Town Meeting - Apr 24th, 2023

Jump to navigation Jump to search

First night of town meeting. Background material is available from

We have a test vote: will town meeting finish in five nights? The opinions are split, 101--102--11.

The next vote asks town meeting to consent to the use of a satellite room, for town meeting members who aren't comfortable participating from the main auditorium. Town meeting consents, 223--1--1.


A member of the Library Board of Trustees provides an update about the disposition of the Robbins print collection. The library is working with a consultant, who's advising them on auction, donation, and selling options. Their report is available on the town meeting web page.

Article 2 - State of the Town Address

(Eric Helmuth, Select Board Chair) Mr. Helmuth recalls that it's been four years since town meeting last met in person. He sees neighborhoods, professionals, and a community who wants to make the town a good place to live. Mr. Helmuth recognizes Marie Krepelka, who worked for the town for 63 years, the Director of Veterans Services who'll retire on June 1st, Town Manager Sandy Pooler, and other long-time employees.

In the last year, Arlington has kept its fiscal promises and spent less per capita than comparable communities in the state. The Arlington High School is on budget, and a new wing will open this fall. The Community Center opened during the past year, and there have been major renovations to our parks and playgrounds. The new DPW building will be finished this spring. Arlington conducted a community equity audit, and in the year ahead, we'll do the hard work of implementing those recommendations. We adopted a new Housing Production Plan, and residents stood by people who were victimized by acts of hate.

Mr. Helmuth says that in Arlington, everyone belongs. We'll continue to work to add housing, and have the kind of thoughtful housing growth that will allow us to participate in the fossil fuel ban. We've increased the percentage of renewables in the default Arlington Community Electric program, and we had town day in person last September. Maintaining our high level of services is challenging. Our FY 2024 budget is balanced but we'll have a deficit in FY 2026. We're considering a budget override in the fall.

Mr. Helmuth concludes by saying that making good decisions requires a good faith effort, and the state of our town is strong.

Article 3 - Reports of Committees

Town meeting receives reports from the Select Board, Finance Committee, Community Preservation Act Committee, and Redevelopment board.

Article 4 - Appointment of Measurer of Wood and Bark

John Worden is appointed to the honorary position of measurer of wood and bark.

Article 5 - Election of Assistant Town Moderator

Town meeting elects Adam Auster to serve as the assistant town moderator.

Consent Agenda

Articles 7 and 8 were held by Angel Mozina. Lenard Diggins held article 14. There were holds on articles 33, 34, 39, 40, 41, 45, 46, 48, 51, 58, 59, and 61. Most of these were placed by Chris Loreti, who stated that it was his intention to hold every finance committee article with a positive recommendation. Mark Kaepplein held article 65, and article 68 was held as well.

I think that left only a few no-action recommendations for the majority consent agenda, like Articles 11, 50, 54, and 55.

All of the articles on the 2/3's consent agenda were held.

Consent agenda adopted by a majority vote.

Article 6 - Conversion of Gas Station Dispensing Pumps to Self Service Operation

This article proposes to change the town bylaw that prohibits self-serve gasoline stations, so that self service is allowed.

(Eric Helmuth) Mr. Helmuth tells town meeting that the Select Board voted in favor of Article 6, by a vote of 5--0. He says this is the third time that the topic of self-serve gas has come to town meeting, and that last year's article created some thoughtful debate.

(John Leone) Mr. Leone is representing Eli's Service Station for this article. He's asking town meeting to allow him to offer self-serve gasoline. 62 residents signed the petition for this warrant article, and there will be a requirement to have one employee available to offer full service. This will allow Eli to rehabilitate his gas station on Broadway, and it may allow them to stay open longer. It's becoming difficult to find gas station attendants. Only retirees are interested in pumping gas; kids aren't interested in these jobs anymore.

There are 10 gas stations in town, and Mr. Leone says he's spoken to nine of them. Three owners were interested in converting to self-serve, which costs between $200--300k. Not all gas stations in town are independently owned. Eli also has a station in Revere, which he recently upgraded and renovated.

Gas stations make most of their money from service bays, and they need to sell at least 200 gallons/hour to pay the service attendant's salary. Massachusetts state law requires stations to provide assistance to disabled individuals. Mr. Leone says we should be helping locally owned small businesses, and not be setting limits on what they can do.

(Chris Loreti) Mr. Loreti has an amendment, that would require self-service to stations to have at least one service bay. He doesn't want self-serve gas stations with mini-marts, and says that the big oil model makes more money from food than from gas. He wants to preserve service stations. He shows a map indicating the parcels where gas stations could be built and says it doesn't make sense to encourage more fossil fuel use. Mr. Loreti believes that disabled people will pay more for full service, and self-service isn't likely to result in lower prices.

(Doug Heim, Town Counsel) Mr. Heim confirms that the amendment is within the scope of the article.

(John Maher) Mr. Maher finds that self service costs less, and he thinks the Select Board vote addresses ADA concerns. He suggests town meeting support the main motion.

(Xavid Pretzer) Mx. Pretzer would like to think about what gas station employees want. They say that some are concerned about losing their jobs, and that self-service gas stations aren't very good at providing full service. They oppose the article.

(Joanne Preston) Ms. Preston says this article came as a big surprise to her. The amendment wants to preserve full service gas stations. She says that allowing self-serve may have the benefit of lower gas prices, but she think prices at Arlington gas stations are already competitive. CVS offers self-checkout, but the lines are always long, and there's no benefit to consumers. She says that equity is a negative, that this will remove choice, and that Arlington gas stations are mostly independently owned, and not part of chains. When stations have full-service and self-service, the full service costs more. Ms. Preston says that a full-service attendant can check tires, and she thinks full-service provides great jobs. She says that self-serve gas stations can also sell wine and beer, and believes her neighborhood gas station is in danger of going out of business.

(Aram Hollman) Mr. Hollman understands that it costs $200--300k to convert a station to self-service. He thinks we should help businesses, but also decide what kind of businesses we want in town. He says Arlington doesn't need second rate grocery stores.

(Paul Schlictman) Mr. Schlictman says he's part of a two EV family, and they haven't bought gas is 18 months. He thinks the mention of full-service EV charging stations was silly. Corporations have a lot of money to build big gas stations with convenience stores. He says that cars are portable, and people can drive to other communities if they want self service. He likes the Loreti amendment, but will vote against the article.

(Andrew Fischer) Mr. Fischer says he'll vote no. He's opposed to risking large corporations turning our gas stations into mini marts.

(Carl Wagner) Mr. Wagner says he proposed a similar article in 2013. The constituents he surveyed did not want to lose full serve. He thinks that allowing self service will kill the business that offer full service.

(Sanjay Newton) Mr. Newton moves the question.

Motion to terminate debate passes, 201--12--1.

Loreti amendment passes, 156--64--1.

Main motion (as amended) passes, 122--107--1.

Article 7 - Parking Disclosure Requirement

(Eric Helmuth) Mr. Helmuth says the Select Board recommended a vote of no action.

Ms. Mozina had pulled Article 7 from the consent agenda, but has no substitute motion to offer.

The recommendation of no action passes by unanimous voice vote.

Article 8 - Medical Anti-Discrimination Bylaw

(Eric Helmuth) Mr. Helmuth informs that the select board recommended that no action be taken on Article 8.

Ms. Mozina had pulled Article 8 from the consent agenda, but she doesn't have a substitute motion to offer.

(Mark Kaepplein) Mr. Kaepplein, the warrant article's author, motions to postpone Article 8 until after article 65.

Mr. Kaepplein's motion fails by a voice vote.

There's a motion to terminate debate on Article 8. Motion passes by voice vote.

The recommended vote of no action passes, 217--6--3.

Article 9 - Stenographic Record of town meeting

This article proposes to remove the requirement to make a stenographic record of town meeting.

(Steve Revilak) Mr. Revilak has a number of town meeting transcripts, and even a collection of favorites. He's thinks they're a helpful resource for understanding why town meeting made certain decisions, but understands the cost/benefit analysis discussed in the Select Board's report. Mr. Revilak requests that when transcripts are made -- even machine generated ones -- that they be posted to the relevant town meeting page on the town website.

(Chris Loreti) Mr. Loreti is opposed to removing the requirement for a stenographic record. He thinks that ACMi recordings aren't a permanent record, and he wants the bylaw to require the creation of a permanent record. He doesn't trust big tech to retain video content.

(Andrew Fischer) Mr. Fischer believes that only printed records are permanent, and he plans to vote against this article.

(Michael Ruderman) Mr. Ruderman says that transcripts show the intent of town meeting, and they're worth the cost.

(Sandy Pooler, Town Manager) Mr. Pooler says that paper is going away, and that town departments are trying to get rid of as much of it as possible. He says that automated transcripts can be made from ACMi recordings, though they need to be edited afterwards. He says that courts don't look at the intent expressed during town meeting deliberations. They look at the language of the motion and the votes.

(Charlie Foskett) Mr. Foskett says he's used transcripts, and found them invaluable. He thinks that the quality of digital transcripts is an issue, and wants a plan to handle this in the future.

(John Worden) Mr. Worden asks how much it costs to product a stenographic record.

(Sandy Pooler) Mr. Pooler says the cost can vary from $4--13k.

(John Worden) Mr. Worden thinks that spit in the ocean, compared to the town's multi-million dollar budget. He says the problem with non-written copies is that the technology changes and you lose access. He says the town has kept written records since 1807, and he asks town meeting to preserve stenographic records.

(Adam Badik) Mr. Badik says the main motion eliminates all of the record keeping requirements in the law for town meeting. He'd like to propose a substitute motion that removes only the word "stenographic" from the existing bylaw.

(Doug Heim) Mr. Heim says that the town is required to record the motions and votes of town meeting.

There's back and fourth between Mr. Badik and Moderator Greg Christiana regarding his substitute motion. We normally require substitute motions be submitted 48 hours in advance, unless the changes are really simple. Mr. Christiana declines to accept this substitute motion from the floor.

(Sanjay Newton) Mr. Newton moves to postpone Article 9 until May first.

Motion to postpone passes, 172--52--1.

Article 10 - Municipal Opt-in Specialized Stretch Energy Code

This article proposes adoption of the state's new specialized stretch energy building code.

(Eric Helmuth) Mr. Helmuth says that Arlington is a leader in taking action to address sustainability. The Clean Energy Future Committee (CEFC) convinced us that this was a smart thing to do, and it can make a meaningful difference by reducing CO2 emissions from new construction.

(Ryan Katofsky, CEFC) Mr. Katofsky says the CEFC is tasked with guiding the town to net zero. We're on a journey together and warrant article 10 is a next step. The strategy is to eliminate the use of fossil fuels in new buildings. There's now a new state building code which goes in that direction, and warrant article 10 asks town meeting to adopt it.

(Talia Fox, Sustainability Manager) Ms. Fox explains that there are three energy code options in Massachusetts. The base code is at the bottom. The next level up is the state stretch code, which Arlington adopted in 2010. The specialized stretch code is aligned with the state's net zero goals, but communities have to opt in to using it. Eight communities have already done so.

The specialized stretch code only applies to new construction. In Arlington, this would affect the 20--30 single- and two-family homes that are built each year, along with 1--2 multi-family buildings. Homes over 4000 square feet must be net zero, and homes that use fossil fuels must come pre-wired for electrification. Rooftop solar will be required, unless its infeasible to do so. Multi-family housing over 12,000 square feet must be designed to passive house standards.

(Caroline Murray) Ms. Murray works for a large construction firm. Clients ask if architects and builders are prepared for these standards, and the answer is yes. She says the new codes are about electrification, and creating a robust building envelope.

(Amos Meeks) Mr. Meeks says that Wellesley adopted the specialized stretch code earlier tonight, which brings us up to nine communities. He says this is about trying to prevent the problem of greenhouse gas emissions from getting worse. It's still an issue for old buildings, though.

(James DiTulio) Mr. DiTulio asks town meeting to support the article, and he suggests reading the letter Mr. Hanlon submitted to town meeting. He says we must support this if we want to reach net zero by 2050. The stretch code ensures that new homes are net zero, or pre-wired for electrification. It doesn't apply to renovations, only to new construction. He says the article is incremental, and there's nothing wrong with that.

(Karen Kelleher) Ms. Kelleher supports the article. She works in affordable housing, and doesn't see the energy efficiency requirements as a barrier there. She hopes town meeting will support adoption.

(Carl Wagner) Mr. Wagner moves the question.

Motion to move the question passes by voice vote.

Article passes, 204--11--2.

Meeting adjourned.