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UPDATED May 9: The fourth session of the 2023 annual Town Meeting, on Wednesday, May 3, completed 35 of 72 articles, before adjourning to Monday, May 8, when it is expect to consider Article 12 (artificial turf).

Scroll down to see a variety of motions and amendments as well as the news that Belmont Hill won't fund artificial turf at Poets Corner.

The May 3 session included a Special Town Meeting. See the regular-session votes here >> and the STM votes here >> 

Session four on May 3 began with an hourlong Special Town Meeting supporting a new way to hire police officers and agreeing to study the concept of hybrid – in person and online simultaneously – future Town Meetings. 

Reconvening later in the evening, the regular session passed several articles on zoning and other issues.

Article 30: Open space

The longest and liveliest debate -- on Article 30, having to do with a proposal to reduce usable-open-space requirements for many residences -- did not reach a conclusion by the 11 p.m. deadline.

Some were in favor, saying they thought that homeowners should have more freedom to improve their properties as they wish. 

Others were concerned that people would be motivated to turn lawns into driveways or parking spaces; that the change would drive conversions of some local businesses into luxury low-density, one- and two-family homes in business districts. This would in turn reduce quality of life in town by eliminating services and products and jobs that local businesses provide to residents. 

Christian Klein (10), chair of the Zoning Board of Arlington – the body to which residents must apply for special permits or variances to overcome the minimum requirement for usable open-space -- made no formal recommendation, opinion or statement. He called it a “very complicated issue.”

STM Article 1: Seeking to drop civil service

In the Special Town Meeting, officials asked to be able to file a home-rule petition with the state Legislature to let Arlington drop the current civil-service system, saying that it is ineffective and overly reliant on a sole examination. 

Doing this would likely result in providing a pool of more and better candidates, according to both Police Chief Juliann Flaherty and Town Manager Sandy Pooler.

"We’re trying to fix a problem that we’re having right now,” Flaherty said. She said that in each of two recent years, fewer than 20 people signed up for the annual test. In contrast, some other towns that have relinquished civil service now typically get 50 to 100 applicants, she said.

No longer using civil service in the future would not affect anyone already working for the town’s police department, she said, nor would it remove any candidates currently on the civil-service list from consideration for hiring.

Pooler said that the civil service system nationwide was adopted decades ago in response to patronage practices yet didn’t actually accomplish its primary goal -- of avoiding the nepotism that can result in hiring “everybody’s cousins or nephews or nieces.”

Flaherty said she would prefer for Arlington to be able to recruit up to four times yearly and to use town-devised assessments, including role-playing typical real-life situations, plus physical examinations. 

Without having to give automatic preference to military veterans and current town residents as is currently required, the police force in future, she hopes, would diversify as to ethnic background and native languages. These future officers likely would be better able to communicate with the residents they serve, more nearly mirror 21st-century society and generally increase community trust, she said.

Just how nonreflective the current department makeup is of the general population seemed evident when Flaherty was questioned by Susan Ryan-Vollmar of Precinct 19, who noted that Arlington is around half female. Flaherty responded that of the 61 current officers, eight are female, or about 13 percent. Ryan-Vollmar then said that the town is 25 percent people of color; Flaherty said five of its 61 officers currently so identify; that is less than 10 percent.

Contacted May 8, Ryan-Vollmar said that BiPoc people actually are more than 28 percent of the town according toU.S. Census Bureaudata.

Article 3 passed with 199 in favor, 17 opposed and 3 abstaining.

STM Article 2: Hybrid study

More contentious but still passing was Article 2, establishment of a “hybrid Town Meeting study committee,” to take a comprehensive look at the concept of offering members a choice of whether to be in Town Hall or elsewhere. 

Historically, Town Meeting had until the year 2020 always been in person and in Town Hall, but, because of the Covid-19 pandemic, it met only virtually, over Zoom, in 2021 and 2022. In 2020, the meeting was held outdoors, at Peirce Field at Arlington High School.

Longtime former Town Moderator John D. Leone (8) was opposed. “It is very hard to run a Zoom meeting with 252” members, he said, adding that he considered this to be a major reason that the 2022 meeting ran 13 sessions. “We lost a lot of seasoned Town Meeting members,” he said, who had difficulty with using Zoom and/or who simply disliked the loss of collegiality. 

“Just because we can doesn’t mean we should” meet virtually or in hybrid, Leone said. Relinquishing in-person-only meetings without pressing need “would be changing the culture of the town” in a negative way, he said.

Xavid Pretzer (17) disagreed, saying that the hybrid modality allows for more participation, including from those who have difficulty attending in person because of physical disabilities, child-care needs or other situations. “A hybrid Town Meeting would be the best of all worlds,” he said.

Without specifically taking a stand, Ben Rudick (6) said that attending in person is tough for him because of having three children under the age of 5. “I am someone who is deeply affected by what you [may] decide,” he said.

The vote was 183 in favor, 33 opposed and 1 abstaining.

Article 9: Record-keeping

The special Town Meeting was dissolved by majority voice vote about 9 p.m. It resumed discussion and debate on Article 9, the keeping of records of meetings, and specifically the substitute motion offered by Adam Badik (5) on striking out the word “stenographic” from the town bylaws.

Mark Rosenthal (14), a software engineer for half a century, said that hard-copy transcripts remain essential, that only three times in the past 33 years has a human stenographer not shown up and cautioned that “computers are not magic – they have their own constraints.” 

He said digital storage can be lost “to the vagaries of the computer business” and asked rhetorically, “What if a company decides it's no longer going to support formats?” Examples he gave include the once-popular WordStar and WordPerfect software. In contrast, ancient documents recorded on parchment and even in cuneiform can still be read by those who understand the languages in which they are written, he said.

The Badik amendment striking the word “stenographic” replaced the original main motion; the amended wording, “a complete record,” rather than “a complete stenographic record,” passed, with 180 in favor, 40 opposed and no abstentions.

Article 24: CDBG

Article 24, a routine measure to enforce the annual applications of Community Development Block Grants, or CDBG, passed easily after Select Board Chair Eric Helmuth said that the town does this “every year – it’s worth doing.” 

The grants support public housing, public facilities such as parks, other public services and administrative functions. 

The vote was 218 in favor, with no one opposed and 4 abstaining.

Article 25: Revolving funds

Article 25 was the annual reauthorization of revolving funds, advocated for by Alex McGee, deputy town manager/finance director. It passed 207 to 1 to 1.

The next several articles all were about zoning.  

Articles 26, 27, 28, 29: Zoning

Article 26 is a bylaw amendment concerning industrial districts intended to create higher performance standards having to do with dealing with stormwater. Rachel Zsembery, chair of the Arlington Redevelopment Board, said the standards would be high but achievable and that the amendment would provide clarity. It passed 203 to 3 to 1.

Article 27, also supported by Zsembery, has to do with compliance between two existing standards for solar-energy systems. This passed 207 to 2 to 1.

Article 28 is about building inspector enforcement and removes sections of the bylaw deemed unenforceable by the state attorney general. It passed 203 to 1 to 5.

Article 29 was about parking-space minimums in the vicinity of Mystic and Mass. Ave. in Arlington Center. Generally, the expectation is for requiring one parking space for every 300 square feet of area within a business district, but this can hurt businesses and is not needed, many said, especially given the nearby bus routes and bike path -- and the fact that the town maintains large public-parking lots in the vicinity. 

Not everyone agreed with dropping this rule, including Jo Anne Preston (5), who said that many senior citizens benefit from having parking spaces adjacent to the businesses they wish to patronize.

However, it passed 177 to 29 to 2.

See also notes by Christian Klein (10) >>

Special Town Meeting articles updated in the annotated warrant

STM 3: Presentation by Sandy Pooler and Chief Flaherty

Articles Updated in the Annotated Warrant

Article 31: Background materials, Kristin Anderson, Precinct 11

Watch the May 3 meeting on ACMi:

ACMi provides live coverage on the Government channel (Comcast 22, RCN 614, Verizon 26) and streaming live at The locally based cable television station also typically will rebroadcast each session multiple times. 

Then the meeting plans to return to Article 30 (two-family open space) after completion of Article 12.

The annotated warrant for the annual Town Meeting is available, but it does not contain the vote language or comments on the financial articles. They are to be added soon. 

Updates to the annotated warrant (amendments, substitute motions and presentations or statements are linked at the bottom of each article in the Additional Materials section):

Article 6 – Presentation submitted by John D. Leone, Precinct 8
Article 6 – Amendment by Chris Loreti, Precinct 7
Article 6 – Presentation by Chris Loreti, Precinct 7
Article 9 – Substitute Motion, Adam Badik, Precinct 5
Article 10 – Presentation by Clean Energy Future Committee
Article 10 – Letter from Pat Hanlon, Precinct 5
 Article 12 – FAQ submitted by Jordan Weinstein, Precinct 21
Article 12 – Statement from the Board of Health (handout was on the table Wed) 
Article 12 – Letter from Program for Global Public Health submitted by Robin Bergman, Precinct 12
Article 12 – Letter from Greg Dennis, Precinct 1
Article 12 – Letter from Shaw Industries submitted by Larry Slotnick, Precinct 7
Article 12 – Letter from Sierra Club of Massachusetts submitted by Beth Melofchik, Precinct 9
Article 12 – Letter re: Helihon Study, Jordan Weinstein, Precinct 21
Article 12 – Letter responding to Greg Dennis, Jordan Weinstein, Precinct 21
Article 12 – background on PFAS in Shaw Turf, Jordan Weinstein, Precinct 21 
Article 12 – Rebuttal of PRC statement, Jordan Weinstein, Precinct 21
Article 12 – Letter, National Center for Health Research, Robin Bergman, Precinct 12
Article 12 – Statement re: Board of Health Statement, Beth Melofchik, Precinct 9
Article 12 – Letter from Christa Kelleher, Precinct 5
Article 12 – Presentation, Gene Benson Precinct 10, Susan Stamps Precinct 3 
Article 14 – Substitute Motion, Lenard Diggins, Precinct 3
Article 29 – video by James Fleming, submitted by Vincent Baudoin, Precinct 1
Article 30 – Background Usable Open Space, Vincent Baudoin, Precinct 1
Article 30 – Memo, Claire Ricker, Director of DPCD 
Article 17 – Presentation by Larry Slotnick, Precinct 7
Article 19 – Background information, Paul Schlichtman, Precinct 9
Article 29 – Presentation by James Fleming, submitted by Vincent Baudoin, Precinct 1
Article 30 – video by James Fleming, submitted by Vincent Baudoin, Precinct 1
Article 30 – Presentation by James Fleming, submitted by Vincent Baudoin, Precinct 1
Article 30 – Statement from Chris Loreti, Precinct 7
Article 30 – Memo from Director of Inspectional Services
Article 37 - Presentation on the APS Budget
Article 37 – Arlington Public Schools FY24 Report
Article 37 – Amendment by Mark Kaepplein, Precinct 9
Article 38 – Amendment by Judith Garber, Precinct 4
Article 38 – Letter submitted by Pat Hanlon, Precinct 5 and Alham Saadat, Precinct 4
Article 38 – Presentation of the Capital Planning Committee
 Article 44 – Minuteman School Budget
Letter, Mona Mandal, Precinct 9 
Article 48 – Conservation Commission Water Bodies Report
Article 49 – Presentation submitted by Liz Exton, Precinct 13

See the Town Meeting dashboard >>

A Special Town Meeting was set for Wednesday, May 3, and residents can read the PDF version of that warrant. The STM annotated warrant is expected to be available after the hearings have been held and that report completed. 

For the first time in years, the draft warrant for the annual Town Meeting was available to the public notably early, on Feb. 24, in advance of article hearings. That document has since been updated to the final warrant. Read it here >>

Further information about 19 citizen articles >> 

Select Board, public discuss articles: Round 1Round 2Artificial turfRound 3Round 4 and Round 5

The following reports are available:

2022 Annual Town Report 

Arlington Redevelopment Board

Select Board

Capital Planning Committee

CPA Committee

CDBG Report

Remote Participation Study Committee

Robbins Library update on ATM 2019, Article 38 

Arlington Public Schools FY24

Conservation Commission Water Bodies Report 

AHS Building Project Report

YourArlington'smain 2023 Town Meeting link >> 

This news announcement was published Thursday, May 4, 2023, based on information from the Town of Arlington. It was updated May 8, to add a news summary by Assistant Editor Judith Pfeffer, and a note from the town manager as well as a statement from Belmont Hill School saying the school has pulled out of funding artificial turf at Poets Corner.