Joint Redevelopment, Select Board Meeting - Sep 21st, 2020

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Presentation and Discussion. Adam Chapdelaine gives a short introduction. He believes this is a good time to talk about issues of interest to both boards, and a path for moving forward.

Jenny Raitt provides a review of the last joint meeting, held on Jan 13, 2020. During that meeting, Mr. Chapdelaine talked about housing needs and demand, the regional affordability crisis. Ms. Raitt presented some of the plans that DPCD was working on. The two boards also agreed on a process for reviewing warrant articles. There was discussion about an affordable housing trust fund, a real estate transfer free, and community outreach.

The sustainable transportation plan fact-book will be released soon.

The clean energy futures committee has identified measures to track, and developed a list of action items for the net zero action plan.

The zoning bylaw working group is overseeing a study and economic analysis of the industrial zones. One of the considerations is finding ways to accommodate more light manufacturing and office uses.

Another group is working on residential design guidelines for one- and two-family homes. These will be shared with the ARB during their Oct 5th meeting.

The Housing Plan Implementation Committee is looking at an update of Arlington's Housing Production plan.

The town created an economic recovery task force to address the impacts of COVID 19. The task force utilized CDBG funds via the CARES act. They've assisted 23 businesses with $10k grants each, and have provided rental assistance to 38 households. One of the goals is to keep Arlington's small businesses in business. Efforts have involved providing technical assistance, permitting outdoor space, and allowing some businesses to conduct business in parks. There are efforts to modernize the town's permitting by putting most of the application process online. We're aware of the challenges in supporting businesses through the winter.

The housing production plan is a five-year plan, which is adopted locally and then approved by the Mass DHCD. We're looking at a plan update based on constraints, current demands, and insights from the Metro Mayors Coalition.

Len Diggins suggests engaging with MAPC's Metro Futures group. Ms. Raitt acknowledges that there is a regional long range plan in progress, and the new housing production plan will be aligned with that.

Diane Mahon would like material that's being made available to the ARB to be made available to the select board as well. She thanks the town manager and planning director for their work on the economic recovery task force. Ms. Raitt says she's happy to get feedback from the Select Board, regarding the residential design guidelines and the economic study of the industrial districts.

Ms. Raitt says there's now a process whereby businesses can have the Fire Department review plans to install outdoor heaters.

Ms. Mahon is glad to see aid given to local businesses. She hopes that Washington votes for another relief package.

If there are Special Town Meeting warrant articles that the select board should review, Ms. Mahon hopes they can be delivered soon. Ms. Mahon is also interested any studies involving the Gold's Gym area.

Ms. Mahon wonders if the town could use CPA funds to commission 3-D renderings of open space districts in town. She's interested in seeing projects proposed for the open space districts.

Lin Lau thinks a three dimensional model of Mass Ave would be a great tool to have. It would be useful for showing proposed changes, and might be helpful to encourage economic develop. It could show how our commercial districts are cut up into little pieces.

Mr. Chapdelaine says he's been discussing this idea with Ms. Raitt -- commissioning a 3D modeling study of Mass Ave. But that effort could be expanded to include open space districts.

Joe Curro says he's gotten letters requesting automation of some of Arlington's application processes. He's glad to see there's an effort underway.

Mr. Curro asks if the Housing Production Plan update will include a benchmark of how well we met the goals laid out in the current HPP. Ms. Raitt says she'd like a better sense of what the HPP wasn't able to achieve and why. Many of the zoning changes it recommended were not adopted. However, the Housing Corporation of Arlington made good progress.

Mr. Curro is glad we were able to provide financial support to renters. He's concerned about the risk of an eviction wave. Ms. Raitt hasn't heard anything that would lead her to believe that an eviction wave is coming. People do contact the planning department for assistance, and help in navigating the process of finding housing. That's been exacerbated by the pandemic.

Steve DeCourcey is interested in helping to sustain our businesses. He notes that cold weather will reduce the opportunity for outdoor dining. He asks what kinds of assistance CDBG grants can be used for (to help businesses). Ms. Raitt says her office is looking into that.

Mr. DeCourcey asks about allowing residential uses in the industrial districts. (I think he was talking about differences between the Arlington Heights Action Plan and the Industrial District economic analysis.) Ms. Raitt says that Gold's Gym is in an Industrial District, and was considered during the industrial district analysis. She says there are inconsistencies between the two. Right now, the planning department would like to have more options available.

David Watson was glad that DPCD was able to move forward with its housing questions campaign. The pandemic has made the need for housing and economic development more urgent. He hopes we can continue with virtual engagement.

Mr. Lau says the ARB has reviewed quite a few projects this year. He asks how the Select Board thinks the ARB is doing, and if they have any suggestions.

John Hurd says the Select Board tries to allow other boards to operate independently. He believes the ARB has done very thorough reviews and has no criticisms to offer.

Mr. Diggins wants to get more involved with housing and the housing plan implementation committee. He'd like to see us approach the problem in a more comprehensive way. We also need to address housing affordability.

Ms. Mahon says she's always wanted a better relationship between the Select Board and the ARB. She'd like to have more collaboration in the future. That should lead us to the best decisions regarding housing, business development, and open space.

On ARB matters that might be of interest to the Select board, Mr. Curro would like to have some sort of summary of what went in to the ARB's decisions. He thinks it would make sense to work jointly on the housing production plan.

Mr. DeCourcey thinks the ARB is a challenging board to be on. He realizes that the board is trying to act in the best interests of the town.

Rachel Zsembery says remote hearings have been a challenge, but there have been positive points. Remote hearings have brought more participation and more engagement. She asks if the same has been true for Select Board meetings. She appreciates working with Mr. Hurd on the economic recovery task force.

Mr. Diggins believes that Zoom has allowed more participation in public meetings. He'd like to retain options for remote participation, even when we're able to meet in person again.

Mr. Hurd credits past Select Board member Kevin Greeley with being way ahead of his time in his advocacy for remote participation.

Open Forum. The chairs open the meeting to public comment.

(Patricia Worden) Ms. Worden says the housing plan implementation committee has done very little; they've only worked on the affordable housing trust fund and the transfer fee. She says that some members of the committee suggested buying buildings and rehabilitating them, but those suggestions were never followed. She believes that Arlington is losing a tremendous amount due to speculation, because the redevelopment board violates the zoning bylaw. She believes the ARB has allowed itself to be extorted. She claims that the town's open space is endangered by the redevelopment board. She says that a 40R district will endanger Arlington. She believes that the 1500 Mass Ave proposal is not mixed-use and wants the ARB to change their approach.

(Donna Kelly Williams) Ms. Kelly Williams says that the majority of residents on Mary Street oppose the shared street project that was established there. She'd like that project to be reconsidered. She's also reached out to the board of health, due to issues with rodent activity.

(Mark Kappelin) Mr. Kappelin is deeply offended that the town manager made comments about the back the blue rally. He says the town manager helped spread the hateful message of Arlington Fights Racism, and drew outside agitators into town. Mr. Kappelin claims that black lives matter demonstrations have caused over one billion dollars in damage. He believes that BLM stands for violence, and that Black Lives Matter signs should be banned. He asks why the town manager works for Arlington Fights Racism, and not for the people of Arlington. He feels that indulging the bloodthirsty and hateful AFR brats was the worst mistake ever.

(Carl Wagner) Mr. Wagner says the Select Board has to tell the redevelopment board that they must follow the rules. He feels that ARB decisions set a dangerous precedent, and that the Select Board should direct what the ARB and town manager do. He claims that public input has been limited during ARB meetings, and that board decisions don't follow rules. He says that housing and zoning are not racist, and he doesn't like the town manager's comments about dog whistles.

(Anna Henkin) Ms. Henkin is opposed to the removal of the Black lives matter banner from town hall. She says that the board's language is reprehensible, and that they're supporting bigotry and hatred. She says the board's comments were known racist dog whistles. Black lives matter demonstrators are not belligerent and violent. There are vigils every day. Removing the banner is a capitulation to loud angry voices.

(Rebecca Gruber) Ms. Gruber wants to speak to the removal of the Black Lives Matter banner from town hall. She says that Lt. Pedrini has cast a negative light on Arlington. She hopes the select board will reconsider their decision and keep the banner on town hall.

(Don Seltzer) Mr. Seltzer notes that Arlington has a low commercial tax basis, and that 93% of Arlington workers travel outside of town for work. He says that walkability only matters if there is something to walk to. He feels that mixed-use zoning hasn't worked well, and that many rules were bent to accommodate the Toroya building redevelopment. He believes that Arlington needs to be more than just a bedroom community for Boston and Cambridge.

(Miciah Healey) Ms. Healey wants to talk about the removal of the Black Lives Matter banner from town hall. She says that the banner is important symbolically; it makes her feel like the town believes her life matters. The banner is intended to get people thinking about these issues. She's glad to see anti-bias training being done in town. People asked why there was a rush to take the banner down. We could use Cambridge and Somerville as justification to keep it up.

(Daniel Brumberg) Mr. Brumberg wants to respond to Mr. Kappelin's comments. He says he went to a black lives matter vigil -- there was love and signing, and a fringe group yelling at us. It was not violent. The banner is supposed to speak to these values. We may want to work on a short statement regarding why the banner's language is inclusive.

(Nick Stein) Mr. Stein says that white supremacy is alive and well in Arlington. He says you can't teach empathy to someone who makes comment like he (who?) has. Mr. Stein is proud to stand against fascism.

(Jenniffer Susse) Ms. Susse says she loves this community, and is anxious about its future. She's concerned that residents wont be able to age in place. Our old small houses are not affordable. She's excited that Arlington is working with the Metro Mayors Coalition's housing task force. Every community has to step up and do their part to address the housing shortage. Ms. Susse says that Arlington is losing age diversity and economic diversity. We should build more housing and more varieties of housing. She thinks the select board could do more as a policy making body. The select board can lead as an advocate for more housing.

(Laura Kiesel) Ms. Kiesel is disappointed that the town is taking down the Black Lives Matter banner. She asks why we're capitulating to white supremacists. The back the blue rally was organized by a spouse and a sister of APD officers. She says that Arlington is good for symbolic gestures, but falters when it comes to conflict. She says she doesn't feel safe in a town that can't affirm that black lives matter.

(Judith Garber) Ms. Garber wants to speak about the black lives matter banner. She says that a plaque is not a strategy to acknowledge that black lives matter. Why veer from the original plan? Ms. Garber says we have a lot of issues with police accountability.

(Ayesha Cruz) Ms. Cruz wanted to attend this meeting, after learning that the Black Lives Matter banner would be removed from town hall. She feels you can't support a movement for black lives and support the police, because police don't support black lives. White supremacy is incompatible with black lives, and Ms. Cruz suggests the Select Board are white supremacists. She thinks that Arlington should put the banner back, fire Pedrini, and defund the Arlington Police Department.

(Erin Fera) Ms. Fera wants to speak about the Black Lives Matter banner on town hall. She thinks its bad that the Select Board decided to take the banner down after a Back the Blue rally. She says that people are defacing BLM signs, and putting KKK stickers on them. She says we're not a welcoming town, and that Ms. Mahon's eye rolls are deeply offensive.

(Thomas Davidson) Mr. Davidson is speaking on behalf of the Arlington Council for Arts and Culture. They support the economic development, and the development of more affordable housing. He wants to encourage creative placemaking and live/work space for artists. Please consider the needs for artists.

(Jon Washer) Mr. Washer wants to support black lives. He says the select board rolled out the carpet for white supremacists and then removed the BLM banner from town hall. He says the select board supports hate speech every day that Pedrini remains employed. He believes that Ms. Mahon is very disrespectful. Fire Pedrini and defund the police.

(John Sanbonmatzu) Mr. Sanbonmatzu isn't a member of Arlington Fights Racism, but he supports their efforts. He thinks that Ms. Mahon has been unprofessional. He feels that Mr. Kappelin's comments show racist sentiments. Some APD officers are wonderful, but some sympathize with Pedrini.

Ms. Mahon disputes the claim that she was rolling her eyes. She apologizes to the ARB, and feels there's a lot of hypocrisy happening at the meeting tonight.

(Todd Bearson) Mr. Bearson thanks Ms. Mahon for making his point better than he could. He believes this is important. People are trying to fight racism. He says the select board is showing support for the police.

(Steve Revilak) Mr. Revilak wants to speak to the community conversation on racism and housing. He appreciated the panel and the people that put it together. For most of 20th century, US housing policy was about discrimination; that's not an easy subject to talk about. Single-family zoning was a response to a supreme court decision that declared racially-based zoning unconstitutional. When Arlington's farms became residential subdivisions in the 1920's, at least two of the larger farms -- Wynn Farm and the Allen Farm -- put racial covenants into their deeds. These were whites-only subdivisions as a matter of deed. In 1940, Arlington's Black population was 35 people out of a town of 40,000 -- this is why there isn't any red on our redline map from the 1930's. Arlington's black population increased to 39 people in 1960 and to over 100 in 1970. In 1973, our town meeting passed a two-year moratorium on the construction of apartment buildings. We down-zoned the town in 1975, and greatly limited opportunities to build apartments and multi-family housing. In 1976, we voted down an MBTA Red Line extension. We've done the same discriminatory and exclusionary things that cities and towns all across the country did. We should talk about that history.

(Robin Haney) Mr. Haney wasn't going to speak tonight, because he's been getting threats. He's decided to speak anyway. He says that Back the Blue was a fascist group. He feels that removing the banner was giving in, and that the select board is complicit in white supremacy. He believes the police and black lives matter are in conflict because Arlington has a deeply racist police department. Pedrini continues to harm people, and enjoys the support of the police department. We need to fire Pedrini and defund the Arlington police department.

(Kevin Heaton) Mr. Heaton was disappointed about the removal of the BLM banner. He feel that voting for removal the day after a racist rally was a slap in the face. He thinks the banner should stay up and Pedrini should go.

(Shannon G) Ms. G says that Arlington has been welcoming to her so far. This was around the time that the Select Board signed the bathroom bill, which was very important to her as a non-binary person. She's disappointed that the banner is being removed, and hopes the select board will reconsider. Arlington also needs to be more affordable and diverse.

(Martha Vreeland) Ms. Vreeland wants to talk about BLM and the APD. She urges people not to compare BLM to the APD. BLM represents marginalized people. Black people are targeted by law enforcement. She thinks that APD deserves respect when they serve all people. Officers that use racist language are not serving all people.

(Sharon Shaloo) Ms. Shaloo says she appeared before the select board last year, to complain about APD. Nothing happened. She hoped something would happen with Pedrini. She feels like the select board was trying to quietly get rid of a problem. If there were a better process, we might have had a better discussion. We need to make this a community that people want to come to. She says the BLM banner isn't divorced from housing, and is disappointed with the decision to take the banner down.

(Ezra Fischer) Mr. Fischer wrote to Adam Chapdelaine about the decision to take the banner down. Mr. Chapdelaine wrote back, saying that the town wanted to focus on improving policies. But what's the policy? You should be able to explain what the policy changes are.

(Ben Rudick) Mr. Rudick is excited to see the ARB and select board getting together to talk about housing. Housing touches almost every aspect of our lives. He hopes to see more joint meetings in the future.

Open Forum ends.

Future Meetings. Mr. Chapdelaine suggests a meeting between himself, Ms. Raitt, and the two board chairs for the purpose of discussing warrant articles.

Meeting adjourned.