Select Board - Aug 31st, 2020

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Meeting held via zoom. These are notes from a subset of agenda items.

Citizen's Open Forum. There were no speakers at tonight's Citizen's Open Forum.

Special Town Meeting. The board discusses the possibility of having a special town meeting this fall.

Adam Chapdelaine says he met with members of Lexington's Select Board, to learn how they conducted their virtual town meeting. Mr. Chapdelaine believes that a virtual town meeting will require a lot of work, but that Arlington is in a good position to make it happen. Lexington didn't have a full town meeting last spring -- it was an abbreviated session like ours. They haven't done a virtual town meeting with full debate.

It sounded as though one of the Lexington Select Board members had to write some custom software for their spring/virtual town meeting.

Len Diggins is enthusiastic about the idea. Training will be the hard part, especially for town meeting members. He looks forward to setting up training and working out a buddy system.

Joe Curro is happy to hear we've been in discussion with Lexington. He asks about the timeline for a virtual town meeting. Mr. Chapdelaine was thinking of having the first session during the second week in November. Exact dates haven't been determined.

Steve DeCourcey is glad to see this morning forward. He asks if, procedurally, the moderator has to ask for the meeting to be run remotely. Doug Heim suggests the board call a special town meeting, and let the moderator determine that it should be conducted remotely. There were a number of zoning articles deferred from last spring, and the ARB will need time to advertise and hear them. It may be in our interest to set the date as soon as possible.

Diane Mahon asks if there are other offices and committees that need to be given a heads-up, like the Finance and Capital Planning Committees. Mr. Chapdelaine says the ARB is aware that we're considering a special town meeting. The Finance and Capital Planning committees are also aware, but there are things that need to be firmed up.

Blue Bikes. At a prior meeting, the Select Board approved locations for four Blue Bike stations. Tonight, they're going to consider the remaining two.

Mr. Chapdelaine says they had to change the Thorndike field location. We couldn't get a timeline from the MBTA for an easement or memorandum of agreement. Instead, we're proposing to install a concrete pad nearby, on town property, and put the station there. This station wouldn't be on a roadway and could be left in place during the winter.

Mr. Curro asks if the station will be located next to utility boxes that are in the area. Mr. Chapdelaine says the bike station will be set away from them.

Ms. Mahon asks if approving these two stations would preclude having blue bike stations in Arlington heights. Mr. Chapdelaine says that stations need to be within a third of a mile from each other. This provides an option for riders if they arrive at a station and find that it's full. We may be able to install more stations in the future, 1/3 of a mile apart. He'd like to see how the first six stations do, and if funding for additional stations becomes available. Ms. Mahon says she'd like to see additional stations installed in the heights.

Mr. Diggins believes there was talk of another transportation grant becoming available in 2021 or 2022. He'd like to see a chain of stations going up towards the heights. He asks about the rational for wanting to put stations on the Minuteman bikeway. Mr. Chapdelaine points out that people don't always commute the same way. For example, a person might take a bus in the morning, then bike home in the evening. The minuteman is also a recreational corridor, and it's common to see people riding blue bikes there.

Mr. Curro says that, pre-pandemic, he'd usually walk the bikeway to and from Alewife station. Bicycles could be useful for someone who's running late, and needs an alternative that's faster than walking. He thinks the six locations make sense.

Mr. Diggins asks if the stations could be moved in the future. Mr. Chapdelaine says he'll have to check; it may depend on how the contract is worded. Mr. Heim says there's a process for re-evaluating station locations. Mr. DeCourcey would like to see future locations situated off-street if possible, to avoid losing parking. He notes that we'll need a certain number of rides in order to get a contract renewal. If one of the stations isn't used very often, then that's a reason to revisit the location.

Board approves the remaining two stations, 5--0.

Arlington Community Electricity Opt-Up Campaign. This item deals with a proposed rebranding of Community Choice Aggregation, and a campaign to encourage residents to opt-up to higher levels of renewable energy.

Ken Pruitt (Town Energy Manager) begins the presentation. We're planning to rebrand community choice aggregation as Arlington Community Electricity. We'll create a website for the program, and run an opt-up campaign. Good Energy will help with the website design, and Mothers out Front will help with the opt-up campaign.

Patrick Roche (Good Energy) describes municipal aggregation. Municipal aggregation allows communities to purchase electricity from different suppliers. The distributor is always Eversource (i.e., the electricity is delivered via Eversource's wires). Arlington launched their municipal aggregation program in August 2017. The program's goals are to deliver more renewable energy, better prices, more price stability, and a range of %-renewable options. The standard offering includes 27% renewables, which is higher than the state-mandated 16%. Collectively, Arlington is purchasing 12,100 mWH of additional renewable energy. 14,000 households and 1,000 businesses participate in the program.

As of July 2020, 142 households had opted up to 50% renewables and 589 had opted up to 100% -- that's 731 opt-ups out of roughly 14,000.

Arlington Community Energy is a re-branding, to emphasize that this is a town-backed program. We've developed a new logo, which should always be accompanied by the town seal.

The website will provide information about the program, and encourage residents to opt-up. It should be located at when the site finally goes live.

The opt-up campaign will start in September. The goal is to get 1000 more opt-ups by the end of 2020. The campaign will utilize letters to the editor, social media, lawn signs, and other forms of outreach.

Jill Manca (Mothers out Front) speaks next. Ms. Manca feels that the ACE rebranding is a huge improvement. Mothers out Front will encourage people to opt up to a higher percentage of renewables. Opt-up is a first step at addressing climate change. The ultimate goal is to get off carbon-based fuel sources. She fully supports the ACE campaign to reduce greenhouse gases and transition to net zero.

Diane Mahon moves receipt of the presentation. She asks if the town website will have a link to the opt-up programs. Ken Pruitt wants to make it as easy as possible to reach the ACE website from the town website. Ms. Mahon wants to make sure the "utilities" page of the town website has a link to the opt-up campaign.

Len Diggins seconds Ms. Mahon's motion. He thinks this is an interesting time to launch a campaign and suggests we be patient in gauging its success. He suggests asking Sustainable Arlington to help with outreach. He likes the ACE idea and asks who came up with the logo. Mr. Pruitt says that Good Energy designed the logo, with input from other groups.

Steve DeCourcey asks if the amount of opt-up participation has increased in the last year. Mr. Roche says the number of opt-ups has held steady during the last year. Mr. DeCourcey asks if we'll try to get more households to participate. Mr. Roche wants people to realize that this is an option. Some households may have chosen different competitive suppliers.

Joe Curro is a huge fan of the program. He loves the new logo and the rebranding. He offers feedback on the charts in the presentation. Mr. Pruitt talks about the thought process that went into designing those charts, and says they're open to refinement. Mr. Roche says that municipalities tend to focus on the amount of renewables used above the state percentage. The state percentage increases each year, which means the actual percentage of renewables also changes each year.

Mr. Hurd think this is a subject we need to talk about, and hopes the campaign is effective.

Board votes receipt, 5--0.

Letter of Support to Mass Housing re: 1165R Massachusetts Avenue. Mary Winstanley-O'Connor offers her apologies to the board, fearing that her most recent correspondence may have been too aggressive. The Miraks are not interested in proceeding with this project if they don't have the town's support. They took the master plan (and other plans) very seriously in the design process.

Julia Mirak is grateful to the board for reconsidering their letter. She's pleased with the letter of support.

Len Diggins moves approval of the letter. He felt the attorney's letters were appropriate. He asks if artists were really being charged $7--15 square/foot for rent. Ms. Winstanley-O'Connor says yes.

Mr. Curro is happy with the letter. He wants to call out the cooperative process and recognize the Mirak's long relationship to the town. Overall, public comment has been very positive. Mr. Curro notes that several boards and commissions submitted comments, and asks if they should be attached to the Select Board's letter to Mass Housing. Mr. Hurd says the letters could be attached, if the board is so inclined.

Ms. Mahon asks if the affordability requirements -- 25% of units available to households making 80% AMI -- is included in the letter. Ms. Winstanley O'Connor says that's one of the program requirements.

Ms. Mahon asks if this is a mixed-use project. Ms. Winstanley O'Connor says that the Miraks consider it a mixed-use project, due to Workbar. Workbar is on a separate lot, but it informed the design of the housing project. Daniel St. Claire says that Workbar will use parking under the new apartment building.

Ms. Mahon asks if the project will have any environmental impact on the Mill Brook. Ms. Winstanley-O'Connor says that the Conservation Commission is involved, and their first hearing before the commission is on September 3rd. Mr. St. Claire says that building #2 has subterranean areas; a portion of that is basement and a portion is parking. The new building will be set further away from the brook, and they foresee no adverse environmental impacts. Ms. Mirak says that most parking will be at-grade.

Ms. Mahon thinks that the possibility of large storms should be considered. Ms. Winstanley O'Connor expects to discuss this topic with the Conservation Commission.

Steve DeCourcey thinks there's been a lot of healthy discussion during the last few weeks. DPCD is working with the artists. He thinks the entire board can get behind the letter of support. There's a possibility of having some units available for 60% AMI households, if additional funding can be found. The project follows many of the towns plans -- the master plan, Housing Production Plan, Open Space Plan, and so on. He appreciates the efforts made.

Mary Winstanley O'Connor thanks Jenny Raitt and Adam Chapdelaine for their efforts. Mr. Hurd thanks Ms. Winstanley-O'Connor for honestly addressing the board's concerns.

Board adopts the letter of approval, 5--0.