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Articles to regulate signs, sell DAV, support master plan supported

UPDATED, March 17: Town Meeting articles aiming to control public signs, to sell 1207 Mass. Ave. and to back the already adopted master plan drew 4-0 votes in support from selectmen Monday, March 9. Diane Mahon was absent.

Board of Selectmen logo, Jan. 23, 2013

Town Meeting logo

Receiving final votes of support were articles limiting speaking time on the Town Meeting floor and seeking wording changes for the description of the Mount Gilboa/Crescent Hill District.

The board recommended no action on article to address complaints brought to the Human Rights Commission. Read discussion from the Feb. 23 meeting

Member also voted to table two articles, 11 and 16. The former would establish the Community Preservation Committee, at the request of Kevin Greeley, who would like selectman to make more impact on the panel. The latter calls for accepting legislation for the Complete Streets Program.

Board members voted unanimously in favor of the articles, which would establish rules for posting signs around town, ask Town Meeting to endorse a recently completed Master Plan and allow the town to sell the site of the former Arlington Disabled American Veterans Club, which closed last May.

Discussion of Article 7, to regulate posting signs, lasted an hour and provided an example of how serious discussion of an issue can stray into complexity. Threads ranged from political signs to the number of staples used to affix placards to utility polls to the best design for an eye-catching sign.

Under the proposal, signs couldn’t exceed 10 square feet, posting would be allowed 14 days before an event only and be removed two days after an event.

The Redevelopment Board voted March 2 in favor of limiting the size to 6 square feet and reducing the time permitting signs to a week.

Christian Klein, a Precinct 10 Town Meeting member and part of the Friends of Robbins Farm Park, submitted the article as a citizen. He said town bylaws do cover signs now, but they are not enforced. Still, sign-posting goes on.

Town Manager Adam Chapdelaine said that should bylaw be adopted, the town "has no resources available to enforce" it.

Selectmen voted, 4-0, in support.

The unapproved minutes for Article 7, released March 17 after YourArlington's request to clarify the vote, say:

"Mr. Klein, resident and Town Meeting Member Pct. 10, explained he had spent time researching bylaws for a way to change them to allow groups and residents to display notices of events and other communications. Mr. Klein stated that the warrant article is to provide the Board with a clear, consistent authority and process for the posting of certain types of signage, specifically 'notices' of non-profit and public events, and limited personal advertisements of yard sales or lost pets.

"The ARB suggests the following amendments on Article #7 to the Selectmen for their vote on the Town Bylaws: reduce the amount of time a Notice could be posted in advance from fourteen days to seven days and reduce the maximum size of the Notice to six square feet.

"Mr. Vogel and Mr. Chaput requested larger/10 foot square signs and notices posted around Town be allowed for advertising by The Friends of Robbins Farm Park along with allowing 14 days of posting.

"After much discussion regarding the size of signs, where the signs could be placed and enforcement of the proposed article, the Selectmen agreed to approach comments in the same way as last year’s street performer’s article comments in the Selectmen Report.

"Mr. Curro moved to proceed with favorable action on this warrant article but Town Counsel will segregate the vote and prepare a draft regulation that will be added as an appendix in the Selectmen’s Report similar to last year’s Street Performers warrant article report. SO VOTED (4-0)"

The board backed Article 13 (selling the former DAV, which selectmen own) because it would help pay for school-renovation projects.

Before a sale takes place, officials said they would consider leasing the building for a short time as a shared workspace.

Under Article 46, selectmen voted unanimously to urge Town Meeting to support the town's first comprehensive master plan, approved by the Redevelopment Board in February. The lengthy document sets goals for the shape the town may take for the next 20 years.

Carol Kowalski, town planning director, said endorsement does not mean agreeing with every recommendation, but supporting the document as a guide to changes in zoning and other town policies.

Article 11 (Community Preservation Committee) was tabled. The panel would decide how state and local funds collected through a tax surcharge would be spent.

Greeley aims to give the board more say in picking committee members. His proposal would have a selectman join Chapdelaine in selecting candidates.

Other business

In other business, the board approved, 4-0, a request for food as well as wine-and-malt licenses from Zhu's Garden, 166 Mass. Ave., East Arlington.

Draft Final Votes and Comments for Articles 8, 9, 10, 11,and 16

March 6 memo from Douglas W. Heim, town counsel, to selectmen

I write to provide the Board the following as draft Final Votes and Comments for your consideration at the March 9, 2015 Board of Selectmen meeting regarding the previously heard, above-referenced warrant articles. Please note that the specific language that amends existing bylaws within any given vote has been highlighted for the Board’s convenience.


VOTED: That Title I, Article 1, Section 7(C) ("Regulation of Speakers") of the Town Bylaws is hereby amended to read as follows:

No person shall speak, or otherwise hold the floor, for the first time on any actionable subject for more than seven minutes, unless, prior to beginning his or her presentation, the person requests of the Town Meeting a specific extension of time, and the request is granted by a majority vote of the Town Meeting members present and voting. An actionable subject is any matter which will result in or is closely related to a vote before Town Meeting to make a substantive decision, including but not limited to, election and appointment of officers, amendments to bylaws, acceptance of legislation, appropriations, resolutions, and endorsements. A non-actionable subject includes, but is not limited to, Announcements, Commemorations, non-relevant remarks, and Reports of Committees, but excludes the State of the Town Address.

No person shall speak, or otherwise hold the floor, for the first time on any non-actionable subject for more than four minutes, unless, prior to beginning his or her presentation, the person requests of the Town Meeting a specific extension of time, and the request is granted by a majority vote of the Town Meeting members present and voting. Nothing set forth in this bylaw shall be construed to limit the discretion of the Town Moderator with respect to non- actionable subject matters.

No person shall speak, or otherwise hold the floor, for a second time on any subject for more than five minutes.

No person shall speak, or otherwise hold the floor, more than twice on any subject except to correct an error, without first obtaining permission of the meeting by obtaining a majority vote of the Town Meeting Members present and voting. After obtaining said permission, the person shall not speak, or otherwise hold the floor, for more than five minutes.
(5-0) COMMENT: The Board of Selectmen agrees with the proponent of this Article that efficient use of Town Meeting time merits further regulation of speakers who are not addressing items which require action of the Town’s legislative body. In recent years, so much time has been devoted to announcements and presentations that the discussion and action on substantive warrant articles has not commenced until well after 9:00 p.m. on several nights. Hence, while the Selectmen recognize that Town Meeting is a valuable, sometimes necessary forum for commemorations, receiving reports from committees, and other non-actionable business of import, oral remarks on such items should be limited wherever possible and refer members to more detailed written materials.

The Board of Selectmen respect the Town Moderator’s jurisdiction and discretion in limiting speakers, as well as the result of his poll at the 2014 Town Meeting (which found overwhelming support for limiting announcements and reports to four minutes), and note that the Moderator retains the ability to further restrict non-germane commentary. However, the recommend amendment above would set the same speaking limits for all non-actionable announcements and reports, save the State of the Town Address, which is a single, scheduled speaker charged with a specified duty at Town Meeting.


VOTED: That no action be taken under Article 9.
(5-0) COMMENT: This article proposes to amend the Arlington Human Rights Commission (“AHRC”) bylaw with respect to human rights complaints against Town departments and agencies, but does not specify what such amendment(s) would entail. At hearing on this article the Board could not better discern sufficient details and accordingly, cannot recommend favorable action.
Additionally, the Board noted that the AHRC is an effective body that has garnered consistent cooperation of Town departments and agencies, including the School Department, in addressing complaints and issues within its purview using the tools available under the present bylaw. AHRC corroborated this view at hearing.


VOTED: That the following section of Title VII, Article 2, Section 5 (Description of the Mount Gilboa/Crescent Hill Historic District) of the Town Bylaws is hereby amended to strike the addresses “209 Lowell Street” and “105 Westminster Avenue” and replace them with the words “207 Lowell Street” and “106 Westminster Avenue” respectively, so as to have the relevant section read as follows:

…the property numbered 207 Lowell Street, thence turning and going northeasterly along said lot line and the rear lot lines of the properties numbered 7, 11, and 15 West Court Terrace a distance for 219.79 feet, thence continuing northeasterly along the southeasterly lot line of the property number 106 Westminster Avenue a distance of 10.0 feet to a point, thence turning and going northwesterly…

(5-0) COMMENT: This article presents a straightforward administrative correction to an error in the present Historic Districts bylaw revealed by recent mapping review conducted by the Town’s Historic District Commission. As such, the Board recommends Town Meeting adopt the proposed changes.


VOTED: That Title II of the Town Bylaws (“Committees and Commissions”) be and hereby is amended by inserting a new article to provide for the creation of an Arlington Community Preservation Committee as follows:

Article 12: Community Preservation Committee
Section 1. Establishment and Membership
a. There is hereby established a Community Preservation Committee consisting of a total of nine (9) members pursuant to G.L. c. 44B § 5. The membership shall be composed of one member of the Conservation Commission as designated by such Commission, one member of the Historical Commission as designated by such Commission, one member of the Arlington Redevelopment Board (which serves as the Town’s Planning Board) as designated by such Board, one member of the Park and Recreation Commission as designated by such Commission, one member of the Arlington Housing Authority as designated by such authority, and four (4) at-large members appointed by the Town Manager subject to approval by the Board of Selectmen.

b. At-large members shall be appointed to the following initial terms: One (1) for a one-year term, two (2) for two-year terms, and one (1) for a three-year term. All subsequent terms shall be for three years. All other members shall serve a term determined by their designating bodies not to exceed three years. All members, at-large and otherwise, are eligible for reappointment. Should any appointing or designating authority fail to appoint a successor to a CPC member whose term is expiring, such member may continue to serve until the relevant authority names a successor.

c. A vacancy of the Committee shall be filled by the relevant appointing or designating authority.

Section 2. Duties and Responsibilities

The Community Preservation Committee shall have all the duties and powers as set forth in G.L. c. 44 §5, including, but not limited to the following:

a. The Community Preservation Committee shall study the needs, possibilities and resources of the Town regarding community preservation. The Committee shall consult with existing municipal boards, including the Board of Selectmen, Conservation Commission, the Historical Commission, the Redevelopment Board, the Park and Recreation Commission, the Council on Aging, the Housing Authority, the Finance Committee, and the Capital Planning Committee. As part of its study, the Committee shall hold one or more public informational hearings on the needs, possibilities, and resources of the Town regarding community preservation possibilities and resources, notice of which shall be posted publicly and published for each of two weeks preceding the hearing in a newspaper of general circulation in the Town.

b. The Community Preservation Committee shall make recommendations to the Town Meeting for the acquisition, creation, and preservation of open space; for the acquisition, preservation, rehabilitation and restoration of historic resources; for the acquisition, creation, preservation, rehabilitation and restoration of land for recreational use; for the acquisition, creation, preservation, and support of community housing; and for rehabilitation or restoration of such open space and community housing that is acquired or created with CPA funds. With respect to community housing, the Committee shall recommend, wherever possible, the reuse of existing buildings or construction of new buildings on previously developed sites. Recommendations to Town Meeting shall include their anticipated costs.

c. The Community Preservation Committee may include in its recommendation to the Town Meeting a recommendation to set aside for later spending funds for specific purposes that are consistent with community preservation but for which sufficient revenues are not then available in the Community Preservation Fund to accomplish that specific purpose, or to set aside for later spending funds for general purposes that are consistent with community preservation.

d. Prior to making its final recommendations to Town Meeting for approval, the Committee shall present draft recommendations to the Board of Selectmen, the Finance Committee, and the Capital Planning Committee for comment. Further a designated member of the Board of Selectmen, Finance Committee, and Capital Planning Committee shall be permitted, but not required, to serve as a liaison to the Committee.

Section 3. Administration and Operation

a. The Community Preservation Committee shall not meet or conduct business without the presence of a quorum. A majority of the members of the Community Preservation Committee shall constitute a quorum.

b. The Community Preservation Committee shall approve its actions by majority vote of the quorum.

c. Each fiscal year, the Committee shall recommend to Town Meeting an operational and administrative budget. The timing of such budget recommendation shall be coordinated with the Town Manager’s annual operating budget submission to the Board of Selectmen.

Section 4. Amendments

The Community Preservation Committee shall, from time to time, review the administration of this by-law, making recommendations, as needed, for changes in the by-law and in administrative practice to improve its operations.

Section 5. Construction and Severability

At all times this by-law shall be interpreted in a manner consistent with G.L. c.44B, the Community Preservation Act. Should any section, paragraph or part of this chapter be for any reason declared invalid or unconstitutional by any court of last resort, every other section, paragraph, or part shall continue in full force and effect.

Section 6. Effective Date

Following Town Meeting approval of this by-law, this Title shall take effect immediately upon the approval by the Attorney General of the Commonwealth. Each appointing authority shall have thirty (30) calendar days after approval by the Attorney General to make their initial appointments. Should any appointing authority fail to make their appointment within that allotted time, the Town Manager shall make the appointment from the membership of such appointing authority.


(5-0) COMMENT: Following 2014 Town Meetings’ adoption of G.L. c. 44B §§3-7 (the Community Preservation Act or “CPA”), the Town must adopt a bylaw to establish a Community Preservation Committee (“CPC”) in order to spend CPA monies on appropriate projects. Once established a CPC is first charged with assessing Arlington’s community preservation needs, including consulting with various Town boards, committees, and commissions, and then must recommend specific, CPA-eligible projects for funding to Town Meeting for appropriation each year.

By law, a CPC must consist of at least five (5), but no more than nine (9) members as follows, with five seats reserved Arlington’s equivalents to a Conservation Commission, Planning Board, Historical Commission, Housing Authority, and Board of Park Commissioners. Up to four additional members may be appointed or elected by various processes and entities.

Hence, following comparative analysis of other municipalities’ CPCs and discussions with stakeholders and experts, the Board of Selectmen strongly recommends the adoption of a nine- member CPC, with at-large members appointed by the Town Manager subject to the approval of the Selectmen.
While other models, including those which would invest authority directly within the Board to choose “at-large” appointments were considered, the majority of the Board believes the foregoing structure balances the need for efficient identification of appointees with identifying a broad set of potential appointees.

Additional features of the foregoing vote include measures to balance the CPC’s autonomy with the need to consult important Town bodies responsible for advocating for residents’ interests, budgeting, and long-term planning, including the Finance Committee, the Capital Planning Committee, this Board, and the Council on Aging, among others.

VOTED: That Section 1 of Chapter 90 I of the General Laws, as added by Chapter 79 Sec.7 of the Acts of 2014 (Complete Streets Program), Section 34, be and is hereby is accepted.

(5-0) COMMENT: During the 2014 Legislative Session, the Commonwealth enacted a “Complete Streets” statute, which, among other things projected to make $50,000,000 in street and sidewalk improvement funds available to Massachusetts municipalities over the next 5 years. The overall purpose of these funds is to help communities plan and construct “streets that provide accommodations for users of all transportation modes, including, but not limited to walking, cycling, public transportation, automobiles and freight.” Such goals align well with plans already developed by the Town, but certain measures must be taken by Town Meeting and the Board of Selectmen to be eligible for such funding.

First, Town Meeting must accept c. 90 I. Second, after accepting the statute, the Town must develop a Complete Streets Policy, which, according to MassDOT, may be done either by subsequent adoption of a Complete Streets bylaw, or a policy of the Board of Selectmen as the Town’s body responsible for public ways and traffic. Through either vehicle the Town’s Complete Streets policy need only set forth the Town’s commitment to a complete streets paradigm with a flexible set of guidelines, which may allow for exceptions. However, the initial step to eligibility for substantial resources is acceptance of c. 90 I by Town Meeting, which the Board strongly recommends.

This news summary was published Wednesday, March 11, 2015, and updated March 17, to add clarifying minutes.

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