Boys’ Tennis Sweep Aside Xaverian To Open State Tournament; Next Up #1 St. John’s Prep

Photo: Belmont High’s Julian Wong finishing off a point against Xaverian in the MIAA D1 opener

In its opening match of the MIAA Division 1 state championship, the 16th-ranked Belmont High Boys’ Tennis squad swept aside 17th seed Xaverian Brother, 5-0, on Wednesday, May 29, and now awaits a likely trip to Danvers to face top ranked and undefeated St. John’s Prep (17-0).

Belmont’s (11-6) top two singles, senior Charlie Osborn and junior Julian Wong, made quick work of their Hawks’ opponents, with Osborn winning 6-0, 6-1 in 35 minutes and Wong 6-4, 6-0.

“I wasn’t down ever in the match, I had a pretty good start,” said Wong, who was sporting a nifty new haircut for the playoffs. “I was up 5-2 in the first when I had a bit of a mental gap and he came back to 5-4. So I just had to really focus that and game and play it through. Of course, a ton of my friends came out today and it was really great.”

Yet after going down 2-0, the Hawks kept a narrow path to sneak out of The Town of Homes with a minor upset.

“Xaverian (9-8) was staying in the mix while putting pressure on our third singles and doubles teams,” said Dave Benson, now in his third year as the Marauders’ head coach.

But as they have done throughout the season, Belmont’s doubles came through with victories. First pairs of senior Ben Miller and junior Henry Moriarty were extended in both sets (7-5, 7-5) while seconds sophomore Brady Chan and first year Kalya Radojovic won it in a second set tie breaker (6-1, 7-6 (7-2)).

“The benefit of tight matches is they allow us to grow and be more accustomed to handling pressure situations. The boys responded exceptionally well, pulling out tight sets and tiebreakers in each match,” said Benson, who has managed the squad out of the first round for the past three seasons.

Belmont’s Soyam Pokharel battled fellow junior Nick Napoli as well as his body in a marathon match that went deep into the third set. With the match in a third set tiebreaker, Pokharel cramped up with him leading 8-5. After a five minute medical time out, Napoli came storming back to tie the match at 8-8. Each player fought off numerous match points with Pokharel finally eking out a 12-10 victory.

Belmont is now in a wait and see position as St. John’s has yet to play Chelmsford so that a day can be scheduled.

“I know most of their players and they have a deep squad,” said Olson. “They have pretty consistently good players, top to bottom. I can’t predict how my match is gonna go but I do know they will be one of the toughest teams we will play. Definitely one of the hardest games.”

What’s Open/Closed Memorial Day 2024: Trash/Recycling Collection Delayed A Day

Photo: Memorial Day at the Belmont Cemetery

Memorial Day is a national holiday in the United States which honors and mourns the military personnel who have died while serving in the United States Armed Forces. The holiday this year is observed on Monday, May 27.

Belmont will commemorate the day with the annual Memorial Day Ceremony and Parade starting at the Grove Street Cemetery, 121 Grove St., at 11 a.m. A parade will conclude at the Veterans Memorial at Clay Pit Pond off of Concord Avenue. Games, music and food trucks will be waiting for you!

What’s Closed:

  • Belmont Town offices, temporary library locations and Belmont Light are closed. They will reopen to the public on Tuesday, May 28.
  • US Postal Service offices and regular deliveries.
  • Banks; although branches will be open in some supermarkets.

MBTA: Buses and subways on a Sunday schedule, while the commuter rail is on a weekend schedule. Go to for details.

Trash and recycling collection: There will be no collection Monday; trash and recycling will be delayed ONE DAY this holiday week.

What’s Opened:

  • Retail stores.
  • Coffee shops: Starbucks and Dunkin’ Donuts are serving coffee all day.
  • Supermarkets.
  • Convenience and drug stores (CVS/Pharmacy) open regular hours.
  • Establishments that sell beer and wine are also allowed to be open.

State ‘Very Likely’ To Provide $750K Rink Earmark As Special Town Meeting To Determine Project’s Fate

Photo: The Municipal Skating Rink Building Committee at the public forum held Wednesday, May 22. Town Moderator Mike Widmer (center) led the event

With a critical Town Meeting vote on the future of the proposed Municipal Skating Rink two weeks away, some much-needed good news for the beleaguered rink project came in the form of a $750,000 state budget appropriation shepherded to the town by State Sen. Will Brownsberger.

The announcement of the last-minute state budget earmark came the same day as a community forum held by the Municipal Skating Rink Building Committee on Wednesday, May 22, at Town Hall. It was also just two days after the Belmont Select Board approved a Special Town Meeting to vote to close a $2.1 million expense overage in the project’s original $29.9 million price tag.

“We got some good news related to the state budget,” Rink Building Committee member Tom Caputo told the two dozen residents at the meeting. While a final state budget won’t be approved by July, “if the town approves the natural refrigerants for the rink [at the Special Town Meeting], the town can count on receiving $750,000 from the state to cover the expenditure.”

The new rink will be equipped with a $650,000 CO2 refrigerant system. Popular in Canada, the carbon dioxide technology, while nearly twice as expensive as the standard Freon gas-based system, is considered environmentally superior. Due to its impact on global warming, Freon is expected to face strict limits or outright bans in the next decade.

If funds are left over after the CO2 system is paid for, it’s possible the rest can be carried to “cover other environmental compliance costs,” said Caputo, adding that Brownsberger will come before the Special Town Meeting “to share this in person.”

It is still unclear what percentage of the state funding can be used to reduce the rink’s shortfall. After Wednesday’s meeting, Town Administrator Patrice Garvin said her office and the Select Board – which has the ultimate authority on how much town funds will be requested in the article – are creating a plan that will allocate the greatest amount to the project.

When answering a question on Wednesday by Town Meeting member Jack Weis (Precinct 1) if receiving the state funding will reduce the deficit from $2.1 to $1.4 million, Caputo said, “[i]t’s safe to say a significant portion of it will be used to reduce the ‘ask’ of town’s funds.”

Wednesday’s funding announcement is the first bit of positive news for the building committee, which has been scrabbling for the past three months to drain the $5.1 million in red ink.

Cost drivers skyrocketed

At the Monday, May 20 Select Board meeting, Building Committee Chair Mark Haley and members Caputo and Dante Muzzioli reiterated how the building project is facing a shortfall. According to Haley, the rink project was affected by unprecedented increases in material and labor costs, unforeseen toxic waste discoveries, site complications, and schedule delays.

The most significant impact of the escalating expenses in the past year resulted from a cost explosion in materials, labor, and services between September 2023 and February 2024, which saw the cost skyrocket to $35.1 million. According to Haley, the rink’s top four cost drivers include:

  • $740,000 in General Requirements, including general contractor Skanska’s labor,
  • $700,000 for site work,
  • $550,000 in additional costs for concrete and
  • $450,000 for masonry work.

When you add a few more line items that saw double-digit increases, the project experienced a rise of $3.4 million to the bottom line “in just trade costs and labor,” Haley said.

Faced with a need to cut costs quickly, the building committee began a value engineering process. But unlike most construction projects, an athletic facility doesn’t have much excess to cut: Haley said the building is “basically a box” with a few rooms and mechanical areas.

Municipal Skating Rink Building Committee members Anne Marie Mahoney and Chair Mark Haley.

After the revision, the committee approved two significant changes: the main lobby will be removed, reducing the structure by about 2,500 sq. ft., and the proposed solar array that would supply power to the facility will not be installed, saving $1.2 million.

On the plus side, Option A will have all the programming supporters promised in the original design: four locker rooms to replace those lost in the razing of the White Field House, recreational storage, bathrooms that can be used when the rink is not in use, a skate rental/sharpening shop, a concession stand, and four dressing rooms.

Having value-engineered a total of $3.3 million in savings, the building committee discussed with town officials helping to foot the remaining shortfall. Garvin advised the Select Board an inactive town account named after the insurance settlement from a fire at the former Kendall School is available as a source. The $2.1 million account was created to meet future capital needs, which is seen as an appropriate use for the rink.

If the Special Town Meeting rejects the June 10 article, Haley said it’s now clear to observers that a barebones facility will not attract the support of the committee or the community to move forward.

“There is no Option B. It’s either the rink we promised or nothing,” said Haley after Wednesday’s meeting.

Twin Winners: Belmont High Boys’, Girls’ Tennis Drain SpyPonders, 4-1, To Reach Double Digit Wins; Next A Triple Play Vs Top 10 Teams

Photo: Belmont High’s first doubles Henry Moriarty executing the perfect stab volley vs. Reading

With victories over Arlington on Friday, Belmont High’s Girls’ and Boys’ tennis teams have secured double-digit victories this season. This week, both teams will prepare for the state tournaments with a stern challenge as they will take on three Boston Globe top-10 teams, including the number-one squads from Lexington.

Belmont High Girls’ Tennis

After the team beat the visitors, 4-1, at Winn Brook Elementary School on Friday, May 10, Belmont High Girls’ Tennis Head Coach Eileen White thought back to the last time the Marauders had taken the measure of the SpyPonders, not just once but home and away.

“I can’t tell you when we last beat [Arlington] once,” said White. “It’s been, like, years.” 

The 2024 edition of Girls’ Tennis is officially on a roll. Currently, it is on a seven-match winning streak—having last lost on April 25 to Winchester—and is entering the Boston Globe Top 20 at 14th. Belmont is 11th in the Division 1 MIAA power rankings posted earlier this week.

The record is all the more impressive because the team has yet to have an uninterrupted week of practice and games due to rain, sleet, and an eclipse. 

“Knowing we’ll play in the tournament, we’ll have pretty focused practices. That’ll be good for us actually to be able to practice,” said White.

Sophomore Armela Mahadi, who transferred to Belmont High from Singapore last year, is stepping into the main singles role this season. Playing second singles, Mahadi faced Arlington’s Kate Wolfson, who took their first match in April to three sets. “So I came into this game really stressed ‘cuz the game could have gone either way.”

Mahadi came out with an aggressive style, thinking of “playing to win as that’s the only approach to take as [Wolfson] is such a strong opponent,” and she took the first set 6-1. In the second set, Mahadi said her “game plan shifted a bit, and I was playing not to lose,” resulting in a close set where each player held their service.

“Tennis is a mindset kind of sport, so today it just came down to who would outplay who,” she said, with the Marauder pulling out the second, 6-4. “It was a really fun match and a great experience, as the tournament is coming.”

Sophomore Giselle Fond (second singles) and junior Holly Kong (third) rounded out the singles, with Kong taking the “W” in a slow, steady baseline match. It was the doubles securing Wednesday’s victory as both pairs – juniors Sophie Merrow and Ingrid Hellsvik (6-1, 6-2) and junior Amy Chen and sophomore Avery Cai (6-0, 0-6, 6-1) – prevailed.

“It was very exciting. I’m very proud of them,” said White of the players.

In the coming week, the Marauders will face the three teams they lost to this year. They will play away on Monday, May 13, at number 4 Westford Academy—which escaped with a 3-2 victory at Belmont in April—before heading the next day to Lexington to meet the number one-ranked and undefeated Minutemen. The squad will return to Winn Brook on Thursday for an encounter against sixth-ranked Winchester.

“I think being matched up with the top teams is always good for us because we play really well against them even though usually those girls are a little bit more talented. But that’s good for us because [our [players] need to be playing against elevated opposition. That’s how you get better at tennis; you are always playing people better than you,” said White.

Belmont High Boys’ Tennis

A seven-match winning roll is pretty impressive. How about an eight-game winning streak? Belmont High Boys’ Tennis – coming off consecutive deep runs in the post-season – are setting themselves for a third straight tournament run this year in Division 1 after spending years in D2. And that’s where Marauders Head Coach Dave Benson expected them to be at this time of the season, with a record of 11-3 and battling for second in the Middlesex League’s Liberty Division.

We’ve had high expectations coming in,” said Benson, who helped bring Belmont to the state semi-finals two years ago. While there have been “some adversities” with injuries, including to all-star senior captain Charlie Osburn, “we’re back on track, and I think the guys are feeling good and looking good.”

In its rematch against the SpyPonders (10-4) held in Arlington Friday, May 10, Belmont Julian Wong – who took over first singles – returned from losing the first set and falling behind in the second to pull off a big three-set victory. Osborn, who played second singles, swept his opponent in two sets while junior co-captain Soyam Pokharel dropped his first singles match of the season.

Belmont would secure the win with the first doubles of Ben Miller and Henry Moriarty, who used a high-energy game with their trademark fist pumping and racket tapping to take a three-set grind win. Belmont polished off its 4-1 victory with a straight set win by newly put together second doubles of Brady Chan and Kolya Radojevic.

Like the girls, the next to last week will see the Marauders host number 8 Westford on Monday and number 1 Lexington on Tuesday with a day trip to number 5 Winchester on Thursday.

“We can stay with all those teams as we prepare of the tournament,” said Osburn.

Opening Night Of 2024 Town Meeting: Cleanup Of Bylaws Foretells Major Zoning Changes; Members Show Restaurants Parking Love

Photo: Belmont Town Meeting, 2024

One member described the opening night of the 2024 edition of Belmont’s annual Town Meeting on Monday, April 29, as “a bit of a snooze.” 

That observation was pretty close as the three articles were like reading the small print on the back of a life insurance statement: important, no doubt, but unlikely to raise passions as articles have done in previous years.

However, for those leading the reformation of the town’s Zoning Bylaws, this first night was not a series of housekeeping tasks in copy editing and revamping the town’s zoning code. Rather, Monday was akin to a musical overture, hinting at major themes and motifs that future assemblies of the town’s legislative body will take on for the next decade.

Select Board, Town Administration, Town Moderator and Town Clerks

“This meeting is critically important because Town Meeting has to be part of the process of change,” said Select Board’s Elizabeth Dionne, who initiated and is leading the overhaul of the code. “And we do it through these incremental changes while we prepare to do the big overhaul,” said Dionne, who declared Belmont’s current zoning bylaws “a hot mess.” 

“It’s going to take many, many votes over the next several Town Meetings to get ourselves into the place where we have thriving commercial districts and places where everybody can [prosper],” said Rachel Heller, Precinct 3, who was co-chair of the MBTA Communities Task Force, which recently handed its recommendations to the Planning Board that will come before a Special Town Meeting for a vote in November.

The Meeting

After a dower presentation from Mark Haley of the Municipal Rink Building Committee and the presentation of the results of a poll on adopting hybrid participation for future Town Meetings, the meeting proceeded to essentially two articles, number 5 and 6, that allowed a scrubbing of portions of the zoning code. 

Members were asked to accept changes to the bylaws to clarify language, change word placement for better readability, and correct ” scrivener errors in citations.” It wasn’t surprising that the Planning Board’s Jeffrey Birenbaum sarcastically noted that the articles were to be “very exciting” for members. 

While seemingly voting for members was fairly routine, Bob McGaw, Precinct 1, who has taken the unofficial role of the Town Meeting’s copy editor, presented amendments to correct the articles’ words and phrasing.

“Tedious wording, so bare with me,” said McGaw, to laughter. However, his work is important as he amends the articles to clarify and remove future unattended consequences that could be costly, such as repairing confusing language or even possible litigation.

Bob McGaw, Precinct 1

“I just want to make [the article] clear in its intent,” said McGaw. “People have to know that we are making laws. This isn’t voting for flowers on Mother’s Day. It’s important.”

Each article passed by a margin of better than 225 votes of nearly 240 cast.

Parking Love

The final article of the evening likely brought most members to the High School auditorium, which would grant restaurants – both current and whoever is coming down the road – a more significant number of seating by allowing the eateries to count four times the number of parking spaces in the licensing process.

The article reduces restaurant parking requirements from one space per two-person seating capacity to one space per four-person seating capacity. Restaurants can use current or planned on-site parking, on-street parking within 1,000 feet of the restaurant, and potential leased off-street spaces. Even If a combination of these three sources does not add to the new required number, the applicant may seek relief via a special permit application with the Zoning Board of Appeal.

The restaurant article has been discussed for the past year. According to Dionne, it is the “low-hanging fruit” that the Town Meeting could pass to begin changing the anti-business perception of the town’s zoning code. 

An amendment by Jack Weis (Precinct 2) sought to decrease the yardage from 1,000 to 600 feet, which the restaurant could claim for the parking requirements. Weis said one or more eateries could claim the same spaces in their applications, which has the potential of having too many vehicles for the same spots, leading to possible overparking and spillover onto side streets.

“Let’s walk before we run,” said Weis.

But Town Meeting would not slowwalk the bylaw changes being proposed.

“I say we run as fast as we can given how important it is to attract more businesses and to become more restaurant friendly,” said Mark Kagan, Precinct 8.

The article passed 217-12-0.

For Angus Abercrombie (Precinct 8), who was one of the article’s chief campaigners, the margin of the vote “shows what we are looking at in terms of the level of support and level of understanding in this body of just how dire the situation is right now.”

“Many communities see parking requirements reform as radical. What I see is radical is asking our residents to choose between an almost a 10 percent year-over-year tax increase, or millions of dollars in lost services,” he said.

“To know that we’re going to have to ask that question again in just a few years if we aren’t able to turn around our ship on business development. Frankly, this isn’t radical policy. The radical question is the one we settled on April 2,” said Abercrombie, noting the passing of a $8.4 million Prop. 2 1/2 override.

“I think there was a huge mandate. Not just to this level of parking reform but beyond these levels of zoning reforms. And that’s what I’m looking forward to,” he said

With the successful passage of the restaurant parking, Town Meeting will next take up zoning changes to making Belmont a hotel friendly community.

“Hotels are a fabulous business opportunity. They provide room tax, meals, and alcohol tax, plus the underlying value is high. So it’s a quadruple win for us. Not to mention the fact that people want it so their families can stay here,” said Dionne, who predicts a hotel article will come before the 2025 annual Town Meeting.