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Session 4 OKs polystyrene ban, tree measures, 'dark skies' update

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UPDATED, May 3: Town Meeting's fourth session plugged along Wednesday, May 1, adopting a series of articles -- from zoning to trees to speaking times to polystyrene -- until it reached 34, and then some darkness fell across the hall.

Debate over Paul Schlichtman's "dark-skies" proposal ran into some static, reflected in some protracted debate. Just after 11 p.m., the light prevailed and the measure with two amendments passed, 117-69-5.

Here is a summary of the articles covered in session four, some routine and others not:

Article 22 (zoning bylaw amendment/correcting citation errors). Planning Director Jenny Raitt said the article repairs five references to the old zoning bylaw. It was approved, 203-1.

 Article 23 (zoning bylaw amendment/publication of supporting documentation-zoning board of appeals). The Redevelopment Board recommended no action.

Article 24 (zoning bylaw amendment/definition of story, half). Elizabeth Pyle (10), a member of the Residential Study Group, which endorsed the measure, said the article makes the definition consistent with state building code and easier to calculate. Inspectional Services now has to run two calculations when dealing with a half-story. The definition reduces the ceiling height by 3 inches.

Christian Klein (10) offered an amendment, which Pyle supported, that defines roof types and their slope. The measure passed, 194-15. The main motion as amended was supported, 201-7-1.

Article 25 (zoning bylaw amendment/driveway slope). The Redevelopment Board recommended no action.

Article 26 (bylaw amendment/billboards and signs). The matter was approved, 201-3.

Article 27 (bylaw amendments/Town Meeting speaking times). Jim O'Conor (19) of the Town Meeting Procedures Committee recommended no action on a proposal to cut speaking time further. He said it previously was reduced from 15 minutes to 10 to seven.

Michael Jacoby Brown (17) had offered a substitute motion in writing, asking for a five-minute limit on initial comments. He said the intent is "to respect your time."

Adam Auster (3) was opposed, offering comments that should be emblazoned about the Town Hall stage: Most important, he said, "is not golden oratory, but listening. Listening helps me learn things I am glad to know."

Also opposed were Roderick Holland (7), Dan Jalkut (6), John Worden (8), who remembered when there was no limit, and Joe Tully (14). He provided a list worthy of remembering: pay attention and limit repeated answers, consider deferring a question asked as a matter of curiosity or an observation intended to demonstrate expertise, be prepared and, because you’re good at budgets doesn’t mean you have to speak about them all.

Len Diggins (3), an ACMi staffer for Select Board meetings, joked about limiting Select Board new business to five minutes.

The vote to substitute Brown’s motion failed, 26-178-2, and no action prevailed, in a unanimous voice vote. 

Article 28 (bylaw amendment/Recycling Committee membership and mission). Larry Slotnick (7), a Recycling Committee member, said that the articles expands the committee from eight to 10 members, changes its name and size and updates the mission of the committee. He talked about the need to move from just “recycle” to more reduce and reuse.

Expressing support were O’Conor and Ted Peluso (6). Jordan Weinstein (21) asked what is recycled now after China declined to accept large amounts of material. It was a debate to be detailed at another time.

The measure was accepted, 208-4.

Article 29 (bylaw amendment/regulation of polystyrene). In a related article, and one with direct, practical consequences for Arlington, Juli Brazile (12) of the Recycling Committee called this article a recommended first step to improve health. It suggests what "foam" restaurants can use and what residents can buy.

The measure takes action against foam -- no such coffee cups or food containers. It is not a sharp break from current practice but gives business a chance to become accustomed to the changes.

Styrofoam still be bought outside the town and used in the town. The article does not require that the replacement product be biodegradable. The committee aims to reduce this kind of plastic type first, because it is the least recyclable. Read the FAQ here >> 

Jim DiTullio (12), a leader of plastic bag ban, is an enthusiastic supporter. "This is one of the easy ones," he said. "It is not low-hanging; it's fruit on the ground."

After a 15-minute break, the measure passed, 192-3-0, to measurable applause.

Article 30 (bylaw amendment/waterline replacement). No action on a voice vote.

Article 31 (bylaw amendment/rename Community Preservation Committee). Eric Helmuth (12) said the committee was tired of explaining its name. This motion already passed on the consent agenda, but given some confusion, the meeting voted on it a second time. The name change was approved, 163-1.

Article 32 (bylaw amendment/tree protection and preservation). After Town Counsel Heim made a wording change, Tree Committee member Susan Stamps (3) explained how the new tree plan differs from the old. Payment is now the only option in permitted mitigation.

Then questions turned to the microcosm: Mustafa Varoglu (10) and Greg Christina (15) asked about use of the term “near.” Daniel Jalkut (6) complained about the report's inconsistent capitalization. Zarina Memon (21) asked about how diameter is measured and said she prefers using a tree's circumference.

Of more significance, Steve Revilak (1) asked about tree funds. DPW Director Mike Rademacher said there is a donation/fine account for trees and a line item in the budget. The town planted 225 trees last year and has a goal of 300 going forward.

Beth Anne Friedman (15) asked about the process of informing tree-removal companies. Rademacher said contractors see information at Inspectional Services and also hear from the tree warden.

Mark McCabe (2), as he often does, moved to terminate debate. The measure was adopted, 203-1.

Article 33 (bylaw amendment/notice of demolition).  Pyle of the Residential Study Group advanced the motion with that group's support. This adds tree plans to the “Good Neighbor Agreement.” Under it, abutting property owners are notified before large renovations and new construction.

Jo Anne Preston (9) asked about enforcement, and Revilak wanted to know about a project's timeline under this bylaw.

The final vote reflected little concern -- 200-0-0. 

Article 34 (bylaw amendment/regulation of outdoor lighting – dark-skies bylaw). Schlichtman, the proponent of a successful such article in 2014, aims to expand provisions from residential to commercial properties. He showed photos of a glaring light on near his apartment and possible solutions.

Klein offered an amendment to increase the number of the approving bodies for special events.

That seemed positive, but Charlie Foskett (8) had concerns. He questioned the meaning of "unreasonable glare" and who decides whether too bright. He called the article "flawed."

Beth Benedikt (21) continued the opposition. "It's important to have bright lights," she said, noting that her elderly parents need them. She called the language "very vague."

Ed Trembly (19) was also opposed. He said that the article did not have to do with dark sky for the whole town, but with Schlichtman's concerns.

Discussion veered from lights that annoy neighbors to lights that annoy one meeting member. The Leader Bank facade doesn't sit well with Jamieson, and he wanted to remove the building-facade reference from the proposed article.

Deanna Graham (16) wondered how this is a problem in town. On the other hand, Andrew Fisher (6) was in favor.

Deborah Sirotkin Butler (19) had questions about the model law, which used lumens to measure light. Schlichtman said this proposal is less strict.

Christiana asked whether the article would hinder public safety. Acting Police Chief Juli Flaherty didn’t think it would, as police concern is with lighting at major intersections.

Klein’s amendment passed, 157-38,m as did Jamieson’s, 126-65-5. The main motion was approved, 117-69-5.

Schlichtman gave notice of reconsideration on Article 34.

Budgets will be discussed at session five, on Monday, May 6.

The motion to adjourn came at 11:04 p.m.

Dan Dunn summaries: Session No. 1 | No. 2 | No. 3 | No. 4
Votes: Session 1 (none) | Session 2 | Session 3 | Session 4


The annual Town Meeting warrant is here >>

A Special Town Meeting was held 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)

- 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) 
- Appropriation/Community Preservation Fund, Beth Melofchik, Precinct 9

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, 2019 Town Meeting: Session 3: AHS rebuild draws decided support
Session 2: Support for 'density' articles withdrawn; meeting votes to wait a year
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 Wednesday, May 1, 2019, and updated May 2, to add  full summary, and May 3, to add links. 

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