Board to weigh marijuana ballot question Jan. 23

Arlington is looking into expanding its transportation options via bicycle-sharing, and Selectmen Chair Diane Mahon said Monday, Jan. 9, that expects "receiving some good options in the next six to 12 months."

 Board of Selectmen logo, Jan. 23, 2013Hubway stationFamiliar to Boston and Cambridge cyclists, such sharing involves a network of stations with publicly available bicycles, available to rent for short trips at a low cost, said Seth Federspiel, representing the Bicycle Advisory Committee and the Transportation Advisory Committee.

Selectmen favor the regional Hubway system: heavy-duty bikes, stations and locks that could be used for commuting, errands and recreational use. "I don’t think there is a choice other than Hubway," said Selectman Joseph Curro Jr.

Hubway has 200 Arlington members, and would increase its fairly extensive existing network that includes more than 100 stations in Boston, Brookline, Cambridge and Somerville.

Arlington would purchase the bikes and stations; Hubway would provide maintenance, system service and customer support, the board was told.

Suggested station locations in Arlington would include the town center, along Mass. Ave. from East Arlington to the Heights and on Broadway.

Other bike-sharing programs Federspiel presented were Zagster, which provides less-durable bikes with more limited capabilities, and a local system just for Arlington.

What would it cost?

Arlington would purchase, and thus own, all the equipment. Having five stations and 50 bikes would cost the town an initial $243,000, with $125,000 in annual operating expenses. These costs would be offset by an estimated $196,000 in annual revenue and user fees, said Federspiel.

Federspiel said the town's Vision 2020 Committee is conducting a survey to gauge interest in bicycle-sharing among residents.

Bicycle-sharing would provide these benefits, the board was told:

-- Save residents money (it is less expensive to bike-share than to invest in a new bike);

-- Improve public health;

-- Reduce traffic congestion and improve air quality;

-- Increase the reach of public transit;

-- Attract new cyclists; and

-- Increase accessibility to businesses (bike riders travel more slowly than cars, enabling them to stop at stores and restaurants).

See the report here >>

Bicycle-sharing is "an important part of our economic development strategy; the Board takes a strong stance for multiuse development, and using less parking," Curro said.

The board voted 4-0 (Kevin Greeley was absent) to examine bike-sharing more fully.

Other bicycle-related news

The board approved the Lake Street/Bikeway Design Review Committee, which will oversee the design of a signal at the intersection of Lake Street and the Minuteman Bikeway, to increase safety. See the members here >>

The board also approved the Minuteman Bikeway's 25th Anniversary Committee, which will hold events to honor this milestone. See the members here >>

Looking ahead to recreational marijuana here

Town Manager Adam Chapdelaine discussed with the board their potential consideration of a local ballot question this April that would ask residents whether they want to opt out of allowing a recreational-marijuana dispensary in Arlington.

The issue is expected to be decided at the selectmen's next meeting, Jan. 23.

Massachusetts voters legalized recreational marijuana use last November. This statewide ballot question would have allowed the Cannabis Control Commission to begin accepting applications for recreational marijuana facilities on Dec. 1, 2017. The state Legislature has changed that date to April 1, 2018, Chapdelaine said.

However, the statute allows the town to adopt bylaws to prohibit recreational marijuana. This would not necessarily be a zoning bylaw, more likely a general bylaw, but serve to limit the opportunities, he said.

"There's a difference between voting for something you think is a good idea versus something in your backyard," Chapdelaine said.

Arlington would be eligible for one marijuana dispensary. Towns are allowed up to 20 percent of the number of licensed liquor stores, and Arlington has five liquor stores, said Selectman Steven Byrne.

The possibility of a recreational-marijuana dispensary has created some concern, following on the heels of hearings for medical-marijuana dispensary in a Water Street building. Resident Karen Thomas-Alyea recommends Arlington hold a referendum offering the chance to opt out of sales facilities in the town, because of its possible location within 500 feet of schools and the potential impact on the town’s character. Read her letter here >>

No town location has been proposed.

Opposition to pipeline taxes

Three selectmen are siding with consumers against utility companies that want to tax citizens for new gas pipelines.

The board voted, 3-1 (Dunn abstained), to sign a recent letter requesting that state lawmakers pass legislation against a new pipeline tax and new gas pipelines that proponents see as unneeded. See the group's documents here >>

Explaining why he abstained, Dunn said, "I don’t feel sufficiently educated on this issue to take a position on behalf of the town, although I'm not passionately opposed."

The letter, circulated by Mass Power Forward, a clean-energy advocacy group, is being circulated to local governments throughout the state. Arlington is one of the first towns to sign the letter.

Members of Mothers Out Front Arlington, a grass-roots organization that supports efforts that it sees as counteracting climate change, and an active participant in the Mass Power Forward coalition, spoke. They recommend, instead, transitioning to clean energy.

Group members had joined a rally earlier that day in Boston to express concerns about climate-change deniers

"We appreciate the partnership of the town's leaders in working toward a livable future for our children," said Anne Wright, representing Mothers Out Front Arlington.

Selectman Byrne said, "It's important that communities take a stance, and keep this as a top-level priority."

Fox Library's van parking

The board voted unanimously to approve a designated parking space at the Fox Library for the library van, excluding weekends and holidays.

The van delivers books and other materials to and from the Fox Library daily, said Andrea Nicolay, directory of libraries. This extra space used to be designated "no parking," and would not affect the handicapped parking space at the corner of Mass. Ave. and Cleveland.

Open Space Committee

Elizabeth Carr-Jones has been approved to serve on the Open Space Committee as the Vision 2020 Standing Committee liaison (term expires Dec. 31, 2020).

Carr-Jones has been involved with Arlington’s open spaces for many years, including Robbins Farm Park, Magnolia Park, Mt. Gilboa, the Arlington Reservoir and Symmes Woods. "I am honored to be considered, and look forward to furthering the goals of both committees," she said.

Nov. 8, 2016: Redevelopment Board approves medical-marijuana dispensary

This news summary, by YourArlington freelance writer Susan Gilbert, was published Wednesday, Jan. 11, 2017.