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Protracted '21 meeting advances clerk study, closes out at session 11

UPDATED, June 3: The seemingly endless 2021 Town Meeting ended at session 11 at midnight Wednesday, June 2, an hour later than usual.

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The meeting, lengthened by virtual procedures, numerous queries and 91 articles, many held from last year, outdid the one in 2012.

In a meeting that included protracted debate about studying the town clerk's office, before the proposal was adopted, here is a summary of actions taken:

  • Article 22 (email addresses to meeting members). Proponent Anna Henkin (Precinct 6) worked with Len Diggins (3) on a substitute motion, providing for aliases, which offer security. Opponent Annie LaCourt (15) asked about time required for setup and support. Sanjay Vakil (12) and Daniel Jalkut (6) were in favor. The Select Board recommendation of no action passed, 177-48.
  • Article 62 (appropriation for committees and commissions). Without debate, this passed, 227-1.
  • Article 67 (Community Preservation Act fund appropriation). Eric Helmuth (12) introduced 10 projects under consideration. Beth Melofchik (9) asked about how many visitors are expected should the HVAC system be installed at the Jason Russell House and expressed concern about the high cost of a geothermal system. George Parsons, of the town historical society, noted that the town used to attract 600 visitors a year, but it is unable to be open at Thanksgiving and Christmas without heat, so more would be expected. Melofchik fears that Foot of the Rocks funds will be used to study traffic. Clarissa Rowe (4) confirmed that was not the case. Nancy Bloom (18) expressed concerned that the Mass. Ave. area in the Heights is small and tour buses are large. The CPA appropriation passed, 223-3.
  • Article 69 (School Committee stipend). The proposed $3,000 is to take effect in 2023. Proponent Christa Kelleher (5) noted several other elected boards grant stipends. Opponent John Leonard (17) asked why the School Committee is the only board seeking a stipend. The measure passed, 193-22.
  • Article 70 (town clerk study). Clerk Juli Brazile (12) proposed a committee to research the possibility of making the currently elected position appointed, recommending revisiting the distribution of roles in town to determine if they make the most sense. She opposed the late-arriving substitute motion by Jo Anne Preston (9) and says the committee should report to the Select Board. Preston's motion aims to address a perceived conflict of interest, since the clerk would be on the review committee. Elizabeth Dray (8) opposes the motion. Because the clerk oversees elections, she said it is important that the position remains independent. Adam Auster (3) is not convinced the position should change, but he supports the study. Michelle Durocher (19) asked how the $10,000 would be used. Brazile said a consultant may assist in the review and provide an outside perspective. John Worden (8) said he favors democracy, supporting Preston's motion. LaCourt asked the clerk whether she had made up her mind, and Brazile indicated that she had not. The substitute motion failed, 72-149. The final vote was 133-93 in favor of the study committee and the appropriation.
  • Article 75 (appropriation from the Fiscal Stability Stabilization Fund).This is to offset the increasing deficit as increases in costs outstrip the limits of Prop. 2 1/2 to raise taxes. Charles Foskett (8), on behalf of the Finance Committee, strongly encourages support. The main motion passed, 202-2.

Near 11 p.m., before Article 75 concluded moderator John Leone held a straw poll, and Town Meeting voted by two-thirds to remain in session.

  • Article 78 (tree-canopy resolution). The Select Board recommended no action. Melofchik's substitute motion asked the town to dedicate itself to improving the tree canopy, essential to mitigate a variety of climate impacts. Susan Stamps (3) opposed the motion as a member of the Tree Committee. The motion failed, 67-120. The main motion passed, 157-35.
  • Article 81 (Broadway Corridor design competition). Proponent Barbara Thornton (16) noted it would follow on work done by MIT students to explore what the corridor could be like in the future, focusing on density, access to transit and environmental quality. The vote on the resolution passed, 137-48.
  • Article 90 (electric car-charging stations). Silvia Dominguez (4) noted that the sale of electric vehicles is increasing 30 percent each year and some residents cannot charge at home if they don't have the space. The resolution passed, 163-17.
  • Article 91 (climate emergency). After a lengthy video, resolution passed, 172-13.

"I am so looking forward to being back in Town Hall," Klein concluded.

For details about article discussions, read Christian Klein's notes. They are his opinions and observations; they are not authoritative. For an unbiased presentation, see the videos at ACMi.tv, below.

Sesssion 11 >>
See Paul Schlichtman's spreadsheet of what he terms 'consequential votes' >>

Session 10: Lightning strikes; original ADU proposal prevails  

During Session 10 of the 2021 Town Meeting, members bid adieu to ADUs. After an hour to vote on 24 amendments and motions, the meeting ended up voting in favor of the original Redevelopment Board motion for accessory dwelling units.

What remains? Moderator John Leone reported June 1 the order for the June 2 session: "We are going to first take up Article 22 and then progress through the remaining articles. You may find it helpful to review Mr. Schlichtman’s chart detailing where we stand as of now, which has also been posted to the Town Meeting page."

Further, a substitute motion has been offered for Article 70 (town clerk).

In a meeting punctuated by a lightning-strike power interruption, here is a brief summary of Wednesday, May 26:Article 43 (ADUs): Wynelle Evans (Precinct 14) introduced two amendments. One requires a minimum six-month lease for rentals; the second owner occupancy in one unit.

Plan for voting

Elizabeth Benedikt (21) ask for a study committee to return next year.

Moderator John Leone laid out his plan for voting -- first on Benedikt's substitute motion. If it passes, all else is moot. If it fails, the meeting will vote on all the amendments, grouped by theme. Following that will be the vote on the substitute motion by Allan Tosti (17) and then the final motion, whatever it is.

Phillip Tedesco, the lawyer who helped write the proposed bylaw, was recognized to speak. Read his column about it here >>

He said there could be up to 15 new ADUs per year if Arlington is similar to other towns. He felt the Tosti amendment would greatly limit the ability of anyone to make an ADU.

Steve Revilak (1) spoke about rentals, saying a usual rental has no requirements to live in a unit, and all the arrangements are up to the tenant and landlord. He said most of the proposed amendments interfere with that relationship.

Greg Christiana (15) said the amendments are often driven by fear and do not accurately representing the main proposal, promoted by Barbara Thornton (16).

Josh Lobel (8) asked how many units might be created, saying that discussion about the 2019 article projected four to five new units per year. Thornton noted that there wouldn't be a stampede and that she would be happy to see five a year.

A motion to terminate debate failed, 142-90.

Fundamental change in ownership rights

A. Michael Ruderman (9) spoke in favor of referring the motion to committee, because there is too much to digest. He said he not afraid of ADUs, but the issue involves fundamentally changing ownership rights in town.

Phil Goff (7) said he favors limiting ADUs to one per parcel. Leone noted this was called for in the second amendment from Lori Leahy (21).

A motion to terminate debate passed, 160-73.

Benedikt's substitute motion, to refer the article to committee, failed, 53-187.

A motion by Jo Anne Preston (9), to require 15 feet from an ADU to a dwelling on an adjacent property, brought a clap of thunder and then lightning knocked out Zoom feeds.

Leone closed the active vote be closed and a new attendance vote created. Town Counsel Doug Heim advised taking a recess to give members time to log off and on.

Revote after lightning

A new vote on Preston's amendment failed, 56-173.

On an amendment by Chris Heigham (11), to require a special permit if an ADU is closer that 10 feet to the lot line, failed, 73-155.

Leahy's third amendment, to limit ADUs to the R0 and R1 (single-family) zoning districts, failed, 36-194.

Leahy's second amendment, to restrict ADUs per lot to one, failed, failed 62-168.

A third amendment by John Worden (8), to require provisions be made for tenants with automobiles, failed, 47-182.

Worden's second amendment, to require that an ADU created by a nonprofit have both units restricted to an affordable rent, failed, 56-173.

Worden's first amendment, to limit the size of an ADU to one-third the floor area or 750 square feet, whichever is smaller, failed, 40-187.

Varied amendments fail

An amendment by Jon Gersh (18), to disallow ADUs in accessory buildings, failed, 47-181.

Leahy's first amendment, to require a sworn affidavit be filed each and every year, stating that the owner is living in one of the units, failed, 52-177.

Evans's second amendment, to require a statement that the owner resides in one of the units, failed, 59-174.

Evans's first amendment, to require a lease term of at least six months, failed, 69-161.

An amendment by Patricia Worden (8), to require that the unit not occupied by the owner be rented at an affordable rate, failed, 49-178.

Tosti's substitute motion, to have the meeting vote on the proposal that is substantially what narrowly didn't pass in 2019, failed, 62-175.

This brought up the main motion as recommended by the ARB without amendments. It passed, 189-48.

Article 54 (collective bargaining). After some administrative corrections, the measure passed, 203-3.

For details about article discussions, read Christian Klein's notes. They are his opinions and observations; they are not authoritative. For an unbiased presentation, see the videos at ACMi.tv, below.

Session 10 >>

Session 9: 2 votes agree with ARB, then meeting hits ADU amendments

The 2021 Town Meeting plodded forward Monday, May 24, voting on four articles before stalling as it struggled to deal with the many amendments targeting a proposal for accessory dwelling units.

Here is a series of briefs about actions taken. For more details, see Christian Klein's blog:

  • Article 38 (high-efficiency foundations). The measure aimed at improving a home's net-zero carbon footprint, as amended by a vote of 122-107, passed, 226-8.
  • Article 39 (limiting uses in mixed-use developments). Asia Kepka (Precinct 18) entered a substitute motion on behalf of proponent Chris Loreti, who says that the ARB is not following its original 2016 promise about application of mixed use. The substitute motion failed, 106-145. The ARB recommended no action was then supported, 174-58.
  • Article 40 (affordable housing). The ARB recommended no action. Proponent John Worden submitted a substitute motion, saying he is concerned about large mixed-use buildings with negligible retail being converted to all residential. Timur Yontar (7) opposed the substitute in part because its language is identical to the article. The substitute failed, 68-167. The main motion passed, 191-40.
  • Article 41 (foundation definition). The ARB recommended no action. Proponent Patricia Worden offered a substitute motion. She claims that illegal foundation expansion is leading to overdevelopment. The substitute motion failed, 70-162. The main motion passed, 183-42.
  • Article 43 (accessory dwelling units, or ADUs), which has two presentations, two substitute motions and 12 amendments. Rachel Zsembery, ARB chair, explained the board's support included a recent state law encouraging housing and that this article is better than the one that failed in 2019. Proponent Barbara Thornton (16) said she wants to stay in her neighborhood as she and her husband age. Allan Tosti (17) said his substitute motion reintroduces the 2019 article and will allow the inclusion of ADUs without changing the appearance of the neighborhood. Further amendments address other issues, including keeping ADUs farther from the property line.

Debate did not result in a vote. The meeting returns Wednesday, May 26, as Klein noted, "with, I think 10.75 articles to go."

He noted: "If we need to go to June 16, we will be back in Town Hall, because the declared state of emergency will have been withdrawn."

Moderator John Leone said he has discussed with members adding Thursdays and Saturdays meeting dates, but he is holding off before making any recommendations.

For details about article discussions, read Christian Klein's notes. They are his opinions and observations; they are not authoritative. For an unbiased presentation, see the videos at ACMi.tv, below.

Session nine >>

Testy session 8 rejects higher affordable-housing percent, passes industrial-district changes

During session eight of the 2021 annual Town Meeting on Wednesday, May 19, tempers sometimes flared as members voted on three of four articles, rejecting the required percentage of affordable units in multifamily developments and accepting proposed changes to industrial districts.

For session nine on Monday, May 24, two new proposals -- Article 38 (Beth Melofchik amedment) and Article 43 (Al Tosti, substitute motion replacing his earlier one). Tosti revised that motion again, on May 24 >>

Here is a series of briefs about actions taken May 19:Article 53 (positions reclassification). After discussion from May 17 resumed, the matter was adopted, 213-8.

  • Article 45 (to increase the required percentage of affordable units in multifamily developments). Proponents, represented by Judith Graber (4) offered a substitute motion aimed at increasing the proportion of affordable units in a development from 15 percent to 25 percent. Following a range of discussion, the vote on the substitute motion failed, 71-164. The main motion (no action) was approved, 195-41.
  • Article 35 (changes to the Industrial Zoning District), began in session four. Moderator John Leone said two videos shown earlier violated the civility rules of Town Meeting. Redevelopment Board Chair Rachel Zsembery dismissed charges that the process was sneaky and underhanded, noting the long timeline. Peter Gast (2) offered an amendment to allow for taller buildings. There is limited land area, so allowing for taller buildings will increase the available floor area. In response to support for artists, who might be displaced by a proposed project on Mirak property, Town Counsel Doug Heim and Planning Director Jennifer Raitt proposed adding language about artists' mixed use. Gast's amendment was adopted, 125-95. The Kristin Anderson (13) amendment to remove residential uses was rejected, 58-166. The vote on the final language, including the Gast amendment administrative changes, passed, 201-41.
  • Article 38 (energy-efficient homes on nonconforming lots). An amendment would remove a possible loophole that could have allowed an increase in the size of a building, which is not the intent of the article. No vote is reported. Discussion resumes Monday, May 24.

Still to be addressed are five zoning and six budget articles, as well as four resolutions.

For details about article discussions, read Christian Klein's notes. They are his opinions and observations; they are not authoritative. For an unbiased presentation, see the videos at ACMi.tv, below.

Session eight >>
See the ACMi video of the May 19 meeting:

Session 7 OKs capital budget, parking changes, but rejects teardown moratorium

Session seven of the annual Town Meeting, held Monday, May 17, voted for the capital budget, which includes more funds for the DPW Yard project, as well as parking changes, but voted down a temporary moratorium on demolishing smaller homes.

Moderator John Leone reported the meeting plans on Wednesday, May 19, to finish Article 53, take up the postponed Article 45; resume with Article 35 and proceed from there. Article 43 has a new substitute motion by Beth Benedikt, replacing her earlier one.

Here are briefs about each article considered May 17. For much more detail, see Precinct 10 member Christian Klein's blog.

  • Article 56 (capital budget): Charles Foskett (8), Finance Committee chair, encouraged a vote added funds for the DPW project, to offset material-cost increases. It passed, 210-20. An amendment from John Leonard (17) not to fund the marble replacement at the Highland Firehouse, as it is a repair failed, 23-205. The final vote on this budget was 228-7 in favor.
  • Article 44 (parking changes). James Fleming, a town resident and proponent, showed a video, which argued for allowing the number of required off-street parking spaces to be reduced in cases where there is no way to add off-street parking on existing lots with existing buildings. After some speakers opposed the article, it was approved, 180-51.
  • Article 45 (seeks to increase the required percentage of affordable units in multifamily developments) was postponed to Wednesday, May 19.
  • Article 46 (temporary moratorium on the demolition of smaller, older homes). The Redevelopment Board recommended no action, but the proponent, Lynette Culverhouse (11) submitted a substitute motion. The proposed bylaw would place a two-year moratorium on demolishing post-WWII Capes. After speakers supported and opposed the motion, it failed, 57-172. The vote on the motion of no action was approved, 189-37.
  • Article 48 (enforcement of accessibility standards). Darcy Devney, Chair of the Disability Commission, introduced a video, illustrating concern that the Redevelopment Board does not review accessibility requirements as a part of the Environmental Design Review process. The article was adopted, 230-2.
  • Article 49 (side-yard exposure planes). The recommended vote was for no action, but proponent Ted Fields had a substitute motion and presented a video. Average home sizes have doubled in the last 100 years, making new homes sometimes much larger than neighboring homes. A sky exposure plane would define a construction area more toward the center of a lot, which aims to limit the impact on abutting properties. Following a variety of comment, the vote on the substitute motion failed, 90-134. The vote on the recommended vote of no action was approved, 176-41.
  • With articles 53 through 60 off the table, Article 53 (position reclassification). After initial discussion, no vote was reported.

In his blog, Klein comments that the meeting appears to be on track to complete 10 sessions. Fears about continuing into June appear less warranted.

For details about article discussions, read Klein's notes. They are his opinions and observations; they are not authoritative. For an unbiased presentation, see the videos at ACMi.tv.

Session seven summary >>

Session 6 grapples with Minuteman's popularity

Highlighting session six of the 2021 annual Town Meeting on Wednesday, May 12, was a far-ranging discussion of the Minuteman High School budget spurred because of the school's popularity.

In essence, more Arlington students are seeking to attend than can be admitted, some crowded out by out-of-district applicants. That apparent unfairness led some meeting members to call for rejecting the budget, which could require a Special Town Meeting. After lengthy debate, the budget was approved.

Moderator John said 26 articles remained. Christian Klein, a Precinct 10 member who publishes notes after each session, commented: "I'm at a loss for how we can avoid going into June. The only hope is once we get back to and passed the zoning articles, the remaining appropriations will not require as much deliberation. We are a deliberative body that likes to deliberate, but without the social cues we recognize meeting together in a big room, we tend to go on longer that necessary."Article 61 (Minuteman High School budget) was the only proposal to be voted on, in a 169-55 approval.

For Article 56 (capital budget), discussion would continue to session seven, on Monday, May 17. Among other subjects, members learned that construction costs for the DPW Yard project are "particularly volatile since we started emerging from the pandemic," and $5.4 million more is needed. A proposal to raise the additional funds through a bond would have an impact on capital budgets for several years. The chair of the Town Building Committee said that committee voted unanimously to request additional funds for this project.

For details, particularly for viewpoints about Minuteman, read Klein's notes. They are his opinions and observations; they are not authoritative. For an unbiased presentation, see the videos at ACMi.tv.

Session six summary >>

Session 5 focuses on budgets, including body cameras for police

Session five for the 2021 annual Town Meeting, held Monday May 10, focused on Article 55 (town/school budgets). Following lengthy debate about body cameras in the police budget, an amendment brought by John Ellis (Precinct 3) failed, 45-171. The budgets were approved, 213-10.

After tabling article 35 to 54, Ellis, a Finance Committee member, offered an amendment to remove $43,000 from the police budget, the amount requested for body cameras. He said the department should first issue policies about. Read his earlier opinion column about this issue.

Chief Julie Flaherty said that, after the George Floyd murder last year, her department was asked to get body cameras, and she been reviewing best practices using federal and state resources. A draft policy is being created and will be presented to the Select Board. The chief expects the proposed policy to be reviewed by September, with cameras deployed in December.A number of speakers who are members of Arlington Fights Racism supported the amendment. The Fincom had supported the police budget, 16-1.

For Wednesday, May 12, Moderator John Leone confirmed that session six will open with Article 61 (Minuteman budget) and follow with Article 56 (capital budget) and Article 35 (industrial zones).

For details, read Klein's notes. They are his opinions and observations; they are not authoritative. For an unbiased presentation, see the videos at ACMi.tv.

Session five details about many budgets >>

Session 4 pace quickened, as ranked-choice voting, transfer fee advance

Hope emerged during session four that the 2021 annual Town Meeting would conclude before the state-required deadline of June 16.

To date, the meeting has addressed 63 of 91 articles, including six on Wednesday, May 5. Adopted among them were articles seeking ranked-choice voting and a real estate transfer fee. The fifth session, Monday, May 10, focuses on articles 55 and 56, the main budget articles, with Minuteman Tech's budget on Wednesday.

Moderator John Leone cited an issue with the broadcast of Town Meeting on Comcast. The town, ACMi and Comcast are working to fix it. Meanwhile, the public can live-stream Town Meeting >>Article 24 (ranked-choice voting) The article was approved 202-38. It will now go to the state to decide if we will be allowed to adopt this new voting method.

  • Article 25 (real estate transfer fee) The vote on the main motion as amended was passed 187-50.
  • Article 28 (increase time to comply with inclusionary zoning). No discussion; adopted, 235-4.
  • Article 29 (new definition for "apartment conversion"). Apartment conversions apply only to larger houses in specific districts being subdivided into smaller apartments to preserve the usually historic housing. After clarifications about parking, the measure passed, 225-7.
  • Article 30 (calculating usable, landscaped open areas). The main motion of this clarification of the bylaw passed, 222-14.
  • Article 33 (five administrative changes to the zoning bylaws). The main motion passed, 223-6.
  • Article 35 (changes to the Industrial Zoning District). Discussions of three video presentations and an amendment did not result in a vote, and the meeting adjourned.

For details, read Klein's notes. They are his opinions and observations; they are not authoritative.

For an unbiased presentation, see the videos at ACMi.tv.

Session No. 4 >> 

Session 3 lumbers along: No action on trust fund, email plea tabled, ranked-choice voting discussed

Democracy proceeded at a glacial pace Monday, May 3, at session three of the 2021 annual Town Meeting, voting in three hours on one article, tabling a second and debating a third.

Moderator John Leone said the meeting could have 30 more sessions, an unprecedented number. Precinct 10 member Christian Klein, who takes his own meeting notes, offered this opinion: "The discussion on [ranked-choice voting] is important, and we need to make a well informed decision. However, we are not getting a wide breadth of opinions. There are many similar opinions on both sides, with a scant few in between."

The three articles addressed were:21 (affordable-housing trust fund). The vote of "no action" was approved, 190-49.

  • 22 (email addresses for meeting members). The motion to table was approved unanimously.
  • 24 (ranked-choice voting) produced lengthy debate, which was to continue Wednesday, May 5.

For details, read Klein's notes. They are his opinions and observations; they are not authoritative. For an unbiased presentation, seethe videos at ACMi.tv.

Session No. 3 >>

Session 2 OKs domestic partnerships, remote-participation study

"This was kind of a slow night," Precinct 10 member Christian Klein wrote in his meeting notes about session two of the 2021 annual Town Meeting. "These were very important articles, but we only got to 2 1/2 of them." The third session occurs Monday, May 3.

Returning to Article 7 (rock removal), the meeting on Wednesday, April 28, learned that 10 permits were taken out for blasting for seven sites in the last 10 years. A move to end debate debate failed to reach a two-thirds' vote, 134-86.

After further discussion, including choice words from John Worden (Precinct 8), the article failed, 62-172.

Debate about Article 15 (domestic partnerships) was lengthier. (Articles 8 through 14 were dealt with April 26 under the consent agenda.) Select Board Chairman Stephen DeCourcey (2) said the board recommends limiting partnerships to two people, fearing the attorney general's concern about plural arrangements. Amos Meeks (3) introduced the proposal with a video, noting he has two long-term domestic partners.Speakers raised a number of issues, among them that this is a civil-rights issue for some. Former Select Board member Dan Dunn (21) supported the motion and amendment, citing the protections he now has as a gay man, and he feels it is time to extend those protections further. The amendment was adopted, 192-37. The amended main motion passed, 221-11.

Article 20 (studying remote meeting participation in meetings after Covid) met with an amendment from Adam Auster (3), asking how information from public boards can be better provided. Elizabeth Dray (8) had two amendments, which received support. [See Klein's notes for details.]

After debate ended, 186-46, votes were: Auster's approved, 207-19; Dray's first amendment, approved, 197-37; second failed, 98-131; Gordon Jamieson's (12) approved, 118-106. The final vote on the original motion as amended passed, 230-6.

At 10:57 p.m., Moderator John Leone called for notices of reconsideration and a motion to adjourn. It was held up by a point of order. John Worden reported he had received a database error message multiple times. He said his votes had not been recorded. Leone indicated that the town IT people will research the issue and report back at the third session, Monday, May 3. 

For details, read Christian Klein, a Precinct 10 meeting member, who takes note about each session. They are his opinions and observations; they are not authoritative. For an unbiased presentation, see the videos at ACMi.tv.

Session No. 2 >> 

Session 1: Debate tops action as one article OK'd plus the consent agenda

The first session of the 2021 annual Town Meeting slowed to a crawl on Monday, April 26, as members managed to vote on one article during the three-hour session.

Democracy favors a variety of voices, and that was the case. On Article 6 (term limits for the Community Preservation Act Committee), the discussion from a number of members, some connected to Arlington Fights Racism, favored limits. The vote on the main motion to eliminate term limits was approved, 164-70.

Article 7 (regulating rock excavation), debated at length, went unresolved, and discussion was to continue Wednesday, April 28.

To be fair, 48 articles were managed via the consent agenda (routine items).

For details, read Christian Klein, a Precinct 10 meeting member, who takes note about each session. They are his opinions and observations; they are not authoritative. For an unbiased presentation, see the videos at ACMi.tv.

Session No. 1 >>

Main town website Town Meeting link (read all reports) >>

Menotomy Matters: Annual town Meeting warrant annotated

YourArlington's main Town Meeting link

Feb. 17, 2021: 28 citizen articles for spring meeting
Nov. 16 to Dec. 2, 2020: Special Town Meeting

 


This news summary was published Tuesday, April 27, 2021, and updated June 3.

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