Town Meeting - May 23rd, 2022
Night nine of town meeting, held via remote participation. Materials were available from https://www.arlingtonma.gov/town-governance/town-meeting/2022-town-meeting-warrant.
- 1 Introductions
- 2 Article 17 - Conversion of Gas Station Dispensing Pumps to Self Service Operation
- 3 Article 19 - Street Name "Magliozzi Boulevard"
- 4 Article 20 - Code Enforcement
- 5 Article 24 - Financial Estimate and Budget Documents
- 6 Article 25 - Early Voting
- 7 Article 26 - Endorsement of CDBG Application
- 8 Article 27 - Revolving Funds
- 9 Article 28 - Enhanced Business Districts
(Greg Christiana, Town Moderator) Mr. Christiana explains how he plans to handle motions to reconsider this year. He'll entertain them after all articles have been heard.
(John Mahr) Mr. Mahr has an announcement. The town will be taking grant applications for funds made available by the dissolution of the Symmes hospital.
There were no committee reports submitted for receipt this evening.
Article 17 - Conversion of Gas Station Dispensing Pumps to Self Service Operation
We're continuing discussion of Article 17 from the previous meeting. Arlington currently prohibits self-serve gas stations. This article proposes to allow them.
(Carl Wagner) Mr. Wagner says there's no one in Arlington who'd like self-service gas more than him. He tried to get an article like this passed in 2013. Mr. Wagner says the problem is unintended consequences. He believes that full-service stations would disappear. There's no information about station size, pumps, noise, or the self-service shops hurting local businesses. Many gas stations are afraid of going out of business. In 2013, Mr. Wagner asked town meeting to vote against his own article. He says that Arlington needs protection from self-serve and asks town meeting to vote no.
(Jordan Weinstein) Mr. Weinstein asks town meeting to vote against the article. He says there's no protection against unintended consequences. Full service gas stations protect jobs, and those stations would likely go out of business.
(John Worden) Mr. Worden opposes the article. If the majority wants self-service, then we need some protections, like the Benson amendment. We talk about diversity and inclusion, but most people working at gas stations are immigrants. We're providing jobs and these people depend on them. Mr. Worden has a question. He says there used to be a newspaper in town which told people about articles. He asks what outreach was done to other business owners.
(Len Diggins, Select Board Chair) Mr. Diggins says there was n outreach.
(John Worden) Mr. Worden says that stations owners had no notice that their businesses were being put in jeopardy. What recourse will someone have if a self-service gas station employee refuses to pump gas for them.
(Doug Heim, Town Counsel) Mr. Heim says that if the request to pump is related to a disability, the person would have recourse through the Massachusetts office of Disabilities, and the town's Human Rights Commission can receive complaints. More generally, it could depend on what special conditions were attached to the gas station's special permit.
(John Worden) Mr. Worden asks about the case of someone who wants their gas pumped right now. What should they do, call the cops?
(Eugene Benson) Mr. Benson says that if his amendment is adopted, the police could enforce the requirement for an attendant to pump. But that enforcement is up to the police department.
(Al Tosti) Mr. Tosti moves the question.
Motion to terminate debate passes, 174--49--2.
(Judith Garber, Point of Order) Ms. Garber wants to know what happens if the Benson amendment passes. Will we vote again?
(Greg Christiana) Mr. Christiana says yes. After voting to substitute, we'll vote again on the substituted motion.
Vote on the Benson substitute passes, 175--49--2.
Vote on the article fails, 105--119--3.
Article 19 - Street Name "Magliozzi Boulevard"
This article proposes to take a short, unnamed stretch of roadway in Arlington, and call it "Magliozzi Boulevard". The Select Board recommended no action, but there's a substitute motion to revive the proposal.
(Michael Ruderman) Mr. Ruderman says that Tom and Ray Magliozzi invented a form of radio entertainment. Their show ran for 10 years on WBUR, and was syndicated for another 25 years. The show harkens back to the great days of radio drama. Mr. Ruderman says we wish to memorialize our giants of public radio, and it's neat and proper that we should honor them.
(Paul Schlictman, Point of Order) Mr. Schlictman notes that he filed a substitute motion, but wasn't given the opportunity to present it.
(Greg Christiana) Mr. Christiana apologizes to Mr. Schlictman and offers him the opportunity to present.
(Paul Schlictman) Mr. Schlictman says he's provided a write-up via the annotated warrant. He says that not having a name for a road is a pubic safety risk. He believes that town meeting has the power to rename streets, because town meeting did so twelve years ago. Mr. Schlictman thinks we should vote yes for the joy of the town.
(Robert Jefferson) Mr. Jefferson is speaking against the article. He says there's a process for memorial naming. That starts with the Select Board and goes to the Memorial Committee. He feels there is a process and that we shouldn't circumvent it. Stick to the normal process and don't circumvent town meeting's authority.
(Daniel Jalkut) Mr. Jalkut thinks lot of us want to support this article because we love Car Talk. He's concerned this process is not best suited for town meeting. By handling it in this way, we're unlikely to honor the Magliozzi brothers is some other way. Mr. Jalkut says the piece of road in question really isn't a street, its more like a connector to Frontage Road. He'll vote against it.
(Max Palmer) Mr. Palmer moves the question.
Motion to terminate debate succeeds 199--23.
Schlictman substitute fails, 87--143--2.
Vote on the Select Board's recommendation of no action passes, 168--44--14.
Article 20 - Code Enforcement
Article 20 proposes to give code enforcement authority to members of the Department of Planning and Community Development. The Select Board recommended a vote of no action, and there's a substitute motion to revive the original proposal.
(Len Diggins) Mr. Diggins says the Select Board recommended no action. Not because there isn't a need for enforcement, but because the Article conflicts with the town manager act. He says the article is wrestling with the separation of authority.
(Paul Schlictman) Mr. Schlictman has filed a substitute motion. He says that town meeting has an annual tradition of wondering why our bylaws aren't being enforced. If we're talking about separation of powers, the votes of town meeting need to be honored and laws need to be enforced. Mr. Schlictman says his substitute motion doesn't create a new position within the Department of Planning and Community Development (DPCD), and doesn't change the department's budget. He sees it more like giving a box of badges to DPCD's director, and members of the Planning Department can send letters requesting compliance. He says the town has no plan to enforce its bylaws. If violations occur, they can pressure the Select Board to do something more significant. He wants the executive branch to enforce the bylaws. If we can't enforce our bylaws, we should repeal them.
(Greg Christiana) Mr. Christiana wants to clarify whether the last paragraph if Mr. Schlictman's substitute motion applies to all enforcement officers.
(Paul Schlictman) Mr. Schlictman says he understands the section that Mr. Christiana is referring to.
(Greg Christiana) Mr. Christiana suggests a wording change to bring the substitute motion in scope of the original warrant article.
(Christopher Moore) Mr. Moore wants to ask about code enforcement strategies, and whether this would help.
(Adam Chapdelaine, Town Manager) Mr. Chapdelaine says that for the last few years we've struggled to maintain staffing in the Inspectional Services Department (ISD), coupled with an increasing number of building permit applications. That department has an increased workload. Mr. Chapdelaine says that ISD has recently become fully staffed, and the ZBA budget increase will allow for more code enforcement. Putting this substitute motion in the bylaw would create a need for increased funding, without being in the budget. He thinks the substitute assumes there's already staffing, and presumes a budget increase for next year. He believes a change like this should go through the budgeting process.
(Sheri Baron) Ms. Baron would like to hear a few examples of the kinds of violations Mr. Schlictman is referring to.
(Paul Schlictman) Mr. Schlictman says the most egregious example is the Gentle Dental office across from town hall. Their window signs occupy far more than 25% of the window area.
(Sheri Baron) Ms. Baron understands budgeting constraints, but she sees a need to deal with code violations. For example, fences that block visibility from driveways. She plans to vote in favor.
(Robert Jefferson) Mr. Jefferson says there's a process in place for handling violations, and the Select Board recommended a vote of no action. He thinks this article should be addressed in a different venue, and that Mr. Diggins previously covered that it's not town meeting's position to tell the town manager how to run the town. He thinks that the people doing enforcement are taking care of things to the best of their ability.
(Eugene Benson) Mr. Benson says this article proposes a change to town bylaws, and not the zoning bylaw. He feels that the intent is to enforce zoning bylaw provisions, like sign regulations. Mr. Benson says that town bylaws are the wrong place for this.
(Doug Heim) Mr. Heim says that Mr. Benson is correct. Code enforcement provisions for zoning have to be in the zoning bylaw. He says the building inspector also enforces the building code, and that town bylaws are enforced by different bodies, such as the Police Department and Health and Human Services.
(Eugene Benson) Mr. Benson suggests voting no. The Gentle Dental office is an example of a zoning bylaw violation, and Mr. Schlictman has chosen the wrong place to add an enforcement provision for that. He offers to help Mr. Schlictman draft a zoning bylaw enforcement article for a future town meeting.
(Alia Atlas) Ms. Atlas wishes to raise concerns about the risks of biased enforcement. She thinks it could unfairly impact those unable to pay the fines, and sees no precautions against that.
(Steve Revilak) Mr. Revilak would like to know if the Department of Planning and Community Development has any thoughts about the substitute motion.
(Jenny Raitt, Planning Director) Ms. Raitt says there's nothing that she'd like to weigh in on, as it related to the current fiscal year. DPCD would need to assess this in the following fiscal year.
(Xavid Pretzer) Mx. Pretzer moves the question.
Motion to terminate debate succeeds, 203--14.
Vote on the Schlictman substitute fails, 43--182--2.
Vote on the Select Board's recommendation of no action passes, 184--31--9.
(Mark Rosenthal, Point of Order) Mr. Rosenthal said he didn't understand the meaning of the moderator's comments about no action votes.
(Greg Christiana) Mr. Christiana asks Town Counsel to describe the difference between a yes and no note, when the recommended action is no action.
(Doug Heim) Mr. Heim says a yes vote is a clear record of support for the recommended motion (of no action). A no vote without a substitute motion suggests that there's something to be done, but without specifying anything to do. In this case, a no vote is basically symbolic.
It's around 21:30, so we'll take our ten-minute break.
Article 24 - Financial Estimate and Budget Documents
Article 24 proposes home rule legislation to amend Arlington's Town Manager Act, to allow the Town Manager additional time to submit a budget.
(Len Diggins) Mr. Diggins says this article will allow the Finance Committee to get preliminary budget numbers early, and for the Select Board to get more accurate numbers later on.
(Greg Dennis) Mr. Dennis asks why this is being submitted as a home rule petition, rather than a bylaw change. He asks if the home rule petition could delegate details to the bylaw.
(Doug Heim) Mr. Heim says that the Town Manager Act is part of Arlington's constitution. He feels that the legislature is generally supportive when towns vote to amend their own procedures.
(Janice Weber) Ms. Weber notes that one member of the Finance Committee voted against this article; this is noted in the Finance Committee report. She asks who that was.
(Charlie Foskett, Finance Committee Chair) Mr. Foskett says he'll have to look that up.
(Carl Wagner) Page 8 of Mr. Wagner's Finance Committee report says the committee will report during a future town meeting. He asks what that means.
(Charlie Foskett) Mr. Foskett says the Finance Committee report states that the Finance Committee supports the Select Board's recommended action.
(Mark McCabe) Mr. McCabe motions to terminate debate.
(Greg Christiana) Mr. Christiana notes are no more speakers in the queue. He will not recognize a second to Mr. McCabe's motion, so we can go right to voting.
(Charlie Foskett) Mr. Foskett says that Finance Committee vice-chair Deschler voted in the negative.
Article passes, 210--7--5.
Article 25 - Early Voting
This article authorizes the filing of home rule legislation, so that Arlington can have early voting during town elections. This article was originally on the consent agenda, but was removed by John Leone.
(Len Diggins) Mr. Diggins says the Select Board voted 5--0 to authorize the filing of home rule legislation for early voting in town elections. He'd prefer to see the state legislature adopt local option legislation for this purpose, but he applauds the Election Modernization Committee for moving this article forward.
(Greg Dennis, Election Modernization Committee Chair) Mr. Dennis says the home rule legislation would allow early voting in town elections, in the same way that we have early voting for state and federal elections. He says the pandemic has changed people's positions on voting, and that submitting this home rule petition is an important message to Beacon hill. The Town Clerk believes her office can handle this with current staffing. Mr. Dennis says that after this town meeting, the Election Modernization Committee (EMC) will be dissolved.
(Gordon Jamieson, Point of Order) Mr. Jamieson asks if town meeting needs a motion to dissolve the EMC.
(Greg Dennis) Mr. Dennis isn't aware of such a thing being before town meeting this year. He suggests Mr. Jamieson contact him offline.
(John Leone) Mr. Leone says he doesn't believe he took this article from the consent agenda, and he's wholeheartedly in favor of it.
(Mark Kaepplein) Mr. Kaepplein says his initial concern was cost, but now he understands that there won't be any costs. He'd like to verify that's correct.
(Juli Brazile, Town Clerk) Ms. Brazile doesn't believe there will be substantial costs associated with early voting, but we can revisit that if necessary.
(Mark Kaepplein) Mr. Kaepplein asks if early voting is the same as mail-in voting.
(Juli Brazile) Ms. Brazile says that early voting is done in person.
(Mark Kaepplein) Mr. Kaepplein asks if signatures are verified during mail-in voting.
(Greg Christiana) Mr. Christiana believes the question is out of scope. The article is about early voting, not mail-in voting.
(Mark McCabe) Mr. McCabe motions to terminate debate.
(Greg Christiana) Mr. Christiana notes there is no one else waiting to speak. He won't recognize a second to Mr. McCabe's motion, so we can move straight to voting.
Article passes, 214--4--1.
Article 26 - Endorsement of CDBG Application
Article 26 deals with this year's community development block grants.
(Len Diggins) Mr. Diggins says the Select Board voted in favor of Article 26, 6--0. There were six votes, because the Town Manager gets a vote. He says there were many projects which will make $1.1M go a long way.
There are no speakers for Article 26.
Article passes, 221--1--0.
Article 27 - Revolving Funds
Article 27 is town meeting's annual vote to authorize use of the town's revolving funds.
(Len Diggins) Mr. Diggins says this article was pulled from the consent agenda. It reports the income and expenses for each of the town's revolving funds. Town meeting must re-authorize the use of these funds each year.
(John Worden) Mr. Worden says he did not knowingly take Article 27 from the consent agenda.
(Mark Kaepplein) Mr. Kaepplein asks why the town hall revolving fund lost so much money.
(Adam Chapdelaine, Town Manager) Mr. Chapdelaine says it was mostly due to the pandemic. We haven't rented town hall, but still have the maintenance expenses that rely on that fund.
(Mark Kaepplein) Mr. Kaepplein asks what these expenses are.
(Adam Chapdelaine) Mr. Chapdelaine says there's a categorized list of expenses in the Select Board report.
(Mark Kaepplein) Mr. Kaepplein asks if the town hall could be cleaned less often, because it wasn't rented. He asks how we incur town hall expenses without renting the hall.
(Adam Chapdelaine) Mr. Chapdelaine says these are general cleaning and maintenance expenses. While they're not necessarily related to town hall rentals, they are paid for via this revolving fund.
(Mark Kaepplein) Mr. Kaepplein is frustrated the town didn't save money here, because of the pandemic.
(Annie Lacourt) Ms. Lacourt asks if revolving funds are similar to enterprise funds -- money in, money out.
(Adam Chapdelaine) Mr. Chapdelaine says yes, these are programmatic accounts. Money can be spent if there's a balance, but these accounts can't run into the red.
(Annie Lacourt) Ms. Lacourt asks if the money in the funds come from tax dollars.
(Adam Chapdelaine) Mr. Chapdelaine answers in the negative.
(John Leone) Mr. Leone has a similar question, but for the revolving fund for life support and ambulance services. He asks what's going on there.
(Adam Chapdelaine) Mr. Chapdelaine believes that's likely in relation to the timing of billing and the end of the fiscal year.
(Sandy Pooler, Deputy Town Manager) Mr. Pooler believes there were the same number of ambulance runs. The fees haven't changed in several years, so he's going to look at this now.
(John Leone) Mr. Leone asks if the ambulance companies are seeking a higher reimbursement rate.
(Sandy Pooler) Mr. Pooler says that would raise the rates.
(Gordon Jamieson) Regarding the town hall revolving fund, Mr. Jamieson notes the floor in town hall was recently replaced. He asks if that was done via revolving funds.
(Sandy Pooler) Mr. Pooler believes they were capital funds.
(Gordon Jamieson) Mr. Jamieson says there's now an appendix in the Select Board report that lists cash flows for each of these funds. He thanks Mr. Pooler for doing that.
(Beth Melofchik) Ms. Melofchik says she attended a Select Board meeting before COVID. She asks if the entrance to the Select Board Chambers has been made ADA-compliant.
(Sandy Pooler) Mr. Pooler says that wouldn't be done via revolving funds.
(Kirsi Allison-Ampe) Ms. Allison-Ampe moves the question.
(Greg Christiana) Mr. Christiana notes there are no more people in the speaking queue. He will not recognize a second to Ms. Allison-Ampe's motion, so we can proceed straight to a vote.
Article passes, 216--1--2.
Article 28 - Enhanced Business Districts
Article 28 is a zoning amendment that would add standards for ground floor commercial uses is mixed use buildings.
(Rachel Zsembery, Arlington Redevelopment Board Chair, via video) Ms. Zsembery says this article applies to business districts. It takes the industrial district standards that town meeting adopted last year, and adapts them to the business districts. The article is intended to encourage pedestrian activity. It requires transparency on the first floor of a mixed use building, and facade articulation every 30 feet. There has to be clear treatment given to principal entrances and lobby entrances. She says it would promote vibrant design in the business districts.
There are no speakers.
(Carl Wagner, Point of Order) Mr. Wagner says the option to raise hands wasn't enabled when the moderator called for speakers.
(Greg Christiana) Mr. Christiana apologizes for that, and offers Mr. Wagner a chance to speak.
(Carl Wagner) Mr. Wagner says he reviewed this article and thinks it's a good thing to go forward. It shows there are problems with our mixed-use bylaws and he hopes it will improve that.
(Michele Nathan) Ms. Nathan says she's read the article, but has not background in this and doesn't know how to vote. She asks if someone can give here a simple explanation of what the article does.
(Rachel Zsembery) Ms. Zsembery says the goal is to encourage more active uses, were people come in and out of businesses on the first floor. It encourages a more robust use of these types of businesses, and gives the Redevelopment Board standards to point to.
(Gordon Jamieson) Mr. Jamieson is in favor of this article. He notes Mr. Wagner's earlier remarks, and hopes that Mr. Wagner will also vote in favor of Article 39.
(Susan Stamps) Ms. Stamps says the warrant article text talks about limiting non-active uses likes offices and banks. She asks what part of the main motion does this.
(Rachel Zsembery) Ms. Zsembery says this came from the ARB's discussion of how specific the article should be. Rather than calling out banks or offices, the ARB wanted wording to encourage active uses.
(Charlie Foskett) Mr. Foskett motions to adjourn.
Meeting adjourned. We'll pick up with Article 28 on Wednesday.