Selectboard logo, May 20, 2019
'I want to think about ways to attract and retain businesses.'

-- Ali Carter

Attention foodies: More Arlington outdoor dining options may be on the way.

The town is expediting the processes for outdoor businesses, as recommended by Arlington’s latest economic plan, explained Ali Carter, economic-development coordinator, and unanimously approved by the board.

“As we transition from the pandemic phase of Covid to the more endemic phase, I want to think about ways to attract and retain businesses in Arlington,” said Carter.

Colleague John Hurd said, “The outdoor dining process has been beneficial for businesses. I support anything that promotes new businesses in town.”

DeCourcey said, “I’m all for any opportunity to upgrade outdoor parklets that’ll attract more people. The one on Medford Street is a big improvement.”

See the agenda document >>  

The economic plan also made the following two recommendations, which the board did not approve:

  • Streamline economic-development-related committees 

Carter recommended streamlining Arlington’s five economic-development committees and some of the town’s affirming and licensing processes. 

In an email to the town manager, Carter wrote, “To achieve Town goals for economic development and commercial district vitality, the committees need to be coordinated, their roles and budgets rationalized for where they fit into the Town’s overall planning picture.”

At the meeting, Carter said: “Although the local economy remains strong, commercial vacancies have more than doubled (from 3 to 7 percent) during the pandemic. The pandemic continues to affect the town’s small businesses, and I want to keep our businesses strong.”

Eric Helmuth responded: “I’m happy to see such thought put into streamlining economic development-related committees. It’s a great response to support businesses.”

  • Revise policies, rules and regulations of alcohol licenses for restaurants

Carter also recommended revising polices for alcohol licenses for restaurants, aiming to lift requirements on restaurants that increase their costs and operational burdens, and may unintentionally keep certain food businesses from opening in town.

Police study committee provides interim report 

The Civilian Police Advisory Board Study Committee is considering alternate ways for residents to file complaints about police officer interactions, to study whether Arlington would benefit from a police – civilian review board and to study how recent changes to state law regarding public safety and policing might affect the town, said Laura Gitelson, committee co-chair. 

“A lack of trust in police occurs in every town in every state. It’s not a reflection of the police department or Chief Julie Flaherty. We’re currently in the listening phase, briefing community members and meeting with town leaders to demonstrate our committee’s seriousness and dedication,” added Gitelson.

Committee member Carlos Morales said, “We look into complaints filed by residents to ensure fairness and consistency, and to make it easier for community members to understand the complaint process.” 

“I’m impressed by how hard you’re working, listening and learning,” said Helmuth. 

See the agenda documents, including the interim report >> 

Bluebike stations relocated

Next time you need a Bluebike, look carefully ― Arlington’s two busiest stations have changed locations.

At the Oct. 25 Select Board meeting, Daniel Amstutz, Arlington’s senior transportation planner, said that both stations, situated along the Minuteman Bikeway, are being moved to free up more parking spaces:

  • Linwood Street, next to Scannell Field — Moved off-street about 20 feet to a newly constructed sidewalk behind the existing sidewalk along Scannell Field. This relocation was approved through the town’s Parks and Recreation Commission and the Recreation Department.
  • Railroad Lot, in the town-owned railroad parking lot near Uncle Same Plaza — Moved Arlington’s western-most Bluebike location about 50 feet onto an existing sidewalk adjacent to the building at 633-641 Mass. Ave. The town is working with Bluebikes to ensure there’s enough room to store all the bikes and for people to walk by. The Select Board unanimously approved this relocation.

Off-street stations enable bikes to be used year-round, saving the town money. Storing bikes over the winter costs around $5,000 annually. (Bikes must be removed from the streets to avoid snowplows.) The only impact is on snow clearance, which Bluebike staff will do within 24 hours when the town gets six or more inches of snow, said Amstutz. 

“We’re also thinking of moving other on-street locations off street,” added Amstutz. Arlington has six Bluebikes stations, five are on-street. 

Hurd said, “Bluebikes are widely used, and a huge asset. Centrally located bikes at the Railroad Lot are beneficial for the town.”

“People ride in the winter more than you’d think. They’re deterred more by precipitation than temperature. Biking promotes health,” said board member Helmuth.

Eversource, Verizon encouraged to remove double telephone poles

Board Chair Steve DeCourcey said that Eversource and Verizon are not complying with the statute to remove existing poles, and replace each with a new pole, within 90 days of installation. Instead, the utilities have one pole hold up another, sometimes for years.

“We’d like some cooperation from Eversource and Verizon. In November 2020, I asked Eversource about our double poles. Of Arlington’s 148 double poles, only one is in compliance with the law,” in existence less than 90 days, said DeCourcey 

“We continue to get installation requests from Eversource and Verizon, yet they first need to inquire about our backlog. If we don’t see any progress, the board should table requests until we get a response,” added DeCourcey.

Jacqueline Duffy, Eversource supervisor, has taken pictures and sent them to Verizon to help resolve this issue. 

Hurd said, “A lot of residents are concerned about this, for good reason. Hopefully, we can work with utility companies to resolve this, and I thank Jacqueline Duffy for offering to help work with us.”

“I’m interested in what our Legislature can do,” said board member Len Diggins. 

Board supports state affordable-housing bill

The board unanimously endorsed Bill S.868/H.1377: An Act Empowering Cities and Towns to Impose a Fee on Certain Real Estate Transactions to Support Affordable Housing

“This bill creates local options, and can create a real estate transfer fee,” said DeCourcey.

Diggins said, “Many municipalities are involved in this. State Reps. Sean Garballey and Dave Rogers, and Sen. Cindy Friedman, support this bill. It’d be good to be a part of this, to show solidarity.” 

See the entire Oct. 25 broadcast on ACMi:

Oct. 27, 2021: Allocations OK'd for $35.2M from ARPA, including $4M for premium pay

This news summary, by YourArlington freelance writer Susan Gilbert, was published Monday, Nov. 1, 2021.