Town Meeting logoUPDATED Oct. 23: Five more articles were dealt with just before 10 p.m. at Special Town Meeting on Thursday, Oct. 19, in Town Hall. That session was notably shorter than the first one, on Tuesday, and shorter than the usual three hours customarily allotted for Town Meetings.

That leaves only one more article -- but almost certainly the most contentious of them all, Article 12 -- to be taken under consideration when deliberations are scheduled to resume at 8 p.m. Monday, Oct. 23.

Article 12 concerns the proposed rezoning of about 115 acres of Arlington to permit multifamily housing, a plan created by the MBTA Communities Working Group by late September and modified by the Arlington Redevelopment Board earlier this month.

Arlington is one of more than 175 communities in Eastern Massachusetts required by the state to create such a plan. The letter of the legal requirement was to rezone a minimum of 32 acres to allow construction of apartments. However, the ARB-revised plan to be debated Monday more than triples that acreage -- a move applauded by many as in keeping with the spirit of the intention to create a significant amount of new housing but opposed by quite a few others who see it as unnecessary and unwise.

Rundown of action on articles

Article 10

This modification to a town bylaw calls for trees, of types approved by the town tree warden and each at least 10 feet tall, to be planted every 25 feet in all areas where such do not currently exist. This proposal needed, and got, a two-thirds majority, with 187 in favor, 10 opposed.

Article 11

This article would disallow future construction of single-family homes, two-family homes and duplexes in business districts. Those that already exist would be declared nonconforming uses but would be allowed to remain. This article, which also required a two-thirds majority, got a vote of 161 in favor, 39 opposed and 1 abstention.

Article 13

The Arlington Redevelopment Board voted 3-0 at its Oct. 16 meeting to recommend a vote of “no action” on Article 13, and Special Town Meeting followed suit, with Moderator Greg Christiana declaring that the voice vote met the required two-thirds majority. As he had said about Article 2 on Tuesday evening, Christiana said that given a vote of no action, there is “no scope for debate.” Unlike all the other articles, this one was not inserted by request of any town official or entity, but, rather, at the request of Wynelle Evans of Precinct 14 and 100 registered voters. It relates closely to Article 12 and the proposed MBTA Communities rezoning plan.

Article 14

This article, about banning future use of fossil fuels in new construction including for cooking, had the most number of speakers discussing it that evening – three in favor, one opposed.

Select Board Chairman Eric Helmuth (12) strongly backed it, saying that it was consistent with longstanding town policy, goals and overall leadership direction and was needed for environmental reasons.

Ryan Katofsky, chair of the town’s Clean Energy Future Committee, said it was top priority and in keeping with Arlington’s Net Zero Action Plan and the environmental need to achieve a position of net zero greenhouse gas emissions by 2050. He noted that in early 2020 the town had tried but failed at a home-rule petition toward the same end and instead became an early member of the municipal fossil-fuel-free building demonstration project.

Amos Meeks (3), a member of the committee, also strongly supported it, including its ban on gas ranges and ovens, saying that there is “a huge amount of evidence” that these are implicated in an increase in childhood asthma and in indoor air pollution generally.

Ed Trembly (19) wasn’t buying it, literally or figuratively. He asked, “[If] we’re going to have an all-electric future, can anybody tell me how many new substations we’re going to need?” Meeks replied that this would depend on how the grid is managed and how the power load is managed. Trembly said that in next-door Cambridge, it is estimated that five new substations total would be needed for that municipality’s electrification -- and that the first one, intended for Kendall Square, has an estimated cost of $1.4 billion.

Cambridge has some 119,000 people, nearly triple the population of Arlington.

“Somebody has to pay for all this stuff,” Trembly said. Based on extrapolation from the population difference, he said,“Arlington would need at least one [substation], and it’s not going to be cheap.”

Nevertheless, the article passed with far more than the necessary simple majority – 178 for, 23 opposed and one abstention.

Article 15

The town’s Finance Committee unanimously recommended passage of this article, a collective bargaining agreement with the Arlington Police Department Patrol Officers Association covering fiscal years 2022 through '24.

Deputy Town Manager/Finance Director Alex McGee observed that it therefore was “mostly a retroactive agreement” that would in essence increase compensation by 14 percent over three years and with a price tag totaling about $603,000, and was in keeping with compensation practices at comparable communities.

 The town website records the vote at 175-18-9.

Read a summary by Christian Klein (10) here >>

Watch ACMi video of Oct. 19, 2023, meeting:
Recap of previous meeting's voting

Article 1 was Reports of Committees. All committee reports – Finance Committee, Redevelopment Board and Select Board – were unanimously approved.

Article 2 was Appropriation/Contingent Arlington Public Schools Education Funding. The text was "to see if the Town will vote to appropriate or transfer a sum of $400,000 from the tax levy for the Fiscal Year 2024 Arlington Public Schools operating budget, contingent upon passage of a Proposition 2 1/2 ballot question under Massachusetts General Law Chapter 59§216, or take any action related thereto."  The phrase "ballot question" refers tothe property-tax override questionscheduled to be voted on Nov. 7 by the general electorate of Arlington. 

A unanimous voice vote of no action was the result after Christine Deshler, Finance Committee chair, said that the Finance Committee had recommended no action due to the language of the override ballot.

Christiana added that there’s “no scope for debate.”

Select Board Chair Eric Helmuth explained that earlier this month a typographic error was found. Instead of specifying that the override would take effect July 1 2023, it stated July 1, 2024. “This means that the town will ask voters for $7 million less," Helmuth said. "After consulting with the town manager and his finance team, we realized that we can maintain service, make new investments and not ask for another override until FY26. This is made possible by the town’s conservative budgeting practices.”

Article 3, Zoning Bylaw Amendment/Administrative Correction, about Accessory Dwelling Units,or ADUs,  passed with 197 yes votes.  Redevelopment Board member Steve Revilak (Precinct 1) said that Article 3’s correction provides clarity to the zoning bylaw. “The Zoning Board recommended, 4-0, favorable action on Article 3.”
Claire Ricker, director of planning and community development, said that only 3.7 percent of Arlington’s zoned land is located in business districts. “In 2022, the Redevelopment Board discussed new amendments to encourage business development. This is one method to thoughtfully develop opportunities for businesses.”

The text of Article 4 read, "To see if the Town will vote to amend the zoning bylaw to update Section 5.3.19 to define a 'finding' by the Arlington Redevelopment Board and the [Zoning] Board of Appeals regarding reduced height buffer areas." It passed with 187 yes votes.

Article 5, Zoning Bylaw Amendment/Open Space in Business Districts, passed; 157-63. The Jordan Weinstein amendment, about the definition of open space, did not pass; the vote was 58 yes, 156 no.

Article 6,Zoning Bylaw Amendment/Rear Yard Setbacks in Business Districts, passed, 173 to 37. Neither the Xavid Pretzer nor Chris Loreti amendments passed; the votes against them were 84 to 123, and 101 to 105, respectively.

Article 7, Zoning Bylaw Amendment/Step Back Requirements in Business Districts,  passed, 140 to 60.

Article 8,Zoning Bylaw Amendment/Height and Story Minimums in Business Districts, passed, 185 to 23.

Article 9, Zoning Bylaw Amendment/Corner Lot Requirements, which clarifies how corner lots are developed, passed, 150 to 49.  

Those who wish may read detailed notes from the Tuesday, Oct. 17 meeting, taken, as in the past, by Zoning Board of Appeals member and Town Meeting member Christian Klein,at this URL >>  

General information about Special Town Meeting

There is no Zoom option with which to view Special Town Meeting. However, local cable-television station ACMi plans to provide live coverage of Special Town Meeting on the Government channel (Comcast 22, RCN 614, Verizon 26) and to stream Special Town Meeting live at ACMi also plans to rebroadcast each week’s sessions multiple times throughout the week on its Youtube channel, according to town spokeswoman Joan Roman.

A major topic of interest at Special Town Meeting is expected to be the MBTA Communities plan recently modified by the ARB from the draft adopted earlier in the autumn by the MBTA Communities Working Group. The current version of the plan, designating some 115 acres as zones where multifamily housing aka apartment buildings would be allowed by right, has been controversial. Arlington is one of more than 175 municipalities in Eastern Massachusetts required by the state to create such a plan, with the intent to create more housing.

Technically, a portion of Special Town Meeting actually already occurred briefly in May with regular Town Meeting's session four (that hourlong Special Town Meeting supported a new way to hire police officers and agreed to study the concept of using hybrid – in person and online simultaneously – future Town Meetings). 

Town Meeting is the legislative branch of Arlington. It is made up of 252 representatives from the town's 21 precincts, although not all members necessarily attend all meetings nor necessarily vote on all questions.. It is governed by the Massachusetts General Laws Chapter 43A, Standard Form of Representative Town Meeting Government and the Town of Arlington Bylaw Title I- General Government, Article 1
Here is the annotated warrant for the October 2023 Special Town Meeting

Download the Special Town Meeting warrant here >>  However, it does not contain the additional materials included in the annotated warrant. 

Updates to annotated warrant (Oct. 23)

Article 12
Memo - Economic Feasibility Analysis and Scope of Work, submitted by Claire Ricker, DPCD
Moderator’s Overview of Amendments and Votes
REVISED Amendment by Adam Lane, Precinct 3
Presentation Slides by Carl Wagner, Precinct 15
Memo on Financial Impact by Alan Jones, Precinct 14
Presentation Slides by Kristen Anderson, Precinct 11
Presentation Slide by Alex Bagnall, Precinct 9
Paper “Supply Shock vs Demand Shock – the Local Effects of New Housing” submitted by Alex Bagnall, Precinct 9
Paper “The Effect of Market-Rate Development on Neighborhood Rents” submitted by Alex Bagnall, 

Updates to the annotated warrant (Oct. 21):

Article 12
Revised Amendment by Kristen Anderson, Precinct 11
3 Amendments by Chris Loreti, Precinct 7
2 Amendments by Carl Wagner, Precinct 15 (the previous amendment is now Wagner Amendment 2)
Amendment by John Leone, Precinct 8
Amendment by Adam Lane, Precinct 3
Letter by Alex Bagnall, Precinct 9, and James Fleming re their amendment

Reports being added as available

Redevelopment Board Report

Supplemental ARB Report - adds information regarding Article 12 and provides a recommended vote for Article 13

Select Board Report

Finance Committee Report

Links from last spring's Town Meeting

 notes by Christian Klein (10) >>

Special Town Meeting articles updated in the annotated warrant

STM 3: Presentation by Sandy Pooler and Julie Flaherty

See spring Town Meeting dashboard >>

A Special Town Meeting was held Wednesday, May 3, and residents can read the PDF version of that warrant

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 >>

Fall 2023: YourArlington's main 2023 Town Meeting link >>


Main Town Meeting link at town site >>

This meeting summary by YourArlington Editor Judith Pfeffer was published Friday, Oct. 20, 2023. It was updated Oct. 21, 2023, to add a vote count for Article 15 and updates to annotated warrant, as well as Oct. 22 and 23.