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
“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
“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.