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 www.mbta.com 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.

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.

Belmont’s Shea Places 15th In Under20 World XC Championships; Top American For Consecutive Years [Video]

Photo: Belmont’s Ellie Shea finishing 15th at the Under20 World Cross Country Championships held in Belgrade on March 30, the first American to finish the race. (Photo credit: CITIUS MAG)

After a quiet seven months since winning races in the Under20s at the US National and Pan American Games, Belmont’s Ellie Shea put her stamp on the international cross country scene for the second time, finishing 15th at the World Athletics Cross Country Under 20 Championships held March 30 in Belgrade, Serbia.

The 18-year-old Belmont Middle and High School senior was the first American athlete across the finish line held under bright, sunny skies in Belgrade’s Friendship Park, repeating as the top American at the world championships. Last year in Australia, Shea finished 10th to lead the US to its first ever podium finish in the championships, earning a team bronze medal.

”I just wanted to make the most of it and just really be competitive,” said Shea after the race during an interview with LetsRun.com

Wearing her trademark white framed cobalt sunglasses – which has its own on Google search page – Shea settled into the back of the large pack of front runners in the first of three laps, running the 2.1 kilometers in 6 minutes, 49 seconds. Notably, Shea was one of the few participants who hurdled the hay bale barriers to shave a few seconds on each loop.

The lead group, comprised of Ethiopians, Kenyans, and Ugandans, showed their quality in distance races as they pulled away during the second lap with Shea and fellow American Allie Zealand – teammates on last year’s U20 team – running in 16th and 17th, behind the UK’s Innes Fitzgerald who pulled away by seven seconds over the Americans with one lap remaining.

In the final loop, Shea returned to the top class runner she was last year, as she sped away from Zealand, catching and dispatching Fitzgerald before nearly nipping a pair of Ugandans and a Kenyan who were fading fast down the home stretch.

Shea finished in 20:50, completing the final lap and the home stretch (2.2K) in 7:29, finishing outside the top 12 by seven seconds. The race was won by 15-year-old Marta Alemiayo crossing the line in 19:29, leading a dominate Ethiopian team performance to sweep the first three places.

Zealand would overtake Fitzgerald to finish 16th in 21.08. The US team of Shea, Zealand, Mary Dalton (28th), Zariel Macchiato (29th), Jolena Quarzo (41st), and Maddie Gardiner (49th) would take 4th place in the team event with 88 points, edging out the UK (90) and Japan (98).

The BHS Performing Arts Company Will Be Staging ‘Something Rotten’ This Week

Photo: The poster of this year’s musical “Something Rotten”

The tale of how the world’s very first musical was staged, the Belmont High School Performing Arts Company presents its Spring Musical “Something Rotten” this week in the Belmont Middle and High School Main Theater.

Showtimes are:

  • Thursday, March 14 at 7 p.m.
  • Friday, March 15 at 7 p.m.
  • Saturday, March 16 at 2 p.m. (matinee) and 7 p.m. 

Ticketing for the shows is online, and advance purchase of tickets is strongly encouraged, as the Main Theater has limited seating capacity. Tickets can be purchased at bhs-pac.org

It’s 1595, and brothers Nick and Nigel Bottom are desperate to write a hit play but find themselves stuck in the shadow of William Shakespeare, the Renaissance rock star known as “The Bard.” When a soothsayer foretells that the future of theater involves singing, dancing, and acting – all at the same time – Nick and Nigel set out to write the world’s very first musical. Amidst the scandalous excitement of opening night, the Bottom brothers realize that reaching the top means being true to their own self.

The book is by Karey Kirkpatrick and John O’Farrell. Music and lyrics by Wayne Kirkpatrick and Karey Kirkpatrick, who also conceived the work.

TICKETS:
ADULTS: $15 in advance / $18 at the door
STUDENTS/CHILDREN: $10
BHS STUDENTS: $5 Thursday and Saturday Matinee, $10 Friday and Saturday, 7 p.m.

Select Board Sends $8.4M Override To Voters With A Compact In Tow

Photo: The Select Board voting to present a $8.4 million override to voters at the town’s annual Election in April

After Belmont’s Select Board voted unanimously on Tuesday morning, Jan. 30 to place an $8.4 million override on the ballot at the annual Town Election, Board Chair Roy Epstein believed their decision will be seen by the town’s voters as the necessary course to take.

“We’re relying basically on our experiences what might work,” said Epstein after the vote. “Some people have indicated they would like it to be smaller [amount]. Others said they would like it to be larger. So I’m hoping that means we landed at the right place.”

After nearly six months of meetings, public events, and the decision to pegging how much the “ask” of residents came down to two competing figures: a $7.5 million override that would protect the current level of full-time positions in the town and schools, and $8.4 million, which will allow the town and schools to invest in specific area. In the end, the Select Board settled on what they consider is necessary to carry the town over the next three years.

“We appreciate the concerns that some residents have expressed to me,” said Mark Paolillo, who will be retiring from the board at the April election. “But I think [the override] is absolutely needed in order for us to continue to serve the residents and provide services that they expect.”

“This is not an irresponsible number,” said Elizabeth Dionne to the half dozen residents attending the Town Hall meeting. “It is a painful number.”

According to Jennifer Hewitt, the town’s financial director and assistant town administrator, with the town committed to the override, the town and school district can now release their fiscal year 2025 budgets, on Friday, Feb. 2. The Select Board, School and Warrant Committee will meet Thursday, Feb. 8 at 7 p.m. at Town Hall for the fourth Budget Summit at which time the fiscal ’25 budget will be presented.

The expected override is by no means a surprise, as the town has been struggling for more than a decade with a structural budget deficit created by ever-increasing expenses and a difficulty to raise sufficient revenue with annual property tax increases capped at 2 1/2 percent. Add to that, the board has inherited a number of costly such as a large and growing pension fund liability.

With a $6 million cliff facing the town in fiscal ’25, even a “level” budget that seeks to keep personnel and services at the previous year’s proportions would require a significant increase in funding.

While the funds will fill the budget deficit in the next three years, the board views the largest override in Belmont’s history in terms of an investment that in the long run will benefit both the town and schools. Epstein noted “a potential for restructuring certain activities to free up monies to deploy them more effectively.” Case in point: School Superintendent Jill Geiser plans to use the extra funding to lay a foundation with added Special Education staffing and planning with the goal to reduce the number of students being placed “out-of-district” for their schooling, which Dionne said is the greatest financial burdens facing future school budgets.

Agreeing to the larger override amount “is the starting point of making that investment with potential long-term benefits,” said Warrant Committee Chair Geoff Lubien.

“That’s why I believe the $8.4 million is necessary to make that even a possibility,” said Epstein.

The alternative to the override would be cataclysmic to all municipal and educational functions in Belmont. A forecasting exercise on the impact of a “no” vote would force painful cuts in staffing and programs in public safety, public works, library and all other town services while the schools would see significant reduction in staff as students will be without extra curriculum activities, the elimination of popular classes and higher students-to-teacher ratios.

“It’s really easy to destroy institutions, it’s very difficult to rebuild,” said Dionne. “If we don’t have a successful override, we will lose a cadre of talent we cannot replace easily. It will cost us far more to rebuild and to maintain.”

Acknowledging the large “ask” of residents, the Select Board will attempt to placate voters anxiety voting for the override by “hammering out” what is being called a compact with the community. Under this informal agreement, the board, school committee and other town entities will work together to implement policies – such as revamping zoning bylaws to facilitate business creation – and initiatives to manage expenses in an attempt to “bend the curve” of ever rising costs all the while look for ways to maximize revenues.

“What we [as a town] have to be … is faster, better, smarter,” said Dionne.

Under the compact, the Select Board will commit funds to specific public concerns. One discussed Tuesday is appropriating override dollars to repair and replace the town’s threadbare and increasingly unsafe sidewalks, which have been a lament among residents for nearly two decades.

The compact will also “force us to be more fiscally disciplined” using one-time funds such as free cash and from out-of-town sources such as government grants, according to Lubien.

Belmont Woman’s Club Free To Manage Its 11 Parking Spaces As It Deems Fit

Photo: The Homer House’s parking spaces.

In a split decision, the Belmont Planning Board voted to allow the Belmont Woman’s Club to manage “on their own” the 10 parking spaces and single handicapped space located at the historic Homer House across from Belmont Town Hall at 661 Pleasant St.

“I believe it’s the Woman’s Club property [and] they should be able to manage that parking spaces as they wish,” said Planning Board Chair Jeffrey Birenbaum. He called the decision a “minor modification” to the former parking lot use plan approved by the Planning Board in July 2021 which restricted the lot’s use “to Women’s Club activities and functions.”

The new language states that parking “to allowed the Belmont Women’s Club to utilize their on-site 10 parking spaces plus one handicapped for them to handle.” If any problems arise with the change in status, the Club would be required to meet with the Building Department and later with the Planning Board.

Daytime parking at the Town Hall lot – which includes the School Administrative building and several town departments in the Homer Building and Town Hall – is currently a tight fit. When the lot is full, visitors and staff are required to use on-street parking – which has time restrictions – or travel to the municipal parking lot on Claflin Street.

And it appears the Woman’s Club spaces may have an interested party to claim the lot. Town Planner Chris Ryan said he had conversations with Town Administrator Patrice Garvin expressing that “it would be fine to have town staff parking there,” albeit a memorandum of understanding would need to be negotiated to identify any possible issues, a stipulation the Club’s President Wendy Murphy said would be “very easily” completed.

“I think one of the concerns that [residents] had was some of the town staff were parking on the sides of the driveway,” said Ara Yogurtian, the Planning Board’s staff member, who advised writing in the decision and MOU that parking can only occur in the designated spaces.

Yet the decision was not unanimous. Planning Board Member Thayer Donham reminded the board that “we had a lot of meetings on this case and … a lot of history to get to the original decision.” Donham believes that a new shared parking use should not be granted unless the club returned to the Planning Board with a new application.

“I just don’t feel comfortable overturning it,” said Donham, who was the sole “no” vote in the 3-1 decision.

But Birenbaum, noting the town bylaws does speak on accessory use of shared parking spaces including a lot used by town departments.

“I don’t think what I’ve read … that we need to come down with a hard hammer and say they need special permits or they can’t use their lot.”

James Paul White Field House Now A Memory As Belmont Remembered Namesake’s Sacrifice [VIDEO]

Photo: James Paul White (center) in an undated photo

It was 79 years nearly to the day when 19-year-old James Paul White was killed during the Battle of the Bulge on Dec. 21, 1944, as a small group of local veterans, residents, and town officials gathered on Monday, Dec. 18, in torrential wind and rain to remember White and the building bearing his name which in a few hours would be reduced to rubble.

During the height of the worst late winter storm in recent years, Belmont Middle and High School Building Committee Chair Bill Lovallo and Belmont’s Police Chief James MacIsaac spoke as workers for Skanska USA made final preparations to demolish the historic building to begin the construction of the town’s new $30 million skating rink and community center. The multipurpose facility is scheduled to open in the spring of 2025.

“Today, we’re representing and going to thank James Paul White for his dedication to Belmont,” said Lovallo.

Belmont’s Police Chief James MacIsaac

MacIsaac read from his history of White – “a gifted athlete and outstanding student” – and the field house dedicated to him in May 1948.

MacIsaac’s in-depth tribute to White and the Field House can be found here.

“We should remember that 83 other Belmont residents were killed in World War II and [the field house] represents those other 83 young men,” said MacIsaac.

A plaque honoring White that was located at the field house’s entrance has been removed and will be relocated.

The demolition began just after 10 a.m. when a blast from an air gun announced the beginning of the end for the venerable structure that served Belmont High School athletes as changing room and coaches quarters for three-quarters of a century.

Workers at the site said it would take little time for the mostly cement structure to come down, and they were spot on. A lone excavator began ripping through the building from the back of the facility near the rink. By noon, the street facing façade collapsed after a well-placed hit from the excavator’s arm.

“One down, one to go,” said a worker viewing the aftermath and pointing to the ‘Skip’ Viglorolo Rink feet from where the field house stood. The half-century skating facility is scheduled to be brought down a couple of weeks into the New Year.

Before and after

Belmont’s Beth El One Of Several Bay State, US Synagogues Targeted With Bomb Threat

Photo: Beth El Temple Center in Belmont

Belmont’s Beth El Temple Center was one of several synagogues in Massachusetts and more than 100 across the country that received bomb threats on Sunday, Dec. 17.

“I am following up on my earlier message regarding the bomb threat to the temple building, which prompted us to close this morning,” said Rachael Fagin, president of the Temple Center, building this m in an email to the congregation sent Sunday, Dec. 17. 

Belmont and Cambridge police, including a K-9 unit, searched the building and found no threat, according to Fagin. “Law enforcement has confirmed this to be a hoax.”

“We continue to be grateful for the attention and support of local and state law enforcement. There will be an increased presence from the Belmont Police Department this afternoon,” said Fagin.

Beth El was one of many Jewish religious and cultural centers that were targeted on Sunday, a day after Hannuakka ended.

According to a statement from the Massachusetts State Police, a Jewish community center in Framingham, a Jewish cultural center in Tisbury, and a synagogue in Florence received email threats. At the same time, a bomb squad swept a Natick synagogue in advance of an event, though there was no threat.

“Hundreds of similar threats have been received by Jewish institutions across the United States this weekend,” stated the state police.

Physical acts of vandalism of Jewish institutions and religious centers are occurring. A menorah at the Framingham Centre Common Cultural District was toppled, and a sign voicing support for Israel was taken on Saturday, Dec. 16, according to Framingham law enforcement, which is investigating the incident as a potential hate crime. 

Menorah Lighting Set For 6 PM Saturday, Dec. 9 In Belmont Center

Photo: Menorah lighting on Saturday, Dec. 9 in Belmont Center

Come together for a meaningful menorah-lighting ceremony with music, songs, and community at the Center for Jewish Life Arlington-Belmont’s third annual Belmont Public Menorah Lighting on Saturday, Dec. 9, from 6 p.m. to 7 p.m.

The lighting occurs at the delta green space in front of the M&T Bank branch in Belmont Center.

Sufganiyot, latkes and other Chanukah treats will be served.