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Session 11: 2-family article 38 fails, as do 2 amendments

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UPDATED June 7: The 2022 Town Meeting resumed with session 12 on Monday, June 6, after discussion continued June 1 on Article 37 (unsafe structure). It was adopted, 215-6-2, after the Mozina amendment passed,149-68-4. Later, Article 38 (two-family construction), failed.

The amendment submitted by Engjellushe Mozina adds the following italicized words to the Zoning Bylaw, Section 8.1.5:

Except as covered under Section 8.1.7, any structure determined to be unsafe by the Director of Inspectional Services or their designee, as authorized under the provisions of G.L. c. 143, may be restored to a safe condition, provided such work on any nonconforming structure shall be completed within one year of the determination that the structure is unsafe, and it shall not place the structure in greater nonconformity. A structure may be exempted from this provision by a special permit granted by the Board of Appeals or, in cases subject to Environmental Design Review, Section 3.4, the Arlington Redevelopment Board.

Michael Ciampa, director of inspectional services, said, “It’s important that this is in the bylaws if a building is taken down without the permission of the building department.”

Following that was lengthy debate on the much-anticipated Article 38, and meeting members were almost evenly split on it.

Those in favor on 38

Article 38 proponent Annie LaCourt (15) presented a video that she’d made. In her voice-over, LaCourt says, “It’s time for me to do something about the community I love. We’re losing economic and generational diversity. Why? Greater Boston has a regional housing shortage and, for the majority of residential homes, only single-family houses can be built. Article 38 allows two-family houses to be constructed. It’s not about affordable housing; it’s about creating a new stock of houses for middle-income families.

“Article 38’s effect will be incremental over time. Arlington has approximately 27 teardowns a year, and this article would allow some of them to be rebuilt as two-family so that gradually, neighborhoods will have a mix of housing stock. Two-family homes are more environmentally efficient than single-family houses. New homes, with new building codes, will make homes more energy efficient than older homes.”

Arlington Redevelopment Board (ARB) Chair Rachel Zsembery said that the ARB voted, 3-2, in favor of this article.

Arlington resident Dr. Katherine Einstein, a Boston University associate professor who researches urban politics and public policy, and introduced by Benjamin Rudick (15), said, “Research indicates that this article will have a small, but positive, effect and not substantially affect our neighborhoods. More market-rate multihousing will help ease the housing shortage, which is critical in high-demand residential communities, and is considerably cheaper than newly constructed single-family houses.”

Xavid Pretzer (17) said, “People are concerned about housing costs and the ability to live in Arlington long-term. This article is an important, positive step to addressing the issue of building housing at middle-class levels. Teardowns are already happening. Building two homes is much more attractive, and will make our neighborhoods stronger. Arlington is in a great position to lead the way in building more affordable housing.”

Barbara Thornton (16) said, “This article will not eliminate single-family homes. Single-family zoning constitutes 70 percent of Arlington’s homes. To be more diverse, we need to encourage more two-family homes throughout the town. This is not a large-scale neighborhood change; it’s a slow change. Article 38 would allow people earning $150K to $200K to buy a smaller home in Arlington (versus $400K for a larger home), which will remain starter homes for decades into the future.

Marvin Lewiton (16) said, “It’s an unfortunate reality that not many people want to live in small capes, which are being torn down and turned into large houses. Small houses are just a small percentage of the homes in this area. Those who talk about the end of single family houses in Arlington are exaggerating. A duplex would be far less expensive than a large single-family home, and this will make life more affordable. Article 38 a great way to increase diversity in town.”

Those against 38

However, others vehemently opposed Article 38.

Wynelle Evans (14) said, “I’m floored by what’s happening to our town’s housing prices. Article 38 is only for people who can afford million dollar plus homes. Each duplex unit costs more than the original house. Older homes may require work, but that’s the definition of a starter home. This article will make Arlington less diverse and less affordable, fueling an upward trend in prices. Lower and middle income buyers will be being shut out.” 

Patricia Worden (8) said, “Article 38 is the most discriminatory article that Arlington has ever considered. It excludes those of median income, and it will ruin Arlington’s excellent record of diversity, equity and inclusion by creating houses only for the rich. Such substantial change should not happen without significant buy-in from the population. No other community in the state has taken such a dramatic step as eliminating single-family zoning. It will cause our town to be a demolition construction site, designed for developers’ maximum profits. Nothing in this article will benefit Arlington residents.”

Jon Gersh (18) said, “Our constituents have no idea what is hanging over their heads in this Town Meeting. We’re discussing the elimination of single-family zoning, which has been around longer than any current resident. These new duplexes will be larger than any McMansion. We haven’t eliminated single-family zoning, and the Newton amendment will remove safeguards built-in by Arlington’s Redevelopment Board. This will cause an inevitable backlash. 

John Leone (8) said, “Any single-family house sold will be sold to a developer, for more than $1 million. This will not increase our housing stock diversity, not with Arlington’s housing prices nowadays. Our schools are already at capacity. If we create 30 to 40 new housing units per year, we’ll need to build new schools. Increasing our housing stock will also require more police, firefighters and trucks, and we as a town must consider such expenses before taking these steps. This article will increase density, and we’re already the second densest town in the state. We need to increase Arlington’s housing stock, but this isn’t the way to do it.

Sheri Baron (7) said, “My biggest concern is diversity. Our town used to be available for a wide range of income levels. This article will tighten the circle of those who can live in Arlington.”

Carl Wagner (15) said, “Article 38 would make us more expensive and less diverse in housing stock and the people who could live here. Replacing single-family homes with two units always raises, not reduces, housing prices. We’d lose open space and our tree canopy. This proposal encourages teardowns, and it’s better to renovate or remodel than tear down houses, because it hurts our inclusivity and antiracist actions.

After two amendments (Newton, Babiarz) went down to defeat, the main motion for that article failed, 112-113-2. Christian Klein (10) wrote that the vote required a two-thirds majority, "so it was not as close as it might seem."

The Newton amendment (Neither unit of such a two-family dwelling or duplex dwelling shall exceed 1,850 square feet of heated living space for three years following the date of the initial certificate of occupancy for such dwelling) failed -- 101-116-5.

The Babiarz amendment (Two-family and duplex-dwelling uses with deed restrictions shall be allowed as of Dec. 1, 2023) failed -- 29-194-4.

See the ACMi video of the June 1 Town Meeting:

Added to the annotated warrant June 1 were:

Added to annotated warrant May 30 were:

In addition, you may read session 11 notes by Christian Klein (10) >>

Steve Revilak (1) also has a summary of the discussion of Article 38 >>

Town Meeting background

The warrant containing all articles and associated documents is here >>

Town Meeting is scheduled to meet every Monday and every Wednesday from 8 to 11 p.m. until all 77 articles are heard and voted on. 

Town Meeting is made up of 252 representatives, though not every member participates at each meeting nor votes on every item. It convenes each spring. It began this year on April 25 and is to complete its tasks by June 15.

Town Meeting is taking place virtually this year because of ongoing Covid-19 precautions. 

Proceedings may be viewed by anyone in real time: online at acmi.tv/govlive/ or via ACMi cablecast on its government channels (RCN, 614 or 15; Comcast; 22; or Verizon, 26).


Town Meeting information at town website | YourArlington Town Meeting information


This news announcement was published Wednesday, June 1, 2022, and updated the same day, to add links, as well as June 2, to add results. Updated June 3, to provide a full summary by freelance writer Susan Gilbert. Updated June 6, to add a link to Revilak's summary, and June 7, to add ACMi video window.

Donate button, 300pxThis reporting demonstrates your donations at work to support democracy here. YourArlington is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit.Your contributions are tax-deductible. Donate here >> 

 

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