Inside Arlington

Experimental News Digest for Arlington, MA

Select Board, April 01, 2024

Article 14: By-law Amendment Focused Resident Picketing

Background and Rationale

The board discussed the situation in Arlington where the Governor’s residence has been the subject of targeted demonstrations. The board expressed concern that residents, including young children, have been subjected to these demonstrations that have affected their sense of security and privacy in their homes. The board also noted the demonstrations’ impact on the broader neighborhood’s peace and tranquility. The board considered measures that could provide relief to concerned residents while respecting the constitutionally protected right to free speech.

Proposed By-law Change

The board proposed a by-law amendment that would prohibit picketing targeted at any specific residence in Arlington. This amendment, modeled after language approved by the U.S. Supreme Court in the case of Frisbee v. Schultz, aims to balance the significant government interest of residential privacy protection against the fundamental right of free speech. Arlington’s Police Chief stated that this by-law would serve as an additional tool for law enforcement to manage such situations and maintain public safety.

Points of Discussion

  • The by-law is content-neutral and does not target specific groups or types of speech.
  • Protests that have already occurred were described as spreading fear among residents, with some demonstrations involving disruptive behavior, including the use of flares and obscenities.
  • Board members empathized with residents’ fears and supported the proposed amendment as a necessary measure for the general well-being of Arlington’s population.
  • Concerns were raised about ensuring any by-law amendment is constitutionally sound and doesn’t excessively infringe on protected speech.
  • The board emphasized alternative channels of communication are available for the public to express dissent, such as gatherings in public spaces like the Town Hall.

Board Vote and Public Input

A motion for favorable action on the proposed by-law amendment was made, given the understanding that specific instances of property acquisition would be individually addressed by the board in the future. There was a mixed opinion among board members; while most supported the amendment, acknowledging the balance between privacy and speech, one member expressed reservations about completely prohibiting protests. Public comments reflected both support for the amendment due to safety concerns and opposition due to perceived infringement on free speech rights. A vote was taken, resulting in 4-1 in favor of the amendment, with the understanding that the issue would be debated further at the Town Meeting.

Article 53: Appropriation Takings for Stratton School Safe Routes

Presentation Summary

Mr. John Alesi presented the details of the Stratton Safe Routes to School project, which has received a state funding grant. The project’s goal is to create accessible walking routes with safe road crossings for children walking to Stratton School, with most funding coming from the Massachusetts Department of Transportation (MassDOT).

Right of Way Acquisition

Mr. Alesi explained that MassDOT’s Right of Way Bureau requires the town to acquire land parcels or rights to secure public right of way. He clarified that specific acquisitions and easements will later be brought individually to the board for approval. The board’s action was requested to authorize the select board to acquire the required land parcels for the project.

The Stratton project affects 41 properties but will mainly use public land for sidewalk construction. Mr. Alesi described the next steps, including the hiring of an appraiser, presenting an acquisition plan to the select board, and construction scheduled to begin in summer 2025.

The board’s action was to vote favorable action on Article 53, authorizing property acquisition for the Stratton project. After a brief discussion and clarification on the process, a unanimous vote was in favor.

Final Votes and Comments on Other Articles

The board proceeded with final votes and comments on other warrant articles, including prohibition of fur trade, pet sale restrictions, right to pet companionship, historic building demolition delay, and extension of time for an artificial turf study committee. Technical corrections were noted, and the board voted in favor of the comments and motions, marking the end of the warrant article hearings.

New Business and Adjournment

With no new business, the board members extended thanks for the effort in adhering to the open meeting law, noted the upcoming changes in the board’s leadership, and adjourned the meeting.



Inside Arlington was created by two Arlingtonians who are deeply concerned by the decline in local news and its impact on civic life. Our mission is to provide accessible information to Arlington residents to foster an informed and engaged citizenry. And we want to do it in an economically sustainable way. More…


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