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UPDATED May 8: To coin a cliche, session 4 on Monday, May 6, seemed to be the proverbial calm before what is hoped not to be a political storm in Town Hall on Wednesday, May 8 (though rain and possibly even thunder are predicted outside); it began with one admonition and ended with a similar one.

Town Moderator Greg Christiana began just after 8 p.m. by declaring that the evening was to be considered as a "dress rehearsal for appropriate behavior" for Special Town Meeting two days hence. "We'll act as adults" throughout, he said, with no booing, shouting, applause or any other exclamations despite the inherently controversial nature of the fifth and final article on the Special Town Meeting warrant.

Article 5 asks Town Meeting to adopt a resolution/proclamation for immediate permanent ceasefire, release of all hostages and other measures related to Gaza. Residents over the past days, weeks and months have expressed extremely strong views both in support and in opposition. The Human Rights Commission endorsed it, 8-1; Select Board pointedly took no position; Town Meeting members have the final say.

"Safe entry and exit measures" are planned for Wednesday, Christiana noted, possibly alluding to the presence of security or law enforcement. Almost three hours later -- this meeting went almost until 11 p.m., the latest so far of the four to date  -- he ended similarly: "I expect everyone to be on their best behavior."

Reports, budgets, money, business

The first 90 minutes, or the first half of the meeting, involved the description/documentation of budget matters. Town officials went into detail about various municipal departments. Ultimately, after the customary 10-minute break, Town Meeting took what Christiana termed a "pretty important vote" and approved the town budget --  Article 39 -- by a landslide: 194 in favor, 7 opposed, with no abstentions. Speakers included Elizabeth Homan, superintendent of Arlington Public Schools, aka the School Department; Claire Ricker, director of the Department of Planning and Community Development; Michael Rademacher, director of Public Works; and others.

Before the vote, some members expressed their concerns about pedestrian safety, potholes, road patching, a possible paucity of trees (though the Arbor Day Foundation might beg to differ), the increased need for special education, use of opioid-settlement funds, the extent of retirement payments and so on, with officials providing explanations that may or may not have satisfied them.

The capital budget, Article 40, passed even more handily: 205 yes, 4 no, one abstention. "Capital planning is a team sport," said Capital Planning Committee Chair Christopher Moore. He said the process/philosophy was self-limited by design: "If something gets added, something else gets taken away." He noted that there is a vacancy on the committee. Audience questions concerned trash collection, flooding and the ongoing task of repairing sewer lines.

After that, Arlington Redevelopment Board Chair Rachel Zsembery advocated for passage of Article 29, a proposal to amend a zoning bylaw dating to 1975, saying that the time was appropriate to reduce the required buffers between buildings of differing heights because the town no longer allows construction of very tall buildings. 

Several people argued against it, saying that it was unneeded; premature before the results of the recent MBTA Communities multifamily housing zoning can be known; and a possible reduction of solar panels' efficiency or other homeowner amenities. The head of the working group that came up with last year's MBTA Communities plan, later adjusted by the ARB before it was adopted, was in favor, saying that it "increases the possibility of getting new development in town." This argument that seems to have proven persuasive given the ultimate vote of 131 in favor, 70 opposed and 1 abstention.

The final article considered, Article 30, was to mandate tree canopies or other shade systems in future parking lots with 25 spaces or more or to smaller parking lots that would in future seek to expand to that size. An amendment by Susan Stamps, its proponent, was approved, and the vote on the amended article was 164 yes, 18 no and one abstention.

Resources/background about Town Meeting

Local cable television station ACMi provides live coverage on cable (Comcast 22, RCN 614, Verizon 26) and streaming live at acmi.tv/govlive and also posted online on YouTube. The cable TV station also typically will rebroadcast each session multiple times.

The Town of Arlington has a link-heavy page specifically about Town Meeting. Among other things, it has a frequently updated link to the annotated warrant (a detailed and augmented list of the articles, most submitted by government officials or advanced by a group of residents) and a "tracker" or or dashboard or specialized spreadsheet that is supposed to be kept up in real time.

There are guidelines and forms; downloadable templates for those for amending the original motion and for substituting an alternate version to the original motion; historical records of previous Town Meetings; and ways to see emails, updates and announcements.

Watch ACMi video of session:

Town Meeting 2024's main link on the Town of Arlington website 

YourArlington  summary of 2024 Town Meeting information


This news summary by YourArlington Editor Judith Pfeffer was published Tuesday evening, May 7, 2024. It was updated May 8, to ACMi video window.