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Steps taken to clarify June voting, Town Meeting

UPDATED, April 29: How the postponed election and Town Meeting will take place in June is beginning to come into better focus.

Selectboard logo, May 20, 2019In its third remote session, the Select Board voted Monday, April 27, to reduce the annual meeting agenda to essential articles at a session that could be held June 15 at Peirce Field, behind Arlington High. Articles delayed by a vote of no action are expected to be heard in a fall Special Town Meeting.

As to the June 6 election, Town Manager Adam Chapdelaine said the town plans to mail, at town expense, to every resident a postcard form for an absentee ballot. Signing and returning the card gets each a ballot, which are marked. The public can mail it back or drop it in one of number of secure drop boxes, including one outside Town Hall.

Further details to be decided are potentially moving polling places for the safety of voters, neighbors and poll workers. Under consideration are moving Precinct 20 (at Park Avenue Congregational Church) and Precincts 7 and 9 (at Chestnut Manor). Further public input is sought before the plan is voted on in May.

Trees, safety, generosity

In other business, the board voted unanimously to:

  • Approve the removal of trees in front of Arlington High School under a plan that includes the planting of others;
  • Refer to the Transportation Advisory Committee a proposal to use $125,000 in Community Development Block Grant funds to improve the intersection at Chestnut Manor where a woman died after she was struck by a car in December.
  • Acceptance of two expressions of generosity -- an approximate $6,000 bequest to the town from the Marian D. H. Sylvester Trust for a plot at Mount Pleasant Cemetery and about $7,550 in gift cards for Arlington restaurants made by an anonymous donor to support the town police and fire departments.

The Town Meeting discussion followed publication of letters the preceding week from Moderator John Leone, calling for a much trimmer warrant.

Joining the meeting, Leone said he favored Peirce Field because its size favors social distancing, is wired for sound and has ACMi access. "I feel better outside, rather than inside," he said.

Board member Dan Dunn said he worries about the weather. In response to a query from YourArlington, Leone wrote April 29, that rain dates might be June 17 and 22.

Member Joseph Curro Jr. noted pending legislation about virtual Town Meetings and wondered whether there could be satellite locations.

Leone called one spot "a lot saner," where members "vote and go home." He hopes all can occur in daylight.

No-action votes

To make the meeting a likely one-nighter, the Select Board voted unanimously to vote no action on Articles 7, 8, 9, 10, 11, 12, 13, 14, 15, 16, 17, 18, 19, 20 21, 22, 23, 24, 25, 26, 27, 78, 79, 80, 81, 82 and 83.

These are nonfinancial articles, including those previously heard. The board does not plan to hold substantive hearings on remaining articles.

Board Chair Diane Mahon made clear that a no-action vote does mean anyone is not in favor of a measure. She said the step was taken so proponents do not have to wait for discussion until 2021.

Meanwhile, also on Monday, April 27, the Redevelopment Board voted that 2020 articles 28, 29, 30, 31, 32, 33, 34, 35, 36, 37, 38, 39, 40, 41, 42, 43, 44, 45, 46 and 47 be referred to that board for further study; and that all such articles be placed on the warrant for the next annual or Special Town Meeting by the ARB, whichever occurs first.

In the one article hearing it held, the Select Board unanimously approved support for Article 50 (Endorsement of CDBG Application), an initiative encompassing $1.1 million. The other part of the process is due to be considered at the board's May 18 session.

Precinct 9 Town Meeting member Beth Melofchik said the merits of a letter she had submitted referring to granite steps had not been discussed.

Chapdelaine said the steps are in the next part of the project and so are not germane.

The vote was 6-0, including the manager.

More about voting

Chapdelaine said the discussion about how to vote involved a variety of parties overseen by Janice Weber, assistant town clerk. The locations of all secure drop boxes have not been decided.

Board member John Hurd wondered whether the town could provide a drive-through voting option.

Chapdelaine said a drive-through allowing voters to put ballot in a drop box might be possible.

Town Counsel Doug Heim doubted there could be drive-through voting and made clear that Select Board must establish polling locations.

He said the good news is that whether a voter uses a mail-in or absentee ballot, each works the same way.

60 trees vs. 200

As to trees at Arlington High School, Chapdelaine referenced a letter from Jeff Thielman, AHS Building Committee chairman, spelling out the request. It notes that at a Feb. 26 hearing, no objections were lodged, though three letters expressed objection

Daniel Norman of Crosby, Schlessinger & Smallridge of Boston, said 45 healthy trees in the front of the school plus 15 others behind CVS and Stop & Shop will be removed. Afterward, 200 new trees are to be planted on the front lawn and other places.

Susan Stamps, tree committee member speaking as a resident, reminded all that Tree Warden Tim Lecuivre, needs to remains focused during this project.

Under Traffic Rules & Orders, Precinct 9 Town Meeting member Jo Anne Preston asked that CDBG funding be used to address a safety issue at Mystic Street and Chestnut Manor, as reflected in this email

After Dunn moved to refer the matter to TAC, Preston said she her proposal needs to be reworked. She said Town Engineer Wayne Chouinard had told her that pedestrian traffic needs to be studied.

Preston asked that community input be included, but that cannot happen until Covid-19 issues abate.

The board voted, 5-0, to refer the matter to TAC for study later.

Food license, appointments

The board approved, 4-0, with Hurd abstaining, because of a business connection, a food-vendor license for Anthony's East Side Deli, 159 Mass. Ave. Applicant Sarbjit Saini said he had businesses in Belmont and Lexington. They serve Indian food.

The board made two appointments:

  • Arlington Historic District Commissions, Jason/Gray District: Dr. Alison Johnson (term to expire 6/30/2023). She is a historian, teaching at Harvard, where she chairs of German department.
  • Arlington Historic District Commissions, Broadway District: Beth Melofchik (term to expire 6/30/2023), She was trained as a teacher of Russian language.

The board moved receipt for a request from Brian Ristuccia, 73 Rhinecliff St., for a temporary amendment to Traffic Rules Orders / Mandatory Sidewalk Use. See his letters here >> 

Chapdelaine said that town officials are actively working on this request, which aims to deal with narrow sidewalks, making it difficult for pedestrian to pass one another at a safe distance during the health crisis. 

The board's next meeting is scheduled for Monday, May 4.

April 24, 2020: Mid-June meeting with fewer articles envisioned outdoors

March 31, 2020: Town election set for June 6, depending on virus status

This news summary was published Tuesday, April 28, and updated April 29, to add rain dates for Town Meeting.

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