Town Meeting logoUPDATED May 6: Arlington Town Meeting, in its fourth session, Wednesday, May 4, supported three significant issues: to ban the sale of plastic water bottles, to oppose the use of facial-recognition technology and to require 48 hours’ notice for noisy nighttime public-work projects. Discussion of leaf blowers began and was continued to Monday, May 9.

By a strong majority, meeting members supported the Select Board’s position by endorsing a ban on single-use plastic water bottles sized one liter and smaller, to take effect this Nov. 1. It applies only to noncarbonated, nonflavored water. An exemption is included for public emergencies. 

The motion passed, 199 to 42, or 82 percent, according to Town Moderator Greg Christiana at the three-hour meeting held by remote participation and visible as a livestream via ACMi.

2 amendments

Two amendments were proposed to the article – Article 12  -- before the vote, but both were defeated. One, by Carl Wagner (15), would have changed the size of the affected bottles to less than one liter, while another, by Josephine Babiarz (15), would have delayed the ban by one year, to Nov. 1, 2023. She and Frank J. Ciano (15) expressed concern about the negative effect that the shorter timeline  -- less than six months -- might have on local merchants.

The ban was supported by community organization Zero Waste Arlington and the Arlington High School group Students Against Violations Against the Environment. Proponents said that the thin plastic bottles rarely are recycled, often end up in the trash, on the ground or in bodies of water, destroy animal habitat, and contribute to contamination, greenhouse gases and climate change.

“We cannot recycle our way out of the plastic crisis,” said Jennifer Campbell (12). She said 21 other municipalities in the commonwealth, beginning with Concord in 2012, have passed similar regulations. She and other backers said that refilling stations dispensing local, high-quality tap water at no cost are in most public buildings and that more are on the way, an effort expected to benefit from $50,000 worth of state funding proposed by local state legislators.

ACMi's broadcast:


Not everyone was on board. 

“People are exhausted with government mandates,” said Mark Kaepplein (9). Moreover, he appeared to doubt that the plan would accomplish its environmental goal. It doesn’t make sense, he said, to, in effect, “ban gas stations to promote electric cars.”

Mark B. Rosenthal (14) disliked the article in its original form but would have supported it with additional time to create the promised additional filling stations. Before the vote, he called the original article, which later passed, “ineffective and also discriminatory” in that it would “reduce the options available to diabetics.”

Kirsi C. Allison-Ampe (13), a medical doctor, opposed the article, with or without amendments, on health grounds. She predicted that many shoppers would instead buy juice, sugary soda or diet soda, potentially risking higher rates of obesity and other serious ailments. This also would be bad environmentally, she said, because with potentially more people  hospitalized, that likely would increase medical waste -- an environmental hazard as bad or worse than water bottles.

Meeting opposes facial-recognition technology

Under Article 13, meeting members voted for a resolution opposing most uses of facial-recognition technology. Many say that it is poor at accurately identifying people of color, women and, particularly, women of color. This position is supported by the town’s Human Rights Commission and by the statewide ACLU. The resolution also asks state legislators to advance this cause at the state level.

In fact, no such facial-recognition technology has ever been used by local law enforcement, according to Town Counsel Doug Heim and Town Manager Adam Chapdelaine. 

In response to a question from Babiarz about people who “cannot speak for themselves,” Heim said that exceptions could still be made to use the technology to identify vulnerable people, such as lost children or elders, or to identify deceased persons.

The vote was 213 in favor, 16 opposed and seven abstained.

Bylaw amendment extends noise-abatement protections

Under Article 15, the meeting supported the previous, unanimous vote by the Select Board to require at least 48 hours’ notice to those nearby of upcoming noisy overnight public-works projects.  Exceptions would be allowed in cases of emergency.

This merely “codifies a practice” that is already in use, Chapdelaine said. Responding to a question by Edward Trembley (19), Chapdelaine said that there would be no increased cost for such notifications because these are already taking place.

The vote was 216 in favor, 15 opposed.

Leaf-blower regulation

Article 16 (leaf blowers), members began discussion of the Select Board-supported plan to phase out gas-powered leaf blowers over the next three years. Ann Goodwin (14), with the group Quiet Healthy Arlington, said that these devices are extremely noisy at 75 decibels, create pollution, accelerate climate change and damage health especially compared to the considerably quieter and less polluting electric ones. The deadline would be March 15, 2025, for commercial use and March 15, 2026, for private use. Up to four amendments were proposed, but no vote was taken, as the meeting had to close. The matter is likely to be taken up at the next meeting, 8 p.m. Monday May 9.

In other business
  • Article 14 (insurance cost) passed, 213 to 11. It had originally been on the consent agenda but was pulled last week. It was a “no-action article,” but members had to vote anyway, which is a “weird procedural thing,” according to Christiana. It has to do with establishing a committee on insurance costs and their associated issues. Local resident Andrew Fisher, a fomer meeting member, will be pursuing a study group on the matter.
  • Town Meeting meets every Monday and every Wednesday from 8 to 11 p.m. until all 77 articles in this warrant have been heard and voted on. The town moderator maintains a Town Meeting dashboard, which gives information on all business to date. The public can view the meeting via ACMi cablecast on its government channels (RCN, 614 or 15; Comcast,. 22; or Verizon, 26), or by watching the live stream at  

The public may also read notes on session 4 by Christian Klein (10) >>

Town Meeting information at town website | YourArlington Town Meeting information

This news summary by YourArlington freelance writer Judith Pfeffer was published Thursday, May 5, 2022, and updated later that day to include concerns expressed by some Town Meeting members about the effect of the water-bottle ban on owners of small local stores. It was updated May 6, to inlude an ACMi video window.

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