Precinct 8, 10 Meeting - Nov 15th, 2020
Held via video-conference. Probably 70--80 people attending.
Christian Klein gives a short summary of the 25 articles in the town meeting warrant.
Article 3 - Regulation of Outdoor Uplighting. Laura N. asks how this will impact the dark skies bylaw passed last year. She thinks "all commercial and religious buildings" is very broad, and wonders if the scope of the article can be narrowed.
Article 4 - Minuteman Bikeway Hours. A few people are interested in discussing the 4, but there's no one at the meeting to present it. There's a question about whether the bikeway hours could be seasonal.
Article 5 - Fossil Fuel Infrastructure. Amos Meeks gives a short presentation. The general strategy outlined in Arlington's net zero action plan is to electrify everything and clean the grid. By prohibiting fossil fuel heating systems in new building construction, we can at least stop the problem (greenhouse gas emissions) from becoming worse. The article has a series of exemptions, such as gas for cooking, backup generators, and lab facilities. It town meeting votes in favor of this article, it will go to the state legislature as a home rule petition.
Affordable housing developments are leading the way in air source heat pump (ASHP) adoption. ASHP make a lot of sense in dense multi-family housing.
Robert Nichols is opposed to dealing with this issue locally; he thinks it should be dealt with at the state level. He thinks that Arlington should not mandate electric heat until there's a requirement from the state.
Josh Lobel says the emphasis is on getting the infrastructure in place now.
Amos Meeks notes that buildings last a long time. ASHP installations are very different than gas furnace or boiler installations. Installing a heating system in a new or rehabilitated building is easier than trying to retrofit it later. Even though most of Arlington's electricity is generated by natural gas, an ASHP will have lower greenhouse gas emissions than gas heat.
Sophie Migliazzo as if the article only applies to heating system. Amos says yes, and points out that gas for cooking appliances will be allowed.
Article 6 - Establishment of Police Civilian Advisory Board Study Committee. Elizabeth Dray says this article will set up a study committee to consider establishing a civilian advisory board for the Arlington Police Department. The committee would produce a report with recommendations in time for the 2022 annual town meeting. She expects the committee to study various types of review boards and propose a model for Arlington.
Bob McKersie says that Cambridge has a police advisory board. He thinks a study committee would set us in a good direction.
Pam Hallet supports the article. She says that an advisory board will have limited impact, unless it has an effect on union contracts.
Sanjay Newton feels that police oversight is generally poor in this country. This article is an effort to bring the conversation on policing to Arlington.
Elizabeth Dray says there are two amendments. One would make the Police Chief and Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion director advisory members rather than voting members. The intent is to allow town employees to have an advisory role, but have decisions made by non-employee residents.
Sanjay Newton says that recommendations won't be made until the end of 2021. That's intended to allow time to form the committee, and give them an opportunity to do their work. There are problems with policing all over the country; this isn't an Arlington-specific issue.
Elizabeth Dray says that some people have problems with police while others do not. She thinks that people who don't have problems should give consideration to those that do.
Articles 9, 12, 13 - Election Modernization Committee. Greg Dennis summaries the three articles put forward by the Election Modernization Committee. Article 9 would extend the life of the committee by one year, add two members to the committee, and extend voting rights to all committee members. Article 12 would have a single contest for all open town meeting seats (rather than separate contests for one-, two-, and three-year seats. Article 13 would adopt ranked choice voting. The election modernization committee has decided to withdraw Article 13; they'll resubmit it at a later town meeting.
Article 17 - Notice of Demolition, Open Foundation Excavation, New Construction, or Large Additions. Michael Ruderman says this article will create a cross reference from the Zoning bylaw to the good neighbor agreement in the town bylaws. He says that residents were concerned about the inconvenience caused by construction, which led to the adoption of the good neighbor agreement. The good neighbor agreement requires advance notice (to abutters) before significant construction projects. It also requires builders to provide abutters with a point of contact. Mr. Ruderman believes the good neighbor agreement is not always followed, so he wants to add a cross-reference for clarity. He states that Article 17 will not add any new requirements.
Wynelle Evans says she was a member of the Residential Study Group (who authored the Good Neighbor Agreement) and that she is invested in its success. She says the redevelopment board recommended no action because the requirement in Article 17 is already part of the Good Neighbor Agreement.
Gene Benson recommends that people read the Redevelopment Board's report to town meeting. He says the requirements proposed in Article 17 already exist in the town bylaws, so it's not necessary to repeat them in the zoning bylaws. He thinks that inconsistencies in the Good Neighbor Agreement are the reason for any lack of enforcement, and that Article 17's wording might create a circular workflow. He believes that enforcement issues should be addressed by changing the good neighbor agreement.
Liz Pyle says she was also a member of the Residential Study Group, and she supports Mr. Ruderman's article.
Michael Ruderman says the planning department supported Article 17 in their memo to the Redevelopment Board. He believes the ARB has misunderstood the scope and effect of his proposal. He believes that the good neighbor agreement is not being observed. He says that inspectional services has never issued a fine for violations, and the DPW has only issued one fine.
Don Seltzer believes that enforcement is non-existent, and there are no ramifications for breaking the bylaw.
Gene Benson is sympathetic about the issue of enforcement. He says that the set of materials given to abutters is different than the set of materials given to the building inspector. He feels that this discrepancy makes it difficult for the building inspector to determine what was given to abutters.
Article 8 - Municipal Affordable Housing Trust Fund. Pam Hallet says that in order to apply for CPA (affordable housing) funds, an applicant must have a project, applications can only be submitted at one point during the calendar year, and the use of CPA funds has to be approved by town meeting. An affordable housing trust fund (AHTF) offers more flexibility. For example, the CPA could put money into the affordable housing trust, and the trustees could use that funding to act on time-sensitive opportunities.
The Gersh amendment would prohibit AHTF funds from going to 40B projects. 40B is one of the ways that affordable housing projects get built. If the fund is able to spend money on 40B projects, we can negotiate for a larger number of affordable units, or units designated for lower area median income levels.
Don Seltzer agrees that an AHTF would allow the town to be more agile. He completely disagrees with the idea of using these funds for 40B projects. The says that 40B projects take time to do, so they should fit into the annual cycle of CPA funding.
Sanjay Newton supports the affordable housing trust fund. He's opposed to the Gersh amendment, and would prefer more flexibility in how the funds are used.
Patricia Worden says that Arlington needs an AHTF, but also needs the Gersh amendment to protect the town.
Article 15 - Retired Police Officer Details. Someone asks how much retired officers will get paid for detail work. No one is sure of the answer.
Charlie Foskett says that special details are paid by private entities (like utility contractors), and not the town. The town just administers detail work and adds a 10\% administration fee.
Josh Lobel said he's had the experience of trying to hire a police detail, and finding that no officers were available to work it.
Elizabeth Dray says she'll vote against this article. She doesn't want officers with disciplinary records working traffic details. She says there's no continuing education/training requirement for detail work. She doesn't want to increase the footprint of the police department. She'd like to have civilian flaggers instead.
Stuart B. says that police details are relatively unique to Massachusetts, as opposed to civilian flaggers with no training. He likes the idea of having trained officers working traffic details.
Article 23 - DPW Yard. This is a capital request of \$8.9M for the DPW. The town IT department will move into the new DPW facility. That and two other factors have increased the cost of the facility's renovation.
John Worden says the culvert by the DPW yard should be rebuilt instead.
Charlie Foskett says the DPW elected to go with a different kind of contracting model. He says there will be higher short-term costs, but more long-term benefits.
Article 25 - Black Lives Matter Banner at Town Hall. Sophie Migliazzo asks if the article will give town meeting authority over when the banner comes down. Elizabeth Dray says no. The Select Board has authority over any banners displayed on town hall; this article is just a recommendation to the select board.
Charlie Foskett thinks that Black Lives Matter is a partisan organization, and their banner doesn't belong on town hall.
Sanjay Newton reiterates that Article 25 is a recommendation to the Select Board. Ultimately, the Select Board gets to decide whether the banner is displayed.
Miriam Stein supports putting the banner back on town hall. She thinks that a statement of fair and equal treatment doesn't fully address discrimination.
Stuart B. asks what criteria would be used to take the banner down. He also asks about maintenance. For example, if the banner becomes torn or covered in bird poop.
Josh Lobel informs the meeting that Elaine Shea supports this article, but wishes the banner could say something more inclusive.
Elizabeth Dray thinks this is a human rights and social justice issue. She says the banner is just a symbol of what Arlington stands for. Hopefully it will lead to policy changes.
Patricia Worden says that as a former School Committee member, she thinks the black lives banner will be beneficial.
Other Matters. Someone asks if non town meeting members will be able to watch the special town meeting. Yes, ACMi will stream the meeting and broadcast it on their cable channel.
Someone raises the issue of pedestrian safety on Pleasant Street. There are no crosswalks between Irving Street and Rt. 2. During the winter, snow plows pile snow on the sidewalk. The speaker wonders if we can ask the town to look at pedestrian safety in that area.
Rebecca Gruber agrees that that part of Pleasant Street is difficult to navigate. She thinks that Pleasant Street has needed traffic monitoring for a long time.
Will Stein suggests different language for a banner on town hall.
Elaine Shea thinks that "Black Lives Matter" is not inclusive enough. She talks about a woman from Honduras who's never felt welcome here, and says that experience is shared by many brown people.