Precinct 5 Meeting - April 12th, 2021

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Conducted via remote participation, for the purpose of discussing the spring town meeting warrant.

Article 11 - Stormwater Management

Emily Sullivan of the Department of Planning and Community Development presents. Stormwater runs off of land and buildings into the stormwater system, where it's conveyed to water bodies in town. Runoff can create localized flooding and pollute water bodies.

Arlington is updating its storm water bylaws to comply with Massachusetts's MS4 requirements. MS4 is a schedule of things that municipalities have to implement. The new bylaw will distinguish between major and minor stormwater permits. It will have requirements for peak flow regulation, removal of total suspended solids, and removal of phosphorous.

There were be additional MS4 requirements to implement in future years.

Article 24 - Ranked Choice Voting

Greg Dennis of the Voting Modernization Committee presents. Article 24 proposes home rule legislation to enact ranked choice voting for town elections. It's meant to counter the effects of vote splitting. The winner has to receive votes from a majority of voters.

If town meeting votes in favor of Article 24, the state legislature will have to adopt it, and the change will have to be approved by the voters. April 2023 is the first date where ranked choice could be used for local elections.

Article 38 - Energy Efficient Homes on Non-conforming lots

Parke Wilde presents. This warrant article came out of the Clean Energy Future Committee's work, and looking for ways to reduce the carbon footprint of homes. You can't replace the building foundation on non-conforming lots. This article would allow the entire home (including the foundation) to be replaced if the new home meets a set of energy efficiency standards.

Article 35 - Industrial Zoning

Steve Revilak presents. The master plan recommended reviewing and updating zoning bylaws for the Industrial districts. They comprise 1% of Arlington's land area, have little turn over, and generally high land to value ratios.

The proposed changes would introduce a new set of allowed uses and add performance standards related to stormwater management and sustainability. Auto parking requirements would go down, bike parking requirements would go up, and we'd allow residential uses above the first floor (the first floor would have to be completely devoted to commercial and industrial uses).

There's a question about affordable housing. Existing inclusionary zoning provisions would apply to new housing in the industrial district.

Article 44 - Parking Reductions

James Fleming presents. A prior town meeting adopted a parking reduction for the B3 and B5 districts. Article 44 would extend the same conditions to the other business districts. This removes one barrier to starting a new business in Arlington, and could provide more tax revenue for a given lot size.

Article 25 - Real Estate Transfer Fee

Karen Kelleher presents. This article would be filed as a home rule petition, and it would be a way to fund affordable housing projects in Arlington. The idea is that property owners would leave a little bit of equity behind when selling. 38 other states allow real estate transfer fees; 6 other communities in Massachusetts have done this via home rule petition. If adopted by town meeting, it could take up to two years for the legislature to pass, if they choose to pass it at all. It would also have to be approved by the voters.

The bylaw would establish a minimum safe harbor; a price below which the transfer fee would not apply. This would be no lower than the median sale price in the state, which is currently around $435k. The fee could range from 0.05% to 2% of the sale price, and the select board would set the specific rate.

Article 21 - Affordable housing trust fund and Article 45 - Increasing the Percentage of Affordable Housing Units

Laura Kiesel presents both articles. Article 45 would raise Arlington's inclusionary zoning requirements from 15% to 25%. Arlington has produced much less affordable housing than surrounding communities, and only added 0.1% affordable housing in the last 20 years. We're losing income diversity as a result. It's hard for low income households to afford housing here, even with housing choice vouchers.

Ms. Kiesel would also like to see the majority of Affordable Housing Trust Fund monies spent for housing at or below 60% AMI. Non-white households often fall into this income bracket.

There's a question as to whether the 25% affordability requirement was chosen to match 40B. Ms. Kiesel says it wasn't.

Article 43 - Accessory Dwelling Units

Phil Tedesco presents. ADUs are independent living spaces, and can help homeowners to age in place. They'd have to obey the same dimensional regulations as the current bylaws. They'd have to be created by homeowners or non-profits. Short term rentals would be prohibited, and there wouldn't be any additional parking requirements. Dozens of towns allow ADUs, and they typically produce 2--5 per year.

Article 69 - School Committee Member Stipends

Christa Kelleher presents. This article would create a $3k/year stipend for school committee members. The finance committee hasn't reviewed this article yet, or identified a funding source.

Several other boards receive stipends. Members of the retirement board get $4,500; members of the finance committee get $45; the town moderator gets $500; and the board of assessors gets $4,900.

Article 91 - Declare Climate Emergency in the town of Arlington

Parke Wilde presents. This article is a non-binding resolution that would declare a climate emergency in the town of Arlington. The goal is to have town meeting state that there is an emergency, and to influence future decisions.