report.  He is in favor. John Deyst moved the question. Terminated debate on voice vote. Approved 181-34-2

Article 15 Accessory Dwelling Units

ARB Chair Bunnell said that this was in response to the Master Plan. The goal is to produce low-income and senior housing. It only applies to buildings that have already been built. He outlined a number of the other restrictions and limits on accessory units. Diane Mahon (as Town Meeting member, not Select Board) asked how how many houses were affected. She was concerned about how many permits might be issued and the workload, and got answers to several questions. Michael Ruderman noted that previous versions of this have been voted down. He asked about what happens if someone does this without getting the permit – up to $1000 a day fine. Michael Quinn is generally in favor of the idea. He noted that the residential study group was unanimously opposed to for the March 15 version, but then the ARB approved a different version. He doesn’t understand what’s in this article and is opposed to it until he understands it better. He wants a better process, for no action to be voted, and to come back with a future.

We took a break from 9:30-9:44.  We did precinct meetings during the break.  The meeting was slow to come back to order – lots of chatter.

Christian Klein noted that R0 and R1 are most of the town – this article could really increase affordable housing. He asked about public safety. Fire Chief Jefferson expressed concern about how the units will get new addresses, but there was apparently a proposed solution. He was also somewhat concerned about how the layout of houses might change and become harder to understand. Jefferson thought the fire department could handle the change. In answer to a question, Inspectional Services Chief Byrne said that it is a significant undertaking to get one of these units to code. Elizabeth Pyle, member of the Residential Study Group, noted that the RSG asked for a full year delay. They were concerned that there would be short-term rental abuse, and the enforcement mechanism isn’t strong enough. The group was also concerned about the definition of owner-occupied, the size of lots, and parking pressure. There was at least one more point she made that I didn’t jot down fast enough. Mr. Byrne spoke to say that he believes it is enforceable. A speaker was concerned that it was too restrictive. Patrick Hanlon is on the RSG, he thinks the problems have been largely resolved, including the short-term rental bylaw to be considered later in Town Meeting. He is in favor of this version of the bylaw. Gordon Jamieson asked several questions about the details of the article. John Worden thinks this change will change R0 and R1 too much. Paul Schlichtman is concerned about illegal AirBnB use under this proposed bylaw. He thinks we should let the new AirBnB regs be tested for a while first. Mark McCabe moved to terminate debate. It was terminated on voice vote. The vote was 137-82 – the vote failed because it wasn’t 2/3 vote. With 219 voters, it needed 146 in favor, and failed by 9 votes. 219 is pretty high attendance compared to some of the votes we were taking a few years ago.

Article 17 Sign Bylaw

ARB Chair Andrew Bunnell the proposed sign bylaw would put Arlington’s sign bylaw into compliance with state law. He pointed out several problems with the current bylaw. Paul Schlichtman had questions about some of the terminology. Christian Klein had two changes. Bill Berkowitz had a couple questions. John Worden had a complaint about a sign on Mass Ave. Samantha Dutra moved to terminate debate, and it was on voice vote. 207-8 it passed.

Article 18 and 19 Flood Plain and Inland Wetland Districts

ARB Chair Andrew Bunnell noted that the review process does not change, but some inconsistencies were corrected. 214-2 Article 18 was approved. 210-1-1 Article 19 was approved.

Article 20 Religious and Educational Uses

ARB Chair Andrew Bunnell explained that the “Dover Amendment” on state level prevents restriction on certain types of use. That isn’t in our zoning. This would clarify the applicability in Arlington. There was a question about a reference. There was a question clarifying the exclusion of for-profit educational businesses. 207-4.

Article 21 Bicycle Parking

ARB member David Watson explained that the existing bylaw links the number of bicycle spaces to the number of car spaces. The new bylaw makes bicycle parking independently calculated. It also has a lot more definition to what a bike rack must be. Peter Howard clarified that it is only on new development, not existing ones. Daniel Jalkut had a question about how it can be placed. (I missed a speaker and quetion) Timur Yontar moved to terminate debate, and it was on voice vote. 207-7

We adjourned a few minutes past 11.


Comment from Paul Schlichtman
Time: April 25, 2019, 10:20 am

You are right, in that the Meeting was slow to come to order after the break. You note that precincts organized during the break. They correlate highly.

Comment from Eric Helmuth
Time: April 25, 2019, 11:28 am

Part of the confusion around the consent agenda is that a couple of the articles therein were technically tabled on Monday night at the ARB’s request, and they weren’t untabled before voting on them via the consent agenda. The Moderator offered the options of a re-vote and an informal “we’re good” and the questioner chose the latter. But yes, it was also clear some other people had not read the consent agenda that was mailed out.

Comment from Paul Schlichtman
Time: April 25, 2019, 1:26 pm

Paul Schlichtman complained the names on the screen weren’t the full names and there was some ambiguity on how votes were being recorded and displayed:
On the screen, it truncated names so that the test vote showed:
Heigham YES
Heigham NO
thus, you couldn’t tell which member of the Heigham power couple answered the test question correctly. We haven’t had the problem in the past, and truncating names at eight characters isn’t a big deal for Dunn, Dan but does have implications for others in the hall and is somewhat extreme.

Oh, I was in the front row but I didn’t see Eric’s marvelous socks. Let’s hope there’s a photo somewhere.

Comment from Adam Auster
Time: April 25, 2019, 3:52 pm

If discretion is the better part of valor, the ARB should get a medal.