Precinct 1, 3 Meeting - April 14th, 2021

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Meeting conducted by remote participation.

Article 44 - Parking Reductions

James Fleming presents, by showing the video he's used at previous precinct meetings. The article would take the parking reductions allowed in the B3 and B5 districts, and make them applicable to the other business districts.

One attendee says this will allow a business to reduce the amount of off-street parking that was previously available to other businesses.

There's a question about the notification process. The parking reduction is discretionary, and granted by a special permit granting authority. That entails a public hearing and abutter notifications.

Article 15 - Domestic Partnerships

Amos Meeks presents. This article would establish a domestic partnership bylaw. The language is modeled after a bylaw in Provincetown. We'd allow domestic partnerships between two people, but would recognize domestic partnerships of three or more people that were established in other municipalities. Cambridge and Somerville allow domestic partnerships of more than two people.

There's a question about why this is limited to two people. The municipalities that allow more than two are cities, and their bylaw changes aren't reviewed by the attorney general -- they're assumed to be legal unless challenged in court. If we allowed more than two people, and the attorney general struck it down, that might create a problem for these cities.

Essentially, this bylaw would allow people to get a domestic partnership license from town hall, in the same way as you can currently get a marriage license.

Article 24 - Ranked Choice Voting

Greg Dennis presents. This article was proposed by the Election Modernization Committee, and Greg is presenting on their behalf. He talks about the effects of spoiler candidates and vote splitting. RCV avoids this because the winner has to receive votes from at least 50% of the voters who participate in an election.

If approved by town meeting, the state legislature would need to approve the bylaw, and the voters would have to choose to adopt it.

There's a question about how this would affect voter turnout, which is generally low for town elections. The hope is that more people will run, and that will lead more people to vote.

There's a website for this article:

Article 25 - Real Estate Transfer Fee

Pam Hallet presents. The transfer fee would apply any time that a real estate title is transferred, for any kind of property. If passed by town meeting, the legislature would have to adopt this as a home rule petition, and it would have to approved by the voters. This article makes it possible for voters to make the final decision. Funds raised would go into the affordable housing trust fund.

The fee would apply to sales of over $445k, and would be based on the sale price. There's a statewide coalition working on local option legislation, but it's still stuck in committee. 37 other states allow real estate transfer fees.

The fee would range from 0.05% to 2%, with the precise rate to be set by the select board.

There's a suggestion to index the threshold price to inflation. The threshold is the median sale price in the state, which is what the state coalition is also using.

There's a question of how this might affect sale prices. A 1% fee that's split between the buyer and seller might raise sale prices slightly, but it shouldn't result in a significant change.

Someone suggests taxing developers and increasing building permit fees, rather than putting a fee on property sales.

Article 43 - Accessory Dwelling Units

Jennifer Susse presents. Based on other municipalities that allow ADUs, we'd expect to see 2--5 built per year. ADUs couldn't be turned into condos or sold separately. They'd be allowed in all single-family, two-family, and duplex homes and would have to conform to existing zoning and building regulations. The goals are to allow residents to age in place, to provide rental income, and independent living space for family members. They're smaller by nature, and should be more affordable.

Article 35 - Industrial Zoning

Steve Revilak presents. The master plan recommended an update to our industrial district zoning. These parcels don't turn over very often. In several districts, they have a very high land/value ratio, meaning that buildings are worth very little in comparison to the land.

The dimensional regulations are basically staying the same. For example, the maximum building height is staying at 52'. However, instead of requiring an upper story step-back on the top floor, we'll require a blue, green, or reflective roof, and that all stormwater be treated on site.

The article would add several allowed uses, like artist live/work space, vertical farming, breweries, co-working space, flex space, and breweries.

New buildings and substantial renovations would be subject to a variety of performance standards: pedestrian friendly street facades, planting shade trees, and being solar ready.

Parking requirements would go down, and bicycle parking requirements would go up. The article would also allow 50% of the floor area to be residential, where residential is currently not allowed. This consideration was added near the end. Our consultants put together several pro-formas. In several cases, the redevelopment would lose money, but adding a floor of residential made it profitable.

One attendee doesn't like the idea of allowing residential uses in the industrial districts. He thinks that Arlington is too much of a bedroom community.

Another asks how new residential will affect schools. New units are likely to be apartments, which tend to contribute fewer children than single-family homes. Schools will be a concern, even if Arlington never adds another residential unit. The need for additions to the Thompson and Hardy schools wasn't created by new construction. Instead, it came from turnover -- the families that moved in happened to have kids.

Article 38 - Energy Efficient Homes on Non-Conforming Lots

Shelly Dein presents. This article would allow owners of non-conforming lots to replace their homes with energy efficient ones. In the long term, the clean energy future committee wants to address other zoning bylaws that prevent people from making their homes more energy efficient.

Article 91 - Declaration of Climate Emergency

Susan Lemont presents. This is a non-binding resolution. The intent is to encourage action to counter climate change.