Town Meeting - Nov 16th, 2020

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First night of Arlington's Nov. 2020 Special town meeting, which was conducted by remote participation.

Our first vote of the was to approve the use of a new voting technology. We're conducting the meeting with Zoom and a website. Zoom allows speakers to communicate with the rest of the body, and the website is for voting, requesting time to speak, and raising points of order. Two TMMs have submitted written copies of their votes in advance, and these will be entered manually. Vote passes, 239--2--2. That means we have 243 out of 252 town meeting members participating tonight; that's a very good turnout.

There's one announcement. The town and the Arlington Chamber of Commerce are partnering up to promote shopping and dining under the slogan "Shop Arlington First".

Article 1 - Reports of Committees. Town meeting receives reports from the Select Board, Finance Committee (including an addendum), the Capital Planning Committee, the Arlington Redevelopment Board, the Community Preservation Act Committee, the Election Modernization Committee, and the Human Rights Commission.

(Due to the tight schedule, the select Board asked for volunteers to distribute report packets to TMMs in each precinct. I volunteered to do this for precinct 1. Which is to say that all of precinct 1's materials were delivered by bike courier.)

Motion to receive reports passes 242--0--1.

Article 2 - Consent Agenda. The moderator suggested 12 (or so) articles for our consent agenda. All of them we're pulled (i.e., there was at least one TMM who wanted to discuss each article in detail). With nothing on the consent agenda, the moderator declares a vote of No Action.

Article 3 - Regulation of Outdoor Lighting - Uplighting. (Adam Badik) Mr. Badik has submitted a substitute motion. He likes the idea of dark skies, and believes the main motion will undo that. His amendment would allow uplighting until 9:30 pm, with approval of the Select Board.

(Beth Ann Friedman) Ms. Friedman has submitted a substitute motion. Her motion would prohibit uplighting on mixed use buildings.

(Sophie Migliazzo) Ms. Migliazzo asks if any businesses asked for this change to uplighting regulations.

(Doug Heim) Mr. Heim says no. The proponent (Paul Schlictman) wanted to amend what town meeting passed last year.

(Gordon Jamieson) Mr. Jamieson likes both amendments and urges support.

(Paul Schlictman) Mr. Schlictman says he wanted to exempt commercial and religious institutions in order to allow architectural lighting on the exteriors of buildings.

(Steve Revilak) Mr. Revilak says that commercial districts constitute 5.6% of Arlington's land area, so we're not talking about a lot of space. And commercial districts are generally separated from residential areas. Mr. Revilak asks how many properties had to modify their exterior lighting as a result of last year's dark skies proposal.

(Michael Byrne, Inspectional Services) Mr. Byrne says there have been very few complaints. Maybe three about commercial properties, and a few about residential ones. Overall, the number of uplighting complaints has been low.

(Zarina Memon) Ms. Memon moves to terminate debate.

Motion to terminate debate passes. 233--6.

Badik amendment is adopted by a vote of 177--58--5.

Friedman amendment is adopted by a vote of 180--54--5.

Article 3 (as amended) is adopted by a vote of 194--50.

Several TMMs raise points of order, regarding the two TMMs who pre-submitted votes. They question whether those votes are valid, since the main motion of Article 3 was amended. The moderator says these two TMMs gave instructions to have their votes cast in a certain way, and that he intends to follow their instructions. He points out that two votes would not have affected the outcome of article 3.

Article 4 - Minuteman Bikeway Hours. (Ed Tremblay) Mr. Tremblay says he wasn't aware that the minuteman bikeway had limited hours of operation. He asks why it does.

(Doug Heim, town Counsel) Mr. Heim says that the MBTA owns the land, but the town is charged with the bikeway's operations. He's unsure of the genesis of the hours of operation.

(Sophie Migliazzo) Ms. Migliazzo says we have a lot of rules that aren't enforced, and asks "why not eliminate the rules?"

(Adam Chapdelaine, Town Manager) Mr. Chapdelaine says he would set hours in consultation with the Bicycle Advisory Committee. He expects they'd look at daylight hours and base the times around that. Mr. Chapdelaine says that the use of the path has changed over years. Before it became a commuting resource, there were concerns that the bikeway would become an attractive nuisance.

(Sophie Migliazzo) Ms. Migliazzo asks if posted times are currently enforced.

(Adam Chapdelaine) Mr. Chapdelaine says they're not proactively enforced, and he's not aware of any citations being issued.

(John Worden) Mr. Worden asks how the public will become aware of hours, if the town manager has the discretion to change them.

(Adam Chapdelaine) Mr. Chapdelaine says he'd post hours on signs along the bikeway, and on the town website.

(Roderick Holland) Mr. Holland says he's a member of the Bicycle Advisory Committee, and a long-time bicycle commuter who rode the Minuteman to his job in Bedford. He says that Lexington and Bedford don't restrict hours of operation; Arlington is an odd man out in that regard. He says that bike lights have improved over the years, and that makes it safe to ride on the path at night. He thinks this article is a good start, but we should think about doing away with hours of operation altogether.

(Patricia Muldoon) Ms. Muldoon supports the earlier speaker's comments. She asks if its possible to amend the main motion, and eliminate hours of operation.

(John Leone, Moderator) Mr. Leone says that Ms. Muldoon would have to ask town meeting to postpone the article, and she would have to submit a substitute motion.

(Patricia Muldoon) Ms. Muldoon motions to postpone Article 4 until Monday.

Postponement is a debatable motion, so there is opportunity to debate it.

(Zarina Memon) Ms. Memon supports postponement. Since other towns don't have hours of operation for the minuteman bikeway, she'd like to see us consider doing the same.

(Gordon Jamieson) Mr. Jamieson moves to terminate debate on postponement.

Motion to terminate debate passes, 222--13--1.

Motion to postpone succeeds, 134--101. We'll continue discussion of Article 4 on Monday November 23rd.

Article 5 - Fossil Fuel Infrastructure. (John Hurd, Select Board Chair) Mr. Hurd says this article is being submitted as home rule legislation. It was recommended by the Clean Energy Future Committee as a way to reduce our dependence on fossil fuels and to lower greenhouse gas emissions.

(Pat Hanlon) Mr. Hanlon introduces Amos Meeks, who will present the article in a pre-recorded video.

(Amos Meeks, via pre-recorded video) Arlington's goal is to get to net zero carbon emissions by 2050. This goal was adopted by the Select Board, and also mandated by the state. Over 60% of Arlington's greenhouse gas emissions come from buildings, and the majority of that comes from residential space heating. Mr. Meeks talks about the benefits of air source heat pumps (ASHPs). ASHPs can be the sole source of residential heating and cooling, and they're becoming common in Massachusetts. The costs are similar to that of gas heating systems. Affordable housing projects are leading the way in ASHP adoption, and the Housing Corporation of Arlington is using them in its new construction.

This article would prohibit fossil fuel piping in new construction and gut renovations. The article allows for several exemptions, including gas cooking, backup generators, hot water heat for large buildings, and medical and research facilities. The bylaw would allow repair to existing fossil fuel piping. There's also a waiver process to handle circumstances not contemplated by the bylaw. The article is being submitted as a home rule petition in order to avoid conflicts with state law.

(James DiTullio) Mr. DiTullio is a member of the Clean Energy Future Committee (CEFC) and he supports this article. He thinks it's been exceptionally researched and drafted, and it's critical for town meeting to support it. The science behind climate change is undeniable, and failing to act will bring us closer to the point of no return. The CEFC is working on a net zero action plan. The basic steps are to make buildings more efficient, electrify everything, and green the grid. 2050 is not far off for a task of this magnitude. We should not be building buildings with fossil fuel heat at this time. Acting on a local level will motivate our state leaders to act.

(David Levy) Mr. Levy is a member of the CEFC, which he joined to help support this article. Mr. Levy says that it feels like every summer is hotter, and that every winter brings less snow. He's concerned about the future his kids will have. He's been thinking about what the CEFC can do that's practical. To improve the climate, we must find ways to stop burning fossil fuels.

(Ed Tremblay) Mr. Tremblay says that twenty-something years ago, there was a movement to mandate electric cars, and he's glad that didn't happen. He thinks that people should be able to make this choice on their own, and who's to say that heat pumps won't get better in the future. He thinks that town meeting should not ban gas piping in new construction. He's not sure if this idea is ready yet. He thinks the electric grid is not very robust in Arlington, and isn't sure it will be able to handle the additional load. Mr. Tremblay believes that people should be able to make their own choices, and if heat pumps are better, then people will choose them. He says that the cost of heat pumps varies, and believes they don't work well in cold weather.

It's a little after 23:00, and town meeting adjourns until Wednesday night.