Sustainable Arlington - Feb 26th, 2020
Planning Department Update. Kelly Lynema provides an update from the planning department. Energy Manager Ken Pruitt is working on a new community choice aggregation update plan, and a new CCA website. The goal is to get more people to opt up to 100% renewable electricity. According to Envision Arlington's survey, 87% of Arlington residents were interested in opting up, as of Feb 11th.
The sustainable transportation plan is under way. They're currently studying existing conditions. There will be a public engagement event in May. The goal is to develop a 20-year plan for how people get around Arlington.
Our Limebike bicycle sharing program ended. They've shifted to scooter rentals, and are no longer doing bicycles. We're trying to work something out with Bluebike and MAPC. Under this effort, the program will likely not extend beyond Arlington center, because the (docked) bicycle stations have to be within a certain distance of a T station.
Ecofest. Ecofest will be held on March 21st. The theme is resilience in the community and environment.
Clean Heat for Arlington. Article 13 is the clean heat warrant article. There's a website for the effort: https://cleanheatforarlingtonma.org/. Amos Meeks give a slide presentation on the warrant article.
Arlington has set a goal to become net zero by 2050. Massachusetts may also set a 2050 goal. We will need to decarbonize our buildings in order to achieve this goal.
The warrant article affects new construction and gut rehabs. The goal is to have these buildings built (or renovated) without gas heat. There will be no effect to existing buildings. The warrant article only affects piping on the customer's side of the gas meter. There are exemptions for backup generators, grills, gas cooking appliances, hot water-based heating systems in large buildings, repairs to existing piping, restaurants, and medical and research facilities.
Heat pumps are more efficient than gas heating. As the grid gets cleaner (i.e., as there is less carbon emitted during the generation of electric power), heat pumps will get cleaner too. The installation cost for a heat pump is comparable to the installation cost of a natural gas furnace and central A/C. A heat pump costs about $41/month more to operate, which is a tiny fraction of the mortgage payment on a new home.
Affordable housing is already leading the way in using heat pumps, by using variable refrigerant flow (VRF) systems.
The warrant article includes a waiver and appeals process, so that a homeowner or builder can dispute whether the article applies. They can also seek relief if compliance would create an undue financial burden.
The select board will hear this article on March 9th, and we'd like to ensure that the board votes favorable action. Afterwards, we'll have a period of outreach to town meeting members.
So far the article proponents have met with the Clean Energy Futures Committee (CEFC), builders, and inspectional services. They've also developed a set of informational documents.
We have precinct captains for most precincts, but still need a few more.
The article would affect up to 75 homes/year, based on building permits issued during the last ten years. Note that this is a very small percentage of the total number of homes in Arlington.
One of the attendees consults on the construction of net zero buildings. She notes that heat pumps work best when paired with an energy-efficient building envelope. Net zero homes have much thicker exterior walls, and far more insulation than homes built in the past. One can retrofit an existing home by wrapping the exterior walls in an additional layer of insulation. Sometimes that's not possible, because the extra thickness would end up extending into yard setbacks. She hopes we can amend our bylaws to allow the extension of exterior walls into yard setbacks, if the extension is done for the purpose of adding more insulation.
Envision Arlington Standing Committee. Juli Brazile speaks about Envision Arlington. Envision is a big umbrella that sits over several groups, like Sustainable Arlington. There's a standing committee that oversees each of the different working groups. In the early 1990s, the standing committee was designed to handle administrative work, while working groups focused on more specific tasks. We had to change this structure when Massachusetts revised its open meeting laws; now, working groups have to publish their own agendas and meeting minutes. The standing committee still manages funding and budgeting, and coordinates the annual town survey. Juli is stepping down as chair of the standing committee. She asks meeting attendees to consider serving on the standing committee. The next Envision Arlington Standing Committee meeting will be held on March 11th.
Announcements. The league of women voters will sponsor candidates night on March 25th.
The annual town report contains reports from envision Arlington. These appear in the planning department section.
Warrant Article 78. Article 78 is titled "Resolution/Encouragement of Energy Efficient and/or Sustainable Energy Installations in Historic Districts". Sue Doctorow is the article proponent, and she's here to talk about it. Ms. Doctorow lives in a historic district. One of her neighbors wanted to put solar panels on their home, and the historic district commission denied their request. They were turned down strictly for aesthetic reasons.
State law requires the local historic district commission to review changes to buildings in the district. This proposal is a non-binding resolution that would ask the historic district commission to allow solar panels and heat pumps in the historic district, as long as the installation of these devices did not permanently damage the historic features of the building.
Arlington's historic district regulations are written by the historic district committee.
Ms. Doctorow came to ask if Sustainable Arlington would endorse her warrant article. The participants voted to endorse.
No Mow for Pollinators. The pollinator population has been declining globally. No mow for pollinators is a local effort to create more habitats that are suitable for pollinators. The idea is to take sections of land, stop mowing them, and let native plants take over. Native plants provide habitat for pollinators and food sources for animals. Lawns are effectively food desserts for local species. The general idea is don't mow, and plant native species. This could be done in private yards, or on public green spaces.