Town Meeting - Jun 6th, 2022

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Night twelve of town meeting, held via remote participation. Materials were available from


173 people participated in tonight's checkin vote.

(Greg Christiana, Town Moderator) Mr. Christiana says that Deputy Town Manager Sandy Pooler will be unavailable for part of the evening. We'll take up article 49 when he's available. Mr. Christiana also notes that Article 45 has a recommended vote of no action; it was removed from the consent agenda but no one has offered a substitute motion.

(Ben Rudick) Mr. Rudick has an announcement. Since our last town meeting, his daughter Tova was born.

Article 3 - Reports of Committees

(Ann Leroyer) Ms. Leroyer moves receipt of the Open Space Committee's report. The Committee is currently working on an update to the town's Open Space and Recreation plan. In 2020 town meeting approved CPA funding to update the plan. The committee is working with the Department of Planning and Community development and consultants Horsley-Witten to prepare an updated draft, which must be approved by the state Department of Environmental Services. They conducted surveys to help with the formulation of goals and objectives, and there were over 1000 participants. Ms. Leroyer says the committee hopes to have a final draft in a few weeks, which will be sent to other boards and committees for review.

(Patricia Worden) Ms. Worden says that her husband John Worden raised his hand to speak during the announcements section. She asks if he can speak now.

(John Worden) Mr. Worden said he held article 45 because Sophie Migliazzo, a former town meeting member, was gerrymandered out of her seat. He pulled the article from the consent agenda because he wanted to ask Ms. Migliazzo if she wanted to do something about it, but she didn't want to pursue it this year. Mr. Worden says he wants to remove his hold.

(Greg Christiana) Mr. Christiana says he doesn't appreciate Mr. Worden's remarks about gerrymandering.

Article 39 - Increased Floor Area Ratio for Mixed Use Structures

Article 39 proposes to increase the allowable floor area ratio (FAR) for mixed-use buildings. It was submitted by Xavid Pretzer and ten registered voters.

(Rachel Zsembery, ARB Chair) Ms. Zsembery says the ARB voted 4--1 to recommend favorable action to town meeting. She believes this will remove an impediment to development and further the goals of the master plan.

(Xavid Pretzer, Proponent, Via video) Mx. Pretzer says that Arlington has a number of lovely mixed-use buildings. In 2016, town meeting voted to allow mixed-use at heights of up to five stories, but we don't get that height because of the maximum FAR in the zoning bylaw. This article will only impact the business districts where mixed use is allowed, which is mostly along Mass Ave and Broadway. The current zoning limits FAR to between 1.0 and 1.8, which had made redevelopment impractical. This article would double the maximum allowed FAR, up to a limit of 3.0. Mx. Pretzer says the Housing Production Plan recommends a FAR of 3.0, and this matches the regulation for Belmont's Cushing Square district. It would be in line with the Master Plan, and would help generate new growth. They show several examples of building and FARs, including the Capitol Square Theater, and a proposal for 192 Mass Ave. They say this change will allow more buildings like the ones we love, increase tax revenue, and allow buildings to reach 4--5 stories. It will help with our climate goals, improve walkability, and be a strong positive step for Arlington.

(Greg Christiana) Mr. Worden submitted an amendment to require 80% of the ground floor to be devoted to commercial uses. Mr. Christiana rules the amendment out of scope, because the warrant article language only mentioned increasing the floor area ratio.

(Barbara Thornton) Ms. Thornton speaks in favor of the article. She says it's important to support commercial development and to make it walkable. She looks forward to actively supporting it. This article will produce new growth which will lessen the town's need for overrides, and that having more people helps retail businesses survive.

(Carl Wagner) Mr. Wagner says this article will increase floor area ratio, and he asks town meeting to vote no. He says Arlington's zoning already allows big buildings. He says it's a useless change, but it will have unintended consequences. Mr. Wagner says the original proposal was extreme, and he believes this article won't change building sizes. He says the two new mixed use buildings by Stop and Shop are big, and don't help businesses. Mr. Wagner says we shouldn't allow big residential buildings, and that we should fix the mixed use bylaw first.

(Judith Garber) Ms. Garber asks if mixed use buildings will still need special permits.

(Rachel Zsembery) Ms. Zsembery says yes, they'll still need special permits.

(Judith Garber) Ms. Garber is in favor. She's spoken with the proponent and with members of the ARB. She understands this will allow us to achieve the heights in the zoning bylaw, but still staying within the open space requirements. She thinks it's a reasonable proposal, and she looks forward to voting yes.

(Chad Gibson) Mr. Gibson asks if this requires a simple-majority or a two-thirds vote.

(Greg Christiana) Mr. Christiana says it's a majority vote.

(Chad Gibson) Mr. Gibson asks if there's a relationship between this article and any that projects that have been proposed, or any commercial landlords.

(Steve Revilak, ARB) Mr. Revilak cites 192 Mass Ave as a proposal where this could have applied. The owners proposed a mixed-use building with a higher FAR than was allowed by zoning. The Redevelopment Board doesn't have any freedom to grant relief for floor area ratio. In June 2021 the board asked the owner to revise the project to comply with the maximum FAR of 1.5, and the owner didn't believe they could do an economically viable project that would comply with that regulation. Mr. Revilak says the ARB received one letter from a commercial landlord, who supported Article 39.

(Chad Gibson) Mr. Gibson asks if there's a relationship between FAR and our vacant storefronts. He says it seems like Arlington has a lot of one-story commercial buildings.

(Mike Ciampa, Director of Inspectional Service) Mr. Ciampa says there's a direct link between FAR and businesses. Many of our commercial buildings are older, they're not accessible, and they lack fire suppression systems. This makes them less leasable. Mr. Ciampa says that owners want to do something with these buildings, but our FAR regulations don't lend themselves to getting these buildings fixed up.

(Chad Gibson) Mr. Gibson says he supports the article.

(John Worden) Mr. Worden says that when mixed use was proposed in 2016, town meeting was presented with the idea of having more shops, but that hasn't happened. The mixed use building on Summer Street has one small office. He says the problem is that the ARB hasn't carried out what they portrayed to town meeting. Mr. Worden says he wants more ground-floor commercial. His amendment proposed 80%, but he's not sure if that's the right amount due to the need for lobbies and bike parking. He says we've lost three restaurants in Arlington Center and two across from the high school. Arlington was a restaurant mecca for a while. He encourages the ARB to carry out their promises and insist on more retail, before we increase the FAR.

(Maxwell Palmer) Mr. Palmer moves the question.

Motion to terminate debate passes.

Article passes, 175--39--1.

Article 41 - Apartment Parking Minimums

Article 41 proposes to reduce the required parking minimums for apartment buildings, to one space per apartment. It was submitted by James Fleming and ten registered voters.

(Rachel Zsembery) Ms. Zsembery reports that the ARB recommended favorable action by a vote of 5--0. She says this amendment furthers goals of the Master Plan and Sustainable Transportation Plan.

(James Fleming, Proponent, via video) Mr. Fleming says this article is about parking minimums -- the minimum amount of parking required. One, two, and three-family dwellings each require one parking space, but apartments require more. Mr. Fleming looked at American Community Survey (ACS) data when formulating this article. According to the ACS, 20% of apartment renters don't own cars, an nearly 4/5ths have one car per dwelling. Mr. Fleming points out that builders can always provide more parking if they want. He says that too much parking wastes land that could be put to better use, and that living space is assessed at 80x the amount as parking space. Excess parking also increases housing costs -- parking spaces typically cost between $5000 and $12,000 each. He notes that the town allows residents 14 nights of guest parking/year. Massachusetts Architectural Access Board regulations require landlords to provide accessible spaces for any tenant that needs them. The majority of renters don't need more than one space, and excess parking reduces tax revenue.

(Charles Wescott) Mr. Wescott says it isn't clear how this will affect the ARB's review process. He asks if the ARB reviews all apartment buildings.

(Rachel Zsembery) Ms. Zsembery says that all apartments and mixed use with residential are reviewed by the ARB. She notes that apartments proposed under Chapter 40B are reviewed by the Zoning Board of Appeals.

(Charles Wescott) Mr. Wescott asks if the ARB has the authority to reduce parking.

(Rachel Zsembery) Ms. Zsembery says yes, the ARB can reduce the amount of required parking by a percentage.

(Charles Wescott) Mr. Wescott asks if the ARB has ever rejected a request for a parking reduction.

(Rachel Zsembery) Ms. Zsembery says the board usually tries to work with applicants in finding ways to meet transportation requirements, rather than rejecting a proposal. She says there have been times when the board identified a lack of parking, and times when the allowed parking reduction was not enough.

(Charles Wescott) Mr. Wescott asks if the ARB has worked with developers to reduce parking.

(Rachel Zsembery) Ms. Zsembery says the ARB does work with developers. The board's goals are to protect the interests of the town, and future users of the properties.

(Charles Wescott) Mr. Wescott asks if Article 41 will change that.

(Rachel Zsembery) Ms. Zsembery says the ARB will continue to work with developers, regardless of whether Article 41 is passed.

(Jennifer Litowski) Ms. Litowski notes that mixed use is primarily allowed along our main transportation corridors, and that higher parking requirements hinder our goal of reducing housing costs. She says that extra spaces are expensive, and passing this is an important tool to increase housing affordability. It's targeted to streets where there are transportation options, and she encourages town meeting to vote in favor.

(Carl Wagner) Mr. Wagner says that article 41 will reduce the minimum parking requirements to one space per apartment, regardless of the apartment size. Currently two bedroom apartments require 1.5 spaces and three-bedroom apartments requires two. Mr. Wagner asks for a no vote. He thinks this is a punitive measure that will punish future renters. He says that even in Cambridge, car ownership hasn't fallen below 1.5 vehicles/household. He says this isn't fair to renters and condo owners. He feels that multi-bedroom apartments are likely to have multiple adults who work in different places. He says that most existing homes have at least two spaces. He doesn't believe there's equity and justice in reducing parking requirements.

(Leba Heigham) Ms. Heigham is in favor. She says that Arlington is in a catch-22 with empty storefronts. They need pedestrian traffic and good transit. Having apartments where people commit to owning one car can make it easier for business. She notes that the article doesn't take away parking that's already there.

(Ben Rudick) Mr. Rudick wishes to offer some professional expertise. He's spent the last 13 years working in commercial real estate, mostly in Europe and Asia, but not in Arlington. Regarding parking minimums, when someone builds a building, they need to borrow money. Banks want traffic studies to show that the proposed number of spaces is viable. He says that banks have a good sense of what people want, and they won't lend money to a project that isn't viable. He notes that the ARB voted 5--0 in favor of this article. Mr. Rudick says the money goes somewhere, so the cost of more parking is passed on to tenants and owners.

(Christopher Moore) Mr. Moore motions to terminate debate.

Motion to terminate passes, 191--27--1.

(John Worden, Point of order) Mr. Worden asks if this article requires a majority vote.

(Doug Heim, Town Counsel) Mr. Heim says that zoning articles typically require a 2/3's vote, but this proposal is subject to the new Housing Choice Provisions that require a simple majority.

(John Worden) Mr. Worden says "boy, is this thin". He says that extra building space will be built instead of parking.

(Greg Christiana) Mr. Christiana points out that Chapter 40A Section 5 lists the types of zoning changes that are allowed by majority vote.

(Doug Heim) Mr. Heim says there are nine categories that are subject to a reduced voting threshold. One of those categories is parking reductions for apartments and mixed use.

Article passes, 168--53--1.

Article 49 - Collective Bargaining

This article was postponed from an earlier town meeting night, so that union negotiations could conclude.

(Charlie Foskett, Finance Committee Chair) Mr. Foskett says the Finance Committee submitted a revised main motion, and voted in favor of their recommended action.

(Mark Rosenthal, Point of order) Mr. Rosenthal asks how the link in the annotated warrant relates to the main motion.

(Juli Brazile) Ms. Brazile says the linked document is the main motion.

(Sandy Pooler, Deputy Town Manager) Mr. Pooler says the town successfully concluded collective bargaining agreements with three unions. He acknowledges Human Resources Director Caryn Molloy and the union negotiators. First was the fire union contract for 2022--2024. The basic wage pattern is 1.5 + 2 + 2%, and there's an expansion of the stipend for EMT licenses. There was a minor adjustment to step levels. Mr. Pooler says that Arlington's fire department is paid at the 72nd percentile relative to the town manager twelve communities.

Second was the library union. Their wage increases were equivalent to 1.5 + 2 + 2%, but were structured differently. This is a two-year contract, with changes to cost of living adjustments and steps. It will also allow the library to be open for more hours per week.

Non-union and elected employees will receive a 2% cost of living adjustment.

AFSCME was the final union. They'll receive 1.5 + 2 + 2% wage increases and new step levels. There are changes to overtime, and the town will now have the ability to subcontract sanding operations.

Mr. Pooler says these changes were ratified by the unions, and fit within our salary reserves.

(Charlie Foskett) Mr. Foskett says the amount to be appropriated from the tax rate hasn't changed. Town meeting is being asked to approve the appropriation and to ratify the collective bargaining agreements.

No one wishes to speak on Article 49.

Article passes, 212--1--2.

Article 42 - Open Space Uses

Article 42 proposes to expand the set of uses allowed in the open space districts. It was submitted by James Fleming and ten registered voters.

(Rachel Zsembery) Ms. Zsembery says the ARB voted 5--0 in favor of Article 42.

(James Fleming, Article proponent, via video) Mr. Fleming shows two pictures of past Arlington been gardens, from 2018 and 2019. He thinks the beer garden was a great example of the town creating a fun use with open space. This article would allow outdoor recreation activities, like yoga and fitness classes, and there will no longer be a special permit requirement for events. He notes that it typically takes about two months to get a special permit, and thinks that's unreasonable for events. Uses would still be regulated under Title IV of our town bylaws, and the organizers would need to obtain permission from the department that controlled the land. He thinks this will foster community and support local businesses.

(Christopher Moore) Mr. Moore motions to terminate debate.

Motion to terminate fails, 127--55--5 (two-thirds vote required).

(Mark Rosenthal) Mr. Rosenthal says that Aeronaut was given the use of Whittemore park for free during the first year of the beer garden, and they were allowed to make a profit. Given the upcoming override, Mr. Rosenthal thinks the town should be paid for use of its resources. He asks if this article will give up the use of resources for free.

(Rachel Zsembery) Ms. Zsembery thinks that's out of scope for this article; it's about uses, not fees.

(Alex Bagnall) Mr. Bagnall says the Arlington Commission on Arts and Culture is in favor of Article 42. They support the increased use of parks by artists.

(Mustafa Varoglu) Mr. Varoglu is in favor. He asks if the Parks and Recreation department had voted or given feedback on the proposal.

(James Fleming) Mr. Fleming doesn't know if it was voted on. He did receive feedback from Joe Connolly on the main motion.

(Mustafa Varoglu) Mr. Varoglu says that Shakespeare in the Park events are usually free. He asks if they're charged a permit fee.

(Sandy Pooler) Mr. Pooler isn't familiar with the fees for those events.

(Adam Chapdelaine) Mr. Chapdelaine believes Parks and Recreation charges a nominal fee for processing the application.

(Mustafa Varoglu) Mr. Varoglu favors the article. His only concern is that we might lose access to the park for other uses.

(Beth Benedikt) Ms. Benedikt wonders who sets the parameters for who participates in these events.

(Rachel Zsembery) Ms. Zsembery says Select Board, Parks and Recreation, and Conservation Commission are the bodies with jurisdiction over land in the open space districts. She'd have to defer to those groups regarding their processes.

Article passes, 199--18--1.

Article 43 - Zoning Map Amendment Requirements

This article proposes to clarify the procedural requirements for changes to the zoning map. It was submitted by James Fleming and ten registered voters.

(Rachel Zsembery) Ms. Zsembery says the ARB voted 5--0 in recommending this article. It seeks to clarify who receives notifications of proposed map changes, and how. She says it doesn't change the process; rather, it clarifies what's currently done.

(James Fleming, proponent) Mr. Fleming says this article came about as a result of his attempt to file a zoning map amendment. The bylaw requires the article proponent to notify abutters of the affected properties, but not the property owners themselves. He says there was also confusion in the planning department about what the term "abutter" meant in our bylaw, versus "parties of interest" in state law. This article also clarifies what the Planning Department currently does. It's largely about writing down what already happens.

(Mark Rosenthal) Mr. Rosenthal finds the article confusing. He asks why the warrant language says "to modify or remove", implying that abutters might not be notified, while the language in the main motion says that abutters are notified.

(James Fleming) Mr. Fleming says the warrant article was worded broadly by design. At the time he submitted it, he wasn't sure whether to modify or remove the notification requirement. The actual vote is a modification.

(Mark Rosenthal) Mr. Rosenthal says it sounds like there are different definitions of abutter -- the state definition, and the common meaning of the word. He asks if this is cutting back on the state definition, or the common meaning definition.

(James Fleming) Mr. Fleming says the Planning Department was unclear about what the bylaw required. He filed Article 40 to change the zoning district of several parcels, and only notified the immediate abutters. The rest of the changes involve notifications the Planning Department sends.

(Mark Rosenthal) Mr. Rosenthal asks what a "party of interest" is.

(James Fleming) Mr. Fleming says it's basically everyone within 300 feet.

(John Worden) Mr. Worden says that he was also confused by the language. He says the question is who gets notified, and whether to notify the owner of the property that's being changed. He says the way the law is written, it assumes that owners will file changes to their own property. He understands that the Planning Department sends hearing notifications to abutters to abutters within 300 feet. The only real change is to ensure that the property owner is noticed. He says this isn't as bad as he thought.

(Kevin Mills) Mr. Mills moves the question.

Motion to terminate debate passes, 197--10--1.

Article passes, 194--12--2.

Article 44 - Restaurant Uses

This article proposes to increase the square footage threshold, whereby restaurants are required to obtain a special permit. It was inserted by James Fleming and ten registered voters.

(Rachel Zsembery) Ms. Zsembery says that the ARB recommended favorable action by a vote of 4--1. The board felt it was appropriate to increase the threshold for where a special permit was required, to align with retail, small business, and medial office uses. She notes that restaurants are a highly regulated use, and that someone proposing to open a restaurant also needs permits from the Select Board and Board of Health.

(James Fleming, Proponent, via video) Mr. Fleming notes that restaurant uses smaller than 2000 square feet are allowed by right, while those larger than 2000 square feet require a special permit. The special permit process typically takes at least two months. When Common Ground went through their special permit process, they were required to reduce seating and accept restrictions on live music. In a newspaper interview, the owner said that each ARB hearing was costing him $10,000. This article will increase the square footage at which a special permit requirement is triggered, from 2000 to 3000 square feet. Restaurants may still need special permits for parking relief.

(Michael Ruderman) Mr. Ruderman says the late owner of Common Ground isn't hear to speak, and he can't tell if the quote in that newspaper article is accurate. He felt that $10,000 was an exaggeration, and that a special special permit requirement for 2000 square feet isn't a burden. He says that Common Ground was wedged up against a residential district. They had deliveries at 6:00 am, and there was illegal parking on side streets. He says that a special permit isn't unreasonable, and he doesn't think the restrictions are onerous. He says the process worked and Common Ground thrived. He's opposed to the article.

(Daniel Jalkut) Mr. Jalkut moves the question.

Motion to terminate debate passes, 155--52--1.

Article passes, 173--31--3.

Article 45 - Enforcement

Article 45 has a recommended vote of no action, and no one has offered a substitute motion. So, we'll move directly to voting.

(Brooks Harrelson, Point of order) Mr. Harrelson says the voting portal shows Article 45 has having a two-thirds threshold. He asks if that's correct.

(Doug Heim) Mr. Heim says the article requires a majority vote. Normally, a two-thirds vote is required to change the zoning bylaw. However, we only need a majority to approve a no action recommendation.

Recommended vote of no action passes 184--11--8.

Article 73 - True Net Zero opt-in Code for Cities and Towns

This article is a non-binding resolution that asks the Massachusetts Department of Energy Resources (DOER) to provide an opt-in net zero building code. It was submitted by the Clean Energy Future Committee.

(Len Diggins, Select Board Chair) Mr. Diggins reports that the Select Board was unanimously supportive of Article 73. He thinks the Clean Energy Future Committee makes a strong case to the DOER, but what remains is for the DOER to adopt a net zero stretch code. He suggest reading Pat Hanlon's letter in the annotated town meeting warrant.

(David Levy, Clean Energy Future Committee) Mr. Levy says that they're asking DOER to give towns tools to combat climate change. He hopes that DOER will adopt a stretch code for net zero in all new buildings. Such buildings would be all electric, solar ready, eliminate fossil fuel use, and the use of some building materials would be regulated. Mr. Levy says that if you want to quit smoking, you actually have to stop smoking. Net Zero means eliminating fossil fuel use, and that's important for meeting our net zero goals. He asks for town meetings approval to send this resolution to the DOER.

(Greg Christiana) Mr. Christiana says that no one was interested in speaking against this resolution. He asks if there's anyone interested in terminating debate.

(Carl Wagner, Point of order) Mr. Wagner makes a motion to adjourn.

(Greg Christiana) Mr. Christiana says he won't entertain a motion to adjourn from a point of order.

(Christopher Moore) Mr. Moore motions to terminate debate.

(John Worden, Point of order) Mr. Worden feels it's not necessary to vote on terminating debate, since there's no one to speak against the resolution.

(Greg Christiana) Mr. Christiana refers Mr. Worden to his memo outlining the procedure for deliberating resolutions.

Motion to terminate debate succeeds, 170--13--4.

Article passes, 170--8--6.

Motions of Reconsideration

Charlie Foskett makes a motion of reconsideration on Article 49.

(Gordon Jamieson, Point of order) Mr. Jamieson hopes we will vote on adjournment, so that we can finish tonight.

Charlie Foskett makes a motion to adjourn. And we are adjourned until 8pm on Wednesday June 8th.