Town Meeting logoTuition effort rejected

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Affordable housing backed

UPDATED March 13: At its second round of article hearings, March 6, the Select Board supported three, voted no action on two and tabled one. Approved articles are self-service pumps at gas stations, grant acceptance and a resolution about affordable housing. Here is a summary:

  • Article 6: Bylaw Amendment/Conversion of Gas Station Dispensing Pumps to Self Service Operation: Proponent Susan Stamps, a Precinct 3 Town Meeting member, filed on behalf of the owners of Eli’s Service Station in East Arlington. The article proposing that gas stations be allowed to have self-service obtained 62 signatures in a matter of days, according to local attorney John Leone, who presented it to the board. Currently, the employees pumping gas at Eli’s are retirees who have to do so no matter what the weather; Leone said that high-school-aged people rarely want these kinds of jobs anymore. 

To convert to self-service would cost about $200,000 to $300,000 to upgrade the islands, pumps, canopies, fire suppression system and more. Gas stations make most of their money from repairs and inspections -- and only make about 10 to 12 cents on a gallon of gas, though they have to pay their employees $17 to $20 an hour. If the article passes, the employees could spend more time indoors working on other matters. 

Leone said: “We as a town should be encouraging these small locally owned businesses any way that we can, and this is one way we can encourage a small locally owned business to stay in business and stay in town and keep our economic areas vital and vibrant."

Leone assured the board that the stations would still observe ADA guidelines and would provide attendant service to those who are disabled at no extra charge. After some questions from the board members regarding language in the bylaw and language regarding environmental impacts of gasoline, the board unanimously voted positive action.  

  • Article 7: Bylaw Amendment/Parking Disclosure Requirement: Introduced by resident Steve Berczuk, the proposal deals with the issue of limits for on-street overnight parking in town. The proposed amendment requires renters, realtors or sellers to inform new residents and tenants about the 1-to-7 a.m. restriction on street parking. Select Board members thanked him for his efforts in raising awareness about the issue but ultimately unanimously voted no action. Select Board Chair Len Diggins proposed more signs, especially on more prominent streets, which Berczuk agreed could help raise awareness about the issue. 
  • Article 17: Special Legislation/Allow Digital Legal Notices: Larry Slotnick, a Precinct 7 meeting member, introduced the proposal that legal notices no longer would be required to be published in a physically printed newspaper. Select Board member Eric Helmuth recused himself because of a conflict of interest.

Currently, the town clerk, planning and community development; courts; and nonprofits are required under state law to publish any legal notices or advertisements in a newspaper of general circulation. Slotnick pointed out that a legal ad in the weekly Advocate & Star, which until May 2022 had been The Arlington Advocate, costs $190  — and printing one in The Boston Globe costs $900, which he called “astonishing.” Slotnick argued that an increasing number of people instead get news from the town website or online publications and that therefore that is where legal notices should be as well. Currently, they can be online and simultaneously in print, but he is advocating that they should be able to be just online.

Select Board member John Hurd expressed concern and emphasized the fact that some residents still receive their legal notices in print publication and rely on that. “As we all transition to the digital world, I think there is [nevertheless] a certain portion of the town that still gets legal notices — including information on elections and Zoning Board of Appeals meetings and what-not — through the print version of the Advocate,” Hurd said.

Hurd proposed that language could be added stating that in the event of the Advocate & Star shutting down the town could transition to require only online publication for legal notices. Town Counsel Doug Heim said that Hurd's idea is possible to propose but that it would require more specific language. 

Board member Steve DeCourcey asked Slotnick to provide specific language for the bylaw rather than simply documents supporting his idea. He moved to table the article; this passed unnanimously.

Both Hurd and DeCourcey mentioned YourArlington by name, indicating that it could become one of the beneficiaries of the measure.

Diggins said that in a future vote he likely would support such an article, as he believes the demise of local physical newspapers is inevitable. 

“I think this whole thing is going to resolve itself in a decade or two anyways. It’s clear where we’re headed; it’s just a matter of how fast we get there,” Diggins said. 

Stamps also expressed her support for the article.

  • Article 63: Resolution/File and Accept Grants with and from EOEEA for Land and Water Conversion Fund Grant Program:

The proposals discussed by Heim would allow Town Meeting to accept certain grants. The board supported it unanimously.

  • Article 67: Resolution/Affordable Housing Overlay: The first, titled “Resolution/Affordable Housing Overlay,” is a resolution brought forth by Guillermo Hamlin of Precinct 14 that calls for the Town of Arlington to use the “Affordable Housing Overlay District as a means to mitigate the worst of Arlington’s housing crisis or act on anything relative thereto.” Hamlin said that section 40B, which requires a certain percentage of housing to be considered affordable, is not enough. Hamlin presented a similar proposal two years ago and was denied. He agreed that this had been the right move considering the introduction of the 2020 Housing Production Plan, which recommends an affordable-housing overlay district. That plan aims to “support the development of housing that is affordable for households earning at or below 120 percent of the area median income,” according to his drafted resolution.

Hamlin said that affordable housing is an issue that he is “very passionate about” and therefore hopes that this resolution, if passed, could go on to Town Meeting and encourage meeting members to take action aligning with the message of the resolution.

Everybody except Diggins voted in favor; Diggins abstained after expressing concern about the next steps and what it would ultimately look like. 

“I’m just happy to enable this conversation, because it's something I’ve been trying to have a discussion on for quite some time,” Hamlin said.

  • Article 68: Resolution/In-State Tuition: Hamlin’s second resolution proposal received a unanimous vote of no action. The measure calls for Arlington to “endorse allowing all Massachusetts high-school graduates to benefit from in-state tuition or act on anything relative thereto.” Hamlin argued that people’s immigration status should not bar them from accessing higher education and sees this resolution as part of a broader conversation.

“I believe that town meetings can scrutinize, amend and advocate for this so that we can enable the state legislature to act in an affirmative action rather than compelling them,” Hamlin said.

Hamlin, a native of Paraguay, said he considers the barring of immigrants from higher education to be “immoral” and “unethical.”

Board member Diane Mahon inquired about the financial impact on Arlington; Hamlin said he did not want to speculate on that.

Hurd also expressed concern about the specific roadmap if the resolution were to be passed and what power Arlington specifically has. Ultimately, the board members expressed appreciation for Hamlin raising this issue but saw the matter as being outside of Arlington’s jurisdiction. “It will cost the state more to educate the kids, but it costs us a whole lot more not to, as a state and as a society,” Diggins said. 

Overnight-parking update

Diggins and DeCourcey updated the board about the pilot program to expand overnight parking. They want to approve waivers for spots but asked why they need them to get to the root of the issue. As of now, it is still in the planning process, The project was prompted by concerns raised at the mid-February public forum. Read a summary here >> 

Last, two letters from the community members were received and directed to the corresponding town departments. Thomas Gorin requested that a crosswalk be installed on an island that runs on Jason Street, Hillsdale Road and Pleasant View Road near the Menotomy Rocks Park. The board voted unanimously to direct the concern to the TAC. 

Barbara Thornton submitted a memo requesting that the facilities manager provide periodic reports, which was echoed by Mahon. The board voted to direct the concern to Diggins and Town Manager Sandy Pooler. 

The meeting concluded at 9:20 p.m. The next Select Board meeting is set for March 13.   

Watch the March 6 meeting on ACMi:

Read all of the documents posted for the articles in this news summary >>  
March 7, 2023: Article reviews begin: 3 approved; 4 no action


This news summary written by freelancer Renee Abbott, a journalism student at Northeastern University who covered the meeting, was published Saturday, March 11, 2023, and updated March 13 to correct the request in a letter to crosswalk, from sidewalk.

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