Select Board - Apr 20th, 2022

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Meeting held via hybrid model. Materials were available from These notes cover a subset of agenda items.

Presentation and Requested Adoption: Arlington Housing Plan

(Note: I'd like to preface this section with some background information. During this year's town meeting, we will deliberate a warrant article -- Article 38 -- that proposes to allow two-family construction in districts that are currently restricted to single-family homes. One of the recommendations in the housing plan is that two-family homes be allowed in our single family district; it's very similar to the warrant article. The Select Board tabled voting on the housing plan at their March 30th meeting; they wanted to wait for the Redevelopment Board's recommendation on Article 38. The Redevelopment board gave Article 38 a favorable recommendation, by a vote of 3--2. During this discussion, board members sometimes blur the line between the Article being proposed for this year's town meeting and the (very similar) recommendation in the Housing Plan.)

(Lenard Diggins, Select Board Chair) Mr. Diggins notes that the board received a presentation on the Housing Production Plan at an earlier meeting, and the Board wanted to defer voting until the ARB made a recommendation on Article 38. The ARB has made their recommendation to town meeting, and Mr. Diggins asks the board how they'd like to proceed.

(Steve Decourcey, Select Board) Mr. Decourcey notes that the Redevelopment Board voted favorably on Article 38, by a vote of 3--2. He was struggling with seeing "allow two family homes in single-family districts" as the first recommendation, and with having it listed as a short-term recommendation. He agrees with the feelings expressed by ARB members Ms. Zsembery and Ms. Tintocalis. In the housing production plan, the ARB is listed as the lead group for this recommendation, and they wanted to see it discussed at town meeting.

Mr. Decourcey says he's concerned with this particular recommendation, but pleased with the plan as a whole. During their earlier meeting, he recalls a discussion of some statements about the Arlington Housing Authority (AHA), which appeared on page three. He's concerned about the statement "The AHA lacks resources to manage their properties" and would like it struck from the report.

(Diane Mahon, Select Board) Ms. Mahon is also concerned about allowing two-family homes in single-family districts, but she's willing to have that discussion at town meeting. She also made a request to change the language about the AHA on page 3.

(Jenny Raitt, Planning Director) Ms. Raitt says she'd be happy to amend that language, if it would please the board.

(Steve Decourcey) Mr. Decourcey doesn't think the report needs to say that the Housing Authority is lacking in resources. He thinks not saying that would set a better tone.

(Diane Mahon) Ms. Mahon has a question about Article 38. She thought she heard something about a limitation that would apply if single-family homes were turned into two-family. She asks if that limitation would be enforceable.

(Jenny Raitt) Ms. Raitt says there could be an amendment to change that limitation.

(Note: I believe the limitation that they're referring to is language that would limit each unit in a two-family dwelling in the R0 and R1 districts to 1850 square feet, by deed restriction.)

(Doug Heim, Town Counsel) Mr. Heim believes that the real question is whether something is by right or not. He says that extra requirements that aren't subject to special permit would create the need for a new layer of enforcement.

(Diane Mahon) Ms. Mahon notes that Article 38 is different than the recommendation in the Housing Plan, and she appreciates the answer to her question. She'll support the plan, with the changes that Mr. Decourcey requested.

(Eric Helmuth, Select Board) Mr. Helmuth says this is a well-researched, thought out, and useful plan. He's the Select Board's designee to the Affordable Housing Trust (AHTF) Fund board, and he says the trustees appreciated the care that the Select Board was taking. He thinks this plan will be an important guide for the AHTF. He also has reservations about Article 38, but realizes we're just getting the conversation started. He sees the plan as a menu of 42 different strategies, and adopting the plan won't mean trying to do everything in five years.

Regarding the statements about the Housing Authority, Mr. Helmuth believes the intent was to highlight the need for investment. He understands that the AHA pursues Section 8 vouchers rather than adding housing, but he believes that's due to current state policy. Leaving the statements on page three would require adding more context; he's okay with taking them out. Mr. Helmuth moves approval, subject to administratively making the amendments the board has requested.

(Len Diggins) Mr. Diggins asks if the amendments can be made administratively.

(Jenny Raitt) Ms. Raitt believes the amendments can be made administratively, and she will inform the redevelopment board of them.

(Len Diggins) Mr. Diggins hopes the Select Board can do joint meetings with the ARB, either in the Summer or in the Fall. He'd like to speak with them about the Housing Production Plan and the Fair Housing Action Plan. He thinks many people will support doing something in the area of housing.

(Steve Decourcey) Mr. Decourcey believes the Fair Housing Action Plan has areas that overlap with the Housing Production Plan. He thinks that strategy C from the Fair Housing Action Plan lays out a good roadmap, and he hopes we can refer to that plan going forward.

The board votes to adopt the Housing Production Plan, 4--0 (board member John Hurd was absent this evening).