Town Meeting - May 13th, 2024

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Night six of Arlington Town Meeting. Materials were available from


(Greg Christiana, Town Moderator) Mr. Christiana informs the meeting of tonight's agenda. We'll start with Article 17, then Articles 8 through 10, then Article 31.

Mr. Christiana reminds Town Meeting that announcements are not a place to air grievances.

Tonight's test vote: Will town meeting finish this week? Vote was 119--47--6.

(note: we did not finish this week)

Article 3 - Reports of Committees

(Jeff Thielman, Precinct 12) Mr. Thielman presents the Arlington High School Building Committee's report. The project has a website at url{}. The new high school continues to be on budget, which is helped by the fact that we locked in the construction costs in 2021. 29% of the cost was covered by the Massachusetts School Building Association with the rest paid by the town. Phase 3 of construction is under way, and should be complete by February 2025. The entire project should be completely finished by Fall 2025. Phase 3 includes the athletic wing and an outdoor amphitheater. Approximately 2000 people attended the open house at the end of phase 2.

(?) A representative of the Permanent Town Building Committee (PTBC) presents their report to town meeting. The PTBC is charged with managing major construction and renovation of town-owned buildings. It's a nine-member committee that meets twice per month. The Central School and DPW yard have been recent major projects. The Central School renovations are nearly complete. The DPW yard renovations involved one new building, four building restorations, a salt shed, and new vehicle repair and wash areas. The total cost was around $47M, the project should come within 1% of budget.

(Susan Stamps, Precinct 3) Ms. Stamps presents the report of the Tree Committee. The Tree Committee plants and maintains trees, along with having an adopt-a-tree program. Ms. Stamps says it's important for residents to help by watering newly-planted street trees, and the Tree Committee is looking for more volunteers to do so. We performed a tree inventory several years ago, and now have a GIS map that shows all of the public shade trees in town. Ms. Stamps hopes to find one person from each precinct to be a tree adoption coordinator. She says the town plans approximately 300 trees per year.

(James DiTulio, Precinct 12) Mr. DiTulio introduces Natash Waden, who will present the Artificial Turf Study Committee's report.

(Natasha Waden, Public Health Director) Ms. Waden says the study committee was established by last year's Town Meeting, with a mission to review and report on artificial turf. It's a nine-member committee with seven voting members. The committee first met in December 2023 and met a total of 15 times over the next five months. The committee had environment, health, and safety subgroups. Their report was completed in April 2023.

(James DiTulio) Mr. DiTulio says the group emphasized government-funded, peer-reviewed studies. Artificial turf is an evolving and changing issue. Health topics included youth sports, heat, chemicals, and wet bulb temperatures. The committee looked at injury rates, and found no significant difference between natural and artificial turf fields. Environmental issues included runoff and permeability. Artificial turf fields don't filter rainwater like natural fields do. Crumb rubber filler has drawbacks, and the alternatives are generally untested. The committee also looked at maintenance and cost.

Mr. DiTulio says that no one on the committee supported a moratorium on turf fields, though they had a number of concerns about them. They also recognized that turf fields have a number of merits. The committee felt that artificial turf should be an option, after natural field options have been evaluated. Turf fields should be free of PFAS and the temperature of all fields should be monitored. The manufacturer should take responsibility for end-of-life disposal. Turf fields are okay, with proper evaluation and environmental safeguards.

(Steve DeCourcey, Select Board Chair) Mr. DeCourcey presents the Select Board's supplemental report to town meeting, which contains their recommendations for articles 8 and 9. The Select Board recommends no action on article 9. The Select Board recommends favorable action on article 9, and their recommendation changes the start time -- but not the end time -- of town meeting.

(Christine Deshler) Ms. Deshler presents the Finance Committee's supplemental report to town meeting. It contains their recommended votes for Articles 64 and 64, along with several administrative corrections.

(Chris Loreti, Precinct 7, Point of Order) Mr. Loreti asks if town meeting has been provided with printed copies of the Select Board's supplemental report.

(Greg Christiana) Mr. Christiana answers in the negative.

(Steve DeCourcey) Mr. DeCourcey says the supplemental report establishes a record for the Clerk. The vote for Article 9 is a one-line change which can be presented to town meeting directly.

(Greg Christiana) Mr. Christiana says that Article 9 would change the start time of the first night of town meeting from 8:00 pm to 7:30.


There are no announcements this evening.

Article 17 - Right to Pet Companionship

(Steve DeCourcey, Select Board Chair) Mr. DeCourcey says the Select Board recommended no action at their March 26th hearing, by a vote of 5--0. They had several concerns, including a number of statutory conflicts. Mr. DeCourcey says there isn't another community in Massachusetts with a similar law on pet restrictions; if passed, we would be the first. The Board felt that a municipal bylaw prohibiting pet restrictions was not appropriate. The Board checked with the five largest apartment buildings in town, and every one of them allows pets. The proposed bylaw is modeled on legislation that's still pending in the state of California. The Select Board was concerned about freedom of contract in condo associations, and the resources needed for enforcement. Mr. DeCourcey says he's sympathetic to the situation of pet owners, though.

(Mike Cunningham, Town Counsel) Mr. Cunningham says he had concerns about viability. Fair Housing law would take precedence over municipal law, and fair housing law doesn't designate pet owners as a protected class. He believes such a change would need to happen at the state level.

(Jim Feeney, Town Manager) Mr. Feeney says he was concerned about needing additional resources for enforcement.

(Paul Schlichtman, Precinct 9, Article proponent) Mr. Schlichtman has submitted a substitute motion, and he's worked to address the concerns mentioned by previous speakers. The MSPCA had an attorney review the proposed bylaw, and they felt it was on solid legal footing. The final decision about its legality will be decided by the Attorney General's office. Mr. Schlichtman says the goal is to promote reasonable pet regulations, and that pet bans make the housing crisis worse. His substitute motion exempts owner-occupied two- and three-family homes, condominiums, room rentals, accessory dwelling units, and furnished apartments. Landlords can require pets to be vaccinated and sterilized, and they can require a tenant to carry renters insurance. There is an amendment that would make the Town Manager's office responsible for enforcement, and the bylaw wouldn't go into effect until July 1, 2024.

(Sue Doctrow, Precinct 21) Ms. Doctrow has an amendment, which cites the Arlington Housing Authority and Housing Corporation of Arlington as landowners that have demonstrated reasonable pet policies. She introduces Christine Dorchek, an Arlington resident who wishes to address town meeting.

(Christine Dorchek) Ms. Dorchek is an animal protection attorney, and she urges Town Meeting to support the substitute motion. She helped draft this policy. The team took input from property owners and got guidance from outside counsel. Ms. Dorchek says the goal is to facilitate animal companionship, and to balance the rights of property owners. She'd like to have a town-wide policy. There are numerous exemptions and any property owner can seek an individual exemption from the Board of Health. She tells a story of having to move because her apartment building was sold, and the new owner did not allow pets.

(Rieko Tanaka, Precinct 9) Ms. Tanaka moves an amendment that would make the Town Manager's office responsible for enforcement. She introduces Laura Kiesel, an Arlington resident who wishes to address Town Meeting.

(Laura Kiesel) Ms. Kiesel says that nearly all of the animal rescues that endorsed article 16 also endorsed article 17. She's worked to foster animals on kill lists, and says there are thousands of animals killed each year because their owners couldn't find pet-friendly housing. She says she's been discriminated against by landlords that would not allow her to have emotional support animals. Ms. Kiesel says that 70% of households have animals, and most of them are considered family members. She says that no pet policies discriminate against renters, but renters with animals tend to make more responsible tenants.

(Greg Christiana, Town Moderator) Mr. Christiana says that was not an even-handed presentation. He'd prefer to have town meeting members stick to the amendments they are introducing.

(Mike Cunningham) Mr. Cunningham says it's already illegal to discriminate against people with assistance animals.

(Bob Radocia, Precinct 11) Mr. Radocia says he resents the fact that he's being forced to do things that he's not in favor of. He says that having a dog means you're required to carry liability insurance and that some people are allergic to animals. He's totally against this. Mr. Radocia thinks it infringes on his right to own property.

(Judith Garber, Precinct 4) Ms. Garber supports the substitute motion, and wishes we'd passed it several years ago. Her landlord had a no-pet policy, it's very difficult to own a home in Arlington, and there are landlords that are unwilling to allow companion animals. Ms. Garber says that no-pet policies discriminate against renters.

(Eugene Benson, Precinct 10) As a former pet owner and attorney, Mr. Benson is sympathetic but can't support the substitute motion. He thinks it's a good concept, but not acceptable as written. He thinks the substitute motion is a first draft that needs a lot of work. He says the definition of "companion animal" would cover the 200 species of animal that are allowed in Massachusetts, including snakes and boa constrictors. He asks why the substitute motion allows two cats but only one dog, and why one dog and one cat would not be allowed. He says there's no remedy for landlords whose tenants break the rules, and that state law prohibits a landlord from collecting more than the standard security deposit. He also questions whether the town has the right to limit a landlord's liabilities.

(Mike Cunningham) Mr. Cunningham says the town does not have the right to limit a landlord's liabilities.

(Eugene Benson) Mr. Benson says he'd be inclined to vote for a bylaw that applied to apartments with four or more units. He thinks we have an obligation to get this right.

It's 9:30 pm and Town Meeting takes a ten-minute break.

(Christopher Moore, Precinct 14) Mr. Moore has a question about the phrase "reasonable rules". He asks how "reasonable" will be decided.

(Jim Feeney) Mr. Feeney says that Town Counsel's office would likely make that determination.

(Christopher Moore) Mr. Moore asks what would happen in the landlord didn't agree.

(Jim Feeney) Mr. Feeney thinks that would have to be resolved through litigation.

(Christoper Moore) Mr. Moore asks about the cost of that litigation.

(Jim Feeney) Mr. Feeney says he's not sure. There aren't any other communities with similar laws, and Arlington has over 6000 dwellings that would be subject to this bylaw.

(Mike Cunningham) Mr. Cunningham says this would be subject to civil enforcement provisions in state law.

(Christopher Moore) Mr. Moore asks if we have enough staff to support the bylaw.

(Jim Feeney) Mr. Feeney says the town will have discretion in when to take enforcement actions. That might require the work of several departments.

(Christoper Moore) Mr. Moore acknowledges that the Housing Corporation of Arlington, the Arlington Housing Authority, and the town's five largest apartment buildings all have pet-friendly policies. He believes there are people that would prefer pet-exclusive housing, and there's already a fair amount of pet friendly housing in town.

(Gordon Jamieson, Precinct 12) Mr. Jamieson moves the question.

Motion to terminate debate succeeds by voice vote.

Doctrow amendment passes, 117--61--10.

Tanaka amendment passes, 132--46--12.

Schlichtman substitute (as amended) fails, 47--140--4.

The Select Board's recommended vote of no action passes by voice vote.

Article 8 - Revised Town Meeting Start Time

(Steve DeCourcey, Select Board Chair) Mr. DeCourcey says the Select Board voted to recommend that no action be taken on article 8.

Recommended motion of no action passes by voice vote.

Article 9 - Start Time for Annual Town Meeting

(Steve DeCourcey, Select Board Chair) Mr. DeCourcey says the Select Board moved favorable action on Article 9. He says the Board felt this was really a decision for Town Meeting, and their vote of favorable action came from a recommendation of the Town Meeting Procedures Committee.

(Christa Kelleher, Precinct 5) Ms. Kelleher says the intent of this article is that Town Meeting starts and ends earlier. She thinks an 11:00 pm end time seems unreasonable; there are town meeting members with early morning schedules, and they may appreciate having a little more sleep. She understands the scheduling concerns that have been raised, but doesn't believe they're insurmountable.

(Phil Goff, Precinct 7) Mr. Goff understands the challenge of establishing an end time, but he'd prefer an earlier start time. He notes a survey sent to town meeting members, where 70% said they'd favor an earlier start time. Mr. Goff says that the 11:00 pm end time has been a challenge in his efforts to recruit people to run for town meeting. From an equity point of view, an earlier start time may provide a more diverse set of members. He notes that 8:00 pm is dusk during this time of year, which creates a higher probability of roadway crashes.

(Christine Deshler, Precinct 19) Ms. Deshler is the chair of the Finance Committee and she's concerned that an earlier start time will impact her ability to get a quorum together for pre-town meeting meetings. The Finance Committee wasn't able to take up articles 64 and 65 until last week, when they met before town meeting. The Finance Committee can't take votes without quorum, and their inability to vote could have the effect of prolonging the duration town meeting. Ms. Deshler says that one Finance Committee member has told her that they can't accommodate an earlier start time, and she's concerned about being able to attract people to the Finance Committee. If the Finance Committee shifted their meetings to Tuesday and Thursday, some members would be in meetings four nights per week, which is a lot to ask of unpaid volunteers.

(Christian Klein, Precinct 10) Mr. Klein asks if we'd be changing the start time of the first night of town meeting, or all nights of town meeting.

(Greg Christiana, Town Moderator) Mr. Christiana says the article applies to the first night, but he'd want to use the same start time for consistency.

(Christian Klein) Mr. Klein notes that motions to continue town meeting to a specific time are debatable and amendable, so town meeting could make these changes by itself. He notes that the Select Board, Finance Committee, and Redevelopment Board frequently meet before Town Meeting.

(Mark Rosenthal, Precinct 14) Mr. Rosenthal asks if an amendment to change the start time would have to be submitted 48 hours in advance.

(Greg Christiana) Mr. Christiana says that sort of amendment is very easy to understand, and he'd accept it from the floor.

(Mark Rosenthal) Mr. Rosenthal thinks there would be ripple effects to passing article 9, like requiring other meetings to start earlier. He thinks this might make it difficult for people to attend.

(Pi Fisher, Precinct 6) Mr. Fisher moves the question.

Motion to terminate debate passes 145--36--0.

Article 9 fails, 58--120--9.

Article 10 - Annual Town Meeting Start Date

(Steve DeCourcey, Select Board Chair) Mr. DeCourcey says the Select Board recommends favorable action on Article 10. This bylaw change was designed to address a situation that came up earlier this year: the statutory start date of Town Meeting happened to coincide with Passover. The new bylaw would give the Select Board more flexibility to set the start date.

(Barry Jaspan, Precinct 18) Mr. Jaspan thanks the Select Board for being able to accommodate Passover this year.

(Chris Loreti, Precinct 7) Mr. Loreti thinks the new language would allow the Select Board to set the time of the first Town Meeting, as well as the date.

(Ratnakar Vellanki, Precinct 7) Mr. Vellanki moves the question.

Motion to terminate debate passes by voice vote.

(Mark Rosenthal, Precinct 14, Point of order) Mr. Rosenthal asks a question about the meaning of the main motion's language.

Article 10 passes, 164--24--0.

Article 31 - Add 5-7 Winter Street to the MBTA Neighborhood District

(Eugene Benson, Redevelopment Board) Mr. Benson says that Article 31 is a zoning bylaw amendment that would add 5--7 Winter Street to the Neighborhood Multifamily District. The Redevelopment Board voted 4--1 to recommend favorable action on Article 31. Four members were supportive, and one felt that the map change hadn't been properly noticed.

(John Leone, Precinct 8, Article proponent) Mr. Leone had an amendment, to clarify that 5--7 Winter Street would be added to the Zoning Map, as well as the Neighborhood Multifamily District parcel list. Mr. Leone says he has a financial interest in this article, as his family has owned the property since 1957. He'd like to have this property included in the Neighborhood Multifamily District. He says the property was left out because it's on the National Historic Register, but other historic properties were included, such as 13--15 Winter Street. Mr. Leone says this is one of the largest parcels in East Arlington and he'd like to have the option of having a similar structure as the surrounding properties, or subdividing off portions of the lot. He says this is about fair and equitable application of law.

(Carl Wagner, Precinct 15) Mr. Wagner says that (Historical Commission Chair) Joanne Robinson was hoping to speak tonight but wasn't able to attend. He says that Arlington only has around 45 properties of the caliber of the Leone house, and these are only protected by a twelve-month demolition delay. He hopes the structure can be preserved if the property is sold. Mr. Wagner says that his group, Arlington Residents for Responsible Development, had opposed this change in the past, but they no longer do so. He thinks we have to work to save our history.

(Betsy Carlton-Gysan, Precinct 9) Ms. Carlton-Gysan notes that it's the second time this parcel has come before Town Meeting. She asks if this is the appropriate place to address the issue.

(John Leone) Mr. Leone says that Town Meeting is the only body that can address zoning issues. He notes that the ARB didn't support this as an amendment to the MBTA Communities article during last fall's special town meeting, but he thinks that's because it wasn't presented to the ARB directly. He hasn't reached out to other owners who might want their properties included in the multifamily districts.

(Betsy Carlton-Gysan) Ms. Carlton-Gysan expresses concern that future one-off property rezonings might come before Town Meeting.

(Mike Cunningham, Town Counsel) Mr. Cunningham says there's nothing procedurally inappropriate about that.

(Betsy Carlton-Gysan) Ms. Carlton-Gysan asks if there are alternate remedies available to Mr. Leone.

(Greg Christiana, Town Moderator) Mr. Christiana thinks that out of scope for Article 31.

(Betsy Carlton-Gysan) Ms. Carlton-Gysan asks what would preclude Mr. Leone from selling off part of his lot in the future.

(John Leone) Mr. Leone says the subdivided part would still be zoned R2, and not part of the Neighborhood Multifamily district. The sale of a property doesn't change the zoning district that it's part of.

(Beth Ann Friedman, Precinct 15) Ms. Friedman asks why we can't wait until the property is subdivided, and then re-zone.

(John Leone) Mr. Leone says the home has a lot of space, but the interior is laid out in an inefficient manner. He thinks it could easily be converted into a three-family home, but the R2 district doesn't allow that.

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

Motion to terminate debate passes by voice vote.

Leone amendment passes, 165--16--2.

Article 31 passes, 156--20--4.

There a motion to adjourn, which passes by voice vote. We are adjourned.