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Articles 10, 31 succeed; articles 9, 17 do not

UPDATED May 21: The third time was not the charm Monday, May 13, for an animal-related Town Meeting article. In contrast to articles 15 and 16, which passed earlier in Town Meeting, the ultimate vote on Article 17 was no action with regard to a bid to strengthen the ability of renters in Arlington to have pets/companion animals. Article 16, prohibiting retail sales of animals, passed May 1 at the third session of annual Town Meeting. It applies to mammals, birds, reptiles, amphibians and fish; an unsuccessful amendment had sought to restrict it to mammals only. Article 15, passed April 29 at the second session of annual Town Meeting, bans sale of new fur (but not sale of leather, cowhide, sheepskin or used-fur goods).

"Obviously, we need to do more work to convince Town Meeting members [that] this would be a good bylaw," said Paul Schlichtman, Article 17's proponent, via email to YourArlington on May 19. "From the first presentation before the Select Board to the final vote at Town Meeting, we made several changes to address the concerns we heard from the community. This proposal [meanwhile] has received significant attention from other Massachusetts towns, and we might see this bylaw find its way onto other [Town Meeting] warrants."

Local resident Laura Kiesel had this to say May 21.  "First, I am extremely proud of Town Meeting for passing articles 15 and 16 and thankful to the Select Board for its support. Article 16 is the most comprehensive pet sale ban in the nation and hopefully will set the standard for other municipalities going forward. 

"As for Article 17, in the absence of a town mandate restricting or prohibiting blanket no-pet policies, the town should still be doing much more to educate Arlington landlords (including those who are Town Meeting members) about Fair Housing laws regarding assistance animals and to investigate alleged instances of discrimination against prospective tenants who have these kinds of animals, as this kind of illegal discrimination is a widespread problem in our town."

Also failing May 13 was Article 9, seeking in future to begin each session of Town Meeting at 7:30 p.m. rather than the current 8 p.m. However, Article 10, giving the Arlington Select Board greater ability in future to set the start date of Town Meeting, succeeded. Also passing: Article 31, filed by immediate previous Town Moderator John Leone to include his property in the multihousing overlay zone created by Special Town Meeting in October 2023. 

Article 17: Arguments for 

On May 13, Schlichtman, representing Precinct 9, exhorted his listeners to "vote your hopes and dreams" to make it more possible for renters to have pets because "animal companions are part of our families." He noted that the most recent iteration of the article would have exempted all of these: single-family owner-occupied homes; owner-occupied two- and three-family buildings; condominum associations; rented rooms; furnished rooms; and accessory dwelling units. He said that it would be the first bylaw of its kind in Massachusetts and was to have taken effect more than two years hence, with leases beginning or renewing as of July 1, 2026, or later.

 Kiesel also advocated for Article 17 for the many Arlingtonians who are renters and who, in her view, are being discriminated against by blanket policies against pets. "We are not a fringe demographic," she said. "Renters add value to this town." She said that renters with pets tend to be more responsible, more stable tenants because they are taking care of more than simply themselves.

Some others spoke in favor as well.

Article 17: Arguments against

But at least three town officials were opposed.

Eugene Benson (10), member of the Arlington Redevelopment Board, a former legal-services attorney and a former pet owner, said that he would rather see a revised version of the article return in a subsequent year. "We have an obligation to get it right, but this is not getting it right," he said. His concerns included the wide range of pets that could be covered: The definition of  companion animal is "much broader than any of us can imagine," he said, including many kinds of snakes. He was also concerned about potential landlord liability in case of animal bites or other negative effects. 

 Select Board Chair Steve DeCourcey noted that the board had recommended no action on March 26. "We are sympathetic," he said, with the overall concept. However, he said that there are "a number of statutory conflicts" and believes that "a municipal bylaw isn't the appropriate place to deal with restrictions on pets."

Town Counsel Michael Cunningham said that neither renters nor pet owners are universally recognized as a protected class. He also said that the matter would be "best approached at the state level."

The Doctrow and Tanaka amendments passed. However, a substitute motion by Schlichtman, with those two amendments, ultimately was defeated, with 47 in favor, 140 opposed and four abstaining. Town Moderator Greg Christiana said that the main motion (for no action) was not substituted and called for a voice vote, which he said prevailed: "We have a no-action vote."

 Article 9: TM early start time not adopted

"I am no David Letterman, and I am not fond of late nights," said Christa Kelleher (5), in favor of having Town Meeting in future begin at 7:30 p.m. rather than at 8 p.m. TM typically runs from 8 to 11 p.m. Others agreed.

But Christine Deshler, chair of the town's Finance Committee, which meets before each session of TM, said that would require Fincom having to meet at 7 p.m. if not earlier -- a significant hardship for those working traditional business hours in Boston or elsewhere and also cutting into meal-preparation, dinner and family time. Mark Rosenthal (14) agreed. "It has ripple effects that haven't been considered."

The vote was 58 yes, 120 no, nine abstentions.

 Article 10: TM start date flexibility provided

The proposal was for Town Meeting to start by the fourth Monday in April unless the Select Board should vote by Feb. 1 in any given year to establish an alternate date --and to start not later than the second Monday in May. 

The thought was to make it easier to adjust the date for extenuating circumstances such as religious holidays, especially Passover, whose start date varies year-to-year with respect to the secular calendar and this year began Monday, April 22; TM was therefore delayed slightly to start on  Wednesday, April 24.

The vote was 164 in favor, 24 opposed and no abstentions.

Article 31 passes

Leone moved for adoption of his article concerning his property at 5-7 Winter St. in East Arlington, near the Fox Library, to be included in the residential overlay zone, allowing for it to be potentially redeveloped. The Redevelopment Board had earlier recommended favorable action on Article 31 in a 4-1 vote. Leone noted that the property, in his family since 1957, it is on a list of historic properties but said that other homes on the street are equally historic yet were already included within the zone established last year allowing for future multifamily housing.

He said he sought "a fair and equitable application" of the law. Later on the the discussion, he asked for a positive vote on his amendment inserting a paragraph into the zoning bylaw amendment updating the parcel list and map. The amendment was accepted with 165 voting in favor, 16 against and two abstentions. The motion for the amended Article 31 then was adopted 156 to 20, with four abstentions, shortly before 11 p.m.

A summary of session 7, on Wednesday, May 15, is to be reported.

Session 8 is set for Monday, May 20. Nine articles remain, and next up is Article 54, according to the meeting tracker.

Resources/background about TM 

Local cable television station ACMi provides live coverage on cable (Comcast 22, RCN 614, Verizon 26) and streaming live at acmi.tv/govlive and also posted online on YouTube. The cable TV station also typically will rebroadcast each session multiple times.

The Town of Arlington has a link-heavy page specifically about Town Meeting. Among other things, it has a frequently updated link to the annotated warrant (a detailed and augmented list of the articles, most either submitted by a government official or advanced by a group of residents) and a "tracker" or or dashboard or specialized spreadsheet that is supposed to be kept up in real time.

There are guidelines and forms; downloadable templates for those for amending the original motion and for substituting an alternate version to the original motion; historical records of previous Town Meetings; and ways to see emails, updates and announcements.

Watch ACMi video of session 6:

Town Meeting 2024's main link on the Town of Arlington website 

YourArlington's list concerning 2024 Town Meeting information


This news summary by YourArlington Editor Judith Pfeffer was published Sunday, May 19, 2024.  It was updated Tuesday, May 21, with a followup quote from Article 17 supporter Laura Kiesel.