Does the hot weather make you crave frozen custard from Abbott’s in Arlington Center? Soon you will be able to enjoy these delicious treats in the Heights as well. The board unanimously approved an additional location, at 71 Park Ave., directly across from the site of the former Brigham’s, now an eye doctor's office.

Selectboard logo, May 20, 2019

Open daily, 1 p.m. to 9 p.m., it will serve the same products as the Center location, in Broadway Plaza, via a walk-up window, said owner Jason Denoncourt.

“I’m very excited about this. I have Abbott’s across the street from my office, and now one near my house,” said Board Chair John Hurd.

 'Thank you' banner in Whittemore Park

A banner commemorating the town’s first responders ― health-care workers, teachers, town staff and other essential workers ― will be installed in a prominent location in Whittemore Park, as unanimously approved by the board.

Hurd and Town Manager Adam Chapdelaine will determine the exact wording and design.

“We can make it work,” said Chapdelaine.

Board member Joseph Curro Jr. said, “It’s very timely.” 

Five trees to be removed from Old Burying Ground

Five trees — one elm, one sugar maple, one crab apple and two Norway maples — will be removed from the Old Burying Ground, next to First Parish, as unanimously approved by the board.

“This request is due to a previously funded CPA project to construct a perimeter wall around the Old Burying Ground. To do so, we need to remove some current trees that are damaging the wall or structures, or interfering with access to the wall or structures,” said James Feeney, interim facilities director.

“We hired a conservation tree specialist to work with our town tree warden, and to make the most conservative request possible. We’ll perform intense maintenance on the remaining tress, to invigorate the remaining core canopy — pruning to reduce crowns and deadwood that occurs after storms — along with routine root maintenance,” added Feeney.

Several town committees also approve this tree removal: Arlington Historical Society, Cemetery Commission and the Community Preservation Act Committee.

Keith Schnebly, Tree Committee member, said, “We are planting, and well as removing and pruning trees. I appreciate that the Tree Committee consulted us before implementing the plan. It’s a good plan.”

Board tables discussion of Mirak property-development letter 

The board unanimously agreed to table discussion of their letter to Mass Housing regarding the 140-apartment development, one-fourth of them described as affordable, in Arlington Heights until its next meeting, Aug. 31. Read the letter here >>

In proposing the first phase of a 40B project, an applicant must obtain project eligibility and site approval from Mass Housing, a state agency. It’s a way to encapsulate the pros and cons of the project from the board’s perspective, explained Town Counsel Doug Heim.

“Being able to come back with the finalized letter is better than doing it now. It’s a great project with lots of artist space, which we need in Arlington,” said Hurd.

Hurd also clarified that this approval “isn’t approval of the project, just the letter.” 

“This letter shows support from the Select Board, but doesn’t bind the Board of Appeals. It’s the first of two or three yeses that this development needs,” said Board member Diane Mahon.

Board member Joseph Curro, Jr. said, “We want to come back and incorporate anything that comes up, and this letter supports our cooperative endeavor. We have an obligation to represent the concerns that our constituents raise, such as the loss of creative studio space and the sustainable energy business that was there, the project’s mix of affordability, and lots of historical reuse, but still the loss of the site’s oldest building. I’m comfortable with how the letter is constructed now, but would like time to come back and incorporate any additional comments.”

Board member Lenard Diggins also supports the project. “It’s a really good letter.”

Julia Mirak Kew, vice president at Mirak Properties, said, “We appreciate all the positive comments in the letter, and that it conforms to the master plan, including historic preservation, and we did our best to conform to what the town wants in new developments. We’d like more time to respond to this letter and give the Select Board the information they need.” 

Kew also discussed issues of affordability and artist space: “We’re willing to work with the town to increase affordability, but don’t want this letter to include expectations that we cannot deliver, such as economic feasibility.

“Our family has been supportive to the artist community. We’ve owned the property for 50 years and rented to them at below-market rates. But it’s time to move on with the building’s next life. A tremendous amount of money is needed for new utilities, the bridge and life-safety issues. It’s not economically feasible to subsidize artists on top of affordable housing. We’re happy to display artwork in the new building and sculptures outside, and continue our program with the Arlington Center for the Arts.” 

Letters published by YourArlington have expressed concern about retaining space for artists. 

Daniel Sinclair, managing director of the developers Spaulding & Slye of Boston, added, “This development would be much easier if we did whatever the board wants, but this project has financial and feasibility limitations, and we’re already stretched financially. We promise to do our best to meet these goals and look forward to our conversations, and strongly seek the board’s letter of support.”

Mystic-Chestnut safety-improvement requests

The Select Board will forward three letters received from town residents requesting pedestrian-safety improvements at the Mystic and Chestnuts streets crosswalk to Arlington’s Transportation Advisory Committee, as unanimously approved by the board.

Sept. 6 proclaimed 'Ruth Balboni Day'

In honor of resident Ruth Balboni’s 100th birthday, Sept. 6 will be celebrated as “Ruth Balboni Day,” as unanimously approved by the board.

All Select Board members wished Ruth a happy birthday, and Mahon congratulated her for a “well-lived life, that she’s continuing to do.”

In 1964, Ruth moved to Arlington and started a new job with Honeywell Inc. as a laboratory technician until her retirement in 1985.

New appointments/reappointments

The board unanimously approved the following town committee appointments:

  • Emily Reynolds, Grants Committee of the Arlington Commission for Arts and Culture (formerly Arlington Cultural Council); term expires June 30, 2023.

“I’m interested in joining this committee to learn about the town’s arts and culture. When I worked at Washington, D.C.’s Institute of Museum and Library Services, I enjoyed making funding decisions and working with funding grantees, and would like to do the same for Arlington,” said Reynolds.

Hurd said, “This is an important committee to the town and fabric of our community.”

  • Scott Lever, associate member, Park and Recreation Commission; term expires June 30, 2023.

“As a Town Meeting member and Envision Arlington Committee interim cochair, I want to have a positive impact on something that’s important to my family during this time of social distancing,” said Lever.

Curro said, “Parks are important to us as an outlet for fitness and other endeavors right now.”

  • Katherine Levine Einstein, Redevelopment Board; term expires Jan. 31, 2023. Read the memo >>

“I served on the Housing and Implementation Committee for two years, and want to get involved in housing goals, which is in line with my professional life. I’m excited about having the chance to support the town, making housing successful for all residents. We, as a community, need more housing right now and to listen to everyone and contextualize their input,” said Einstein.

Poet laureate reappointed

The board also unanimously approved Arlington’s third poet laureate, Steven Ratiner, for reappointment. Ratiner has served since 2019. YourArlington has published a series he has chosen, “Red Letter Poems,”and it has reached 22.

June 30, 2020: Up to 140 apartments slated behind Mirak dealerships

This news summary, by YourArlington freelance writer Susan Gilbert, was published Friday, Aug. 21, 2020.