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Some seek action on fatal crosswalk; manager explains delay

Pedestrian, Chestnut Manor, Dec. 31, 2019. / Paul Schlichtman photoSite where pedestrian died in 2019. / Paul Schlichtman photo

Several Arlington residents turned up during the open-forum portion of the Nov. 8 Select Board meeting to voice their concerns about the lack of significant progress on safety improvements to the Chestnut Street intersection where Ann B. Desrosiers was struck and fatally injured on New Year’s Eve morning in 2019.

Paul Schlichtman, a Precinct 9 Town Meeting member, read a statement expressing both disappointment and outrage, saying that “the board and the town manager have not followed up on their commitments to pedestrian safety at the intersection.”

In May 2020, the Select Board tasked the Transportation Advisory Committee (TAC) with studying traffic-calming measures for the intersection. TAC appointed a Chestnut St. Working Group, which included Schlichtman, to conduct the study. Town departments, including engineering and planning, were involved in the effort, and TAC also received input from a public listening session conducted last March.

The Select Board approved the TAC recommendations in June, and by August, a “No Turn on Red” sign was placed facing the right-turn lane from Chestnut westbound to Mystic northbound.  

The Chestnut Street intersection is one of two areas in town that have been the scene of recent traffic-related fatalities. In May 2020, bicyclist Charlie Proctor was killed by an oncoming car at Appleton and Mass. Ave. Recent safety measures include bright-green bike-lane markings and crosswalk paintings, part of a multistep and expensive upgrade to the overall four-way forked intersection just blocks from Ottoson Middle School.

Public comments

Linda Varone lives at Chestnut Manor, an Arlington Housing Authority (AHA) property for elderly and disabled residents one block from the Chestnut intersection. She said that, “I am a frequent pedestrian crossing at the Chestnut Street crosswalk, and I am similarly dismayed and disappointed at the lack of progress on creating a safe crosswalk. The key safety proviso of the flashing crosswalk should be moved up to one of the first things that’s done.”

AHA Commissioner Jo Anne Preston, and also a Precinct 9 meeting member, urged the Select Board to “make some inexpensive changes recommended by TAC [that] could be accomplished right now” pointing out that more than “100 residents live in Chestnut Manor and residents of the Webcowet neighborhood who need to cross this dangerous street. They ask you for your help.”

Marcy Beck, daughter of Desrosiers, addressed the board, saying that she was “sad and disappointed that almost nothing has been done to improve the pedestrian safety measures at the crosswalk. It’s now been almost two years since my mother was killed. Please, if we can get this moving.”

Selectboard logo, May 20, 2019
Town Manager Adam Chapdelaine said that MassDOT still needs to review the plans approved by the Select Board.

During open forum, and except under unusual circumstances, the board does not comment or act on public comments.

However, Town Manager Adam Chapdelaine said that MassDOT still needs to review the plans approved by the Select Board, but that state Rep. Sean Garballey had placed a call to get a status on the submission. YourArlington reached out to Garballey, and will update reporting with any available information.

$10K grant for Mystic-to-Minuteman project

Town planning has received a $10,000 grant from the Solomon Foundation for the Mystic to Minuteman Path Connection Feasibility Study. This is in addition to $80,000 received from the state in July.

Chapdelaine requested approval of the grant, saying “it would be an exciting connection for pedestrians and bicyclists.”

Chair Steve DeCourcey agreed, pointing out that “there’s a lot of recreation, walking and bike path space on the other side of the river, as well” and that this study would look at the rotaries connecting Arlington and Medford. The motion to accept the grant received unanimous approval.

Feedback about Veterans Memorial Park

Before the pandemic, the Veterans Council held open meetings to explore options to create a Veterans Memorial Park. Jeffrey Chunglo, director of veterans’ services, said that “the overwhelming feedback from both veterans and nonveterans was not to relocate [the park] from the center of town, and [to] focus on improving” the existing area and memorial.

The town purchased the property – in the grassy area between Broadway and Mass. Ave., between the Central Fire Station and the Civil War Memorial (dedicated in 1887) – through eminent domain in 1922. Chunglo asked the board to designate that existing public parcel as “Arlington’s official Veterans’ Memorial Park.”

Board member John Hurd said that he has always called it Veterans’ Park anyway, and he was “glad to hear that the memorials will stay front and center. I think that’s the appropriate location for them. My grandmother used to place the wreath there. I think it’s sacred ground, and I’m happy to move approval.”

The park falls under Article 97, a statutory protection for lands designated as parks or open space. Since its use is not changing, Chapdelaine said the only action required was to approve the change in name.

“Most veterans are proud of their service,” Chunglo said, “The current location is in disrepair, and it really needs to be improved to really pay tribute to veterans of Arlington.” Board member Eric Helmuth agreed, adding that “I hope we can find the funds to get the memorial fixed up.”

As part of that redesign, board member Diane Mahon asked that it “be handicapped accessible, so that our disabled veterans or Arlington residents can attend those events.” The motion to name the park was unanimously approved.

Free parking during holidays

Beth Locke, executive director of Arlington’s Chamber of Commerce, requested free parking at the Russell and the Water street municipal lots on Nov. 24, and Dec. 4, 11 and 18 (Sundays are already free). She said this “goodwill request to help in promoting local holiday shopping.”

She also requested the use of Arlington Center poles beginning Nov. 15 for the Shop Arlington First banners. The banners were developed in collaboration with town planning and will remain in place through the end of the year.

Gift-certificates program

The point of the program, said Locke, is “to keep dollars within Arlington. You receive a gift check, but it’s effectively a gift card. The only reason it’s not an actual card is because businesses use different point of purchase systems. It looks like a check, but works like a gift card.”

Town election, Town Meeting warrant

The board voted to hold the 2022 town election on April 2. Warrants for the annual Town Meeting will open Dec. 1, and close Jan. 28, 2022.

Zoning Board of Appeals' appointments

The entire consent agenda was approved by unanimous vote, including the board meeting minutes from Oct. 13, 25 and 28. The board also approved the reappointments of Roger DuPont and Kevin Mills to the Zoning Board of Appeals – their new terms will expire in October 2024.

Helmuth thanked Dupont and Mills for their “service on the Zoning Board of Appeals,” calling it “a lot of work, often unsung and really important. Usually, the reward for hard work is more hard work, but I wanted to make sure they got some gratitude, as well.”

Open Space appointments

The board approved the appointments of Eliza Hatch and Brian McBride to Arlington’s Open Space Committee, a volunteer committee responsible for preparing and monitoring the town's open space and recreation plan.

Hatch moved to Arlington in 2019, and has “been trying to figure out how to engage with the town in a way that can use my skills and that I find interesting and engaging, as well.” She described a family history in open space and conservation “so it sort of runs in my blood, and I love being outdoors, and [the committee] seemed like a really good fit.”

McBride said he feels “very grateful to the town for their open space, for their parks and fields. I’d love for the opportunity to give something back. I’ve seen during Covid how important open space is for community connections, for physical health, for mental health. It’s really a no-brainer for me.”

Linear parks

Mahon asked the candidates if they had an open-space idea that they wanted to share. Hatch expressed her enthusiasm for “rain gardens” and “other small open spaces that can still make a big difference in our landscape and daily lives.”

McBride said: “I’ve always been a particular fan of the Mill Brook, I think they call it the ‘linear park’ idea. I think there’s a lot to be done along those lines of enhancing those existing resources and awareness.”

Helmuth said that the “linear-park concept has been the dream of conservationists for decades. I would be thrilled if that could come to fruition. We did some Community Preservation Act Committee funding of the Wellington Park to create a little piece of that. I would like not to lose sight of that asset and opportunity.”

DeCourcey noted that Arlington’s current open-space plan expires in 2022, and “you’ll both be working on a new plan, which is critical.”

Thai restaurant application

Phatcharawin Watthanagithiphat and Nutthachai Chaojaroenpong asked that their common victualler license be approved for their new restaurant Boon Noon Market, with an Asian Thai fusion menu, at 161 Mass. Ave., East Arlington. The building previously housed the Thailand Café.

“We moved to Arlington in May,” said Watthanagithiphat. “We hope to be [a] good addition to Arlington.” Their previous restaurant, Dakzen in Somerville, was recognized by the online magazine Bon Appetit as one of the top 50 America’s Best New Restaurants in 2019.

Diggins moved approval: “I look forward to frequenting your place a lot because I really like the menu.” The motion passed.

Other traffic issues

The board referred out to TAC request for traffic-calming measures on Overlook Road and a request for pavement markings on Everett Street. It also approved a “No Parking Here to Corner” sign for Amsden Street from resident Shamima Mather. The board also referred to the Public Memorial Committee the request for a memorial sign for Stephen Cross Grey.

Before adjourning, the board went into closed session to:

  • Consider the purchase, exchange, lease or value of real property – Mugar “conservation parcel”;
  • Comply with, or act under the authority of, any general or special law or federal grant-in-aid requirements: Approval of Executive Session Minutes of: September 27, 2021; October 25, 2021; and
  • Conduct a strategy session in preparation for contract negotiations with nonunion personnel, the Town Manager, and/or conduct contract negotiations with same.
 See the entire Nov. 8 broadcast on ACMi:

Nov. 8, 2021: Select Board member reprimands town manager during meeting

This news summary by YourArlington freelancer Melanie Gilbert was published Sunday, Nov. 14, 2021.

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