Photo: Belmont Center reconstruction underway.
It’s official: the Belmont Board of Selectmen approved a Special Town Meeting for Thursday, Aug. 6, location to be determined (although strong hints have been dropped that it will likely be held in the air conditioned comfort of the Chenery Middle School.)
The votes, held at an early morning meeting at Town Hall on Thursday, July 16, was a foregone conclusion as the petitioners submitted more than 200 certified signatures from registered voters.
“We had no choice but to certify the warrant,” said Mark Paolillo, who along with Chair Sami Baghdady, voted to open and close the warrant, and to approve the language of the motion.
(Selectman Jim Williams is currently on vacation and could not cast a vote).
“It’s unfortunate that we as a community should be celebrating the revitalization of Belmont Center … it just seems that this is now an issue that has divided our town,” said Paolillo.
The article calls for the selectmen to reverse its vote on May 28 approving significant changes to the design of the Belmont Center Reconstruction Project, the $2.8 million plan to improve traffic flow and upgrade the town’s main business district.
While construction on the site had begun, the Selectmen voted unanimously to approve changes submitted in a separate citizen’s petition by Lydia Ogilby of Washington Street who called for trees to be protected (they had been removed weeks before) and to restore parking and a cut through from Concord Avenue from Moore Street adjacent to the Belmont Savings Bank.
The petitioners who called the Special Town Meeting said the Selectmen’s overstep its authority since the town’s legislative body approved a financial plan for the project at another Special Town Meeting last November with the original design blueprint – which included removing angled parking and the bypass which creating a larger town “Green” at the location.
According to Town Clerk Ellen Cushman, under the town’s bylaws, amendments to the motion can be submitted to her office at least three business days before the Special meeting, which will be Monday, Aug. 3, at 4 p.m.
A quorum of 101 Town Meeting members will need to show up for the up or down majority vote to take place. The vote is non-binding as Town Counsel George Hall considers the motion as “instructional,” in which Town Meeting is giving their opinion to the Selectmen, said Cushman.
While voting to approve the meeting, Paolillo said “it is really unfortunate that [a Special Town Meeting] is taking place. It’s just a waste of money” – the Aug. 6 gathering will cost the town $5,000 – and it was a shame that a compromise plan could not have been agreed to by all sides of the issue.
But Baghdady noted that the May 28 vote itself was a compromise in which the board voted to approve design changes to assist elderly residents and ease traffic congestion.
“How do you compromise a compromise?” said Baghdady.
Paolillo said the one point that bothers him is the process question, “but as far as changing the plan, I’m not accommodating that.”
Baghdady said notice of the May 28 meeting was sent to Town Meeting members and the public via social media and email.
“What more process could we have done?” he said.
Next week, the board will discuss and then vote whether to seek “favorable action” on the article.