Precinct 5 Meeting - Apr 3rd, 2022

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Meeting Held via remote participation. Pat Hanlon facilitated.

Article 12 - Single-use plastic water bottle regulation

Jennifer Campbell presents on behalf of Zero Waste Arlington. This article was put forward due to concerns about plastic pollution. 40% of manufactured plastics are single-use, plastics are difficult to recycle, and a fair amount of greenhouse gas emissions are produced by the manufacturing process. 75% of plastics end up in the trash, and a lot turns into litter. Therefore, we need to reduce consumption.

Article 12 will prohibit the sale of non-carbonated water in quantities of 1 liter or less. Gallon jugs will be allowed, and there are exemptions for emergencies. The article is trying to create a cultural shift to tap water and reusable containers. If passed, it will become effective on January 1, 2023 and be enforced by Health and Human Services. Zero Waste Arlington is making an effort to get feedback from businesses, and to support them during the transition.

Paul Buckley wants to make sure there are refill options. Ms. Campbell agrees and describes Concord's "Concord on Tap" effort.

Susan Stamps says that people in Concord were initially surprised and concerned about the elimination of plastic water bottles, but it turned out to be fine.

Article 16 - Noise Regulation for Gas Powered Leaf Blowers

Alicia Russell presents on behalf of Quiet Healthy Arlington. Article 16 would amend the section of the town's noise bylaw that governs leaf blowers. Gas powered leaf blowers produce much more noise than electric ones, and the two-cycle engines emit a lot of pollutants. Ms. Russell says that lawns are harmful to the environment due to the effects of lawn care equipment and fertilizers. There will be a phase-out period that ends in 2025.

Ben Rudick has an electric leaf blower and he really likes it.

Peter Thompson asks if the proponents have reached out to landscapers. Ms. Russell says they're waiting for the Select Board's vote, but that is the next step.

Paul Buckley asks about the recyclability and availability of batteries. Ms. Russell says there's less pollution in making a battery than in running a two-cycle engine.

The proponents of this article have a website:

Article 38 - Allowing two-family homes by right in the R0, R1 districts

Laura Wiener presents. This article would allow two-family homes to be constructed in the R0 and R1 districts, where they're currently not allowed. Housing prices have been crazy for some time, and they've been escalating more quickly in recent years. People are accepting the fact that we have a housing shortage. The job market is booming, and millennials are now in their home buying years. Ms. Wiener says we need to increase the supply of homes and Article 38 will do this gradually.

None of the dimensional regulations are changing. Ms. Wiener lives in a two-family home that's in a single-family district, and she thinks it fits in. She doesn't expect a groundswell of new development and expects each dwelling of a two-family to be more modest than one large single-family. A two-family home needs to fit in the same footprint as a single-family, so there's really no additional environmental impact. It takes advantage of existing infrastructure. This won't solve the housing shortage, but it will help. It will provide a type of housing that's not currently being built.

Joann Preston says that new duplex condos in her neighborhood have sold for around $1M. She believes the new homes have caused her taxes to go up. Ms. Wiener says that teardowns are happening now and will continue. She says this isn't an affordable housing program (in the income-restricted, deed-restricted sense). She says it's meant to address supply, and that more supply will gradually level prices over time. Ms. Wiener says we can't control what the selling prices are.

Susan Brau says that from an environmental standpoint, we need to stop building more single-family homes, and build multi-family instead. She says the town developed a fabulous set of residential design guidelines and she hopes they're used in the process.

Ben Rudick thinks this is a wonderful idea. He lives in a new half-duplex. When he moved to Arlington, his family couldn't afford $1.4M for a single-family home. The half-duplex was still expensive, but it was something he could afford. He thinks there's a problematic history behind single-family zoning, and passing this article will put us on the right side of history.

Joanne Preston says that homes in her neighborhood are sold for $850,000 and then torn down. Ms. Wiener says that prices will be high as long as there's a housing shortage.

Article 8 - Civilian Police Advisory Commission

Laura Gitelson presents on behalf of the Police Advisory Study Committee. The committee recommends that Arlington establish a Civilian Police Advisory Board. They'd like to make strides in increasing the public trust and improving the relationship between the public and Arlington Police Department. Ms. Gitelson says the Select Board made some small changes to their main motion, and the Police Advisory Study Committee hasn't yet met to discuss them.

Article 39 - Increased FAR for mixed-use

Xavid Pretzer presents. Mx. Pretzer says that Arlington has a lot of mixed use buildings that couldn't be built today, in part because they exceed the current limits on floor area ratio (FAR). Town meeting approved mixed-use buildings of 3--5 stories tall, but FAR limits make this impractical. They feel this supports goals in the Housing Production Plan and Master Plan, and that more mixed-use will produce additional affordable housing via inclusionary zoning. Mixed use is only allowed on Arlington's main corridors, so we'll be encouraging new housing near transit. This warrant article is proposing a change to FAR, but nothing else. Mx. Pretzer notes that all mixed use projects requires special permit approval from the Arlington Redevelopment Board.

Article 10 - Tree Preservation and Protection

Susan Stamps presents (I think) on behalf of the Tree Committee. Ms. Stamps says that Arlington adopted its first tree protection bylaw in 2016, which regulates the removal of trees in building setbacks. This article proposes several changes, including: clarifying the definition of "demolition", reducing the size of a protected tree from eight inches to six inches, and requiring tree plans to be prepared by a landscape architect or arborist. There will also be language about tree plans added to building permit application forms.

Joanne Preston believes that trees in urban areas are the most effective way to remove carbon from the atmosphere, and that they're important for slowing down global warming.

Kristin Anderson says that trees help to absorb rainwater, and prevent it from turning into waste water.

Article 30 - Solar Energy Systems

Shelly Dein presents on behalf of the Clean Energy Future Committee. Ms. Dein says the goal is to increase the number of solar energy systems installed in town. The town adopted a Net Zero Action Plan and achieving net zero emissions is a high priority. She says that Watertown and Medford have similar ordinances, which require solar installations on commercial buildings. Article 30 would require 50% of building roof area and 90% of parking structure roof area to be used for solar. There are exceptions for lack of solar orientation, historic buildings, use-only changes, and buildings that are structurally unable to support solar panels.

Susan Stamps asks if this will only affect commercial buildings. Ms. Dein answers in the affirmative. Ms. Stamps hopes there's a requirement to pay into the tree fund, if there's any tension between trees and solar systems.

Article 41 - Apartment Parking

James Fleming presents. Mr. Fleming says that according to the American Community Surveys, many renters have one car or fewer. Our zoning bylaw requires more parking for apartments than for single-, two-, and three-family buildings. He thinks that people don't need more cars simply because they live in apartment buildings, and that one space per dwelling is in line with other residential uses. Mr. Fleming notes that living space generates more tax revenue than parking spaces; he feels that Arlington is limiting tax revenue by requiring too much parking. Lower minimum parking requirements will make it less expensive to build new housing.

Carl Wagner thinks that people should be careful about changing parking requirements, and that one parking space isn't enough for a three bedroom apartment. He thinks this article is racially unfair, and that we shouldn't do this to future residents. He says "please don't do this", and that Cambridge is unable to get by with less than 2.5 cars per household.

Joe Barr is the Cambridge's director of traffic and parking, and he says that Mr. Wagner's statistics on Cambridge car ownership are wrong. He says the Master Plan Implementation committee supported this article, and believes it's consistent with the master plan.

Article 76 - Alewife Brook is a Natural Resource

Kristin Anderson presents on behalf of Save the Alewife Brook. She and her group are concerned about combined sewer overflow (CSO) releases into the Alewife Brook, which affect environmental justice populations. She says there six CSOs: four from Cambridge, one from Somerville, and one from the MWRA. There were 52 million gallons of CSO discharge in 2021, which is no reduction from 1997 volumes, despite the closure of several outflows. She says that cleanup efforts haven't been successful and that sewage pollution will be exacerbated by climate change. Ms. Anderson says this is a non-binding resolution that will be a political statement for the town.

David White notes that the EPA and MassDEP are starting the next round of mitigation processes for the Alewife CSOs.

Article 73 - Net-Zero opt-in code

Pat Hanlon presents, I think on behalf of the Clean Energy Future Committee. This follows last year's warrant article to prohibit new fossil fuel infrastructure from being built in new construction or substantial renovations. He says that DOER is obligated to update the state's stretch code, but there isn't an option for cities and towns to be more aggressive in achieving electrification and efficiency improvements. He believes this resolution is in line with what other climate change groups across the state are doing. The goal is to have a building code option that gradually reduces or eliminates greenhouse gas emissions, which towns can opt into.

Joanne Preston asks how this will impact Arlington. Mr. Hanlon says the immediate effect will be to add pressure to DOER to add a net zero option. If they do, towns like Arlington would be able to adopt a building code that's more aggressive at reducing greenhouse gas emissions. He says we could require electrification, tighter building envelopes, use of low-carbon cement, and so on.