Town Meeting - Apr 24th, 2024

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Night one of annual town meeting. Materials were available from


(Greg Christiana, Town Moderator) Mr. Christiana says that two articles seek to change the times of town meeting. As an experiment, Mr. Christiana will entertain motions to adjourn, starting at 10:30 pm. We'll retain the 8:00 pm start time for this town meting.

Mr. Christiana tells Town Meeting that members can add themselves to the speaking queue by pressing 9 on their handsets. Pressing 9 again removes you from the queue.

(Carl Wagner, Precinct 15, Point of order) Mr. Wagner would like to have different keys for adding and removing oneself from the speaking queue.

(Jean Flannigan, Poet Laureate) Ms. Flannigan delivers a short convocation.

Newly-elected Town Meeting members are sworn int.

(Carl Wagner, Precinct 15, Point of order) Mr. Wagner asks if we're going to sing the national anthem this evening.

(Greg Christiana) Mr. Christiana says the national anthem will be performed.

Town meeting is asked to vote to consent to the use of a satellite room. Vote passes, 201--4--2.

(Mark Rosenthal, Precinct 14, Point of order) Mr. Rosenthal says he voted yes, but he didn't see his vote recorded.

(Greg Christiana) Mr. Christiana asks Mr. Rosenthal to bring his handset to the folks running the electronic voting equipment.

The Menotomy Minuteman give a short procession and we sing the national anthem.


(Jon Gersh, Precinct 18) Mr. Gersh thanks the Select Board and Town Meeting for changing this year's start date, so that people could observe Passover.

(Lenard Diggins, Precinct 3) Mr. Diggins expresses gratitude to the Town Meeting members who helped deliver report packets.

(John Worden, Precinct 8) Mr. Worden wants to say a few words to remember former Town Clerk Corinne Rainville, who passed away this year. Ms. Rainville was the Clerk from 1994--2010, and town meeting was more of a paper and words affair in those days. He says Ms. Rainville served as the assistant clerk before being elected. Mr. Worden worked with Ms. Rainville to count votes when he was the Town Moderator. He says Ms. Rainville was kind and caring. On one occasion, she opened Town Hall on a Saturday to issue a marriage license to someone who was getting married that afternoon. She also came out of retirement with Stephanie Lucarelli stepped down.

(Priya Sankalia, Precinct 13) Ms. Sankalia says that Arlington is in the middle of Ecofest. There are many events happening between now and May 11th.

Article 2 - State of the Town Address

(Steve DeCourcey, Select Board Chair) Mr. DeCourcey wants to welcome the 22 new town meeting members who were elected for the first time this year. He says there have been numerous changes in the town's senior management, including hiring Jim Feeney as Town Manager. Mr. DeCourcey is happy to have hired Mr. Feeney. He's grateful for the service of town and school employees. He's also encouraged to see the progress on the new High School building, which will be finished in the fall of 2025. He recognizes the voters for approving the high school, and the Arlington High School Building Committee for overseeing the work.

Mr. DeCourcey says the new DPW facility is nearing completion, and we'll be announcing tour dates later this year. He notes that Arlington is one of ten communities in Massachusetts that were approved to move forward with the state's fossil fuel-free pilot. We're also the first community in Massachusetts to offer 100% renewable electric as the default level in our community choice aggregation program.

We've used Community Development Block Grants and Community Preservation Act money to fund affordable housing, including the Housing Corporation of Arlington's new development at 10 Sunnyside Ave, making improvements to Arlington Housing Authority properties, and through rental assistance grants. We've also piloted a successful parking pass program for seniors.

Mr. DeCourcey says the town will offer means-test property tax exemptions next year. Town Meeting will get a balanced budget for 2025, and we will adhere to our override commitments. He notes that we'll be facing a deficit challenge in FY 2027, which means managing expenses as we continue to maintain services. He says we can disagree without being disagreeable in our deliberations.

Article 3 - Reports of Committees

Town meeting receives reports from the Select Board, Finance Committee, and Redevelopment Board.

(Christine Deshler, Finance Committee Chair) Ms. Deshler offers administrative corrections to the Finance Committee report for Articles 61 and 63. She says they're wording changes which were requested by the Department of Revenue.

Article three is laid upon the table, so town meeting can receive additional reports as they become available.

Article 4 - Appointment of Measurer of Wood and Bark

(Charlie Foskett, Precinct 10) Mr. Foskett nominates Mr. Worden as Measurer of Wood and Bark.

Nomination approved on a voice vote.

Article 5 - Election of Assistant Town Moderator

(Eric Helmuth, Precinct 12) Mr. Helmuth nominates Adam Auster to serve as Assistant Town Moderator.

Nomination approved on a voice vote.

Consent Agenda

(Greg Christiana, Town Moderator) Mr. Christiana explains that the consent agenda is a way to dispose of routine articles via a single vote. Mr. Christiana displays a table of articles, grouped according to whether they require a simple majority or a two-thirds vote.

(Carl Wager, Precinct 15, Point of Order) Mr. Wagner asks if there's a paper copy of the document that Mr. Christiana is displaying. He thinks that people in the back might not be able to see it.

(Greg Christiana) Mr. Christiana says that all town meeting members have received a copy of the consent agenda, but that document is organized a little differently than what he's displaying. Mr. Christiana says he'll read the number and title of each article.

Mr. Christian goes through the list of articles. Town Meeting members can hold articles, which removes them from the consent agenda. The following articles were held:

  • Article 9, held by Christopher Moore (Precinct 14)
  • Article 18, held by Carl Wagner (Precinct 15)
  • Article 35, held by John Leone (Precinct 8)
  • Article 48, held by Chris Loreti (Precinct 7)
  • Article 57, held by John Worden (Precinct 8)
  • Article 59, held by Chris Loreti (Precinct 7)
  • Article 25, held by John Worden (Precinct 8)
  • Article 27, held by John Worden (Precinct 8)
  • Article 28, held by Stephen Revilak (Precinct 1)
  • Article 32, held by a town meeting member from Precinct 6
  • Article 53, held by Christopher Moore (Precinct 14)
  • Article 21, held by Joanne Preston (Precinct 5)

(James DiTulio, Precinct 12) Mr. DiTulio tells the moderator that Article 19 is not a home rule petition, so it can be moved to the regular consent agenda.

50% Consent agenda passes, 208--2--2.

two-thirds consent agenda passes, 206--0--0.

(Mark Rosenthal, Precinct 14, Point of Order) Mr. Rosenthal asks to have the results of the last vote displayed, so he can verify that his handset is working.

(Chris Loreti, Precinct 7, Point of Order) Mr. Loreti asks the moderator if someone can clarify how the handsets work.

One of the staff running the voting system explains: press 1 for yes, press 2 for no, and press 3 to abstain. Pressing the button transmits your vote to the system. When the system responds to your handset, you'll see the word "received", with a "yes", "no", or "abstain" to indicate the vote. The word "received" is verification that your vote has been counted. Town Meeting members can vote several times while voting is open; the last vote received is the one that is counted.

Article 6 - Vacant Store Front Maintenance Registry

Article 6 proposes changes to the Vacant Store Front Registry bylaw, and would remove the option to have the registration fee waived via display of public art.

(Steve DeCourcey, Select Board Chair) Mr. DeCourcey says the Select Board recommended favorable action on Article 6.

(Katie Luczai, Economic Development Coordinator) Ms. Luczai says these are changes to streamline and clarify the bylaw, and to remove the option for displaying public art. Town Meeting adopted the Vacant Storefront Registry bylaw in 2016, and it requires all commercial property owners to register and maintain their vacant properties. She says that Arlington's commercial vacancy rate is 8.6%, which is well below that of surrounding communities.

Ms. Luczai says article 6 would make a few adjustments. 25% of our commercial vacancies are second-floor offices. With the rise of remote work, she believes they're a less productive target for policy intervention. Instead, the changes would focus on ground-floor uses.

Ms. Luczai has spoken with the Arlington Committee on Arts and Culture, and they believe the public art aspect wasn't serving its intended purpose; there was no one to curate work, and no financial incentives for the artists.

She has reviewed Mr. Benson's amendment, and does not object to the changes he's proposing.

(Eugene Benson, Precinct 10) Mr. Benson offers an amendment to Article 6, which he felt missed a number of storefronts that were just off Mass Ave and Broadway. His amendment would expand the set of streets, and he feels the additional four streets are appropriate. His amendment also clarifies that signage on vacant storefronts has to conform to sign requirements in the Zoning Bylaw.

(Chris Loreti, Precinct 7) Mr. Loreti asks what constitutes "economic hardship" and who decides.

(Michael Cunningham, Town Counsel) Mr. Cunningham says the language allows for some subjectivity, which would be assessed on a case-by-case basis.

(Chris Loreti) Mr. Loreti says that current sign regulations limit advertising. He asks what kind of signage is acceptable on a vacant storefront.

(Eugene Benson) Mr. Benson says that vacant storefronts can't have signs from the previous tenant. He says that only "for sale" or "for rent" signs are acceptable.

(Guillermo Hamlin, Precinct 14) Mr. Hamlin moves the question.

Motion to terminate debate passes by voice vote.

Benson amendment passes, 210--10--5.

Article 6 passes, 215--5--0.

It's 9:30 pm and town meeting takes a ten-minute recess.

Article 7 - Betterment Bylaw Revision

Article 7 proposes changes to Arlington's betterment bylaw. It's a process through which abutters of a private way can make repairs to their street.

(Jim Feeney, Town Manager) Mr. Feeney says we've seen an increase in the number of private way betterments during the last few years. We used to get 0--1 per year, but there were eight of these in 2021--2022. He says the first change is intended to make these projects easier to approve -- only direct abutters will have a say. The next change increases the required deposit from 33--50%, to help guarantee that we have sufficient cash flow for betterment projects. Mr. Feeney says that many abutters pay the full amount up front. He wants to avoid having projects that are unable to go forward due to insufficient funds. Finally, Article 7 would streamline the process by allowing abutters to vote electronically.

(Beth Ann Friedman, Precinct 15) Ms. Friedman asks if all abutters have to pay, or only the ones who vote in favor. She asks if the payment is pro-rated, based on frontage.

(Jim Feeney) Mr. Feeney says that all abutters have to pay. Payments are equally apportioned, and not pro-rated.

(Kirsi Allison-Ampe, Precinct 13) Ms. Allison-Ampe opposes the article. She thinks the increased number of projects are due to the time when these streets were last paved. She thinks that a 50% deposit is too much, and would harm low-income residents.

(Gordon Jamieson, Precinct 12) Mr. Jamieson is in favor of the article. He says that private ways are a legacy from builders who didn't construct their streets to town standards. Some of these are in horrible shape. He asks if there's anything the town can do to force the abutters to make their private ways passable.

(Jim Feeney) Mr. Feeney says there is a provision to make emergency repairs. For example, to ensure that a private way is passable for police and fire vehicles.

(Gordon Jamieson) Mr. Jamieson asks if the required deposit is 50% in total, or 50% from each abutter.

(Jim Feeney) Mr. Feeney says it's an aggregated deposit, so 50% of the total amount. He notes that Article 54 would re-seed the betterment fund.

(Andy Greenspon, Precinct 5) Mr. Greenspon moves the question.

Motion to terminate debate fails, 136--74 (two-thirds required).

(Steven Moore, Precinct 18) Mr. Moore favors the article. He's been involved with private ways for several years, and feels these changes would streamline and improve the process. He says that many private ways are in bad shape, and towns stopped improving and accepting private ways after proposition 2.5 was passed in the 1980s.

(Eric Helmuth, Precinct 12) Mr. Helmuth is a member of a road maintenance association. He says we really need these changes in order to get more projects done. Mr. Helmuth says that the 50% deposit was a tough call for the Select Board. He think it will be better to have more predictability in the process, and we routinely get more than 50% deposits now. He reiterates that the 50% requirement is not per-abutter, and is in practice how things work today.

(Charlie Foskett, Precinct 10) Mr. Foskett asks what happens if the town is one of the abutters. Do they have to contribute too?

(Michael Cunningham, Town Counsel) Mr. Cunningham says there's no exemption for the town written into the bylaw, but that's not how it's worked in practice.

(Charlie Foskett) Mr. Foskett says he can envision a case where most of the damage is done by town vehicles.

(Roderick Holland, Precinct 7) Mr. Holland move the question.

Motion to terminate debate passes by voice vote.

Article passes, 196--10--6.

Article 8 - Revised Town Meeting Start Time

(Steve DeCourcey) Mr. DeCourcey moves to table articles 8, 9, 10; all three deal with the dates and times of town meeting. Mr. DeCourcey says the Select Board voted to reconsider their positions on Article 8 and 9, and he'd like to give town meeting time to review the new recommended actions.

Motion to table passes by voice vote.

Article 11 - Fossil Fuel Free Bylaw Language Changes

(Jim Feeney, Town Manager) Mr. Feeney says the Select Board voted to recommend favorable action on Article 11, 4--0--1. He says the article would change several of the definitions in the town bylaw, to conform with DOER's model legislation.

(Claire Ricker, Planning Director) Ms. Ricker says that large additions and changes in use would be subject to the fossil fuel-free bylaw. Arlington was formally accepted into this program last February, and DOER recommended several changes to our definitions. She says the Clean Energy Future Committee voted in favor of these changes, and the bylaw would apply to more properties. It would apply to major renovations of more than 1000 square feet (or 50%) in low-rise residential, and major renovations of over 20,000 square feet in commercial buildings. It would also apply to changes in use over 1000 square feet in low-rise residential, and changes in use to commercial buildings with more than 20,000 square feet. If these changes were in effect during 2022 and 2023, the bylaw would have applied to 2--4 additional properties.

(Christopher Moore, Precinct 14) Mr. Moore asks what constitutes a change of use in low-rise residential.

(Mike Ciampa, Director of Inspectional Services) Mr. Ciampa says it would be a residential to commercial conversion.

(Mustafa Varoglu, Precinct 10) Mr. Varoglu notes that the article would go into effect on May 21, 2024. He asks if that date is correct.

(Claire Ricker) Ms. Ricker answers in the affirmative.

(Michael Cunningham, Town Counsel) Mr. Cunningham says that the Attorney General has agreed to give this article expedited processing. It would go into effect on May 21, or when the Attorney General approves.

(Peter Gast, Precinct 2) Mr. Gast moves the question.

Motion to terminate debate passes by voice vote.

Article 11 passes, 195--13--4.

(Christopher Moore, Precinct 14) Mr. Moore makes a motion to adjourn.

Motion passes, 128--79. Meeting adjourned.