Select Board - Feb 11th, 2019

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After attending an ARB meeting, I walked down the hall to attend the remainder of the Select Board meeting. The Board had eight warrant article hearings on the agenda this evening; I was able to catch the last five.

Article 34: Regulation of Outdoor lighting/Dark Skies Bylaw. I missed the discussion, but the board recommended favorable action, 5--0.

Article 40: Robbins Library Parking Cost. The article requests the reduction or elimination of parking fees at the Robbins Library.

Diane Mahon feels this is a resolution. It could go before town meeting, or the select board could take action outside of town meeting.

Joe Curro states that the Library Board of Trustees thought the meters would provide more access, by increasing parking turnover. He'd like to get input from the Library Board of Trustees.

John Hurd is under the impression that the Library asked the town to install meters, when they were being installed nearby on Mass Ave.

Joe Curro believes we're not unusual for having parking meters near the library.

Dan Dunn would like to defer to the library board of trustees.

The board opens the hearing to public comment.

Resident Lynette Martin is frustrated with the library parking situation. Most of our meters allow 15 minutes of free parking, but not the ones behind the library. She'd like to see a free 15-minute option available there.

Resident Susan Mortimer feels that libraries are the greatest American institutions. She was flabbergasted at seeing meters in the library parking lot. She can't recall ever getting in and out of the library in fifteen minutes.

Joe Curro asks if the parking kiosks can provide fifteen minutes of free parking.

A resident asked the board to consider validated parking in the library lot.

Another resident suggests the idea of using library cards for validated parking.

The board tables the motion, until the Library Board of Trustees can weigh in.

Article 44: CPA Surcharge Exemption for Senior Homeowners. This article comes from Bob Radocia and ten registered voters. Mr. Radocia knows residents who are concerned about their ability to stay in town, due to property tax increases. He's asking the board to provide a way for Seniors to opt out of the CPA surcharge.

Dan Dunn points out that some residents saw their tax bills increase this year, while others saw them decrease. Overall, the average rate of increase was four percent.

Clarissa Rowe notes that there's already a circuit breaker on CPA taxes, if residents apply for it. CPA has done wonderful things for this town, and she'd like to keep it.

Joe Curro notes that there are other circuit breaker articles. He's concerned that this article isn't need-based.

John Hurd believes this article is duplicative of existing CPA circuit breaker provisions.

Diane Mahon notes that the town adopted CPA by ballot measure. She's not comfortable with making this kind of change, without going back to the voters. But, we do need to look at ways of providing tax relief.

Mr. Radocia states that 71 people qualified for the senior exemption last year. That's not many. Lots of seniors are questioning how long they'll be able to stay in town.

A resident asks what would happen if someone lost their spouse.

Adam Chapdelaine says the town is looking at raising the deferral limit, as well as a circuit breaker cap on property taxes. This would work like the state's circuit breaker cap on income taxes.

(I missed the final disposition of this article.)

Article 50: Short Term Rental Impact Fees. This article was inserted by the Select Board. It would ask the town to adopt community impact fees on commercial or residential short-term rentals, according to recently-enacted state laws.

The board votes in favor.

A resident asks the board to explain what they just voted on.

Dan Dunn provides a summary. The statute gives towns the opportunity to adopt some of the state's regulations regarding short term rentals. This would be a local tax. The board has discussed this issue a number of times, so they didn't repeat the background information this evening.

Article 80: Overnight Parking Exemption for Medical and Financial Hardships. This article was inserted at the request of Laura Kiesel and ten registered voters. It's a non-binding resolution that asks town meeting to support an overnight parking program for persons with medical and/or financial hardship.

A resident from the diversity task force provides opening remarks. The diversity task force's charter is to look at uneven burdens on different groups of residents; they support this article.

Laura Kiesel speaks next. She submitted a non-binding resolution because town meeting has no say on overnight parking ban; it's under the jurisdiction of the Select Board.

After cost-of-living, parking is the biggest concern for tenants in town. Many need a car to get to and from work. She's also concerned about some of the proposed parking reductions (coming from zoning-related articles).

Parking costs disproportionately affect low-income renters. Workers need cars to get to work. Cars are crucial for victims of domestic violence. The MBTA is not sufficient for people with disabilities.

Handicapped spaces in residential areas aren't exempt from the overnight parking ban. This article isn't trying to overturn the overnight parking ban. Rather, it's an effort to get a needs-based voucher program.

Diane Mahon was impressed with Ms. Kiesel's presentation. This adds another layer to getting overnight placards. She's not aware of the select board turning anyone away for hardship. She thinks the conversation needs to continue, but questions whether a warrant article is a proper vehicle for that.

Clarissa Rowe believes that parking is more complicated in East Arlington. She thinks Arlington is on the cusp of becoming a two-tier community, and this would be a good thing to bring before town meeting.

John Hurd would like to see this article go before town meeting. He'd like the town to have a clearer set of guidelines for determining parking exemptions.

Joe Curro agrees that the town lacks objective criteria for parking exemptions. He's generally not a fan of going to town meeting for something the select board can do, but thinks it makes sense to let this go forward to town meeting. The cost of land is driven by the need for parking.

A member of the Arlington Disabilities Commission speaks next. She'd like to have the opportunity for the ADC to meet and vote on this article. Our current laws and processes place a burden on disabled individuals. If the town reduces the number of parking spaces required, then the number of handicapped spaces will also be reduced. None of our handicapped spaces are exempt from the overnight parking ban. She doesn't like the idea of requiring people to give medical information at a public hearing, in order to get an overnight parking exemption.

Susan Mortimer has been car-free for eleven years. It feel like a luxury to do without a car, but she really needed one when she was raising her kids. She thinks that class and gentrification have colored people's attitudes about overnight parking. We need to be a more inclusive community.

I missed a couple of comments while waiting in line to speak. I offered three anecdotes to the board.

  • I'm a die-hard cyclist, and my bicycle is my main mode of transportation. After graduating from music school, I worked three jobs -- all hours of the day, all over the place. I couldn't have done that without a car. The car was also a place to sleep between gigs; you can't do that on a bike.
  • My girlfriend and I purchased a two-bedroom house eleven years ago, and pay $1685/month for mortgage, taxes, and insurance. It would be very difficult to find a two-bedroom apartment at that price point. This says a lot about how expensive Arlington has become.
  • Many of our problems with housing affordability can be traced back to our 1975 zoning recodification. The 1975 zoning recodification was a revolt against apartments. The planning board and town meeting responded by severely restricting the amount of multi-family housing that could be built, and zoning over 70% of the town for single-family homes. In short, reduce the housing supply, and only allow the most expensive types of housing there is -- detached single family homes. I think this decision is coming back to bite us.

Dan Dunn state that parking is a scarce commodity, and it's a challenge. We haven't talked about the cost of enforcing an overnight permit plan. He asks the town manager if that's something we can look at.

Adam Chapdelaine says we can look into this.

Mr. Dunn notes that the overnight parking ban has been brought before voters on a number occasions. He hoped it would be overturned, and was disappointed when the ballot question failed. There was no campaign to change people's opinions at the time. But, we could create a campaign that might change people's minds. Mr. Dunn would like to see this come before town meeting.

Doug Heim notes that we need something in the form of a resolution.

Mr. Dunn suggests not making the resolution too prescriptive. Make it clear that the select boards supports the resolution, and ask town meeting for their support.

Diane Mahon would like an estimate of how many parking spaces we're talking about. Perhaps we could have a ballot question that goes by precinct.

John Hurd reiterates his earlier comments. He'd like clearer criteria for parking exemptions, and a simpler process for obtaining them.

Mr. Heim offers to draft a resolution, and a proposal for granting parking exemptions. He'll bring them back to the board, and let them choose the one they feel is most appropriate.