Town Meeting - May 1, 2019

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Fourth night of town meeting.

Announcements. (Symmes Fund, John Mahr) Mr. Mahr reports there is approximately $1M in the Symmes fund. Grant proposal RFPs are due by June 7th. The fund's principal is still intact, and the dividends are granted to various programs and services. The funds are earmarked for medical use only.

(Phil Goff) Mr. Goff announces a community cleanup of the Alewife Greenway, which is taking place this weekend. It's being sponsored by the East Arlington Livable Streets Coalition, the Arlington Bicycle Advisory Committee, and a group of residents from Sunnyside Avenue.


Article 3: Reports. (Tree Committee) Susan Stamps provides a report from the Tree Committee. In a survey they did, 50% of respondents were not aware of Arlington's tree protection laws and 80% didn't know that the tree bylaws regulated tree removal from private property. 60% were interested in learning more about the threats from dash bores and 95% were interested in having a multi-year tree plan. The Tree Committee is working on a multi-year planting plan, and is also testing for gas leaks. The town has increased fees for tree removal, and plans to have the tree warden get more involved in planting plans.

(CPA Committee) Eric Helmuth presents. CPA allows funds to be devoted to open space, historic preservation, affordable housing, and the environment. CPA funds come from a surtax on property and are a catalyst for receiving outside funds. Over the next ten years, we'll get $10M in funding to help the Housing Corporation of Arlington build projects. CPA funds were recently used to restore the water fountain outside of town hall. They've also been used for work on the Jason Russell house, and to replace windows in Drake Village.

(Human Rights Commission) Dave Swanson and Naomi Greenfield present. Town meeting created the Arlington Human Rights Commission in 1993. The commission responds to hate incidents, educates the community, and organizes community building activities. The AHRC has started to track hate incidents, and are working with the Arlington Police Department and other human rights commissions. They're holding an event on May 16th on the topic of combating hate speech. They've sold over 300 "Hate has no home here" yard signs. The commissioners ask people to report hate graffiti to the ARHC and to the police department. It's been a challenging year for responding to hate incidents.


Article 22: Correcting Citation Errors. Jenny Raitt presents. This article will correct several citation errors in the zoning bylaw. Since recodification, we've found a small number of citations that refer to old section numbers, rather than the new ones.

Article passes, 203--1.


Article 24: Definition of half-story. Liz Pyle presents. Ms. Pyle filed the article as an individual, because the residential study group missed the warrant article filing deadline. However, the article was endorsed by the RSG. This article will amend our definition of half-story to match the state building code, which will slightly reduce the massing of residential half stories. She believes it will not have a significant impact on interior living space and supports the Klein amendment.

(Christian Klein) Mr. Klein notes that our definition of half-story names several roofing styles, but a number of styles are not present in the definition. His amendment would add catch-all wording for styles not specifically named. It would also add a 2:12 slope requirement, which is not part of the existing bylaw. 2:12 is the minimum slope for a shingled roof.

(Gordon Jameson) Mr. Jameson asks several questions about Mr. Klein's slides, and closes with several comments. Mr. Jameson notes that the Master Plan Implementation Committee provided a report to town meeting. We have three groups working on zoning changes, plus the ARB. Mr. Jameson believes their silos need to be firmly restricted. He notes that the RSG has not published minutes for all of their meetings. Going forward, he asks that these groups post agendas, minutes, and provide reports to town meeting.

(Daniel Jalkut) Mr. Jalkut asks if we could replace our bylaw definition with a reference to state law.

Michael Byrne states that it would be possible to reference the state building code.

Mr. Jalkut suggests we reference state laws whenever possible. That way, we stay up to date when the state law changes. He asks if there's a state law pertaining to different types of roofs.

Mr. Byrne indicates there isn't. Mr. Byrne is fine with the article as written. He notes that sections in the state building code are renumbered from time to time.

Klein amendment passes, 195--15.

Article passes, 201--7.


Article 26: Billboards and Signs. Diane Mahon Presents. Article 26 was contingent upon the passage of Article 17. This article will take the sign bylaws sections we added to the ZBL, and remove the corresponding sections from the town bylaws.

(Bill Berkowitz) Mr. Berkowitz asks if there are laws regarding the display of notices.

Doug Heim says the select board passed regulations regarding notices, once the display of notices became allowed.

Article passes, 210--3.


Article 27: Town Meeting Speaking Times. (James O'Connor) This article would reduce speaking times allowed at town meeting and the town meeting procedures committee voted no action. Mr. O'Connor says he's impressed with the quality of town meeting presentations, and recommends the no-action vote.

(Michael Brown) Mr. Brown brings a substitute motion to restore his original warrant article language. He states that he intends to respect town meeting's time. He feels that with planning, speakers can say what they need to say in five minutes.

(Adam Auster) Mr. Auster states that town meeting is not for golden oratory. He often learns things during debate, even if he doesn't agree with the opinions being put forward.

(Roderick Holland) Mr. Holland believes this article is trying to solve a problem we don't have.

(Joe Tully) Mr. Tully stands in opposition to this article. Speaking time has been reduced in the past, and he feels a further reduction would lead us down the path of approving articles without challenge. Town meeting should exercise its rights as an autonomous town body. He suggests that town meeting members pay attention, avoid irrelevant questions, and be prepared when it's your turn to speak.

(Daniel Jalkut) Mr. Jalkut states that he's probably braver than some people, because he gets up to speak. He notes that nothing in this bylaw encourages people to speak.

(John Worden) Mr. Worden states that there was no time limits at town meeting 50 years ago. Back then, town meeting could go on for eighteen nights. Since then, we've reduced speaking time. Mr. Worden feels that seven minutes is really the minimum amount of time needed for a presentation. He believes we have a responsibility to represent the people of the town, and notes that many speakers don't use all of their time. He supports the decision of the procedures committee.

(Lenard Diggins) Mr. Diggins was initially against this article, and is still leaning that way. If passed, he hopes we could allow more speakers.

(Paul Schlictman) Motion to terminate debate.

Vote on Brown Substitute Motion, 26--178.

Main motion of no action confirmed by a unanimous voice vote.


Article 28: Recycling Committee Membership and Mission. A member of the recycling committee presents the article. The recycling committee was formed by town meeting in 1995, and the current article would expand the committee's mission. The committee is composed of eight residents and one town manager appointee; article 28 would expand this to ten residents and a town manager appointee.

The goal has been to "reduce, reuse, and recycle", with most of the emphasis going towards recycling. Reduce and reuse aren't enforceable goals, but they have a big impact.

The new mission continues along the lines of what the committee has been doing. Anything thrown into our trash is incinerated at a facility in North Andover. We want to change the way people think about what they consume. Food scraps don't incinerate well; composting is better. We need to try to minimize the amount of contamination in blue bins. We'd like to teach folks how to repair and repurpose items, to reduce the amount of solid waste generated by the town. This article will rename the recycling committee to "Zero Waste Arlington".

(Jim O'Connor) Mr. O'Connor states that Massachusetts is storing waste collected from blue bins, because we're unable to dispose of it. He's totally in favor of the article.

(Ted Peluso) Mr. Peluso attended a talk where a member of the recycling committee spoke to the Council on Aging. He thinks we should say yes to this article.

(Jordan Weinstein) Mr. Weinstein heard that many of the items put into blue bins aren't actually recycled. He asks what's actually being recycled.

A member of the recycling committee says that China no longer accepts our recyclable plastic due to contamination (i.e., non-recyclable plastic mixed in with recyclable plastic). We either ship the plastic elsewhere or incinerate it. Massachusetts no longer has a facility for recycling glass.

(Christopher Moore) Motion to terminate debate.

Article passes, 208--4.


Article 29: Regulation of Polystyrene Juli Brazile presents. This article makes a distinction between what food services can use, and what residents can use. Food services will not be able to use polystyrene foam. However, food packaged with polystyrene outside the town can be sold in Arlington. Ms. Brazile states that single-use plastic is harmful, and the recycling committee (now Zero Waste Arlington) is working on targeted measures to reduce plastic use.

(Joe Ballin) Mr. Ballin states there are readily available alternatives to polystyrene, and the cost difference is only a few cents per container. During outreach efforts, the recycling committee identified 96 establishments that were likely to be affected, and were able to discuss the article with around 75% of them. Many establishments were supportive, and none opposed the polystyrene ban. Businesses are moving in this direction anyway. The health department would check for compliance during annual inspections. The ban would go into effect during 2020, and 33 Massachusetts communities already have similar laws on the books.

(Tim Yontar) Mr. Yontar asks if he'd be able to buy Styrofoam plates under this bylaw.

The answer is no. (At least not from stores in Arlington).

Mr. Yontar asks "even though I'm not a food service?".

The answer is still no.

(?) This town meeting member was an enthusiastic supporter, and one of the leaders behind the plastic bag ban we passed two years ago. The bag ban was well-thought out and well-implemented, and businesses had enough time to change. It's not realistic to expect people to bring Tupperware when they go out to eat, so we need something like this. Due to climate change, we'll all need to leave our comfort zones over the next few years, and this is a good place to start.

(Phil Goff) Motion to terminate debate.

Article passes, 192--3.


Article 30: Waterline Replacement. Someone had taken this article out of the consent agenda, but no substitute motions have been brought forward.

Recommended vote of no action approved by voice vote.


Article 31: Rename Community Preservation Committee. Eric Helmuth presents. This article would rename the Community Preservation Committee to the Community Preservation Act Committee.

Article passes, 163--1.


Article 32: Tree Protection and Preservation. Susan Stamps presents. In 2016, town meeting passed a bylaw which regulations tree removal from private property during construction, renovation, or demolition. It applies to healthy trees located in property setbacks, and the goal is to help maintain the tree canopy. This article changes the size of protected trees from 10" DBH to 8" DBH. Contractors will be required to show protected trees on plans, and discuss them with the tree warden. Plans must also take nearby street trees into consideration. The current fee for tree removal is $375 per inch DBH. The article will remove the option for developers to plant replacement trees; they'll have to pay fees instead.

(?) A town meeting member asks "what's the difference between 'on the property' and 'near the property'?".

The intent is to require inclusion of shade trees that are immediately adjacent to a property. Tree strips on the outside of a sidewalk are generally owned by the town.

(Greg Christiana) Mr. Christiana asks if there's a reason why a more technically rigorous definition wasn't used?

Doug Heim states that when looking at plans, it's generally obvious which trees would be protected. The select board will have the option of placing a more rigorous definition in their regulations.

(Daniel Jalkut) Mr. Jalkut points out several instances where inconsistent capitalization was used, and asks if they can be administratively corrected. The town moderator agrees to the administrative corrections.

Mr. Jalkut asks if "tree fund" is defined in the bylaw.

Doug Heim states that tree fund is not defined in the bylaw, but it is a recognized town fund.

(Zarina Memon) Ms. Memon applauds the tree warden. She doesn't like the term DBH, and asks if there's another term that could be used instead.

Susan Stamps says that DBH means "diameter at breast height". It's the diameter of the tree, measured four feet from the ground.

Ms. Memon says the town recently planted a shade tree in front of her house. It's a Japanese lilac. She asks if the town gives consideration to native trees.

Yes, the town tries to plant native trees, but mixes in other species that are likely to survive.

(Steve Revilak) Mr. Revilak says he's heard that there are actually two tree funds in town. He asks if someone can describe how these funds are used, and give their current balances.

Michael Rademacher says we have the "trees please" fund, and another tree fund. Donations and fines go into the trees please fund. Historically, this fund has kept a balance of $2000--$4000 dollars, but the current balance in $35,000. The other tree fund has a balance of $65,000. The DPW has an operational budget for planting trees, and a number are planted out of that.

Mr. Revilak asks how many trees were planted last year.

Mr. Rademacher puts the number at 225 trees.

Mr. Revilak asks who decides where new trees are planted, and how the decision is made.

Mr. Rademacher states that many trees are planted via request; phone calls or through the request/answer center. Going forward, the town plans to develop a long-term tree management plan.

(Beth Friedman) Ms. Freedman asks if the town plans to reach out to tree removal companies if this article passes, to make them aware of the bylaw change.

The town has information about the tree removal bylaws in the inspectional services office; this is where builders go to apply for building permits. The tree warden does his best to spread knowledge of our bylaws.

Article passes, 203--1.


Article 33: Notice of Demolition. Liz Pyle presents. Ms. Pyle submitted this article herself, because the residential study group missed the warrant article filing deadline. She says this article would add to the Good Neighbor agreement for residential construction. It would require notice of trees removed according to our tree protection bylaws. The goal is to prevent tree removal before work begins.

(Joanne Preston) Ms. Preston states that 65 residents fought to save a street tree in her neighborhood. She asks how this will be enforced.

Michael Byrne believes enforcement will be simple. It's a notification requirement tied to a building permit.

(Steve Revilak) Mr. Revilak asks Mr. Byrne to describe the sequencing of events during a construction project -- what's the order of acquiring a permit, providing notice, and starting work.

Mr. Byrne indicates that the permit application comes first. The permit must be issued and notifications given before work begins.

Mr. Revilak asks if someone could remove trees before work begins.

Mr. Byrne indicates that tree removal would be considered part of the work. The permit and notification would have to come first.

Mr. Revilak asks if it this article really boils down to including information about tree removal in the set of materials already required by the good neighbor agreement.

Mr. Byrne says that's correct.

(Timur Yontar) Motion to terminate debate.

Article passes, 200--0.


Article 34: Regulation of Outdoor Lighting -- Dark Skies Bylaw. Paul Schlictman presents. A similar article came before town meeting five years ago. It was limited to lighting on residential lots, and didn't cover commercial properties. This article is intended to eliminate light pollution. In 2013, the town installed LED lights in street lamps. Armstrong ambulance redid their parking lot lighting in 2013, and there's very little light pollution from it. This article requires a permit from the Select Board and prohibits certain types of bulbs from being used as outdoor lighting. Some types of lighting is exempt from this bylaw.

(Christian Klein) Mr. Klein offers a minor amendment, which would exempt lighting during events authorized by town bodies other than the Select Board.

(Charlie Foskett) Mr. Foskett asks if this bylaw would apply to residents.

Yes, it would apply to all properties.

Mr. Foskett thinks the article is poorly designed and difficult to interpret. What about lighting for patios and steps? And what does the term "unreasonably bright glare" mean? Mr. Foskett asks if this article will require LEDs for outdoor lighting.

The article restricts the types of bulbs allowed, but it doesn't require LED lighting.

Mr. Foskett asks who decides whether a light is too bright.

The intent is for the bylaw to be applied to very bright lights.

Mr. Foskett thinks this article doesn't belong in our bylaws, because we don't understand the enforcement or interpretation.

(Beth Benedict) Ms. Benedict lives in a house with bright exterior lighting. She feels the lighting is important to help her feel safe, and asks town meeting not to vote for it.

(Ed Tremblay) Mr. Tremblay asks if the lights in front of town hall would be legal under this article.

Uplighting is exempt, so yes, they'd be legal.

Mr. Tremblay asks if this article is really about a light that irritates Mr. Schlictman. He believes the article will be hard to enforce, and asks town meeting to vote no.

(Gordon Jameson) Mr. Jameson asks if this bylaw would allow us to regulate the exterior lighting on Leader Bank's facade.

Doug Heim says that uplighting is exempted, but signs are not.

(Deanna Graves) Ms. Graves believes the article should explain the scope of the problem. She doesn't understand what the effect would be.

(Andrew Fischer) Mr. Fischer is fond of this article. He believes it asserts what most of us want on a good-faith basis.

(Deb Butler) Ms. Butler states that she's not familiar with the international model law that inspired this article, and would like to ask some questions. She asks if there's a limit on the number of lumens of brightness.

The International Dark Sky Association has stricter standards that would regulate the amount of lumens, but this article does less. The article was informed by the International Dark Sky Association's model laws, but did not incorporate them.

(Gordon Jameson) Mr. Jameson offers an amendment. He'd like to exempt illumination of town building facades; private building facades would not be exempt.

(Greg Christiana) Mr. Christiana asks if the lighting restrictions would have public safety implications.

Julie Flaherty states that the police department hasn't had any reports about bright lighting. The department would support outside lighting that improves public safety. They're primarily concerned with lighting on streets and crosswalks.

(Roderick Holland) Mr. Holland thinks it would have been helpful to present an overview of the current bylaw. Mr. Holland states that he lives on Grafton Street, and that his porch light is like a surrogate street light when he turns it on. He feels this article will leave us confused as to whether our lights satisfy the requirements of the bylaw.

(Timur Yontar) Moves the question.

Klein Amendment passes, 157--38.

Jameson Amendment passes, 126--65.

Article passes, 117--69.


Town meeting adjourns for the evening.