After No Deal By Purecoat, Community Path Design Focus On North Of Tracks

Photo: Community path now on the northside.

It’s now the north side.

The proposed community path from Belmont Center to the Cambridge line will now be going along the north side of the MBTA commuter rail tracks after town representatives could not come to an agreement with a prominent Belmont property owner to take a portion of a structure needed for the path to navigate a “pinch point” along the route.

At its Monday, April 22 meeting, the Belmont Board of Selectmen voted 3-0 to OK using $1 million in Community Preservation Committee funds in design work for a recreational trail along a community right-of-way on the north side the tracks from the proposed Alexander Avenue underpass to the intersection of Brighton Street.

“It looks like we are going to proceed with a north route for the next phase of design,” said Chair Tom Caputo.

The $1 million CPC request will come before the annual Town Meeting next week. The town is also in the running for state money to pay for construction of the path, contingent on the town beginning the design process.

The board reversed a 2-1 vote on Feb. 25 to tentatively conduct that design for a southern route that would go behind Belmont High School. That vote was conditioned on the outcome of a 60-day negotiation period with the Tosi family to secure the ownership or an easement of the Purecoat North building along Hittinger Street currently used by the dog daycare business Crate Escape.

The purchase or taking of the building was necessary after the consulting firm Pare Corp., which conducted the feasibility study of the path, said the trail would not be wide enough along a 100-foot section to pass regulatory muster by the state’s Department of Transportation and MBTA, and for emergency vehicles to access.

Bob McLaughlin, who with former Selectman Mark Paolillo represented the Board of Selectmen in the negotiation, told the board they spoke with the building managers at the site and with the owners on the phone.

“I really think they tried,” said McLaughlin, hiring an architect and engineer to review the proposals.

“They came back and said it was too much to take part of the building. And they weren’t willing to sell as it didn’t make sense for their purposes,” said McLaughlin.

“You win some, you lose some,” said McLaughlin.

McLaughlin noted this marks the second time the Tosi’s rejected a proposal for town use of the building, saying no in 2011 to $6 million for the sale of the building for the construction of a new Belmont Light substation. The station would eventually end up on Flanders Road.

It was clear the selectmen were not eager to begin an eminent domain process of taking the needed space, an action which Belmont Town Counsel George Hall cautioned would be “substantial financial risks to the town.” It would also be unlikely such a measure could pass Town Meeting which would need to approve a property taking by a two-thirds vote “would be a tough sell.”

Selectman Adam Dash, the lone no vote back in February, said with state money possibly on the table, “we can’t drag this out” noting that during the design phase complications could arise that would force the path’s location to be reconsidered once again.

“You got to start somewhere so you have to pick,” said Dash.

The vote was good news for Russell Leino, the chair of the Community Path Project Committee which wrote the design phase request for proposal without the certainity of what the firms would be bidding on.

“I’m very very glad about the decision because it’s hugely helpful for the committee. The [design] RFP is already out and we are having a bidder’s conference on Friday where we’ll tell them about the decision,” he said.

Correction: In an earlier version of this story, the name of the family owning the Purecoat North site was misidentified as Tocci. The property is owned by the Tosi family.

Lone Tree Hill Volunteer Day Saturday, April 27; 9-Noon

Photo: Planting trees in Belmont’s Lone Tree Hill (

On Saturday, April 27, from 9 a.m. to noon, the Belmont Citizens Forum in conjunction with the Judy Record Conservation Fund is sponsoring the seventh annual Lone Tree Hill Volunteer Day, and we invite you to participate, come rain or shine.

This year, there are having two work sites,

• plant white pines along the Pine Allee,

• clean up the trash and/or clear invasive plants along South Pleasant Street, across from Star Market and Artefact Home and Garden shop.

If you’d like to work on the Pine Allee, meet at the Belmont Citizens Forum white canopy in the Lone Tree Hill parking lot on Mill Street. Please bring a shovel and gloves to plant the trees along the Allee.

If you’d like to work on the much-needed trash or invasive plant removal along South Pleasant Street, meet at the green-and-white “Belmont Bikes” Belmont Citizens Forum tent at the bottom of Coal Road, opposite Star Market. Please bring a shovel and gloves to remove the knotweed at upper Coal Road.

High school and middle school students can earn community service credits—check in at the Belmont Citizens Forum tent or table, and make sure we sign off on your work.

Volunteers are suggested to wear closed shoes, long sleeves and long pants to protect against potential sensitivities to plants and insects. Bring gloves, bug spray, and a water bottle.

This volunteer event is made possible by our corporate sponsors, including: Gold Level Sponsors: Ann Mahon Realty, Belmont Land Trust, Cityside Subaru, East Boston Savings Bank, and Watertown Savings Bank.

Prescription Drug Take-Back At DPW Yard; Sat., April 27

Photo: Poster for the national drug take-back day.

The Belmont Police Department in conjunction with the Belmont Auxiliary Police and the Drug Enforcement Agency will be hosting a prescription drug Take-Back Initiative to prevent the abuse and theft of old, unused and expired prescription drugs.

The Belmont Police will have a collection point set up at the DPW yard, 37C St., (off Waverley) on Saturday, April 27 from 10 a.m. – 2 p.m. Old or unused prescription drugs (no liquids) may be dropped off for free with no questions asked. You won’t even have to get out of your car. Please take some time to check your medicine cabinet and visit Belmont Police on the 27th.

Prescription drugs are highly susceptible to misuse by family and friends. In addition, they can be improperly disposed of and end up in our environment, posing a potential health hazard.

For more information on the Rx Drug Take Back Initiative or a list of additional collection sites visit . You may also contact Assistant Chief James MacIsaac at

The Belmont PD also has a permanent Rx drug collection kiosk located in the lobby of the police station that is accessible 24/7.

Belmont Girls’ Rugby Romps In Season Opening Matches

Photo: Belmont High Junior Callie Weissman on the run vs. Lincoln Sudbury.

The two-time consecutive state champions Belmont High Girls’ Rugby program got down to the business of defending its crown beginning the season with a pair of dominate performances.

The Marauders’ open its campaign for a third banner by defeating last year’s championship finalist Lincoln-Sudbury Regional, 57-28, at Harris Field, Friday, April 5. On Wednesday, April 10, Belmont shut out 2017 finalist Algonquin Regional, 52-0.

Asked about the outstanding performance of her team, Belmont Head Coach Kate McCabe said “we’re really lucky to have a mature squad. We have a lot of seniors and that says also a lot about the depth that they are building for the future.”

In the first game, Belmont was led by last year’s Boston Globe All-Scholastic senior Gabriella (Gabby) Viale as the Marauders took control early on both sides of the ball and never allowed Lincoln-Sudbury to establish an offensive rhythm.

It was Viale four trys – the equivalent of a touchdown – that showed . The first came when Viale made a quick start before Lincoln Sudbury was set and outran its backline to the end zone. Her second was a 60 meters solo scamper after breaking through the L/S defense, the third was the culmination of a series of grind-it-out runs. Viale’s fourth was simply sublime as she kicked the ball over the approaching defense, ran through the L/S line to scoop up the ball for her final try.

“My backline was doing such a good job of using the space, cutting and taking the angles that I was able to make those plays,” said Viale.

Replacing graduated all-scholastic Jessica Rosenstein in the critical scrum-half role, sophomore Sadie Kabhrel belied her youth by defending the ball exiting the ruck and scrum while completing nearly all her releases out to the wings.

“She would not let anyone push her around,” said Viale. “Sadie’s been fantastic with her passes as she’s getting them out really wide and we didn’t have that many drop balls.”

Belmont was up 37-7 at the halftime break and was never threatened.

“We came out with so much power it will only get better from here,” said Viale, who has established herself as one the premier players in the state. “Everyone came out so hard and really wanted it.”

In the second match against the T-Hawks, Belmont’s aggressive defense led by the likes of left wing Ana Oteri (who in the previous game took down Lincoln Sudbury’s quick wings with a series of heavy tackles), Number 8 Sam Dignan and Prop Grace Christensen, kept Algonquin on its side of the field.

The game’s offensive punch came from junior Callie Weissman who plays on the front row as the tighthead (right) prop, not normally the position that comes up with multiple trys which Weissman collected.

“I was really excited for this match because I was feeling really strong during warm up, so just being able to get the ball and to have the space to charge through the line was great, Weissman said.

Despite starting the season on a strong note, McCabe doesn’t have plans to keep the squad’s roster static for the rest of the campaign.

“I think we’re checking out a bunch of options. Just because someone has played a position doesn’t mean that’s where we’re going to play them in the future. We are not going to be complacent where we are,” said McCabe.

“These girls watch themselves play and recognize what they need to work on. They are really honest about saying things that go well and things that [the coaches] ask them to be better about,” said McCabe who took more than a dozen players on the rugby club’s spring trip abroad, this year heading to northern Spain.

Bank On It: Chase Replaces Coldwell Banker in Center

Photo: The future home of Chase in Belmont.

Even James Holzhauer could come up with the question to this Jeopardy! answer: “An endless number.”

The question: “How many banks branches can fit in Belmont Center?”

The latest financial outpost to stake a claim in the “Town of Homes” is the US’s largest bank as JPMorgan Chase & Co. is filing permits with town departments to create an office at 7 Channing Rd. in the former Coldwell Banker office, according to town officials.

Chase is joining branch offices of six banks in Belmont’s business hub: Bank of America, Citizens Bank, Cambridge Savings Bank, Santander Bank, and People’s United Bank which completed its acquisition of Belmont Savings Bank this month.

Old-timers remember the site, owned by Retail Site Processing of Bedford, as an Exxon service station until 1996. For a decade it housed convenience stores (including a 7-11 franchise) before closing in 2006. The 15,600 sq.-ft. building became the Coldwell Banker location in 2007.

Coldwell Banker is relocating to the former Boston Musician Association’s office at 130 Concord Ave.

Chase’s retail banking division entered the Boston market last year concentrating in Boston with a branch and three ATMs. They have also added automated tellers along the Mass Pike in the last year.

In the past month, the financial behemoth (with $2.623 trillion in assets (2018)) converting one of few remaining Friendly’s restaurants located in the Watertown Mall on Arsenal Street as well as opening a branch in Dedham across from the Legacy Place mall. Belmont would be the first suburban office not linked to a large retail center.

The current retail strategy by the New York City-based multinational investment bank and financial services company run by CEO Jamie Dimon of opening 400 branches from Boston to Washington DC. with 50 in eastern Massachusetts runs counter to market trends as most banks are closing offices as banking functions are increasingly being performed online.

Belmont Fast: 37 Residents Complete BAA Marathon

Photo: The finish line of the BAA Marathon.

There are some fast neighbors in Belmont as 37 residents completed the 122nd BAA Marathon on a warm and wet Patriots’ Day on Monday, April 16.

They joined a capacity 32,500 runners who traveled the 26.2 miles from Hopkinton to Boston on the historic course of the world’s oldest marathon.

This year, three Belmont men broke three hours with 28-year-old Daron Holloway taking the top spot with a 2 hour, 52 minutes and three seconds, a six minute, 34 second per mile pace which placed him 1,285th. Lauren Phillips, 34, ran a stellar 3:09:25 for 430th place among female participants.

Also running yesterday was a chair of a Belmont committee (Russell Leino, Community Path, with the second fastest Belmont male time), a Nobel Prize winner (Wolfgang Ketterle) and a coach (Melissa Hart, Belmont High Girls’ Basketball).

Daron Holloway28 2:52:03
Russell Leino36 2:54:17
Martin Kronbuegel 42 2:58:32
Alfons Marquez47 3:04:14
Lauren Phillips34 3:09:25
David Marchefka35 3:25:42
Laurie Nahigian 48 3:29:59
Becca Pizzi39 3:31:44
Lynton Karfor40 3:36:20
Wolfgang Ketterle 61 3:36:28
Jeff Roth45 3:40:25
Sarah Poplawski 41 3:42:03
Konstantin Tyurin 51 3:45:18
Scott Dedeo38 3:45:18
Rachid Belhocine59 3:48:53
Michael Ascione 47 3:49:03
Julie Kellett 34 3:50:40
Katie Brace42 3:54:20
Michael Thomas52 4:08:21
Christine Bowe32 4:14:19
Ed Amer49 4:19:05
Satomi Kato
53 4:22:52
Alice Rushforth 57 4:36:00
Richard Newton30 4:41:51
Sarkis Chekijian 45 4:46:01
Young-Jin Cho45 4:46:58
Paul Firth51 4:51:05
Melissa Hart51 4:56:16
Lisa Engler41 5:01:02
Jennifer Knight41 5:19:55
Chris Hiserman40 5:23:24
Kaela Hale19 5:27:06
Peter Walker44 5:27:20
Kelly Chiu46 5:28:34
Kai Saukkonen 56 5:31:47
Alexandra Cellucci23 5:53:31
Awinja Otiato50 6:00:04

Last Day Of School In Belmont Is … A Monday (Ugh!)

All it took was a single snow day for last classes at Belmont’s six public schools to be dragged over a weekend.

Belmont School Superintendent John Phelan announced at the School Committee meeting held on Tuesday, April 9, the definitive final day of the 2018-2019 school year, no matter what weather related event – June snowstorm, a rain of frogs,occurs over the next two months.

Naming the final day is, in fact, a state requirement per the Massachusetts Department of Elementary and Secondary Education and has to be done in April. At the beginning of the school year, districts schedule 185 school days but only operate 180 of them during a school year.

With this year being “good year” in terms of snow days, Phelan declared Monday, June 17, as the official “school’s out” day in Belmont. If it hadn’t been for the “day off,” the year would have ended on Friday, June 14, sparing children from having to spend an almost summer weekend preparing for another trip to school.

At least that Monday will be a half day for students; not so for staff and educators.

Belmont Energy Committee’s Forum: Taking Local Action To Stop Climate Change

Belmont is on the forefront of local communities who have taken action to reduce its part in global climate change. More than a decade ago, Town Meeting in 2008 adopted a climate action plan to reduce the town’s green house gases by 80 percent by the year 2050. Since then, the town and Town Meeting has pushed policies and measures that has strengthened its role as a leader in mitigating carbon emissions in Belmont.

But according to the Belmont Energy Committee, the town can do better to achieve the goal of becoming a 100 percent carbon free community by 2050.

On Wednesday, April 10 from 7 p.m. to 8:30 p.m. in the Belmont Art Gallery, (Homer Building) 19 Moore St., the Energy Committee is holding an educational forum on what are the most important steps residents and the town can take to make a difference in preventing global warming and climate change. Hear from experts about how the world of 2035 can and will differ from the world we know today.

Speakers will include:

George Bachrach: Former president of the Environmental League of Massachusetts and one of the leading environmental voices in Massachusetts. Bachrach is a former state Senator whose district included Belmont. 

Peter Fox-Penner: Director of Boston University’s Institute for Sustainable Energy. The Institute’s Smart Cities Initiative focuses on promoting smart, sustainable cities through new methods of urban planning, infrastructure development, mobility, and built environment energy use.

Belmont Energy Committee along with Belmont Light General Manager Chris Roy, will explain Belmont’s Roadmap toward achieving Belmont’s goal of reducing carbon emissions by 80 percent by 2050. The presentation will include an explanation of current ongoing action steps, the long-term action plan, and the Climate Change Resolution to be presented to Town Annual Town Meeting in the spring of 2019.

2-Alarm Fire Damages Trapelo Road Two Family

A mid-morning blaze heavily damaged the top floors of a rental residence on Trapelo Road near the intersection of Belmont Street, snarling traffic on the busy thoroughfare on Friday, April 5. No one was injured in the incident.

The two-alarm fire started near or close to the rear porch of the 99-year-old two family owned by a Lexington couple. Belmont Fire Chief David Frizzell said it was too soon to determine what caused the fire that brought mutual aid from Watertown, Arlington and Cambridge.

The 10:05 a.m. call reporting the fire to Belmont dispatchers was made by Belmont Fire Lt. Dave Toomey who was off-duty when he passed the structure as heavy plumes of dark, acetic smoke emerged from the house.

“I was sitting at the light when I saw a plume of smoke,” Toomey told the Belmontonian.

Toomey saw a young man at a first-floor window and told him and his cat to get out. Toomey with the assistance from Belmont Police entered the building where he knocked in doors in his search for residence. He didn’t find anyone else inside.

Asked if he had any apprehension entering a burning building, Toomey said “I’ve been doing this for 23 years so this is second nature.”

Belmont crews arrived shortly after the call was received. After attacking the flames engulfing the second floor back landing, firefighters cut holes in the roof and broke open windows.

Belmont Street was closed from Pine Street to Payson Road for more than two hours.

Approximately an hour after the first alarm was sent, the fire has nearly knocked down all for some lingering hot spots. Frizzell said the second floor suffered extensive damage of upwards to $100,000.

‘Farewell and thank you, Belmont’ – Town Meeting Member Bids Adieu

Dear Precinct 1 Belmontians:

Thank you for the opportunity to serve on Town Meeting these past three years. I’m grateful to have worked with such intelligent and committed public servants, and for the tireless work and dedication of everyone who contributes to our town — and I’m proud of what we accomplished these past three years. I am graduating from college this May and may soon be moving out of Belmont, so I am not running for re-election.

I look back on the victories — whether it be the moment we stood up for undocumented immigrants with the overwhelming passage of the Welcoming Town resolution, the many votes we took to turn the new Belmont High from concept into reality, and smaller victories such as whenever Don Mercier moves a question. I’m proud to be born and raised Belmontian, and I’m grateful to have worked with such committed and passionate community servants to play a small role in moving our town forward.

Reflecting on the past three years as a Town Meeting Member, and my time involved in this community since childhood, I am proud of the direction our town has gone: From the corruption of the Monahan days to an increasingly diverse and forward-thinking town government, from underfunding our schools when I was in Chenery to 76% of voters approving the new Belmont High last fall.

Splitting this Town Meeting term between my teens and my twenties, I’m grateful to only once have had a Selectman mistake me for a custodian and tell me to throw out his trash. But in all seriousness, I’m glad to have brought a youth perspective to the table, whether in conversations regarding the future of Belmont schools, immigrant protections, affordable housing, or environmental policies — young voices form a perspective that’s needed now, more than ever, in our town and in our country, and I hope that Belmont expands opportunities for students to engage in local advocacy and town government.

I’d like to thank my Belmont Public School teachers from kindergarten through 12th grade. Their tireless work and dedication was fundamental in building my desire to engage in advocacy and public service, and in driving me to where I am today. I am proud to be part of a community that values and invests in its public schools.

I want to recognize the Belmontians who are no longer with us, but who mentored and shaped me growing up. I first met Dan Scharfman when he knocked on my door while running for School Committee when I was in 7th grade. No one had ever cared what I thought, but he took the time to ask and to listen — and in doing so, inspired me to start engaging in advocacy around town. That year, when my teachers were at risk of being laid off, I wrote a cringeworthy but well-intentioned Citizen-Herald op-ed about the 2010 override and held signs outside Precinct 1’s polling place for the first time. I would also like to thank Trish Lohmar, who mentored me about progressive advocacy and civic action as I grew up. I’m inspired by the dedication of Dan and Trish to bettering the Belmont community, and more importantly for being incredible welcoming and supportive people.

There have also been harder moments. When I was canvassing during my campaign for Town Meeting, a person first said they would vote for me, then asked me if I am Jewish, and then told me they would probably not vote for me because of my religion. That interaction demonstrates the importance of staying vigilant for antisemitism and other forms of prejudice and white supremacy in our community. Addressing complaints as a member of the Belmont Human Rights Commission and answering the civil rights complaint hotline for Attorney General Healey’s office provided reminders that antisemitism and racism are more common in our community than most people realize, and must be fought accordingly.

I said this when I first ran for Town Meeting, and it is still just as true as I finish my term: Never be satisfied with the status quo. Question, innovate, and embrace bold ideas. These past few years have reinforced my belief in the importance of never listening to the tired arguments that “Belmont isn’t ready” or “it’s too difficult” or “it’s too controversial, people will be angry.” I’ll be the first to acknowledge the many issues facing our town — but local government has reminded me to never be deterred by entrenched institutions. Particularly in the Trump era, local government has enormous power to lead the way, stand up for our values, and fight for justice and progress.

Belmont’s successes leave gaps that must be addressed by thinking big and acting bold. With federal inaction and a state legislature that has failed consistently to pass adequate climate legislation, it’s up to local government to lead the way on addressing the climate crisis by adhering to and expanding on the emission reductions in the Belmont Climate Action Plan. Watertown, for instance, just became the first city to mandate solar panels on all new commercial buildings. Belmont could send a bold message of climate leadership by being the second. We must face the reality that single family zoning in affluent suburbs like Belmont has consistently facilitated socioeconomic inequality and racial disparity, and contributes to the region’s affordable housing crisis. We must support lower-income residents by continuing to build safeguards for those who cannot afford the increasing tax burden, and ensuring adequate affordable housing through zoning reform to allow for increased density. We must increase awareness of issues of racial justice and immigrant justice in a relatively homogenous environment that is conducive to facilitating ignorance about race and inequity. To grow and strengthen our town, it’s important to face these hard truths by acknowledging and then tackling them head on.

There’s a lot of work to do, but I’m confident that we have a strong group of Town Meeting Members and a strong Selectboard, and I look forward to both bodies continuing to become more forward-thinking, diverse and representative of our community in the coming years. The choices on April 2nd are clear.

And to Belmont’s students and young people: this is your town, too. Raise your voices, demand they be heard, and ensure that our generation has a seat at the table. Get involved in town government and advocacy. Run for office. Not only do your voices matter, it’s critical that your voices are heard and elevated in decisions on town and school policy.

It has been my honor to serve Precinct 1 in Town Meeting these past three years, and to be part of the Belmont community while growing up. One thing is certain: I’ll always be grateful for everything I’ve learned from our town community these past 21 years, and I will fight for racial justice, economic justice, environmental justice, and education justice wherever I end up.

Thank you, Precinct 1, for the opportunity to serve you these past three years. Thank you, Belmont.

Daniel Vernick

Town Meeting Member – Precinct 1