In Brief: Belmont Town Meeting, Day 3: Regulations on the Side, Please

On the final night of debating and voting on the non-budgetary articles before the 155th edition of the Belmont Town Meeting, it was clear that Belmont’s Town Meeting members believe that when times call for them, as one attendee stated, “there are times for rules and regulations on who we all behave.”

With overwhelming support, Town Meeting disapproved of an attempt to remove the town’s new Residential Snow Removal bylaw, supported a new and improved set of regulations on how many yard sales a resident can have in a year (that would be three) and approved – with a wink and a nod – the Planning Board’s set of regulations on where (and that would not be many places) a medical marijuana dispensary can be placed.

Town Meeting will resume with the town, school and capital budgets on June 2 at the Chenery Middle School at 7 p.m.

In brief:

• Resident Eric Anderson’s citizen’s petition to strike the snow removal bylaw – mandating home and property owners shovel the sidewalks adjacent to their homes 36 hours after a declared snow “event” or be subject to fines – as unworkable and unjust did not garner the libertarian support one would suspect as many members rose to state they are now able to walk on the sidewalk rather than the street after storms and that a small amount of regulations make for good neighbors. Others stated that the law will sunset in two years, a good time frame to see if the bylaw actually works.

• In his second go around to pass a yard sale bylaw – it was defeated at the special Town Meeting in November of last year – Stephen Ganak of Hurley Street won overwhelming support on a simplified permit application (done online through the Town Clerk’s office at no cost) that will limit a resident to only three sales in a calendar year. Some members believed it was an overreach to ask every resident to acquire a permit in an effort to halt a few “outliers” (Ganak’s own word) who spoil it for everyone. But most members stated the requirements wasn’t that much of a burden and vote “yes” for the measure. 

• The Planning Board’s creation of three areas – in two locations on South Pleasant Street (including the Shaw’s parking lot), next to the Loading Dock convenance store on Brighton, and at the Uplands property off of Route 2  – where a medical marijuana dispensary can be located was seen by several members as locations where, as Town Meeting member Julie Crockett of Precinct 5 observed, that a retail facility is “possible but not plausible.” For example, while the town points to the Uplands property (that borders Cambridge on the Alewife Reservation) as a site where it is permitted, the town’s Chief Planning Coordinator, Jeffrey Wheeler, admitted the entire site is slated for development. In addition, the one parcel next to Shaw’s would be in violation of state codes that prohibits a dispensary to be located adjacent to a pharmacy.

But Planning Board members and town counsel George Hall said the intention of of the Planning Board was to place reasonable regulations on the location of dispensaries – being 300 feet from residential areas and schools, for example – to protect residents. Belmont has such limited open space or commercial land that the four parcels are the only places the facilities can be placed.

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