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Session 3: AHS rebuild draws decided support

Feb. 1, 2019, front-entry design HMFHFeb. 1, 2019, front-entry design by HMFH.

UPDATED, April 30: A Special Town Meeting on Monday, April 29, after two hours of presentations during the third session, voted overwhelmingly to support the effort to rebuild Arlington High School under Article 1. After the vote of 208-10-2, shouts and applause erupted.

The vote came a day after Build Arlington's Future, the group that supports a yes vote on the June 11 ballot question, kicked off its campaign. Those opposing the rebuild vow to continue their efforts.

A series of speakers spent an hour explaining different aspects of the $290.8 million project aiming for a 2024 completion: Jeff Thielman, building committee chair, gave the overview; Principal Matt Janger the educational perspective; committee members John Cole the architectural choices and Ryan Katofsky the building's sustainability; as well as Town Manager Adam Chapdelaine, who addressed costs.

What if vote is no?

Last came state Rep. Cindy Friedman, who with Reps. Sean Garballey and Dave Rogers "enthusiastically endorse" the project. She outlined what might happen if voter reject the ballot question to pay for the school on June 11.

The process to seek state School Building Authority funding is highly competitive, she said, noting 130 to 150 applications. Of them, 12 to 15 a year get core funding, which Arlington has received.

Should voters say no, she said, the town would have to start from scratch, the process would take five years to get funding and then another five for construction, taking the town up to 2030.

Since 2008, she said, authority funding has been turned down by 18 districts, and none of them has gotten back on the funding list.

See the video shown at Town Meeting >>

Comments follow break

After a seven-minute break, questions and comments flowed from meeting members.

Joe Tully (14), a project supporter, wanted to know about the district's enrollment forecasting, which he called "spotty at best." Superintendent Kathleen Bodie said the new school was designed for 1,755 students -- there are now 1,400 -- and that she expects the new school to be near that higher number when it opens. She said, with flexibility designed in, the new school could accommodate as many as 2,000.

Timur Yontar (7) steered his comments of support away from numbers and toward quotable quotes, as he appealed for backing from those without children. He cited Andrew Lloyd Webber ("Evita") and Shakespeare's "Julius Caesar," among others: "We come to praise the building committee, not to bury them."

Adam Pachter (14) drew two homespun comparisons: "Don't go to the doctor for 40 years, and you're gonna have problems." Further, "picture the high school as 20-year-old car." Both cases suggest there will be much to take care of.

Next came clear and familiar opposition, from Patricia Worden (8). She compared the high school to two projects -- the Robbins Library expansion of the early 1990s, which cost $12 million, and the Gibbs renovation, at about $27 million. Based on the final vote, these suggestions did not appear top resonate.

Michael Ruderman (9) made clear his support and asked what accounts for the difference between the nearly 30-percent rate of reimbursement that the state allows Arlington and close to the 50 percent that was possible.

Chapdelaine cited that the state's 333-square-foot cap limits what is eligible for state funds. The building committee voted to approve three facilities that are beyond that cap -- the performing arts center, the gym and the library.

Others expressing approval were Greg Christiana (15) and John Deyst (13).

Appeal to preserve

John Worden (8) did not express an opinion, but introduced David Baldwin, a 1971 AHS graduate, a historian and preservationist. He expressed his opposition, by showing old photos of the school and saying that the current buildings hold too much history to be demolished.

Debate ended on a vote of 166-50-0. The article itself was adopted, 208-10-2. The resulting applause led Moderator John Leone to try to bring order to the hall.

Articles 2 through 6

Also considered at the special session were:

Article 2 (acquisition of a parcel 25 Grove St.) for the expansion of the Department of Public Works yard and/or the Arlington High School campus. It drew a recommendation of no action;.

TM 19

Article 3 (appropriation/future zoning bylaw amendments) for $70,000 to  pay for developing zoning amendments to align bylaws with the master plan, including paying consultants. It was supported, 192-20-2.

First, Jo Anne Preston (9) opposed the measure, citing the zoning proposal done by MAPC. She urged the town to save money and use volunteer experts in town. And Beth Ann Friedman (15) urged a no vote, saying 10 planning employees, paid more than $600,000, could do the work. Allan Tosti (17) spoke in favor, as did Barbara Thornton (16).

Article 4 (disposition of a Gloucester Street parcel). Town Counsel Doug Heim explained that the parcel is landlocked and includes an artesian well. The next-door neighbor has filed a complaint against the town. The town declines to disclose the assessed value, because it is subject to negotiation.

“Well, well, well,” quipped Paul Schlichtman (9), urging favorable action, as did Ted Sharpe (7) and Ruderman.

The measure was supported, 218-0-0.

Article 5 (appropriation/residential design guidelines) to appropriate or transfer money to fund development of residential design guidelines, including paying a consultant to develop guidelines and recommend a design review process.

Planning Director Jenny Raitt said the recommendation is to develop guidelines for R0, R1 and R2 parcels.

Pat Hanlon (5) said this was a tool for evaluating teardowns. Ted Peluso (6) supports the measure.

Ed Trembly (19) asked whether the consultants were known, and Chapdelaine said they were not, because of a competitive bid process.

Karen Kelleher (5) and Brian Hasbrouck (9) are in favor.

Ethan Zimmer (4) asked whether these could be enforced, as zoning is. Raitt said it would likely be advisory to the Zoning Board of Appeals as guidelines.

The article was supported, 197-6-3.

Article 6 (appropriation/Mugar property application reviews) to appropriate or transfer money to fund support of the review and/or comment of any application or request for approval to the Town or the Commonwealth of Massachusetts for or accessory or otherwise related to the construction of residential dwelling units known as the “Thorndike Place.” It was supported by voice vote.

The Special Town Meeting was dissolved after 11 p.m., and the fourth session will be held Wednesday, May 1.

Dan Dunn summaries: Session No. 1 | No. 2 | No. 3
Votes: Session 2


The Boston Globe reports about the issue on April 21. Read it here >>

The annual Town Meeting warrant is here >>

A Special Town Meeting has been scheduled for 8 p.m. Monday, April 29. The warrant is available here >>

Find additional information at

Reports to Town Meeting

Select Board 
Redevelopment Board
Community Development Block Grant
Master Plan Implementation Committee
Community Preservation Committee
Town Meeting Procedures
Finance Committee
Envision Arlington
Water Bodies Assessment and Recommendation Report (from Conservation Commission and Water Bodies Working Group)
Arlington Public Schools' report, FY2020 Budget Summary
Permanent Town Building Committee
Capital Planning Committee (updated)

High School Building Committee (update fixes broken links in the report. Please refresh your browser cache to view the updated report.)

- Article 16 substitute motion by Jon Gersh (18)
- Amendments by Christian Klein (10):

Article 16
Article 24
Article 34

- Motion to mend Article 11 by John Worden (8)

Article 36 amendment (short-term rental regulations by Christina Kelleher 

Articles 39, 40, 55

New reference materials have been added to the Warrant. Click on the Article below to access these documents.

Article 39: Memo, FAQ regarding library art prints

Article 40: Robbins Library parking cost, Andrew Fischer substitute motion

Article 55: Position reclassification

Documents from Town Moderator John Leone:

2019 Town Meeting Procedures
Memo about Electronic Distribution of Town Meeting Materials
Consent Agenda

Reference materials

The proposed zoning bylaw amendments, along with two zoning guides, and responses to frequently asked questions may be viewed at

Article 16 Applicable Zoning Districts Map
Conservation Commission Memo on Articles 18 and 19.
Article 29 - Polystyrene Ban Recycling Committee FAQ 

News stories: Session 2: Support for 'density' articles withdrawn; meeting votes to wait a year
2019 Town Meeting, session 1: Opposition to zoning proposals outweighs support
April 13, 2019: Zoning density proposals revised, but critics see loopholes

Part 1: April 3, 2019: Proposed zoning changes spark debate over livability, affordability
Feb. 2, 2019: Plans OK'd to publicize articles targeting increased housing density 
Opinion: Jan.-March 2019: Zoning plans spur varied views
Jan. 12, 2019: Zoning for sustainability, resilience in Arlington

This news announcement was published Monday, April 29, 2019, and updated to add links to 39, 40 and 55, as well as Special Town Meeting votes. Updated April 30 to add video link and a summary.

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