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8 articles reviewed: Early voting, self-serve gas stations advance

Selectboard logo, May 20, 2019No action on code enforcement, overnight parking

The Select Board, discussing eight Town Meeting articles at its March 7 meeting, supported proposals for early voting and allowing self-service gas stations.

Drawing no-action recommendations were plans to improve code enforcement and to study the budgetary impact of overnight parking.

To see the supporting documentation, click here >>

Article 25: Home-rule legislation/early voting for town elections

The board unanimously endorsed this legislation.

“The Election Modernization Committee has been interested for a long time in early voting for town elections. Now, in the Covid era, with needed flexibility, we’re even more favorable,” said Greg Dennis, committee chair.

“The draft sets the minimum number of days and hours that early voting is offered. It would be the same as state elections, and mostly available during the clerk’s office regular hours,” added Dennis.

Select board member John Hurd said, “I’m pleased that Arlington is looking to increase voter access. It’s a great step in the right direction.”

“It makes it possible for people who may not be available on voting day,” said board member Len Diggins.

Article 9: Bylaw amendment/achieving net-zero greenhouse-gas emissions from town facilities consistent with the Arlington's net-zero action plan

The board unanimously endorsed this article.

This article, requested by the Clean Energy Future Committee (CEFC), seeks to eliminate greenhouse gas emissions from municipal buildings, consistent with the town’s Net Zero Action Plan. 

Town Manager Adam Chapdelaine explained, “This amendment recommends that we update and strengthen the bylaw to have higher standards for new construction and renovations, to reflect LEED silver standards.”

“We’re about to embark on an electrification study on what we can do on school buildings, and will reflect what the bylaw will look like. No buildings are being designed in next year, so we won’t lose any ground if we wait a year to put together the Clean Energy Future Committee’s proposal. I’ll ask Town Meeting to endorse it for 2023,” added Chapdelaine.

CEFC Chair Coralie Cooper says she supports this approach.

Article 15: Bylaw amendment/noise abatement

The board unanimously agreed to table discussion of this article until its next meeting, March 21. 

Article proponent Paul Schlichtman, Precinct 9 Town Meeting member, seeks to clarify and strengthen the town’s current noise-abatement bylaw. 


SOME FINAL VOTES; SOME HELD

On March 7, the board cast final votes on three articles and held two. Read Town Counsel Doug Heim's memo >> 

Article 6: Bylaw amendment/updating Human Rights Commission bylaw — still being worked on;

Article 8: Bylaw amendment/civilian police advisory commission — table vote to next meeting;

Article 10: Bylaw amendment/tree preservation and protection — unanimous approval; and

Article 74: Resolution/support of the Mass. Fair Share constitutional amendment — unanimous approval.

Article 76: Resolution/Alewife Brook is a valuable natural resource—unanimous approval

No discussions were held, because of the late hour and desire to end the meeting by 11 p.m.

“We have instructed the town manager and town counsel to come up with language for the notification policy and procedure,” said board member Diane Mahon.

Hurd said, “It makes sense to notify abutters of any work done outside of business hours.” 

Schlichtman said: “This amendment states that routine things done in middle of night can go on, but that major nonemergencies -- jackhammers and sewer-jetting trucks -- do not occur during night hours.”

Hurd said, “Work done during the day raises traffic concerns and safety issues.” 

Board Chair Steve DeCourcey said: “This issue has occurred only a few times over the years, so I don’t see it as an issue. The town manager has the authority to approve nonemergency work, which allows the town to manage situations on a case-by-case basis. I’m concerned about putting this into a bylaw, taking away the town manger’s discretion.”

Board member Eric Helmuth said, “There are limited provisions for adding notifications in both the bylaw and Town Manager Act. We need to make sure that the town can do the work that needs to be done.”

Article 17: Bylaw amendment/conversion of gas station dispensing pumps to self-service 

The Select Board unanimously endorsed this article.

Article proponent Rachid Elkhaouli,son of Elias Elkhaouli, owner of Eli’s Service Station, 125 Broadway, said: “We’re looking to raise the self-service ban. It’s hard to find workers, especially with Covid. We have two gas attendants out eight hours every day, worrying about their health and don’t want to pump gas anymore.”

Elkhaouli’s attorney, Robert Annese, said, “We know that Arlington has prohibited pumping gas since 1975. However, few towns still no longer allow people not to pump their own gas, and surrounding towns have self-service gas stations.

“In fact, during Covid, many people don’t want people-to-people contact when pumping gas, and prefer to pump their own gas. Many issues about self-serve were raised during prior discussions, such as: People might drive away and leave the pump in the car, or there’d be fire issues. I haven’t heard any of that.”

Another concern, he said, is that if we allow self-service, gas station operators will want to expand their businesses, but they can’t do that without seeking a special permit from the Redevelopment Board. “Gas station operators will not have free reign,” he said.

“This warrant article would allow the town to go from only full-service to also provide self-serve. No mandate states that every gas station must have self-service,” he said. “It just gives gas station operators and customers the ability to make their own decision as to how they’d like to operate.”

Hurd said, “I prefer self-serve stations, and not have to wait for an attendant. We just have to make sure there’s no litmus test to justify anyone requesting service.”

Helmuth: “This deserves much broader consideration in Town Meeting, and this decision must be driven by what residents want. I’m concerned about ensuring minimal ADA compliance with state law because someone with a disability may need a way to pump their own gas.” 

Article 19: Vote/street name—“Magliozzi Boulevard”

Three board member voted in favor (Diggins, Helmuth, Hurd) and two voted nonfavorable action (DeCourcey, Mahon) to designate an unnamed public way, between 49 Spring St. and the Route 2 frontage road as Magliozzi Boulevard.

“This is a public-safety issue,” said amendment petitioner Schlichtman. This intersection and stretch of roadway is accident-prone, but has no identification to where you are. It needs a name for safety purposes, and Magliozzi Boulevard is the best name.

“Ray Magliozzi [NPR’s “Car Talk” cohost] lives in Arlington, and has the Arlington spirit: ‘Don’t drive like my brother [the late cohost Tom]’,” he added.

Mahon countered: “Once we start doing this, there are likely other places that’ll want to do this, so I’m not in favor of this. Other families have requested memorials for their relatives who’ve done great things for the town and lived here for 80 to 90 years. They have just as viable roots in the community, if not more. The Magliozzis will have to fund-raise for their memorial.”

DeCourcey said he’s “fine referring this to the Public Memorials Committee.”

Article 20 Vote/code enforcement 

The Select Board unanimously voted no action on this article.

Article proponent Schlichtman said, “A wide swath of items in the regular bylaws and zoning bylaws are unenforced. For example, sign bylaws are not a priority, and many cases go unenforced. 

“The Police Department wants to fight crime. Building inspectors want to focus on construction safety. I want to the tweak bylaw to create a budget line item so someone can enforce this bylaw.”

Helmuth said, “I have reservations about this mechanism; I’m not sure it’s the best way to get there.”

“I don’t like to create town positions through warrant articles,” said Hurd.

Mahon said, “I’m not inclined to support this. We’re looking at possible $15 million override. I want to demonstrate that we, on town side, have done everything we can to reduce that number as much as possible. I don’t want to keep adding positions and line items.”

“I’m not look to create new enforcement officer,” said DeCourcey.

Town Manager Adam Chapdelaine explained, “The town has a long-standing budget process, that’s reviewed by the Finance Committee, then brought to Town Meeting. It sets a dangerous precedent to go outside this robust process, going through Town Meeting to create new positions. I’m confident that the police department has done good work in issuing fines. We can make process with our current team, and there’s room for improvement,”

Article 22: Vote/establishment of a town committee to examine budgetary impact of overnight parking

The Select Board unanimously voted no action on this article.

“The world and technology have both changed since we enacted a no overnight parking ban. Perhaps we can now think differently about how we enforce it, by using an app to pay for overnight parking,” said article proponent Schlichtman.

Mahon replied, “The Select Board oversees this process. We currently have a framework to take the next step to look at it.” 

Hurd said: “We’re starting to implement a pilot program to see the impact of lifting the overnight parking ban. It’s already in process and we’ll have recommendations soon.”

Chapdelaine said, “I’m not sure whether a new body needs to be created. The Parking Advisory Committee can do this work. The financial aspect of this is best handled by them.”

Article 73: Resolution/true net-zero opt-in code for cities and towns

The Select Board unanimously endorsed this article.

 “The CEFC voted to see whether the town will endorse Arlington’s net-zero action plan, to make Arlington super energy efficient and operate without fossil fuels. A net0-zero stretch code will ensure that buildings aren’t locked into high emissions for the future,” said article proponent Cooper.

Chapdelaine said, “I’m working with other municipalities to support the strongest possible net zero stretch energy code. The state Legislature passed, and Gov. Baker signed, the road-map legislation, which called for the promulgation of an opt-in net zero-energy code.

“We waited a long time for the draft proposal to come out, which was issued just a few weeks ago, their draft net-zero proposal. It disappointed most people, especially climate activists. Now we’re trying to get them to improve on this and promulgate the strongest code possible. There’s tension with the construction industry, who are concerned that this will increase the costs of houses.”

Hurd said, “The constant leadership that our town exudes regarding climate change is reassuring. The CEFC is leading the charge on forward-thinking measures to combat climate change.

“I’m grateful for work. It will be more costly in the long-run for without it.”

 Watch the whole March 7 board meeting on ACMi:

 
March 17, 2022: Seeing double: Utility companies say they plan to remove double poles


This news summary by YourArlington freelance writer Susan Gilbert was published Wednesday, March 17, 2022.

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