No Dunn summary, so read below | How they voted in session 7
UPDATED, May 19: The 2016 annual Town Meeting concluded Monday, May 16, in the seventh session, as members moved swifty through the budgets, paused a bit to discuss Community Preservation Act projects and finished with a flourish supporting a study of handicapped parking spaces.
The meeting adjourned at 10:41 p.m., just after voting on an amended nonbinding resolution aimed at returning Precinct 17 voters to the Highland Station. They have not cast ballots there since 2004. The longtime effort by John Leonard (17), which has included sign-holding public protests, is likely not to change where 17 residents vote.
Surely the night's highlight was passage of Article 59 (resolution on handicapped parking), which drew applause following the vote of 183-4-1. Read the full statement on which her comments were based >>
23 spaces for handicapped
Precinct 4 resident Darcy Devney presented on behalf of the Disability Commission, summing up with many numbers the town's inadequate number of such parking spaces. In March, her extended comments were published on YourArlington.com.
She said the state disability agency recommends 10 percent of all parking spaces in a municipality be set aside for the handicapped. A chart she showed said the town has 1,000-plus space but on 23 for the handicapped, or 2.3 percent. The Center has 11, she said.
The resolution that was adopted shoots for a goal of 5 percent.
Her soft-spoken delivery drew no questions.
Discussion of budgets under Article 35, resuming from the May 11 session, consumed the meeting's first half. As it usually does, education drew the most comments.
Finance Committee Chair Al Tosti noted $171,110 of increased Chapter 70 state funds had been added to the education budget in anticipation that Senate approval will follow that from the House. That would bring bringing the fiscal 2017 school budget to $57,172,443.
He said the recommended 6.72-percent increase to school budget "may be more than we [the Finance Committee] can do .... Hopefully, this will help the schools."
Peter Fuller (20) said he is happy to see that the increase for school staying at 3.5 percent, rather than the 3 percent, which had been threatened earlier. He said he thought that proposal "broke the deal with voters."
Looking beyond the June 14 vote address school-building issues, Linda Hanson (7) cited a Boston Business Journal report about teacher pay showing Arlington's on the low end. "While considering investing in buildings," she said, "we need to think about investment in personnel."
Financial graphs that smile
Brendan O'Day (14) offered charts portraying a down topic in an upbeat way: Graphs showed the uptrend in town finances since the 2011 operating override, with smiley faces atop the current wave before lines descend in 2020, illustrating the impact of the town's structural deficit.
"Happy, happy," he said to chuckles, and then asked: "What’s causing that severe cliff?"
Tosti pointed to numbers in appendix D in the 2016 Fincom report, which indicate the expected need for another debt exclusion for the high school rebuild, in 2018, followed by an operating override in 2020.
Selectman Dan Dunn (21) called O'Day's charts interesting, but not fully illustrative. "When you build a financial model," he said, "you have to ask: How might it fail? .... You look for it to fail in a way that you prepare for .... [The town's] model is 'conservative'."
For libraries, a report about the positive response to open weekend hours ("400 people each hour") at Robbins, led Jennifer Susse (3) to say that the Friends of Fox Library would also like Saturday hours, with the money to for them, "at no cost to taxpayers."
Dan Jalkut (6) said he "feels like Fox is a missed opportunity," because it is not open enough.
All town budgets were adopted by one voice vote.
Capital budget queries
Under Article 36 (Capital Budget), Leonard asked whether the $25,000 senior-center feasibility study was available for viewing. Town Manager Adam Chapdelaine it had been completed, final copies were expected soon and it would be posted on the town website.
Of the $500,000 for sidewalks, Leonard asked how the money would be distributed among the projects.
DPW Michael Rademacher said some would pay for paving, some to repair damage and some for stand-alone projects. An evaluation will be conducted to determine priorities, he said.
Asked about the $100,000 for Town Hall renovations, Chapdelaine explained that stones in the front will be reset to improve accessibility.
To that, Leonard asked: Could some of the money be used to improve Town Hall heating. He said he understood employees had to work with coats on one day last winter.
Chapdelaine said he was not sure the issue lasted a whole day, but he called it a "fair recommendation."
DPW Yard plan
Susan Stamps (3) asked about the $1 million plan for the DPW Yard, along Grove Street.
Rademacher said the money aims to study bringing the facility up to code. The $1 million is for design work. The ultimate cost could be $10 million.
Fuller asked about the asset plan for 1207 Mass. Ave., the selectmen-owned former DAV.
Chapdelaine said selectmen will seek a request for proposals in June, seeking competitive offers in July. An earlier plea drew no offers.
Fuller asked whether $1 million is a reasonable expectation for a return on the sale of the property.
The manager said the town seeks a minimum on $750,000, noting that the adjoining property is for sale, and "it could be a redevelopment opportunity."
The capital budget passed. The third vote was 193-4.
Mugar, lead in water?
After the break, the introduction of Article 38 (Mugar appropriation) brought a rare correction to the warrant at such a late date.
Fuller pointed out that the motion lacked where the $25,000 would come from and who would control the spending. "Good catch," Tosti said, and the gap was filled in: the sum would come from general tax and expended under the Town Manager. The amended article was approved, 173-6.
In an update about the Mugar site, Chapdelaine said the town continues to wait for an application for a comprehensive permit from Oaktree. The North Cambridge developer reportedly plans to challenge the town's claim that it is in a "safe harbor" -- that is, more than 1.5 percent of town land is dedicated to affordable housing. The Zoning Board of Appeals endorsed that finding last December, as YourArlington reported.
Under Article 42 ($800,000 in water-main financing), John Worden asked whether the issue of lead pipes would be taken care of.
Rademacher said the DPW is reviewing town records regarding lead, and so far has found few instances of lead pipes, and only some cases of lead connections. He said that soon the town will undertake replacing water meters, and that will include a survey probing lead issues.
Andrew O'Brien (16) asked whether, in the light of Boston's recent discovery of lead in some of its schools, the town's schools had tested for lead.
Superintendent Kathleen Bodie said the schools were applying for funds to do more testing and that the administration is looking at which buildings must be tested.
Carl Wagner (11) said he had his water service tested, and some lead was found. He urged meeting members to be wary of drinking the first water that comes from the tap in the morning.
The article was adopted, 188-0.
Community Preservation Act
Article 57 (Community Preservation Fund appropriation) drew moments of praise for the committee and some questioning.
CPA committee Chair Clarissa Rowe thanked Foskett for his earlier kind words for her panel's work (he had been a leader of the opposition to the tax-raising measure before the successful ballot-question vote in November 2014).
Michael Ruderman (8) wanted know why the committee seeks the most administrative expenses it can request.
Rowe explained that her committee had no money until this July, tried to keep the past year's expense at a minimum, and so had to make do, including borrowing an employee from the manager's office.
All of the article's three votes were supported by significant margins.
Precinct 17 discussion
Under Article 60, Leonard made a relative concise case to return Precinct 17 voters to Highland, raising issues that selectmen had heard at their warrant hearing. He doubted objections raised about handicap access, lack of parking at other sites, including Town Hall and the Senior Center.
Selectmen had recommended no action, and Leonard offered a substitute, a nonbinding resolution urging the selectmen to "... return the Precinct 17 polling place [Highland or] to a venue located within the Precinct boundaries, such as the Ed Burns Arena Skating Rink, or some other suitable location without delay."
Fire Chief Bob Jefferson weighed in: "I don’t feel [Highland] is conducive [to voting] ... as someone who worked there." Stationed there 15 years, he said, "I used to listen to people there for 14 hours a day complain about smell, about horns, about bells ....
"It's still a garage. It still has oil on the floor ...."
Stuart Cleinman (1) moved to amend Leonard's resolution by striking out the words between the brackets. "We don’t have enough people who vote anyway," Cleinman said. "The firehouse should not be used, but voting should be in Precinct 17."
The meeting took three votes, and all passed -- Cleinman's amendment to Leonard's resolution, replacing the selectmen’s' motion for no action with Leonard's amended resolution and to approve the amended resolution.
The adopted resolution is nonbinding, so the Precinct polling place will not go back to Highland. Because the resolution passed, the selectmen might take another look at moving Precinct 17 voting from Stratton to a more convenient place. Two ideas are Town Hall or the Park Ave Congregational Church, both in use as polling places and are convenient to Mass. Ave. public transit.
Session 6: Special Town Meeting approves Gibbs' appropriation of $2.5M
No Dunn summary, so read below | How they voted in session 6
ACA to hold capital campaign
With little substantial objection, a Special Town Meeting on Wednesday, May 11, fairly swiftly supported appropriating $2,550,000 to begin the process of renovating the former Gibbs School in East Arlington to address school enrollment challenges. Following a factual presentation by Finance Committee member Dean Carmen (20), the vote to approve was 187-7-0.
In a related matter, Linda Shoemaker, executive director of the Arlington Center for the Arts, who asked for help as the nonprofit seeks a new home, because school plans will displace it. She said the center will launch a capital campaign of $500,000 soon.
After the Special Town Meeting ended, session six of the annual was delayed in returning town budgets with a protracted reconsideration of Article 29 (removing an easement restriction at 54 Pleasant View). Discussion under budgets included welcome news about progress in the treasurer's office.
As to the Gibbs issue, which the School Committee continues to discuss, Carman laid out the argument for appropriation by explaining this memo >>
It briefly summarizes facts developed since last August that Ottoson cannot accommodate burgeoning enrollment, and that means repurposing the Gibbs, closed a public school since the early 1980s.
School Committee Jeff Thielman, a member of the School Enrollment Task Force, established last December to deal with the issues involved, offered a pitch saying he thought the Center for the Arts would continue to be "awesome" and urged a positive of vote on the June 14 debt exclusion, aimed at funding a number of school issues.
Steve Liggett (9) said the matter is a townwide issue and is thrilled to support Articles 3, though he knows it is not a perfect solution.
Juliet Moir (3) introduced Jason Levy, in his ninth year teaching at Ottoson teacher. Guiding sixth and seventh graders, Levy noted that he has seen social and emotional issues increasing, matters that could be eased in a smaller school. He said 90 percent of Ottoson teachers favor the Gibbs rather than a separate middle-school building.
Making clear she does not oppose what the schools want to do at the former Gibbs, Shoemaker, called the "the little guy," and one that "most likely to not survive this."
Seeking the meeting's help, she said: "If we have to leave, we still want to grow." She noted the need for a public/private partnership to save the ACA.
Questions from two members
One meeting member, John Leonard (17), asked whether the appropriation in question includes repair for damage caused by placement of modular classrooms; for example, for damage to a new basketball court or to a driveway.
Town Manager Adam Chapdelaine said the request is not seeking funds for modular classrooms and that such structures will not be situated on a basketball court or driveway, only on grass.
Janice Weber (21) said that most people she has talked to are for Gibbs renovation, but they have questions. She asked: "Are all these feasibility studies necessary? Do we need to this by law?"
Chapdelaine said there is no legal requirement with respect to the Gibbs project, but he explained that the enrollment task force "needed to take a deeper dive" and that the town does not have expertise to do what HMFH, a Cambridge architect has done in evaluating proposals.
Some say that the proposals have "too many extra rooms." She asked: Are all necessary at Thompson?
Superintendent Kathleen Bodie enumerated all of the services that a current educational setting must provide. They include support for special education, English language learners, intervention for math support, occupational and physical therapy.
Weber asked: Would any of the rooms be empty?
"No," Bodie said.
Last, Weber asked: "Why don't we ever set aside for maintenance?"
Chapdelaine called it a fair question. He pointed out that last year the town created a facilities department to address these issues.
The vote to approve Article 3 was 187-7-0.
Reconsideration slows meeting
A 45-minute reconsideration of Article 29 slowed the meeting to a crawl.
Christian Klein (10) explains fully his reasons to review the property matter here >> He said he did so as a "matter of principle," because incomplete information had been described at a previousl meeting. Chapdelaine apologized for providing it.
Assistant Moderator James O'Conor took over because Moderator John Leone had represented the property owner.
Discussion included John Worden (8) suggesting the parcel, an easement, be purchased for open space or be tabled for discussion next year. A. Michael Ruderman (9) said the parcel needed an appraisal. Annie LaCourt (15) wanted to know how many such parcels are in town and learned that the legal department is unsure.
"Who owns the land?" Gordon Jamieson (12) asked. Town Counsel Doug Heim answered that the property owner does.
He pressed: How about the easement? "We're not selling property we don’t own," he said, suggesting the meeting not spend so much time on the matter.
Town Treasurer Steve Gilligan agreed, saying, "We're spinning our wheels."
Ted Peluso (6) supported Gilligan. "Let this guy have his property," he said.
To applause, Paul Schlichtman's (9) motion to terminate debate passed.
The vote to approve was 161-28-2.
Progress in treasurer's office
At 10:08 p.m. the meeting turned to town budgets (Article 35), and the treasurer's was first.
LaCourt said the public has been waiting for many years to see what she called the outmoded tax-collection system to be replaced.
Gilligan responded that his office is replacing the integrated collection system, and new set will accommodate collecting a variety of taxes and fees. He said a purchase order had been issued for a system for real-estate taxes. He said his office has a new accounts-receivable system.
"We are well underway," he said. "All will be up and running by the end of the calendar year."
LaCourt asked: Would the new systems save money?
"We do expect savings" he said, and his office is retaining consultant to look at all operations. "I can't tell you how much" would be saved.
Jamieson asked when the town residents might be able to perform transactions using electronic funds transfers (ETF).
Residents have many ways of paying, Gilligan said -- by mail, in person and online. He said automatic ETF payments could be set up, but "we have a full plate at the moment. Yes, it's on the calendar. I'm not sure when."
He said ETFs have no single standard, and the town would have to work with many banks.
Peter Fuller (20) asked about the manager/analyst position, and Gilligan said it had been eliminated. "I am saddened to see it go," he said.
He said, in consultation with Chapdelaine, the treasurer's office had been restructured, at a saving of $45,000. Another saving of $30,000 would be used to fund police.
Questions for public works, facilities
Under the public-works budget, Ed Trembley (19) asked when the rough ride on Gray Street would be addressed.
DPW Director Mike Rademacher said it is on a short list of roads that need work and might qualify for Complete Streets funding.
Bob Radochia (11) asked when the really rough pavement on Mystic Street as you approach Summer would be smoothed out.
Rademacher, citing many delays caused by utility companies, said paving would take place during the current construction season.
Leonard asked why the director of facilities is getting raise of $71,120 -- to $122,856, from $51,736, or a 137-percent increase.
Chapdelaine explained that the raise is not as high as it appears, because the salary was paid from two accounts, town and school.
Leonard asked whether a meeting member can make an amendment to the budget.
Heim said Town Meeting can appropriate a bottom-line number, but would exceed its authorization to negotiate a salary for an individual.
Leonard noted that the amount of the raise for other administrators "is nowhere near raise for this individual."
LaCourt asked how well is work going under the facilities director.
"Very well," Chapdelaine said. The office has implemented a work-order system, one that tracks maintenance requests. The director, Ruthy Bennett, has joined the Permanent Town Building Committee.
Bennett said she aims for preventive maintenance uses a software module that reminds offices when maintenance issues are due to be addressed.
Kevin Koch (16) asked the amount of savings expected from the solar panels installed on six schools last year. Bennett responded she expects $80,000 a year.
Increase parking control?
Under the community-safety budget, Schlichtman urged increasing the number of parking-control officers and said it could generate revenue. He said the town now has one full-time and two part-time officers.
Chapdelaine said he does not oppose an increase, but not at this time, as he wants to see how smart-meter technology works out.
The meeting adjourned at 10:59 p.m. When members return Monday, May 16, the inspection budget is on the agenda.
Session 5: Minuteman high school project, budget OK'd
Summary of No. 5 on Dan Dunn's blog >> | How they voted in No. 5
Following a wide-ranging discussion for and against Minuteman's high school project and budget during the Special Town Meeting on Monday, May 9, members voted in the end to support both efforts.
The $144 million high school project, in limbo because of a lone negative vote from Belmont Town Meeting last week, received an endorsement that depends on passage of the townwide June 14 debt exclusion ballot question.
Minuteman, the technical/vocational high school in Lexington, had its supporters. One was eloquent (A. Michael Ruderman, 9), another a booster (his daughter, Julia, a prize-winning student at the school) and one who was willing to change his mind (John Deyst, 13). The professor was on the "no" side of the 10-8 Finance Committee committee support for Minuteman, but voted "yes" May 9.
The school had its detractors: Charles Foskett, wearing only his Precinct 8 hat, laid out a list of ills -- citing cost ("most expensive in state", risk (too few students) and fairness to taxpayers. His ace in the hole was based on his reading of state law -- that Arlington voters will be casting ballot on a debt exclusion on June 14, a date that is outside the 60-day requirement under state law following Minuteman's March vote. Result? He says Arlington could get stuck with huge debt. See his substitute motion >>
Selectmen Dan Dunn, closely involved with helping to craft a new Minuteman agreement, expressed support of moving forward with the new high school. He began by saying the Needham's Town Meeting had voted that night to back the project.
Dunn discussed his memo that whittles the issue down until, in his view, "all are just distractions," and there is only one option, and it's not cheap -- that is to support the new school.
As to the 60-day issue, he said that should the override fail, then the counsel involved would not issue the bonds. Town Counsel Doug Heim backed Dunn.
Perhaps the surprise of the evening was the set of numbers offered by the town treasurer, Steve Gilligan, a man of numbers, in urging support for Foskett's motion.
Some of figures did not square with previously reported estimates about Minuteman project costs, which he said add up to $250 million. That includes his claim that $20 million would be spent on modular classrooms.
He complained about "taxpayer fatigue," and that is surely a factor, but the public needs to know what is making it feel tired.
His main idea was this: that $50 million, the amount he says would be provided to the Minuteman project, if approved, could be used to establish technical programs at a rebuild Arlington High School. The drew scrutiny after adjournment from Dunn. In his blog, he wrote, "Simply 'bringing the students home' is not a viable strategy."
In a Finance Committee report, Chair Al Tosti said the tax impact of the Minuteman rebuild would range from $90 to $120. See the presentation on the building plan >>
Foskett's motion on Article 6 (bond authorization) failed, 41-151-2. The main motion, the Finance Committee's recommendation of approval, passed, 165-31.
Session No. 6, set for Wednesday, May 11, is expected to resume with consideration of town budgets.
Minuteman spending plan
During the fifth session of the annual meeting, which began the night, articles 35 through 42 were set aside to reach No. 43, the Minuteman budget. Steve DeCourcey (2) of the Finance Committee introduce Dr. Edward Bouquillon, the school's superintendent, who presented the spending plan. See it here >>
The fiscal 2017 budget of $19,728,097 shows a decrease of 0.52 percent. The total assessments to towns is $10,943,739, and increase of 0.50 percent.
A significant change, Bouquillon said, is that the tuition for nonresidents has been reduced to $972,684.
Overall, the administration is making the transition to a smaller school: as staffers leave, they are not replaced. The fiscal 2017 budget has an overall reduction of 11.5 full-time-equivalent positions.
For Arlington, total enrollment was 152 in fiscal 2016, falling to 120 in fiscal 2017.
The town's total assessment dropped from $4,010,950 to $3,649,349, or 9 percent.
Paul Schlichtman (9) said the state continues to fail to ignore paying for transportation costs sufficiently, a key factor in such a spread-out district. Minuteman's transportation costs are up 8 percent.
The vote to appropriate the town's share of the budget was 195-2-3.
Preview to session No. 5
Finances are on Town Meeting's mind, as members began considering town budgets last Wednesday and are expected to discuss Minuteman in session five on Monday, May 9.
Here are the documents related to the question of whether the Arlington meeting should support rebuilding the technical high school in Lexington, expected to cost $144.9 million. Arlington's share is put at $32 million, according to the June 14 debt-exclusion vote. Read:
-- The Finance Committee's report recommending a positive vote, supported, 10-8 >>
-- Minuteman's pitch about why its leadership believes the school will meet in-district enrollment targets >> See also presentations from Minuteman Superintendant Bouquillon: budget, high school project (May 9) >>
-- Charles Foskett's substitute motion seeking to disapprove debt of $140.9 million "to ensure Arlington is not forced to incur debt" plus materials >>
Following Belmont's lone rejection of the Minuteman project and Superintendent Edward A. Bouquillon's appeal to "stay the course," the stage is set for a wide-ranging discussion.
Session 4: Wait 'til next year on 3 zoning articles; budget queries addressed
Opinion: Listen to Fincom report | Summary of No. 4 on Dan Dunn's blog | Session 4 votes
At session No. 4 of the 2016 Town Meeting on Wednesday, May 4, members labored over attempts to rework three zoning articles (8 through 10), but in the end, voted to support the Redevelopment Board's push for no action. On Article 11 (new residential construction), the meeting decided not to wait until next year and supported a substitute motion.
The pace picked up, with passage of a number of routine articles, until the meeting reached the budgets, and then the questions began. They could continue Monday, May 9, when other budget could be tabled for discussion of Minuteman annual budget. Following that, the Special Town Meeting would resume to address the Minuteman building project.
On May 4, a call for civility rang out in the context of confusion over the perceived teardown threat.
Are teardowns -- when a home is demolished and a larger one built in its place -- a threat to Arlington?
Surely, Patricia Worden (8) thought so, as did others among the group presenting citizen articles aimed at curtailing what builders can do.
Other voices do not think so. They include Lynn Lowenstein, a former member of the Redevelopment Board and a real-estate professional. "We are not against zoning changes," she said, but opposed "picking and choosing." She asked that effect of changes be considered as a whole.
Introduced by Ms. Worden, so he could discuss his substitute motion to Article 8 (residential zoning changes), Chris Loreti noted differences between his motion and the Redevelopment Board's. He said there is "no conspiracy to limit ceiling heights, noting some history: The 7-foot ceiling-height rule had been in effect from 1975 to 2001, when it was amended to 7-feet-3. The current plea is to return the rule to 7 feet.
Easy, huh? Not this year.
He said he had served on the Redevelopment Board for five years, and "never saw such orchestrated opposition to such small changes." He went on, alleging pressure from developers spurred by the selectmen. To that, Moderator John Leone objected.
Nicole Knobloch (8), who expressed what it felt like living next door to a teardown, introduced Jonathan Nyberg, a Realtor. He asked that the meeting put together a zoning puzzle. "I don't see the bigger picture -- that’s what we need," he said.
Andrew Bunnell, the Redevelopment Board chair, echoing another who said that it is job of experts to do zoning, said, "That's why the ARB decided to vote no action" on articles 8 through 10.
Irked by an earlier comment, Ted Peluso (6) tried to speak after debate was terminated on a voice vote, but Leone stopped him. Zarina Memon (21) asked for a clicker vote, debate continued and Peluso got his chance.
"I don’t care how you vote," Peluso said. "I heard a man insult our selectmen." He moved to have Leone ask him to apologize to selectmen.
"No more insulting," Leone said, and general civility reigned.
The substitute motion failed, 70-146-1.
The recommended vote of no action prevailed on voice vote. The same occurred with Article 9 (further residential zoning measures).
Pleas for safety
Article 10 (residential parking) met the same fate, but not before pleas for safety. Limiting a driveway slope to 15 percent slope might prevent the death of a child, said proponent Elizabeth Pyle (10).
Gary Tibbetts (5) called it a "backdoor measure to shrink house size."
Phil Goff (7) said he planned to oppose the measure, though he says "this is a critical issue." He said the matter needs more study to include not just driveways but what he called "pit houses," those with steeply sloping driveways that fill up during a rainstorm.
Pyle's substitute motion failed, 74-126-3.
Considering Article 11
Article 11 (new residential construction) veered from zoning minutiae and toward a more human look at our surroundings.
Adam Auster (3) introduced his resolution to form a study committee by describing his own neighborhood, Hendersonville, once the poor end of town. Many more speakers should follow this example and embrace their viewpoints with a personal look at where they live.
Poor no more, the area has seen five teardowns in the past decade, he said.
"Some are not successful and don't fit in with neighborhood," he said, adding: "I'm not antiteardown." I know the builders can do these right."
With characteristic balance, he said, "None of them are evil .... The trend means real damage if we don't act."
His motion would turn the issue over to the professionals, with an aim to return next year with solutions.
He call to action was clear: "If you believe town can't tell you what to do with your property, then vote this down. If you believe in stewardship" of a neighborhood, then join this effort.
Bunnell praised Auster's aim. His motion accomplishes what we seek, he said.
Patricia Worden (8) supported the move, but speed-read her diatribe against developers. Read it in full here >>
Duplication of effort?
Other speakers, such as Gordon Jamieson (8), thought the currently established Master Plan Implementation Committee could do the job.
Len Kardon (20) addressed the assumption that there is a teardown problem and wondered whether, after a year of work, the meeting could get a two-thirds' majority on votes.
Auster's motion succeeded, 107-95-2. After the final vote, 118-85-3, Leone said, "We made another committee."
Budget questions focus on manager's office
By 10:30 p.m., following standard articles, town budgets reared above the horizon. Time for John Leonard (17), the taxpayers' representatuve, to rise and trudge resolutely forward. He wanted to know:
If there was no deputy town manager after Andrew Flanagan left last October, what happened to the $29,000 allotted for his salary for the last three months of 2015?
Any unexpended funds go into free cash, the town manager said.
Next, Leonard wanted to know whether the assistant town manager is a new position.
Indeed, the manager responded, citing the numerous responsibilities that the person is expected to take on, including public-records requests. The position will be viewed as a community-affairs role, he said.
Next, did the new assistant, Sandy Pooler, who came in January, get a large raise? The manager explained why the amount appears larger than turns out to be.
Along the same theme, Wagner wanted more detail than had seen reported about the manager's raise. Here is what YourArlington reported in February about a $28,000 raise and other benefits negotiated to retain him >>
Selectmen Chair Diane Mahon explained Chapdelaine's offer from another community and that "he was doing the job of two or three people."
John Deyst (13) called him "an absolutely superb manager of this town."
Memon asked about the manager's housing benefit. Selectman Dan Dunn said Chapdelaine was having trouble finding housing in town, so this benefit was negotiated with Chapdelaine only, not a future manager.
Fincom Chair Tosti provided a short history supporting the need for a deputy plus an assistant positions in the manager's office.
Session 3: Tree protection, town email effort, bulk electricity buys OK'd
Read summary of No. 3 on Dan Dunn's blog >> | Votes on articles in session 3
Town Meeting took a number of steps Monday, May 3, toward preservation.
In its third session, members approved measures aiming to protect the town's tree canopy, to encourage officials to use town email addresses and less paper, and to support bulk purchase of electrical power.
Also supported was a Human Rights Commission proposal to expand equal protection to the transgender community, helping to preserve the town's reputation for fairness to all.
Environmental conscious was in the air. So was fiscal prudence.
Praise for tree effort
Selectman Chair Diane Mahon handed out praise to representatives of the tree-bylaw effort for performing a "herculean task" by improving their measure substantially. That included talking to those affected by the proposal.
It led Gary Tibbetts (5), a veteran landscaper, to back the measure, though "I'm usually against government control."
He proposed an amendment changing from 90 to 180 days to required period for replanting, which passed, 203-5.
Susan Stamps (3) made clear the bylaw applies only to major development.
Town Meeting is not without levity. Bill Berkowitz (8) said his support came with his own research that shows trees help people feel younger and can improve property values. "Money can grow on trees," he said.
The amended Article 22 passed, 200-9-1.
Electronic distribution of notices
Preservation continued with Article 23. The first step to start the process of electronic distribution of notices was adopted, 202-7.
The paper-saving measure affects only members who opt in to receive electronic notifications.
Carl Wagner (11) suggested finding a way to index the content of whatever is distributed in this way, to better track information.
Eric Helmuth (12), who said he sends email for a living, asked the meeting to think about fail-safe backup, particularly for crucial documents. "Some emails won’t go through," he said.
Steve Liggett (9) suggested adding a version identifier to every copy, to help avoid confusion about what members vote on.
The evening's liveliest discussion revolved around another kind of conservation -- preserving the public records of town officials.
Chris Loreti, a former meeting member and Redevelopment Board member, who has filed numerous public-records requests against the town in the past, saw his effort to encourage use of town email addresses succeed. Selectmen were cold his initial bylaw plea, but the substitute motion, introduced by Elizabeth Pyle (20), passed in close votes: 96-92 and 105-95.
Views of town email addresses
The discussion of Article 26 was intriguing.
From the beginning of the Internet age, Arlington officials have used private emails to conduct public business, and Loreti called that needlessly inefficient, making records hard to track. He made clear the measure "does not force anyone to use a town email."
Citing comments by David Good, the town's chief technology officer, as well as Town Manager Adam Chapdelaine, Loreti said cost and implementation were not issues.
Paul Schlichtman (9) asked to hear the manager's comments firsthand, and Chapdelaine explained the setup and process, which could include copying responses to a town address.
Schlichtman then asked: "If someone sends me an email about a ballot question, what would happen if I responded?" Would that violate the state public records law?
Town Counsel Doug Heim said the state Office of Campaign & Political Finance has ruled that elected officials are allowed to express opinions, but they cannot actively campaign -- that is, distribute political documents.
Schlichtman said he hoped that the bylaw would be not used to "play gotcha." He said he would abstain and "let Town Meeting make a decision."
Former Selectman Annie LaCourt (15) said she has 15 email addresses as well as a file if 5,000 to 6,000 emails related to work on the town board. She called is a "good idea and long overdue."
Michelle Durocher (19), a librarian, said she though the bylaw would provide a "real benefit."
Former Town Counsel John Maher (14) didn't. "This would be a disaster," he said, and would "inhibit volunteers to serve. This is not a workable solution."
Members went to the break with a laugh. Zarina Memon (21) noted this typo: "pubic records."
Joe Tully (14) called the email changes "not that difficult .... [They don't] create any more work for you." He called the argument against the bylaw "contrived," suggesting resistance to change."
Mahon opposed. "I throw myself on mercy of you all," she said. "The way I have it set up now is the way it works for me."
She said she has four workstations and that making a change would be "opening a Pandora’s Box for myself."
As the measure passed, that box may be opening soon.
Buying electricity in bulk
Article 28 continued the environmental theme: Called "community choice aggregation," the measure supported by Mothers Out front, a group concerned about climate change.
The bylaw starts the many-step process of seeking bulk purchase of electricity.
Concerns raised were financial.
Kevin Koch (16) said that there were now not enough renewable energy credits to go around. What happens, he asked, if prices are near 40 cents a kilowatt hour, and then the economy turns arounds?
Chapdelaine said he would address that by putting the measure into effect in a shorter time frame, six months to 1 year.
Michael Quinn (10), an energy consultant who was part of a committee that looked into aggregation around 2003, said he support the bylaw, but added: "I would be concerned if this raises our electric bills."
Tom Michelman (7), who work for energy broker, Good Energy, was in favor, as was John Deyst (13), who backs it because Chapdelaine is behind it.
Charles Foskett (8) said he is confused about conflation of carbon footprint and aggregation and wondered whether the town would pay through another channel. Chapdelaine said bulk negotiation lead to lower rates.
The bylaw was adopted, 177-22-5.
The evening ended with voice-vote passage of Article 29, which would remove an easement on Pleasant View Road, next to a Venner Road property voted in 2014.
Session 2: Teardown articles shot down
Read summary of No. 2 on Dan Dunn's blog >> | Votes on articles at session 2
Session No. 3 of the 2016 annual Town Meeting is expected to take up Article 18 (expanding equal protection) when it gets underway Monday, May 2.
With dispatch, members took six votes in about 15 minutes, taking care of the Special Town Meeting Wednesday, April 27. Those actions included moving forward on early steps to renovate or rebuild Arlington High School and postponing discussion of Minuteman until May 9.
With deliberation, the rest of the evening involved sometime passionate and circuitous discussion of various zoning articles -- before the meeting voted down amendments and supported the Redevelopment Board's recommendation of no action on articles aimed if slowing teardowns -- 14 (increasing space between buildings), 15 (large additions) and 16 (revision of height calculations).
Minuteman called 'tough issue'
The 2016 Town Meeting resumed Wednesday, April 27, with the special meeting.
Fincom Chair Al Tosti reported that the selectmen’s Minuteman Task Force voted, 8-1, Tuesday, April 26, to support the building. That might, the Fincom voted, 10-8, after a "full and frank discussion" to support the building. He called it a "tough issue."
Tosti asked that the issue be postponed to May 9, and it was.
Also postponed was Article 3 (Capital Budget / School Capacity Expansion), until May 11. The School Enrollment Task Force has not made a recommendation to the Finance Committee and must vote on Gibbs or Ottoson option, expected May 2.
The annual meeting continued with discussion of Article 11, a zoning proposal addressing garage locations.
This issue and a number of zoning articles following have drawn opposition from developer and real estate interests as well as a number of residents listed on a lengthy handout given to members as they entered Town Hall April 25.
Concerned homeowners, contractors express views
Six pages of information expressing no support for six zoning articles (8, 9, 10, 14, 15, 16) were handed to meeting members as they entered Town Hall on Monday, April 25. The handout is labeled from "Concerned Arlington Homeowners, Contractors, Architects and Real Estate Agents."
Arlington Realtor Steve McKenna, whose published opinion questioning the articles is included in the handout, said April 27 that he is the point person for the group. He noted that more had signed on, in addition to the 122 names on the handout.
Difficulties of talking about complex matters
Discussion of zoning articles illustrated the difficulty meeting members face when sorting out complexity. From 18 pages, zoning regulations have grown to 132, Steve Rebelak (1) said. "It you like puzzles, this is kind of fun," he said.
Some of the discussion was not fun.
After Article 11 (garage entrance locations) was postponed to May 4 on a substitute motion by Adam Auster (3), John Belskis (18), representing a citizens' group presenting a series of zoning articles, did his best to try to counter the Redevelopment Board's no-action recommendation. His substitute motion proposes changes in side-yard setbacks. Now 10 feet, the motion would make the sum on a single property 25 feet.
The aim: Control what he called "a very active development trend ... unusually large homes."
Many call for more study
A parade of meeting members as well as private citizen, including Realtor Steve McKenna, registered objections -- many reflecting what Redevelopment Board Chair Andrew Brunnell called for: more study.
At one point, repeatedly interrupted speakers led Moderator John Leone to call for civility.
Saying "everybody has a definition of 'McMansion,' McKenna said he was one of five children who group in a 500-square-foot home. After they moved to a somewhat larger home, "that was a McMansion to me," he said.
On voice votes, because electronic clickers were not used, in the absence of the person who handles them, the substitute motion failed, and the motion of no action was sustained.
Discussion of Articles 15 and 16 followed a similar pattern.
15 called most important to citizens' group
John Worden (8), the former longtime town moderator, offered his substitute with his usual wry comments. During the development of the town's new the master plan, from 2013 to 2015, he said, "I didn't see anything in that plan about protection of profits of developers."
He called Article 15 "the most important part of our agenda. When we buy a house, we're buying into a neighborhood," and when change occurs, "we should have some voice." The proposal aims to close a loophole" requiring a building plan forcing special-permit process.
Referring to the flier handed out April 25, and linked above, he said: "Every one of those pictures is wrong. Don’t be scare by that stuff."
Elizabeth Pyle (10), a new meeting member and a formerly on the Somerville Conservation Commission, echoed Worden's call for the special-permit requirement. She cited a proposal across the street from her that would have been more than 8,000 square feet, and through negotiation, was reduced to 6,000-plus.
In a word-tumbling plea, Patricia Worden (8) continued decrying what she called the "teardown epidemic."
More data requested
The tone of the Article 15 discussion turned to greater precision with questions from Annie LaCourt (15). She wanted more data about projects as well as the time required for the hearing process. The answer: 120 days or more.
She cited her own neighborhood, near Stratton, noting the number of nearby Capes that have become Colonials. "We need to find out what people are really concerned about," she said, suggesting more time is needed to do.
Fire Chief Bob Jefferson (12), saying that in his job, he sees most of the teardowns and thinks that the homes built in their places improve neighborhoods.
Of teardowns, Bill Kaplan (6) said: "I'm Ok with it. None of these things really hurt me."
Joe Tully (14) favored repairing the loophole in the process and said that doing so is not as difficult as it seems.
A 152-42 standing vote ended debate. The substitute motion went down, 92-114. A voice vote approved the Redevelopment Board's plea for no action.
16 called 'rough'
For Article 16, Pyle returned and tried, without success, to fend off another no-action bid.
She made clear that her motion differed substantially for the original article (see the full text of the motion below).
Michael Cayer (12), a Redevelopment Board member, focused on the need to see how the proposal would affect people.
Supporting Cayer, Gary Tibbetts (5) said he knew of a family who had trouble buying a home in town, finally did -- a smaller home that they wanted to expand. He claimed the pending changes before Town Meeting prevented them from doing so.
"This is still rough," said Kaplan, urging a better bylaw from the Redevelopment Board. "I don’t want skyscrapers next door." On its current form, he opposed the measure.
The amendment failed in a voice vote, and no action succeeded.
The meeting adjourned at 10:52 p.m.
Session 1: Meeting OKs zoning articles on mixed use, parking
Read summary of No. 1 on Dan Dunn's blog >> | How they voted at session 1
The 2016 annual Town Meeting got underway at Town Hall Auditorium on Monday, April 25, and following an hour and 45-minute discussion, members voted, 185-35-0, to adopt Article 6, a zoning measure that expands mixing residential with business uses.
The measure includes a series of rules aimed at broadening small business.
Defeated was an amendement by Chris Loreti, introduced by Precinct 9 member Michael Ruderman, by a vote of 65-152-1.
Article 7, a zoning measure aimed at permitting lower amounts of parking in places where alternate transportation is available, so that there would be greater opportunities for redevelopment, was approved, 180-34-2.
Articles 8 through 10 put off to May 4
Moves by Precinct 8 meeting member John Worden to postpone consideration of zoning articles 8, 9 and 10 to Wednesday, May 4, were supported. Worden did so after the Redevelopment Board switched its position and voted no action on the proposed bylaws. Worden mad others in his citizen-articles group will offer substitute motions in those cases.
Town Meeting meets every Monday and Wednesday until all warrant articles are voted on.
Each session begins at 8 p.m. and, in most cases, ends at 11 p.m.
Below are the latest amendments and motions, including 14 through 16, as well as scheduled precinct meetings. The meeting expects to begin discussing the Redevelopment Board zoning proposals, articles six through 10.
Special Town Meeting, Article 3 Finance Committee Capital Budget / School Capacity Expansion (May 9) >>
Special Town Meeting, Article 3, Finance Committee presentation (added May 11) >>
Special Town Meeting Article 6 Finance Committee report and recommended vote. Minuteman High School (May 2)
Special Town Meeting Article 6 Foskett Substitute Motion, Minuteman High School (May 2)
Arlington Redevelopment Board - Letter regarding Articles 8-10
Arlington Redevelopment Board - Articles 8-10 >>
Moderator John D. Leone lists these consent agenda articles >>
Article 6 Amendment >>
Questions? Contact Chris Loreti (cloreti[@]verizon.net, 781-641-2578).
Motions to be submitted to Town Meeting by members of the citizens zoning reform group:
Article 8 – Amendment
VOTED: to amend the recommended vote of the Arlington Redevelopment Board under Article 8 in the following respects:
1. by adding to the second sentence of the definition of Basement the following words:
(provided that for a building constructed before March 3, 2016 the limit shall be four (4) feet six (6) inches)
so that said sentence shall read as follows: “A basement is not considered a story unless its ceiling is three (3) feet six (6) inches above the average finished grade (provided that for a building constructed before March 3, 2016 the limit shall be four (4) feet six (6) inches).”
2. by adding to the second sentence of the definition of Cellar the following words:
(provided that for a building constructed before March 3, 2016 the limit shall be four (4) feet six (6) inches)
so that said sentence shall read as follows: “A cellar is not deemed a story unless its ceiling is at least three (3) feet six (6) inches above the average finished grade (provided that for a building constructed before March 3, 2016 the limit shall be four (4) feet six (6) inches)
3. by adding to the second sentence of the definition of Story the following words:
(provided that for a building constructed before March 3, 2016 the limit shall be four (4) feet six (6) inches)
so that said sentence shall read as follows: “A basement shall be deemed to be a story when its ceiling is three (3) feet six (6) inches above the finished grade (provided that for a building constructed before March 3, 2016 the limit shall be four (4) feet six (6) inches).”
Patricia B. Worden
Town Meeting Member
Precinct 8 Date _________, 2016
Article 8 - Amendment
VOTED: to amend the recommended vote of the Arlington Redevelopment Board under Article 8, by changing the definitions of Gross Floor Area and Story as follows:
Gross Floor Area, by striking out the comma after the word “more” and the words “except as excluded in (4), below” in line “b.” so that said line shall read as follows:
b. that part of the attic space with headroom, measured from the subfloor to the bottom of the roof joists, of seven feet or more;
and by striking out the words:
4. attic space and other areas for elevator machinery or mechanical equipment accessory to the operation of the building; and by changing the number “5” in the last line of the definition of Gross Floor Area to the number “4” so that said the final two lines of said definition will now read as follows:
3. open or lattice enclosed exterior fire escapes;
4. porches and balconies.
Story, by striking out the words “unfinished and not used for human occupancy and” in the last sentence so that the sentence will now read as follows:
Story: ….An attic shall not be deemed to be a story if its height is less than seven (7) feet as measured from subfloor to the bottom of the roof joists.
John L. Worden III
Town Meeting Member
Precinct 8 Date _________, 2016
Article 10 substitute motion submitted by Elizabeth Pyle May 2 (It is exactly the same as the ARB's proposed Article 10) >>
Article 11 - Substitute motion by Precinct 3 meeting member Adam Auster
This nonbinding resolution asks the town to formulate legislation for a future Town Meeting to consider new construction in residential neighborhoods. The document as put on members' chairs April 25 >>
Article 14, substitute motion
VOTED: to amend the Zoning Bylaw, in Section 6.00, by adding in the heading entitled Minimum Yard,
Ft., in the column Side, in lines R0, R1, and R2, and the figure 10A a lettered reference to
another sequentially lettered footnote, which footnote is to read as follows: with the sum of the
side yards not less than 25 feet.
Town Meeting Member
Precinct 18 Date , 2016
Article 15, substitute motion
VOTED: to amend the Zoning Bylaw, Section 6.08, by adding in the first sentence after the first
occurrence of the word “addition” the words:
to, or reconstruction or replacement (hereinafter and for the purposes of this section collectively
referred to as “alteration”) of an existing house,
and by striking out the words “such addition is constructed within the existing foundation or” and
by inserting the words “and scale” after “setbacks” and by changing the word “abutting” to “nearby”
and by inserting after the word “uses” the words: “and the potential effects of shadows and on
sunlight upon the same” and by changing the word “two” to “five”
so that said section will read as follows:
Section 6.08 – Large Additions in Residential Districts
No alteration or addition to, or reconstruction or replacement (hereinafter and for the purposes of
this section collectively referred to as “alteration”) of an existing house, permitted as a right
or by special permit in an R0, R1 or R2 District which increases the size of a building by 750
square feet or more of the gross floor area, or by 50% or more of the original building's gross
floor area shall be allowed unless there is a finding by the Special Permit Granting Authority,
acting pursuant to Section 10.11, that the alteration or addition is in harmony with other
structures and uses in the vicinity. In making its determination, the Special Permit Granting
Authority shall assess, among other relevant facts, the dimensions and setbacks and scale of the
proposed alteration or addition in relation to nearby structures and uses and the potential effects
of shadows and on sunlight upon the same and determine its conformity to the purposes set forth in
Article 1, Section 1.03, of the Zoning Bylaw. Requests for building permits for additions or
alterations which when combined with an alteration or addition constructed within the previous five
years would require a special permit finding shall be deemed to require such a finding.
John L. Worden III
Town Meeting Member
Precinct 8 Date , 2016
Article 16, substitute motion
VOTED: to amend the Zoning Bylaw, in Article 2, definition of Height of Building, by striking out
average grade of the curb line abutting the property. In the R0, R1, and R2
zoning districts where the lot has a slope in excess of five (5) percent, the height is
the vertical distance of the highest point of the roof above the average
and inserting in place thereof the word “mean” and by changing the word “before” to the word
“after” and by deleting the sentence:
This definition excludes penthouses, bulkheads, and other allowable superstructures above the roof
and inserting in place thereof the sentence:
In computing the highest point of the roof, elevator shafts, bulkheads for access to the roof,
chimneys, antennae, ventilators, and the like shall not be included.
so that said definition, as amended will read as follows:
Height of Building: The vertical distance of the highest point of the roof above the mean finished
grade of the ground adjoining the building, as computed after the building is actually erected. In
computing the highest point of the roof, elevator shafts, bulkheads for access to the roof,
chimneys, antennae, ventilators, and the like shall not be included.
Town Meeting Member,
Precinct 10 Date , 2016
Materials - Article 22
Susan Stamps, a Precinct 3 Town Meeting member, and others from the Arlington Tree provide information about the Tree Preservation Bylaw, Article 22 >>
Call her with any questions or comments at 978-807-7933.
Article 26 Substitute Motion
Prepared by Christopher Loreti
VOTED: That in accordance with Section 15(j) of the Town Manager Act of the Town of Arlington, Massachusetts, the Town does hereby request that the Town Manager provide individual Town email accounts to members of the Board of Selectmen, School Committee, Finance Committee, Board of Assessors, Redevelopment Board, and to members of any other public bodies subject to the Pubic Records Law that the Town Manager may deem appropriate. The email addresses for such accounts shall be the only addresses listed on the Town’s websites for the members of the affected public bodies, and shall be the exclusive means of email communications from Town employees to the members of the affected public bodies when conducting Town business. Notwithstanding the above, no member of a public body affected by this vote shall be required to use email to conduct Town business.
Erin Taylor (erinmelissataylor[@]gmail.com, 617-894-7037), a resident of Precinct 7 and a volunteer with Arlington Mothers Out Front, a group working on Article 28, which seeks to authorize the town to pursue a cost-effective electricity supply for Arlington residents and businesses that includes more renewable energy. Please find here:
Article 29 reconsideration (Christian Klein, May 9) >>
Article 30 - Conservation Committee Letter, Nathaniel Stevens, chair of the Conservation Commission, related to the Mt. Gilboa warrant article >>
Appendix to Article 33 left out of selectmen's report submitted May 2 by Fran Reidy, selectmen's office >>
Caryn Malloy, town personnel direector, asks Town Meeting members to use this document when considering Article 34 Positions Reclassification in the report of the Finance Committee.
I encourage Town Meeting members, especially new members, to please contact me with any questions you may have.
"Why We Will Fill the New School: Reasons to Expect In-District Enrollment to Grow at Minuteman High School.”
Presentations from Minuteman Superintendant Bouquillon: budget, high school project (May 9) >>
Minuteman update: May 5 memo from Edward A. Bouquillon, Superintendent, following Belmont's vote on the Minuteman Building Project >>
Conservation Preservation Act Committee recommended votes on Articles 57, 58 (May 11, corrected) >>
Many precinct meetings held
Precincts 2, 3, 4, 6, 6 and 7 met Sunday, April 24, at 3 p.m., at the Hardy School, 52 Lake St.
Precincts 11, 14, 17 and 21 met Sunday, April 24, from 2 to 4 p.m., at the Senior Center, 27 Maple St.
Precincts 8, 10 and 12 had a combined precinct meeting to review the upcoming warrant and discuss issues before this year's Town Meeting at the Arlington Senior Center, 27 Maple St., on Sunday, April 24, from 4 to 6 p.m. the day before Town Meeting begins.
Precincts 16, 18 and 20 met Sunday, April 24, at 6:30 p.m., in St. Camillus Parish, Lower Hall, 1175 Concord Turnpike.
Precincts 13, 15 and 19 met Saturday, April 23, from 2 to 5 p.m., at the Senior Center.
Precinct 1 held a meeting at 7 p.m. on Wednesday, April 20, at the Fox Library.
In a growing tradition for precincts to meet before the start of Town Meeting, Precinct 9 met 2 p.m. Sunday, April 10, in the community room at Common Ground Restaurant, 319 Broadway.
Paul Schlichtman report the precinct is meeting before school vacation week to give those who will be out of town the opportunity to attend. As a result, the selectmen's final recommended votes on warrant articles will not be available in time for the meeting.
Proponents of articles are invited to attend to present their proposed votes.
Those present will also review general procedures for Town Meeting members.
While this meeting is for Precinct 9, all Arlington residents are invited to attend.
Reports to Town Meeting: Redevelopment Board | CPA Committee | Selectmen | Finance Committee | Master Plan Implementation Committee Report | Arlington Committee on Tourism and Economic Development | Treasurer's | Capital Planning | Building committee | Concom on water bodies
Main town website link for Town Meeting: arlingtonma.gov/townmeeting
The warrant for the annual Town Meeting opened Tuesday, Dec. 1, at 8 a.m., and it closed Friday, Jan. 29, at noon.
During these times, articles could be submitted to the Board of Selectmen's office. Note that 100 signatures are required for a citizens' article for a special session; 10 are required for the annual Town Meeting.
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