Police: Allegation of Anti-Freeze Placed at PQ Park Proven Untrue


The Belmont Police has closed their investigation of allegations a person was spreading automotive anti-freeze in Pequosette Park off Maple Street after the person who witnesses reported was making the warning recanted what he told the residents.

In a press release released Thursday, April 7, Belmont Police Assistant Chief James MacIsaac said the police department received information on April 4 from two residents who told police they were informed that a person had “spread antifreeze” in the park.

“The Belmont Police investigated the allegations and on April 4, 2016, police spoke to the person who had reportedly witnessed the incident,” said MacIsaac.

“That person told police he had not seen anything.  This person further stated that he believed there was no antifreeze spread at the park and that the park was safe for dogs,” reported MacIsaac.

During its investigation, BPD could not find any evidence that antifreeze was placed in Pequossete Park. 

“Pending any forthcoming information, the Belmont Police consider this investigation closed,” said MacIsaac.

Belmont High’s ‘Urinetown’ Opens Tonight, Thursday, April 7, Runs to Saturday

Photo: Benjy Cunningham singing “Don’t be the bunny” in the musical “Urinetown.”

The curtain is going up at 7 p.m, Thursday, April 7 for opening night for the Belmont High School Performing Arts Company’s production of “Urinetown, the Musical.”

In a Depression-era metropolis, a 20-year drought has caused such a water shortage that the city government has banned private toilets. The citizens must use “public amenities,” regulated by a monopoly that profits by charging admission for one of humanity’s most basic needs.

Amid the people, a young, idealistic hero, Bobby Strong, decides he’s had enough and plans a revolution to lead them running to freedom! Along the way, the audience is kept informed of the plot with Officer Lockstock assisted by a street urchin named Little Sally.  But, by the end, good intentions don’t always lead to the best outcome. But you’ll have to see the musical to find out what happens.

Performances are:

  • Thursday and Friday, April 7 and 8, at 7 p.m.
  • Saturday, April 9 at 1:30 p.m. and 7 p.m.

Tickets will be online and at Champions Sporting Goods in Belmont Center. Tickets are $10 for students (BHS students get half-price tickets Thursday) and $15 for adults ($18 if they wait to buy them at the show).

Town Election 2016: Paolillo Retains Selectmen Seat; Prestwich, Bicer on Schools, 18-Year-Old Tops Town Meeting Ballot

Photo: Supporters of top vote collector Dan Vernick on Election Day in Belmont.

Mark Paolillo will be returning for a third (and final) three-year term on the Belmont Board of Selectmen as he easily beat back a spirited campaign from political novice Alexandra Ruban in the 2016 Belmont Town Election held on Tuesday, April 5.

Paolillo received 2,432 votes to Ruban’s 1,360, from voters in the eight precincts in town to secure the victory on a day when 3,907 voters, 22.6 percent of all registered voters, took the time to make it to the polls. Paolillo won all but one precinct – falling behind Ruban by five votes, 165-160 in seven – while more than making up that difference by winning overwhelmingly in his home district, in Precinct 8, by more than 250 votes (438-185).

Obtain the unofficial results at the Town Clerk’s Web page here. 

In the contested school committee race, first-timers Murat Bicer and Andrea Prestwich secured three-year terms finishing first and second with 1,959 and 1,931 votes. They outlasted Kimberly O’Mahony, who come in with 1,662 votes in a tight race for the seats vacated by long-time members Laurie Slap and current school committee member Elyse Shuster, who returns for a single year position, finishing the term of Laurie Graham. While Prestwich won half of the precincts, Bicer (who won three with O’Mahony winning her home precinct, the 4th, overwhelmingly) was always just a few votes from her total, losing three precincts (2, 3 and 5) by a total of 16 votes. 

For the race to fill the three-year-term on the Housing Authority, well-known Belmontian Tomi Olson defeated Paul Rickter by more than 150 votes out of 3,200 cast, 1,680 to 1,523. 

Over on the Town Meeting side of the ballot, the top story is 18-year-old Daniel Vernick (Belmont High ’15) who not only topped the vote in Precinct 1 with 339 cast; he received the most votes of any Town Meeting candidate running. Vernick, Yale ’19, ran an impressive campaign using social media, local contacts and going door-to-door to win his seat in the town’s legislative branch, saying he would bring “my [BHS] classmates’ perspective both internally within the school administration and externally through the town.” No one should be surprised by Vernick’s enthusiastic campaign, having started his activism as a 7th-grade middle school student calling for the passage of a Prop. 2 1/2 override in 2010. 

Five incumbents did not retain their seats including a pair in both precincts 1 and 6, while new members will be taking their place in the 290 member body including Kristen Zecchi in 1, Michael Chesson in Precinct 4, Elizabeth Lipson (with an impressive fifth place) and Katherine Gardner Poulin-Kerstien, and Gi Hyun Yoon-Huang in 8. 

And over in the “couples district,” Precinct 4 is sending three sets of married couples, the Flewellings (Sheila topped her husband, David, 205-192), long-time town meeting member Kevin Cunningham just got by his wife, newly-elected Lisa Gibalerio, by one-vote and Sandra Occhino was 14 votes ahead of her husband, John.

And finally, Warren Committee Chair Michael Libenson is back in Town Meeting representing his home Precinct 1 after being voted off the body a few years back, essentially for not responding to the questioner from the Belmont League of Women Voters guide. And School Committee member Susan Burgess-Cox successfully changed precincts now representing Precinct 2 for the next two years.

ZBA Denies Developer Vote To Build ‘Boutique’ Hotel on Pleasant and Brighton

Photo: The Zoning Board of Appeals voting to deny vote on hotel proposal.

For the second time this year, the Belmont Zoning Board of Appeals denied special permits which would have allowed the construction of a multimillion-dollar development on two lots at the intersection of Pleasant Street and Brighton Avenue.

This latest denial occurred Monday night, April 4, for the renovation of the two-building, two-story structure at 334 Pleasant St. – the former Mini Mart convenience store and offices – into a boutique hotel consisting of 19 guest rooms, a cafe for guests, a fitness room, a business center and offices on the 14,400 sq.-ft. site. 

Screen Shot 2016-04-05 at 11.36.16 AM

The ZBA Monday voted 3-2 not to even bring the five permits sought by Waltham developer Michael Columba before the board for discussion. Chair Eric Smith said the board did not have the authority to move the waivers forward since the town’s zoning bylaws don’t explicitly mention “hotels.” as an acceptable application.

“There is nothing in the bylaws that says a hotel can go anywhere in Belmont because there is no reference to a hotel use so how can we even hear arguments for the special permits,” said Smith.

The board dismissed the claim by Robert Levy, an attorney with Eckert Seamans Cherin & Mellott representing Columba, that the zoning bylaw’s parking requirements – which does briefly refers to a “hotel” – suggests the development’s “impacts” were similar to retail and service uses that are allowed at the site with a special permit.

“In my view, the mention of a hotel in the parking requirements was simply an error made at the time the bylaw was approved,” said Smith.

Not all the members held the same view as Smith as Associate Member John McManus said he “hates to see all these opportunities get squandered.”

While “disappoint,” Waltham developer Michael Columba said he was “OK” with the decision.

“I’ve always said that if the town did not want [a hotel], I have to put the building to good use with whatever tenants I can get,” Columba said, which will likely include a convenience store, garage and offices which are deemed “as of right” under the zoning bylaw and does not require town approval.

“I have to move on this project in a few months,” said Columba, who purchased the site in September 2015 for $1.9 million. 

Monday’s decision follows the rejection on Jan. 11 of a proposed 3,500 sq.-ft. Dunkin’ Donut franchise and retail space across Brighton from Columba’s property. The landowners and franchise, the Leo family who operates nearly 20 donut shops in Massachusetts and Florida, has suggested appealing the 3-2 vote denying them permits to renovate a former gas station and garage it purchased for $1 million in 2014. 

These latest board decisions have led some residents to complain that the ZBA is contributing to what many views as a negative business climate in Belmont, where the needs of commerce are pushed aside for those of residential housing.

Board members rejected the notion it is feeding the perception of an anti-business bias in town, saying it only follows what the Town Meeting – the legislative branch of town governance – has approved.

“In my view, we are trying to apply the bylaws which have been determined by Town Meeting what should be allowed and … if it turns out, in our opinion, it’s not, we are following [Town Meeting’s] edicts,” said Smith.

“This board definitely does not have an anti-business motivation,” said member Nicholas Iannuzzi, noting the ZBA approved “a ton of businesses along South Pleasant Street using the same bylaws which are on the books today.”

“But if something doesn’t fit within the zoning bylaws, then we don’t have much choice,” said Iannuzzi.

Changes to zoning laws would start at the Planning Board who would create a new bylaw before presenting it before Town Meeting for a vote. A current example is the rewriting of zoning language placing limits on the height and mass of new residential construction in the neighborhoods surrounding Grove Street playground.

But even if Town Meeting introduces hotel use under the bylaw, Columba is not interested in a do-over.

“No, I am not coming back for a hotel. That’s done. It’s no longer an option,” he said 

The FYI On Voting In Belmont’s Town Election Today, Tuesday, April 5

Photo: Belmont’s Town Election is today.

The annual Belmont Town Election takes place today, Tuesday, April 5, 2016, according to Town Clerk Ellen Cushman.

Polls are open from 7 a.m. to 8 p.m. 

And below is information that will make the process of casting your ballot all the easier.

Polling Places

For voting purposes, Belmont is divided into eight voting precincts, located as follows:

  • Precinct 1 – Belmont Memorial Library, Assembly Room, 336 Concord Ave.
  • Precinct 2 – Belmont Town Hall, Selectmen’s Room, 455 Concord Ave.
  • Precinct 3 – Beech Street Center, 266 Beech St.
  • Precinct 4 – Daniel Butler School, Gymnasium, 90 White St.
  • Precinct 5 – Beech Street Center, 266 Beech St.
  • Precinct 6 – Belmont Fire Headquarters, 299 Trapelo Rd.
  • Precinct 7 – Burbank School, Gymnasium, 266 School St.
  • Precinct 8 – Winn Brook School, Gymnasium, 97 Waterhouse Rd. (Enter from Cross Street)

Please adhere to the posted parking restrictions and use caution to ensure the safety of pedestrians around the voting precincts.

Are You Registered to Vote in Belmont and Eligible to Vote April 5? 

If you are wondering if you are a registered voter and/or your voting precinct, please go to the Town Clerk’s webpage or phone the Town Clerk’s office at 617-993-2600.

The deadline to register to vote and make changes to voter registration such as address was March 18 at 8 p.m. Any forms received after that date or not postmarked by that date will be process AFTER the election.

Arrive early, consider traffic and limited parking 

Belmont Police will designate some voter parking at each of the polling locations however with a  busy election, parking close to the polling locations is often a challenge.  Plan ahead: consider walking, carpooling with a friend or voting “off peak” during the middle of the day. Only voters who arrive at the precinct and are in line for the Voter Check-In before the close of polls at 8 p.m. can be permitted to vote; those who arrive too late will miss out.

Election Day campaigning

The Town Clerk and the Board of Registrars of Voters remind all residents that campaign signs, stickers, buttons or materials may NOT be displayed within 150 feet of each polling place. This prohibition, per Massachusetts General Laws, Ch. 54, §65, even extends to a candidate whose name is on the ballot, when the candidate is not actively voting.  The Town Clerk’s website posts a map displaying the 150-foot radius sunder Campaigning: Running for Elected Office and Town Meeting.


Election Results – How Do I Find Out the Results?

Election results for each precinct are announced by the Warden of each precinct after the close of the polls. The unofficial townwide results will be announced at Town Hall and posted on the home page of the Town website as soon as they are available Tuesday evening or phone the  Town Clerk’s office at 617-993-2600 on Wednesday morning. Campaign representatives are welcome to wait at Town Hall for the printed results.

Hotel Proposal Hopes Third Time the Charm Before Zoning Board of Appeal

Photo: A rendering of the proposed Belmont Inn Suites at the corner of Pleasant and Brighton streets.

“Some conjurers say that number three is the magic number,” wrote Charles Dickens and Waltham developer Michael Columba hopes his third time before the Zoning Board of Appeals is a magical one as he one again presents his proposal to build a small hotel at the base of Belmont Hill.

It’s expected the Board will take a vote tonight, Monday, April 4, on Columba’s attempt to secure five special permits which will allow the construction of a 19-unit “European-style boutique hotel” at the corner of Brighton Avenue and Pleasant Street at the location of the now vacant Mini-Mart convenience store.

And there is every reason to think that the hotel has a better than average chance to pass board muster as the five members have asked Columba and his architect, former Belmont Selectman Andy Rojas, twice to return with greater detail and data on what are standard technical issues – sound levels of air conditioning, lighting, trash collection – that a commercial real estate development is required to present. 

If there is one issue that could derail Columba’s plans to bring to Belmont the first hotel in more than century it would come from ZBA Chair Eric Smith’s quiry on  just how a hotel fits within the town’s bylaws. As there is no mention of hotels in the table of uses in the zoning documents, “the closest … is apartments which are a prohibited use in [this zoning district],” Smith said at the previous meeting in March and February.

In March, Columba’s team made the connection the zoning bylaw’s parking requirements – which does briefly refers to hotel use – suggests a hotel would be similar to a daycare center or a catering business, retail and service uses that are allowed at the site with a special permit.

The project would involve renovating the two-building, two-story structure at 334 Pleasant St. to open a boutique hotel consisting of 19 guest rooms, a cafe for guests, a fitness room, a business center and management offices on the 14,400 sq.-ft. site. 

Columba, who is head of a construction company that specializes in building airport control towers and other aviation infrastructure, built his first hotel, the Crescent Suite Hotel in Waltham and is preparing to construct a multi-level hotel on the foot of the Charles River on Moody Street.

Letter to the Editor: Vote for Burgess-Cox for Precinct 2 Town Meeting

Photo: Vote on April 5. 

To the editor:

Belmont voters should head to the polls on April 5. Those in Precinct 2 should vote for me, Susan Burgess-Cox, for Town Meeting Member.   

I grew up on Lawrence Lane and moved to Radcliffe Road earlier this year after living on Hull Street and serving as a Town Meeting member in Precinct 4. I am currently a member of the School Committee and the Capital Budget Committee. My five-year-old twins, Maggie and Matthew, are in Kindergarten at the Butler School and will be enrolling at Winn Brook in the fall.    

Over the years, I have served Belmont as a member of the Disability Access Commission, the Senior Center Building Committee, Precinct 4 Town Meeting Member, the Wellington PTO and the Butler PTA. As a current School Committee and Capital Budget Committee member, I am working to address financial and policy issues related to increased enrollment in the schools and the capital needs of the town. Like many towns, Belmont faces challenges that require thoughtful planning. I would like to continue to address these challenges not only as a member of the School Committee but also as a Town Meeting member representing Precinct 2.

I would appreciate your vote on April 5.

Susan Burgess-Cox

Radcliffe Road

Letter to the Editor: Snow Days From a High School Student’s Perspective

Photo: A long way to school.

To the editor:

My name is Lloyd Ellison, and I am a senior at Belmont High School. For the third or fourth time this year, Belmont public schools will stay open even with the threats of six inches of snow.

I have a couple of issues with this; the first is obviously that I don’t get a snow day in which I get to sleep in and not take tests, but there is a much larger problem with the safety of getting and leaving school. Every time it has snowed this year, the large parking lot is not plowed before school. The lines are nearly invisible leading to confusion in where to park and disruptions in the flow of traffic in the parking lot. It is also not plowed during school, which makes it tough to get out.

I also find the main road is also not plowed particularly well, and this makes it very tough to get out of the school and onto Concord Avenue in addition to dropping off and picking up students in front of the school. I also get out early most days, so I find these troubles even before the bulk of students leave.

I’m not sure who is responsibility for clearing, but in my opinion, the removal needs to be better. I know it is tough to get this work done, especially early in the morning before staff and students come in. But this is why we have snow days because if it is too dangerous to get or to leave school then we don’t have it. Just because the roads are clear doesn’t do anything if the last roads and parking lots are not. I’m not saying that tomorrow needs to be a snow day, I’m just saying I want to feel safe going and leaving school.

Lloyd Ellison

Letter to the Editor: Town Meeting Needs a Youth Perspective

Photo: Daniel Vernick

To the editor:

I’m running to bring new energy and a youth perspective to Town Meeting for Precinct 1. I’ve lived in Belmont for the past 18 years, attending Belmont Cooperative Nursery School and then the Belmont Public Schools from Kindergarten through 12th grade. I’ve been involved in the Belmont community and town government throughout middle and high school, from establishing Chenery Green Week and Multicultural Night in 8th grade Student Council to planning the MLK Breakfast and expanding high school representation on the Human Rights Commission as a Commission member.

I’ve often seen a disconnect between students and town leaders. The youngest of 294 Town Meeting Members is more than 30 years old; college and high school students have no representation on Town Meeting. That’s unacceptable. Leading the high school override effort made me realize that many in town just don’t understand where we’re coming from. There are so many issues that young people are uniquely impacted by and have an important perspective on, from social justice to a new high school to the latest technology and its integration into education. As an 18-year-old BHS graduate, I’ll make sure that the voices of Belmont’s youth are heard, and that students’ ideas are integrated into town policy.

I’ve seen firsthand the problems facing our schools and the need to maintain the highest quality education. I first became involved in activism with the 2010 override in 7th grade. Last year I again organized my classmates for an override, connecting energy at Belmont High School with activism in the community. As Belmont High School Vice President, my work included successfully advocating for library renovations and new study areas, evaluating candidates for superintendent, and planning events such as Senior Service Day. I have experience representing my classmates’ perspective both internally within the school administration and externally through the town. I’ll have unique insight on the new high school, working to connect students’ ideas with the broader Belmont community.

I envision a bold Belmont at the forefront of progressive change. A few priorities:

  • Schools. Build on the progress of the override. Our schools remain underfunded and often improperly managed. Belmont schools have done an enormous amount for me, and I’ll do everything in my power to preserve and improve them for future generations.
  • Environment. Belmont should be a leader in sustainability and clean energy. I’ll work to preserve conservation land, advocate for solar net metering, improve public transportation, and support the Community Path and other new recreation areas. I’ll also push for Belmont to follow the lead of cities from Cambridge to Framingham in divesting from fossil fuel corporations.
  • Teachers. The teachers I’ve had in Belmont are some of the most incredible people I know, and I’m certain I would not be here without their tireless work. Belmont must ensure that every teacher is treated with fairness and justice. I’ll voice the concerns of teachers and elevate their influence in the school administration. 
  • Innovation. Make Belmont business-friendly, and attract businesses to build the tax base. Improve town infrastructure and technological capabilities; Belmont’s restrictions on social media make its Web presence lacking and archaic. Resist town regulation of Airbnb and other new technologies.
  • Equality. Belmont doesn’t have an equal rights bylaw that officially states racial and LGBT equality. I’ll advocate for a comprehensive bylaw that includes equal transgender accommodations. We must do more to combat prejudice and create an inclusive community.
  • Responsive government. Stand up for greater transparency and hold town leaders accountable.

I was inspired to run by beloved 15-year Belmont teacher John Sullivan, who was unjustly fired last June. I organized students to resist the termination; we organized more than 50 students to attend a School Committee meeting in protest and wrote a petition that obtained 650 signatures. Sullivan was a mentor, a leader, and the definition of a 21st-century educator. His philosophy of learning is exactly what Belmont needs more of. I’ll never forget Sullivan, and I’ll never stop fighting for the respect and dignity that my teachers deserve.

Town Meeting should make Belmont a leader. We must stand out not just in education but in everything from infrastructure to sustainability. My goal is to expand youth involvement in town government and to get more students to run for town office in the future.

I’ll bring a fresh voice and new ideas to Town Meeting. With 17 candidates running for 12 seats, this will be a tight race and every vote will make a difference! Feel free to reach out to 781-697-9732 or danieliwvernick@gmail.com if you have any questions or can help out with my campaign. Join me in the fight to empower young people and to make Belmont a leader. It would be an honor to have your vote this Tuesday, April 5th.

Daniel Vernick

Fairmont Street

Breaking: Bicyclist Hit by a Vehicle in Bike Lane at Concord and Bright, In Hospital

Photo: The location of the accident.

A bicyclist was hit by a vehicle while riding in the dedicated bike lane at the intersection of Bright Road and Concord Avenue at approximately 5:30 p.m. Sunday, April 3.

A preliminary police report said the bicyclist suffered non-life-threatening injuries but they were serious enough that required the cyclists to be transported to an area hospital, according to Belmont Police Lt. Christopher Donahue, the officer in charge.

The first report indicated witnesses said the vehicle was traveling on Concord Avenue eastbound towards Cambridge when it hit the cyclists in the bike lane, said Donahue. Weather conditions at the time of the accident were clear with the setting sun behind the driver and cyclists.

Bright Avenue was closed for close to two hours after the accident. 

A more detailed report is expected on Monday morning after a crash reconstruction team has completed its work, Donahue said.