Special Town Meeting - Dec 5th, 2018

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Article 1. Reports of Boards and Committees. The Select Board, Redevelopment Board, Finance Committee, Capital Planning Committee, and Rainbow Commission submitted reports. Afterwards, Article 1 is laid on the table.

Article 2. Zoning Bylaw Amendment/Medical and Recreational Marijuana Establishments. ARB Chair Andrew Bunnell gives a presentation.

In 2014 the town permitted medical marijuana establishments. In 2016, 57% of Arlington voted in favor of permitting recreational marijuana. The town established a study committee to review state guidance, what other municipalities have done, and to work on the main motion for this article. The proposed changes closely mirrors state recommendations. On-site consumption is not allowed at any of these establishments.

These establishments will be allowed by special permit in zones B2A, B3, B4, B5, and in the industrial district. They will not be allowed in B1 or B2, which are neighborhood business districts. Production facilities will be limited to the B4 and I districts.

For buffer zones, we propose 500' around K--12 schools (public or private), 300' around playgrounds, and 200' around libraries. The proposal also creates a 2000' buffer zone between recreational marijuana retailers, and limits the town to three establishments. This has been an incredibly careful process. Any facility will have to undergo an environmental design review, and they're limited to 5000 square feet of floor area.

(Paul Chuck, Study Committee member). Paul is a member of the Association of Cannabis specialists. Cannabis is now legal in Massachusetts, and the potential effects have been carefully analyzed. Paul would like these new establishments to be give a fair chance to succeed and thrive.

There are three substitute motions for article 2. These are presented next.

(John Gersh) Mr. Gersh's amendment would eliminate the 2000' buffer between retail establishments, and remove the three-establishment limit. Mr. Gersh feels this change important because of the vote. We are a representative body and the represented have made their opinion very clear. We should respect that. This substitute motion removes the most over-reaching restrictions, but leaves the rest intact. We owe our constituents something like the end to prohibition that they asked for.

Eighty-five years passed between the end of prohibition, and the first beer garden in Arlington center. It's time to put personal feelings aside, and do what the voters asked us to do.

(John Worden). Mr. Worden's amendment would add a 500' buffer zone around day care centers and pediatrician's offices. There's no conflict between Mr. Gersh's amendment and mine. This is all about the children. I want to keep marijuana out of places where children congregate. The people's vote is fine, but we're representatives, and we have a duty to make refinements.

(Lisa Reynolds). Ms. Reynold's amendment would disallow retail sales of marijuana in all of the B districts. We want to make sure marijuana stays away from our youth communities. Marketing to youth should be avoided. People will say that we're not marketing to kids, but opening a shop is a form of marketing. I understand this will make it more difficult for patrons and proprietors, but I think this is a small price to pay for avoiding a wellness hazard to our youth.

Now, it's time to debate the article and amendments.

(Gordon Jameson) Do we have a medical marijuana establishment in town?

Yes, it's on Water Street.

Does the limit of three establishments apply only to retail shops, or does it apply to all kinds of marijuana establishments?

Only retail shops.

Does the limitation apply to medical marijuana facilities?

No, the limit only applies to recreational retail shops.

Mr. Jameson recommends a no vote for the Gersh amendment. He'd prefer the town ease into this gradually, so that people have a chance to get used to the changes. Arlington took a similar, gradual approach when allowing alcohol sales in the town.

Mr. Jameson asks how many day care centers are in town. Health and Human Services Director Christine Bongiorno produces a list. It's several pages long. The list of pediatricians is also several pages long. Mr. Jameson recommends a no vote on the Worden amendment. A 500' buffer around each pediatrician and day care center would likely make it impossible to site a retail establishment in town.

Mr. Jameson is confused by Ms. Reynolds amendment -- why restrict retail, but not the other types of marijuana establishments?

Mr. Jameson asks about the size and location of our Industrial districts. They're located in the center and the heights, but not in East Arlington.

(Ted Sharpe) What's a micro-business?

They're limited to 5000 square foot of floor space, and can purchase up to 2000 pounds of marijuana per year.

Mr. Sharpe wonders if, under optimal siting conditions, we could have three retail establishments in the town. He believes the Gersh amendment would probably allow this. The other two amendments probably wouldn't.

Andrew Bunnell believes that the Worden and Reynolds amendments would completely zone out retail recreational establishments.

(Andrew Fisher) Does retail mean "recreational", and not medical?


Mr. Fisher supports the open regulated use of marijuana. He's disappointed the Select Board weren't able to regulate nips. Two retail stores opened in Western Massachusetts, and so many people came that it caused traffic jams. He'd like the ARB to scrutinize shops before they open.

(John Deist) Move the question.

Vote to terminate debate is (160-23-1). That ends debate.

Gersh amendment fails, (45-151-0).

Worden amendment fails, (25-174-0).

Reynolds amendment fails, (32-162-1).

Article passes, (170-20-2).

Article 3. Acceptance/Local Option: Recreational Marijuana Excise Tax.

Article three would impose a 3% excise tax on recreational marijuana sales.

(Al Tosti) The Select Board and Finance Committee unanimously voted in favor of article tree. This money will go into the general fund, and can be used to help with the high school rebuilt.

Article passes, (192-0-0).

Article 4. Bylaw Amendment/LGBTQIA+ Rainbow Commission Membership.

Article four would permit the LGBTQIA+ Rainbow commission to expand its membership, by up to two commissioners. Select Board Chair Dan Dunn gives a brief presentation.

(Dan Dunn) The Rainbow commission has asked to expand the number of commissioners. Their work has been very well received. We looked at the model used by the Capital Planning Committee, which allows membership to grow and shrink, as the committee's workload changes.

Article passes, (155-2-0).

Article 5. Bylaw Amendment/Certain Personnel.

Article five involves changes to the town's general bylaws. In the past, there were two elected positions that were paid full-time: the Town Treasurer and the Town Clerk. This article would update the bylaw to reflect the fact that the clerk is the only elected position that's paid full-time.

Dan Dunn gives a brief presentation. This article makes no change to the Clerk's office. It just clarifies the bylaw, to make it clear that the clerk is the only elected official with a full-time position.

Article passes (181-4-0).

Article 6. Endorsement/The John J. Bilafer Arlington Citizen's Scholarship fund -- Dollars for Scholars.

(Dan Dunn) The fund gives away around $150k/year in scholarships. That's a lot of money, and we'd like to pay more attention to how it's managed. We're interesting in finding volunteers with experience in managing scholarship funds.

Article passes (170-0-0).

Article 7. Capital Budget/DPW Yard.

This is a capital request for renovations to the DPW yard. DPW Director Mike Rademacher gives a ten-minute presentation.

(Mike Rademacher) The existing DPW facility has exceeded its useful life. A 2013 study determined that a rehabilitation would not be sufficient. Several of the buildings date from the early 1900's, and don't meet current codes. They have poor ventilation, poor lighting, are in need of significant repair, and don't provide adequate storage space for vehicles.

Preliminary planning has involved the DPW, Inspectional Services, Information Technology, and Facilities departments. We've inventoried the department's vehicles and sketched out needed areas. Current estimate is that we'll need 95,000 square feet.

The DPW yard is a challenging site. Two MWRA sewer lines run underneath. There's soil contamination, and the Mill Brook runs through the site, underneath one of the buildings. Two of the existing buildings are categorized as historic, and that limits our ability to renovate them.

We plan to renovate the existing buildings, and use them for vehicle storage. We'll add covered canopies to protect equipment from the weather. We'll construct a new building, and a new salt shed. These changes will give us a code-compliant facility, provide efficiencies for the town, and avoid annual flooding from Mill Brook.

The DPW requested $2.3 for the design phase. $1M was previously approved, and we're asking for the remainder tonight.

Our next steps will be: more design, permitting the work, and securing funding from town meeting. The funds you're being asked to approve tonight will come from the water and sewer enterprise fund.

(Patricia Worden) Ms. Worden thinks the DPW has done wonderful work, but she doesn't like the idea of partially paving over the high school athletic field. She'd like a hydrological study done before the work begins. She's also like a replacement field to be sited. Ms. Worden believes that flooding can be addressed by expanding the Mill Brook Culvert.

(Context: the DPW yard is next to the high school -- the current plan would expand the DPW yard into the school's athletic field.)

(John Leonard) Where will the rest of the money come from?

The first $1M was approved last spring. The total project budget will be proposed next spring.

Will the DPW coordinate their renovations with the high school renovation?

The High School design team is aware of the DPW renovation, and we're working with them. We'll coordinate as much as possible.

(Al Tosti) We've done a lot of renovations in town: the elementary schools, middle schools, the library, three fire stations, town hall, and the public safety building. Public Works is the last one. We haven't done any significant renovation there since the 1970s. All the money for the design is coming from free cash in the water and sewer enterprise fund, and that's only usable for things related to the water and sewer department.

(Note: the water and sewer department is located in the DPW yard.)

(Gordon Jameson) Mr. Jameson supports the construction of an access road between the DPW and high school. This should help with construction and emergency access. He commends the town manager and DPW director for working with the school to address parking and add move field space overall. We should consider the athletic program needs of our expanding student population. Mr. Jameson would like to see opportunities for public input during the planning process.

(Adam Chapdelaine) Every building renovation is done through the permanent town building committee, and you can provide public input there.

(Dean Carman) Motion to terminate debate.

Motion motion to terminate passes, (143-20).

Article passes (180-9).

Article 8. Collective Bargaining.

Article 8 seeks approval of collective bargaining agreements. Deputy Town Manager Sandy Pooler presents.

(Sandy Pooler) We've been working with HR director Caryn Molloy on the collective bargaining agreements. There are two unions involved: AFSCME Local 680, and SEIU. These negotiations have been going on for about a year. Both unions have ratified this agreement. We conducted the negotiations in an open-book manner: we sent the unions spreadsheets of town finances, and they sent the town copies of their spreadsheets. It was a very satisfying negotiation.

We agreed to a 2-2-1 cost of living adjustment for AFSCME. This is a common pattern. Some of the provisions in the agreement will effectively make this a 3-2-1.

The SEIU agreement is similar, but with an additional tier for more senior staff. If this passes, we'll immediately move forward with wage increases and new contracts.

Article passes, (190-0-0).

Article 1 is taken from the table, and the meeting is dissolved.