Town Meeting - Dec 2nd, 2020

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Night #5 of special town meeting, conducted via remote participation.

Announcements. Moderator John Leone tells town meeting members to expect a survey early in the year. He'd like to get feedback on the virtual town meeting format, and how it might be improved. We're likely to use the virtual format for next year's annual town meeting.

Article 1 - Reports of Committees. Larry Slotnick submits the report of Zero Waste Arlington.

(Elaine Crowder) Ms. Crowder has a point of order. At the end of our last meeting, the moderator asked for motions of reconsideration. Ms. Crowder asks what a motion for reconsideration is.

(John Leone, Moderator) Any town meeting member that votes on the prevailing side of an article can make a motion to reconsider, where the article is brought up at a new meeting. There must be some sort of new information available. Town meeting will vote on the motion, and if that passes, the article is re-opened. This process is described in Article I of the town bylaws.

Article 17 -- Notice of Demolition, Open Foundation Excavation, New Construction, or Large Additions. Deliberations continue on Article 17.

(Michael Byrne, Building Inspector) Mr. Byrne would like to clarify some of the remarks made Monday night. The good neighbor agreement is in effect, and each applicant who was subject to the good neighbor agreement submitted the necessary notifications. It's a notice to abutters. Inspectional services enforces the bylaw, they've reviewed their permit applications, and the good neighbor agreement provisions were there. Mr. Byrne says this is not a simple cross reference. By being in the zoning bylaw, any abutter that felt the provisions weren't followed could make an appeal to the ZBA and to Land court. Mr. Byrne says that Inspectional Services enforces regulations, regardless of where they're located. He believes the good neighbor agreement is working as town meeting voted for.

(Ed Tremblay) Mr. Tremblay says he's having difficulty hearing Mr. Byrne.

The moderator asks Mr. Byrne to summarize what he said, in the hope that Mr. Tremblay will be able to hear him.

(Michael Byrne) Mr. Byrne believes that Mr. Ruderman's amendment is a new way for an abutter to delay a construction project indefinitely. He notes that the added enforcement would apply to both homeowners and builders.

(John Deist) Mr. Deist has a point of order. He hopes the moderator can remind people to speak loudly into their computer microphone. If the moderator is having difficulty hearing a speaker, others are probably having difficulty too.

(Lori Leahy) Ms. Leahy has a point of order. She asks how the list of waiting speakers is ordered.

(John Leone, Moderator) Mr. Leone says that town meeting sees the list in alphabetical order. As moderator, he generally calls on people in the order in which they raise their hands. The order of speakers is at the discretion of the moderator.

(Mark McCabe) Mr. McCabe motions to terminate debate.

Motion to terminate passes, 167--65--5.

Amendment adopted by a vote of 151--84--8.

Article 17 passes, 167--75--4.

Articles 18 and 19. The ARB has recommended votes of no action on Articles 18 and 19, and no substitute motions have been provided. Article 18 is Improving Residential Inclusiveness, Sustainability, and Affordability by Ending Single Family Zoning; Article 19 is Accessory Dwelling Units. The moderator asks if both can be voted at once; no one objects.

(Beth Ann Friedman) Ms. Friedman has a point of order. She asks if no action votes on zoning bylaws require a 2/3's vote.

(John Leone, Moderator) Mr. Leone says they require a simple majority, because they're not actually changing the zoning bylaw.

No action recommendation for Articles 18 and 19 passes, 233--3--7.

Article 20 - Parking Reductions in the B3 and B5 districts. This article would give special permit granting authorities the ability to reduce parking requirements to as low as zero when businesses in the B3 and B5 districts have no ability to create new off-street parking.

(Rachel Zsembery, Redevelopment Board Chair) Ms. Zsembery says the Redevelopment Board voted in favor of Article 20, 5--0.

(Rachel Zsembery, via recorded presentation) Article 20 will address parking requirements in the B3 and and B5 districts. It's intended to encourage business development in districts where there's no ability to create new parking. The article will allow parking requirements to be reduced to zero. These districts are located in Arlington Heights, Arlington Center, and East Arlington. The districts are oriented to pedestrians and shared parking, and many have historic properties. Changes of use often trigger additional parking requirements, which can't be met on the properties.

(Elaine Crowder) Ms. Crowder says she understands the procedural rationale. She doesn't see how this will help businesses attract new customers.

(Rachel Zsembery) Ms. Zsembery says that a change of use triggers current parking requirements. In these districts there's usually sufficient parking on street, or in nearby municipal lots. The pub in the heights is a recent example of where this came into play.

(Jenny Raitt, Director of Planning and Community Development) Ms. Raitt says that special permit granting authorities address these cases on an individual basis. An off-street parking reduction to zero would be accompanied by a transportation demand management plan and a finding that there was adequate parking nearby. This article enables a board to go to zero when there's adequate parking nearby. Nearly 100% of the parcels in these districts are completely covered, with no ability to add new parking.

(Phil Goff) Mr. Goff is speaking on behalf of himself and the East Arlington Livable Streets Coalition (EALS). He supports the parking reduction. At the last EALS meeting, there was unanimous support for it. These are pedestrian oriented districts. This will allow uses which require more parking, without having to demolish and rebuild a building. Mr. Goff says this will encourage alternate modes of transit and asks for a yes vote.

(Kevin Koch) Mr. Koch was skeptical there was adequate parking, and was glad to hear Mr. Goff's statement. He's skeptical that older people will adopt other transit modalities.

(Pat Hanlon) Mr. Hanlon supports the article. He's a member of the ZBA but is speaking only on behalf of himself. A few months ago, the ZBA had a request for a parking variance from a pub in the heights, where the parking demand for the pub was comparable to the prior use. The ZBA is the only body that can grant variances, and that can only be done in a narrow set of circumstances. The board eventually approved the request for variance, but it turned into a hard problem that took several meetings to resolve. Cafe Barada had a similar case, which also required a variance. This is a discretionary reduction, and it allows a better sense of judgment to be applied.

(Daniel Jalkut) Mr. Jalkut is in favor of the article. He's pro-pedestrian, pro-bicycle, and pro-public transportation. Our parking requirements are a high hurdle for businesses. Common Ground had to struggle with this. He'd like to allow business owners to take a calculated risk with respect to parking. He's concerned that beneficial businesses would be ruled out because of our parking regulations, and he believes we should shift our laws away from catering to individually-owned vehicles. There's ride sharing and public transit, and newer generations don't value cars as much past generations have. There's no benefit to parking requirements that make new businesses unviable. We're becoming more urban and need to adapt to that.

(Michael Ruderman) Mr. Ruderman will vote for this article, out of reliance that the reduction is discretionary and will consider individual circumstances. He says that businesses on Broadway are not storefront businesses and are supremely reliant on automobile traffic. He believes that parking reductions will lead to cars circling the block looking for parking. He's also unhappy with Mr. Jalkut's remark that Arlington is becoming more urban.

(Beth Melofchik) Ms. Melofchik says she's generally supportive. She asks why 13, 17, and 21 Prescott are included in the B3 district, because those parcels contain town houses.

(Jenny Raitt) Ms. Raitt says the map indicates zoning districts, and there can be residential uses in this district.

(John Leone, Moderator) Mr. Leone says they're pre-existing town homes.

(Nancy Bloom) Ms. Bloom is concerned about Arlington heights. She says there's a significant amount of parking available in Arlington Center, but less parking in the heights. She's concerned that businesses will suffer, and thinks it's odd to reduce parking requirements.

(Roderick Holland) Mr. Holland was asked by a constituent if this would affect Arlington's overnight parking ban. He'd like an answer to that question.

(Jenny Raitt) Ms. Raitt says there will be no effect on Arlington's overnight parking ban.

(Roderick Holland) Mr. Holland supports the article.

(Leba Heigham) Ms. Heigham supports the article. She reminds town meeting how much time we've spent talking about empty storefronts.

(Barbara Thornton) Ms. Thornton says that commercial districts thrive or fail for many reasons, and that we should encourage them.

(Peter Howard) Mr. Howard asks what "bicycle sharing on site" means.

(Note: I missed the answer)

(John Worden) Mr. Worden says a lot of these buildings pre-date zoning. When a use changes, new parking requirements kick in. He says that some B3 districts, like the one across the street from the high school were torn down to build apartments. He wants to ensure that parking reductions apply to business uses and not residential ones. He claims that a former chair of the redevelopment board said "We're a redevelopment authority and we can do whatever we want". He'd like an assurance that this will only affect businesses.

(Rachel Zsembery) Ms. Zsembery says the language is very specific about the parking reduction applying to businesses, and not to residential uses.

(John Worden) Mr. Worden says that when mixed use was approved, the redevelopment board chair said it would only allow what was already in the district, but that's not what happened.

(Ed Tremblay) Mr. Tremblay says the speakers who like cycling all live in east Arlington where it's flat. He believes that bike sharing is a disaster, and says there's no public transit in the heights. He doesn't think this will affect existing buildings, but it could affect new ones. He thinks that employees will have to park in the street.

(Mark McCabe) Mr. McCabe motions to terminate debate.

Motion to terminate passes, 211--23--3.

(Timur Yontar) Mr. Yontar has a point of order. He asks the moderator to clarify whether this requires a 2/3's vote.

(John Leone) Mr. Leone says it requires a 2/3's vote.

Article 20 passes, 213--26--2.

Article 21 - Rezone town Property. This article proposes to take a town-owned parcel that's next to the DPW yard, and rezone from R1 (single-family residential) to I (industrial).

(Rachel Zsembery, Redevelopment Board Chair) Ms. Zsembery says this article will rezone a town property. The rezoning was requested by the town manager.

(Rachel Zsembery, recorded presentation) This article proposes to rezone a town-owned property at 51 Grove Street. Most of the DPW facility is currently in an industrial district. The DPW yard renovation will require part of their salt shed to be located on this parcel. The parcel is currently zoned for single-family residential, but the salt shed requires industrial zoning. She says the DPW yard hasn't been renovated since the 1970's. The R1 parcel formerly had a gasoline storage tank, and environmental contamination makes the site unsuitable for residential use. After the DPW renovation, this parcel will contain part of a salt shed and a fuel filling station. It's currently used as a parking lot, and a high school athletic field.

No one wishes to speak on the article.

Article 21 passes, 237--4--2.

Article 22 - Collective Bargaining. Finance Committee Chair Charlie Foskett says there's no resolution to ongoing collective bargaining talks. The finance committee has a recommended vote of no action.

No action passes, 242--0--1.

Article 25 - Black Lives Matter Banner on Town Hall. Article 25 is a non-binding resolution which involves the display of a Black Lives Matter banner on town hall.

(Elaine Crowder) Ms. Crowder has a point of order. She asks what will happen to the collective bargaining.

(John Leone, Moderator) Mr. Leone says that collective bargaining talks will continue. We'll have an article at the next town meeting, if an agreement is reached.

(Christian Klein) Mr. Klein has a point of order. He notes that there's a substitute motion for Article 25, and asks how that will affect debate.

(John Leone) Mr. Leone says the substitute motion was filed in consultation with the original filers, and it won't affect debate.

(Michael Jacoby-Brown) Mr. Jacoby-Brown is the TMM who filed the substitute motion. He describes how it changes the wording of the resolution. Town meeting would support the display of a black lives matter banner on town hall, and encourage the Select Board to continue having discussion about it.

(Katell Gullec, via recorded presentation) Ms. Gullec was the original filer of article 25. She says that many groups have endorsed the resolution. Her group gathered 300 signatures through an online petition, and 200 in-person signatures for the warrant. This is a moment in our history that we can't ignore, and no town is immune from concerns about racial justice. She says that policies are vital, and we need to let others know that our outward facing profile matches our inward actions. The banner encompasses the needs and rights of other marginalized communities and creates an emotional connection. Some people have suggested other wording, but as a white person, Ms. Gullec thinks she can't answer to those suggestions; answering would amount to co-opting a movement that she did not create. She feels failure to display the banner is a gap in the town's commitment to racial justice.

(Ed Tremblay) Mr. Tremblay says the phrase "Black Lives Matter" is not what we're talking about, the banner is. The banner is a front for Black Lives Matter, the organization. Clicking the "Donate" button on the Black Lives Matter website take you to act blue, which is a fundraising arm for the democratic party. The republican party has a similar fundraising arm, called win red. Mr. Tremblay says that people would go ballistic if a republican group's banner were displayed on town hall, and he'd go ballistic too. He thinks that town hall is not a place where one party should be favored over another. It should be a place for everyone, and it shouldn't be political.

(Eric Helmuth) Mr. Helmuth has a point of order. He asks if the amendment was submitted in concurrence with the original filer.

(John Leone) Mr. Leone says yes, it was.

(John Deist) Mr. Deist has a point of order. He wants to confirm that there will be no further discussion on the article.

(John Leone) Mr. Leone says there will be no further discussion. The process for hearing this article was described earlier. It's a non-binding resolution on a policy that town meeting has no control over.

(Sheri Brown) Ms. Brown has a point of order. She objects to the lack of discourse and believes this is a matter for town meeting.

(Mark McCabe) Mr. McCabe has a point of order. He asks if there are written policies that govern the display of banners on town hall.

(John Leone) Mr. Leone advises Mr. McCabe to direct question to the Select Board.

(Charlie Foskett) Mr. Foskett has a point of order. He objects to people using points of order as a way to continue debate.

Jacoby-Brown amendment is adopted, 170--40--30.

(Gordon Jamieson) Mr. Jamieson has a point of order. He asks if the substitute motion has a time frame.

(John Leone) Mr. Leone says it doesn't.

(Bill Ford) Mr. Ford has a point of order. He asks if the moderator can announce the number of abstentions.

(John Leone) Mr. Leone says he'll announce the number of abstentions. He points out that the town meeting portal shows the number of abstain votes.

(Daniel Jalkut) Mr. Jalkut has a point of order. He believes that the moderator is violating democratic processes by disregarding points of order.

There's a period of back and forth between Mr. Jalkut and the Moderator.

Article 25 passes, 166--34--38.

With no more business before it, the special town meeting is dissolved.