No action on affordable-housing measure recommended

Selectboard logo, May 20, 2019 Actions taken on April 5 ...

The Select Board on April 5 voted to support eight Town Meeting articles and recommended no action on three.

Approved articles:

  • Article 7, Bylaw Amendment/Rock Removal Requirements―Requires rock excavation in residential or commercial development be conducted by blasting rather than chipping, digging or other means of mechanical excavation.
  • Article 20, Vote/Public Remote Participation―Establishes parameters for remote participation by members of the public in public meetings.
  • Article 24, Home Rule Legislation/Ranked Choice Voting―Authorizes the Select Board to file Home Rule Legislation to elect town offices by Ranked Choice Voting.
  • Article 79, Resolution/Encouragement of Energy Efficient and/or Sustainable Energy Installations in Historic Districts―Allows the Arlington Historic Districts Commission to install solar panels, heat pumps, or other energy-efficient technology as long as they do not change any historic features or materials.
  • Article 81, Resolution/Broadway Corridor Design Competition―Allows the town to sponsor a design competition to encourage new housing and mixed-use construction in the Broadway corridor.
  • Article 86, Resolution/Celebrating Indigenous Peoples Day―Recognizes and celebrates the heritage of peoples indigenous to Massachusetts and Arlington on the second Monday in October.
  • Article 89, Resolution/Prince Hall Day (Precinct 9 meeting member Beth Melofchik added several historical modifications)―Declares June 24 as Prince Hall Day.
  • Article 90, Resolution/Program to Install Electric Vehicle Charging Stations―Implements a comprehensive program to install electric vehicle charging stations throughout the town. 
Articles recommended no action:
  • Article 16, Bylaw Amendment/Pre-Construction Rodent Survey and Pest Management―Requires a rodent survey assessment of property undergoing foundation excavation before excavation begins, in order to allocate burrows and apply integrated pest management, such as dry ice.
  • Article 21, Vote/Reserve Affordable Housing for People Earning at or Under 60% AMI―Earmarks a majority percentage of municipal funds allocated for affordable housing or households/individuals making at or under 60 percent AMI.
  • Article 23, Vote/Affordable Overlay Study―Studies how to implement an Affordable Housing Overlay District. 

Warrant articles reviewed

Article 25 Home Rule Legislation/Real Estate Transfer Fee

The board unanimously recommended authorizing the town to join neighboring communities to assess a real estate transfer fee, in order to support affordable housing in Arlington.

The proceeds would be directed to the recently created Arlington Affordable Housing Trust Fund. The goal is to develop a steady stream of income to support the town’s goals of affordable housing, separate from other town funds. 

The board would have the discretion to set a fee between 0.5 and 2.0 percent, but no less than the state median sale price of $425, 000 for a transaction. It could also determine who pays―the buyer, seller or some combination of both, explained Town Counsel Doug Heim. 

Before it can become a bylaw, the state Legislature would have to adopt the substance of the article and then be approved by Arlington voters, added Town Counsel Doug Heim.

 “I would like to see a plan from the Planning Department on how to spend the funds, and what they can afford for subsidized housing,” said board member Diane Mahon.

Board member Steve DeCourcey said, “There are a lot of unknowns. Other towns and cities that have approved this have not been passed by the state Legislature. This is a multistep process, so a lot of discussion will be needed going forward. If it’s successful at Town Meeting, and goes through the Legislature, this board has to be very clear what the fee is, and the exemption amount.”

Added board member Dan Dunn: “This won’t come to voters until 2023.”

Board chair John Hurd said, “As we talk to residents, affordable housing is a critical issue. A lot of residents are excited about the Affordable Housing Trust. This is the first step in the process, and the issue of affordable housing is a subject near and dear to Arlington residents.”

Board member Len Diggins said, “The real issue is poverty, and we need to solve for that. That’s why I support these incremental acts because at least we’re trying.”

Article 27 Revolving Funds

The board unanimously recommended reauthorizing funds annually, in order to authorize expenditures of the various town revolving funds, in accordance with state law. This article represents how revolving funds are currently examined by Town Meeting. 

“We need to look at the spending limit,” said Town Manager Adam Chapdelaine.

Article 52 Endorsement of Parking Benefit District Expenditures

The Select Board unanimously recommended endorsing the fiscal 2022 Parking Benefit District operating and capital expenditures. This endorsement approves the operating and capital expenditures proposed by the town manager and Parking Implementation Governance Committee, and recommends Town Meeting’s endorsement of the votes of the Finance and Capital Planning Committees.

“The establishment of parking meters in Arlington center was to create a benefit district,” Chapdelaine said. “We’ve put approximately $180K toward the Center sidewalk project. Last year, due to the pandemic, we didn’t generate as much parking revenue, and then decided to cease metering during the height of the pandemic. We still have residual balances from previous years, and expect to rebound next year.

“The only expenditure we’re asking for is $20K for plantings in Arlington Center. We change them out four times a year, once each season. Businesses appreciate this.”

April 12, 2021: 5 Town Meeting articles advance, no action on 1, 2 tabled

This news summary, by YourArlington freelance writer Susan Gilbert, was published Wednesday, April 14, 2021.