Meet Belmont: A Crowded Success

Photo: Cookies from Plymouth Congregational Church.

After 13 years, you could be excused to think that Meet Belmont – the annual late summer community “meet and greet” held Tuesday, Aug. 31 – would become old hat.

Think again. 

At 7 p.m., the Chenery Middle School cafeteria was packed with kids, parents, couples and residents learning about Belmont for the first and some, the 14th time. 

Nearly 100 non-profit organizations and town government departments were on hand to greet the wandering mob, with the noise high enough that normal speaking levels required leaning onto each other to hear what was being said. 

Mark Maida of Longmeadow Road came to Meet Belmont with his two children, Aubry, 5, and Wesley, 3.

“We wanted to learn about all the things that are going on in Belmont and how we can be a better part of the community. There are a lot of activities to do in town and lots of organizations that go great work,” he said, carrying a load of pamphlets and other stuff in his arms.

Grouped by related interest – government agencies and committees along the wall, religious organizations next to each other – volunteers gave out information, novelties (kudos to Belmont Light with its sunglasses) and candy and treats to anyone interested to hear what they had to say. 

“It’s great,” said Ellen Gitelman, executive director of Belmont World Film, the town’s film screening group, of being an exhibitor at Meet Belmont.

“Year after year, we get at least 30 to 35 people sign up for our mailing list. We see them at our Family Film Festival, the young families moving to Belmont, and they say, ‘Hey, you look familiar’ and I realize how I met them,” said Gitelman, who also said two businesses are eager to sponsor the festival after meeting her at the get-together.

By the end of the night, participants learned about the Garden Club’s Winter House Tour on Dec. 3, enjoyed the uniqueness of the Morris Dancers, how to register their cat with the town (Town Clerk Ellen Cushman registered just about 20 new voters) and how to register for sports camps run by the Recreation Department.

For the new organizers of this year’s Meet Belmont – Allen Babroudi, Natalie Leino, Erin Lubien, and Carol Trager – the night could not have gone more swimmingly. 

“All of us are very proud of what occurred tonight,” said Lubien, noting that the rise in parents and children at the event was due to a closer connection with the schools, principals and groups like the PTA/PTO.

“We have been working around the clock for the past month doing this, and it came together at the end,” said Lubien, praising the 25 residents and students who volunteered Tuesday. 

And for next year? Lubien said the group is already thinking about that night. 


Belmont Garden Club.


“I’m coming for your cat!”


Belmont Media Center.


Organizer Erin Lubien (right) with Anne Mahon.


The voice of Belmont, officer Daniel MacAuley with Lt. Kristin Daley manning the Police Department’s table.


Town Clerk Ellen Cushman (left) with Asst Town Clerk Meg Piccione answering one of many questions about being a town resident.


Belmont Dramatic Club, the second oldest community theater organization in the country.


He’ll be fine.

Avery Assists On Opening Agassiz Ave’s New ‘Home Court’ [Video]

Photo: Avery Bradley of the Boston Celtics putting his autograph on the new driveway court on Agassiz Avenue.

It’s not every day that Avery Bradley, Boston Celtic’s veteran guard who scores 15 points a game against some of best defenses in the NBA, is going to lose a game of driveway hoops to some preteen kid from Belmont.

But that is exactly what occurred this morning, Monday, Aug. 29, on Agassiz Avenue. One and done for the six year Celtics starter as he got only one shot off before getting “knocked out.”

“Oh, no. Avery,” yelled a bewildered Cedric Maxwell, the Boston great from the 1980s and still a fan favorite. 

It was some morning at the last house on the dead end street as Bradley and Maxwell came to help break in a brand driveway court just outside the front door of Laura VanderHart and Jarrod Goentzel’s house that borders the Beaver Brook Reservation.

“This is just so exciting,” said VanderHart who watched their sons, 12-year-old Ian and Sam, who turned 8 Monday, mixing it up with pros, past and present.

The celebration was the result of the couple being selected a winner in the Celtics “Home Court” program which offers contestants the chance to have their home driveways transformed into a Celtics-themed home court, complete with equipment and Celtics gear in addition to a Celtics-style room makeover. 

“We always wanted a court because it is at the end of the street,” said VanderHart, but after six years since moving into the house, it was something that needed to wait.

One night while watching a Celtics broadcast, Goentzel noticed the contest sponsored by Arbella Insurance and the team consisting of an essay on why a court should be constructed in your driveway. 

“We should enter,” Goentzel told VanderHart, who wrote an article about how wonderful it would be that the entire neighborhood could all share the court due to its location. 

“I was completely surprised when the Celtics called back,” she said.   

You know you have arrived at the court by the bright green paint scheme as well as the signatures of Bradley and Max on the shamrock logo.

The celebration was topped off by Sam hitting the first basket, without the help of either Maxwell or Bradley. 

Additionally, the Celtics hosted a free basketball clinic at nearby Waverley Oaks where Bradley taught basketball skills and stressed the importance of leadership, sportsmanship and community involvement.

His Belmont visit was the third time Bradley has participated at a Home Court opening, calling it a “blessing” that an organization such as the Celtics wishes to give back to the community and provide a safe place to play basketball. 

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New Owner For Belmont Center’s Vintage Wine Store

Photo: Interior of the store.

Vintages: Adventures in Wine, the Belmont Center store which holds the distinction of being one of the first granted a town’s retail alcohol license, has been sold to a MetroWest businessman.

The Belmont Board of Selectmen approved the transfer of the beer-and-wine-only license held by Albert Avenue’s Eric Broege and Carolyn Kemp to Swapnil Gandbhir of Framingham on Monday, Aug. 22.

The store is located at 32 Leonard St., adjacent to the restaurant Asai which is closing down to allow a retail operation to move in. The new owner has signed a ten-year lease with an option after the first five years to leave without a penalty.

Gandbhir said the past owners told him they wished to concentrate on their first business, a West Concord wine store with the same name.

As for the business, the only changes coming to the store will be the addition of American and other non-European vintages as well as prepackaged snacks.

“There will be no renovation of the interior so it will look the same as it has in the past,” Gandbhir told the Belmontonian after the meeting.

One of the final remaining “dry” towns in the Commonwealth in the 1990s, Belmont voted in 1998 to allow limited restaurant alcohol licenses. Seven years later, Town Meeting approved the issuance of a full-liquor and a wine and malt licence and voters approved the measure in April 2008.  The Spirited Gourmet in Cushing Village was awarded the full license.

Town Settles With Superior Officers, Only Dispatchers Without Contract

Photo: Superiors officers settle, now it’s up to the dispatchers union to sign on the dotted line.

The Belmont Board of Selectmen voted Monday, Aug. 22 approving a three-year deal – from July 2014 to June 2017 – between the eight members of the Belmont Police Superior Officers Union and the town.

The agreement, negotiated by Belmont’s Human Resources Director Jessica Porter, means only the Dispatcher’s Union remain without a current contract among the town’s unions.

The contract’s highlights include:

  • An annual two percent cost-of-living-adjustment which is consistent with other town/union contracts.
  • While not random testing, the union agreed to drug and alcohol testing “based upon reasonable suspicion.” 
  • Newly hired/promoted superior officers as of July 1, will see their health insurance contribution rate go up from 20 percent to 25 percent in exchange for a 25 cents an hour increase n hourly pay. 
  • A “nominal” increase to established stipends will be paid to superior officers serving in special assignments which include as a prosecuting officer, community services officer in command and the department’s two detective positions. 

Mack Truck Takes A Pleasant Street Tumble, Halting AM Traffic Into Center

Photo: Speed may have been a factor in the one-vehicle accident near Belmont Center on Thursday, Aug. 25.

Late morning traffic came to a halt at one of the busiest town intersection when a dump truck carrying gravel took a tumble sometime before 8:30 a.m. at the corner of Pleasant and Leonard streets, on Thursday, Aug. 25.

No injuries were reported in the one-vehicle accident that shut down the busy intersection for nearly three hours as it took two heavy duty tow trucks to right the rig.

According to an eyewitness, speed was possibly the culprit leading up to the mishap. The Mack truck operated by Ritacco Bros. of Millbury was traveling down the steep slope of Clifton Street attempting to make the right hand turn onto Pleasant Street. Apparently, the truck was going too fast to navigate the corner and tipped onto its driver’s side.

Belmont Fire quickly arrived at the scene – the accident location is one block from the Leonard Street firehouse – and police closed to traffic on Pleasant in both directions.

Waltham Auto Tow arrived and successfully righted the truck at 10:10 a.m. Belmont Public Works’ Highway Division removed the gravel and inspected the roadway. The streets were opened about an hour later.

Belmont Police said any citations for possible traffic violations leading up to the accident would be issued once a formal investigation is completed by the department’s Traffic Division.

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Champion Tomatoes, New Composting Business Highlights This Week’s Market Day

Photo: Kimball Fruit Farm’s owner Carl Hills with the hardware. 

Champion tomatoes and a successful composting company with a fanatical following in its hometown of Portland, Maine highlight this week’s Belmont Farmers Market that takes place today, Thursday, Aug. 25 at the Belmont Center municipal parking lot at the corner of Cross Street and Channing Road.

The market’s hours are 2 p.m. to 6:30 p.m.

Long-time Belmont market day vendor Kimball Fruit Farm won multiple top five prizes at the 31st annual state Tomato Contest held this week at the Boston Public Market. A total of 92 entries from 28 different farms competed in four categories: cherry tomato, heirloom tomato, field and slicing tomato, and heaviest tomato.

The Pepperall-farm won first place in heaviest with a weight of 2.68 pounds, second and fifth in the heirloom category with the Mortgage Lifter and the Cherokee Purple.

Kimball Fruit Farm is a third generation family run farm owned and operated by Carl and Marie Hills. 

A new company will be introducing their unique composting service to Belmont residents.

Garbage to Garden will swap your bucket of food waste from the curb weekly for a fresh, clean bucket and, if requested, a bag of compost. This is a new service to Massachusetts with Belmont and Arlington being the first communities to be served by the Portland, Maine firm, which in its hometown has one-in-seven households participating in the service.

At the market today: tomatoes and corn, basil, the last of the blueberries and the first of grapes, great produce, wine and sundries. 

Community Table
  • 2 p.m.: Kids’ program: Passport for Produce. The market will be collecting passports and awarding prizes – plus a scavenger hunt. 

Schedule of Events

  • 2 p.m.: Branson Bofat will perform a mix of acoustic blues, finger-style guitar instrumentals, and other classic country favorites. 
  • 4 p.m.: Storytime by the Belmont Public Library
  • 4:30 p.m.: The String Beans: The young musicians are students of Deborah Boykan (Belmont) and Colleen McGrary (Powers Music School) including three of the younger string players who will form a trio.

Above It All: Night Road Paving In Belmont Center [VIDEO]

Photo: A still from a video of the night paving in Belmont Center.

To see up close the paving of Leonard Street and its connecting roads over the past few nights has been to experience the cacophony and heat produced by massive machines as they grind and lay out a new top coat surface for Belmont Center.

But viewed from the air, the same action has an expansive grace, as the equipment appear more accessible and the entire operation has an elegance not before seen.

The video is by Belmont resident Lucas Tragos who last weekend received a national video award for a 22-minute sports documentary on the 2015 Belmont High School football team. His recent aerial video of Boston and Cambridge has been receiving great reviews.

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Toll Partners With Former Owner To Lease Cushing Village’s Retail Space

Photo: Bill Lovett,  a senior development manager at Toll’s Apartment Living, before the Board of Selectmen.

It wasn’t the one-month extension the town gave Toll Brothers to close on the municipal parking lot adjacent Trapelo Road critical to the building of the long-delayed Cushing Village project that created the big buzz at the Belmont Board of Selectmen meeting on Monday, Aug. 22.

It was who the new developer is partnering with on a significant feature of the $80 million project that was a total surprise to the nearly dozen residents who sacrificed a beautiful summer evening to attend the meeting at Belmont’s Town Hall.

Chris Starr, the Bedford resident who spent almost a decade of his life attempting to construct the three building complex before giving up and relinquishing the site to the Pennsylvania -based firm, will either control “whole or in part” the leasing of 38,000 sq.-ft. of retail space in the new development.

Revealed by the Selectmen at the meeting, the news of Starr’s return to the project that he failed to complete was a startling announcement to those in attendance.

“This just didn’t make much sense at all,” said Doug Koplow of Oak Avenue.

Bill Lovett,  a senior development manager at Toll’s Apartment Living – a relatively new whole-owned subsidiary within the Horsham, Penn.-based firm – would only say the details for the company’s arrangement with Starr are in the new draft Land Development Agreement, the nuts and bolts legal document describing what will occur during the construction.

The LDA notes Starr’s involvement as taking “whole or part” of the commercial portion of the project once the space is built out and the town has provided a temporary certification of occupancy. The earliest that will take place is at least two years away.

Speculation of Starr’s return leans towards Toll’s expertise in the residential development yet having little knowledge of commercial leasing. Having spent the better part of a year attempting to land a big retail operation for his project, Starr’s contacts would be seen as valuable to Toll. 

Some residents expressed a worry that Starr’s background – during his tenure he could not put together the necessary financing to build the project nor find an anchor store for the site – could lead to further troubles for the project.

“[Starr] hasn’t shown much competence when he had Cushing Village and I don’t see much changing,” said Rita Butzer Carpenter of Precinct 6.

But for Selectmen Chair Mark Paolillo – who said the board was equally “surprised” by the arrangement between the present and past owners – a new near-luxury development on three town blocks at the intersection of Common and Trapelo would be a draw for most commercial retailers.

“We have the confidence that the commercial space will be very appealing to a wide range of retailers once [Cushing Village] is built,” said Paolillo. “It will be a very beautiful place to be located, and you’ll have 115 units of people who are customers inside the building.” 

Before the Starr bombshell landed, most residents were eager to hear why Toll was seeking to an extension on the deadline for the parking lot purchase and, as Lovett noted, seeking next month before the Planning Board to move the deadline for the Special Permit on Dec. 3 up by several months.

In March when Toll Brothers took tentative control of the project’s development rights from Starr, Lovitt sought and received a six-month extension, until Aug. 26, to sign the Purchase and Sale for the municipal parking lot.

Since then, the firm has been performing environmental tests and other audits as part of the company’s due diligence of the site and past agreements.

Lovett said the company’s reviews “just took a bit longer than anticipated.” The delay forced Toll to push back the start of its negotiations with “a retail component” (i.e., Starbucks), said Lovitt.

“We needed to dot the ‘Is’ and cross the ‘Ts’ before moving forward,” said Lovett.

While the added month may, as Selectman Jim Williams noted, be standard fare for a project of this size and past difficulties, one selectman was less than pleased.

“I feel let down by you,” Selectman Sami Baghdady told Lovett, who said that many residents saw Toll as the “white knight” when it rescued the project in March.

“There are many frustrated people as you can tell,” Baghdady said of those in the audience, wondering what assurances does the town have that Toll will not come back in the third week in September “asking for more time?”

Lovett said the company has spent “thousands of dollars” in preconstruction costs and is eager to add Cushing Village to its portfolio of projects including a completed apartment complex in Westborough and one soon to be under construction in Natick.

While saying Toll Brothers “will not find [another extension] here” should it come back in a month with the similar request, Paolillo said the added time “is our last best chance” at guiding the project towards construction.

“There is not option B,” he said as the extension was approved.