Photo: 185 Dalton Rd. is an example of an “overbuilt” homes near Grove Street Playground which initiated a citizen’s petition.
Building on the success of those who brought a temporary halt to residential teardowns in Belmont’s Waverley Square area, a newly-created group submitted on Jan. 11 a citizen’s petition seeking Town Meeting approval to place a one-year freeze on the construction of so-called “homes on steroids” or “McMansions” in the neighborhood around the Grove Street Playground.
According to one of the leaders of the Belmont Citizens for Responsible Zoning, the initiative could become a jumping off point for a more wide-ranging rethinking of Belmont’s residential zoning laws.
“This could be farther reaching than just this moratorium. We believe this group will have a broader appeal around town to re-examine the bylaw,” Stephen Pinkerton told the Belmontonian.
The BCRZ is seeking to place a one-year suspension of “oversized single-family dwellings in a portion of Belmont’s Single Residence C Zoning District,” according to the group’s press release dated Friday, Jan. 16.
The area – at times called the Shaw Estate – includes single-families within the bounties of School, Washington and Grove streets and Grosvenor, Dalton and Bacon Roads. (See map below.)
The moratorium would set a 32-foot height limit from the average grade to the roof ridge of structures built to replace demolished homes, also known as teardowns.
According to Pinkerton, the area has seen the construction of five large teardown replacements in the past two years. (See second map below.) One example is 185 Dalton Rd., newly constructed with 4,000-plus square-feet and 34.1 feet high. It replaced a Garrison Colonial built in 1952 with 1,600 square-feet.
The press release states concerned “oversized replacement houses will:
- change the character of the neighborhood;
- crowd out sunlight, trees, and natural habitat for song birds;
- exclude middle-income families from single-family home ownership;
- undermine the value of existing homes; and
- take advantage of zoning that is not as strict as existing rules for renovations and additions.”
Pinkerton said he and the group are not opposed to developers building in the neighborhood.
“They have a right to make a living like the rest of us. But there should be some limits on what is built,” he said.
Pinkerton attributes the successful effort by neighbors in Precinct 3 and 4 who fought for a one-year moratorium two years ago as spurring the BCRZ to seek its stay.
“They set the precedence,” said Pinkerton.
Town Meeting in May 2013 passed a moratorium on single-family homes being replaced with two-family structures in general residence zoning districts with the majority located near to Belmont’s Waverley Square. In the five previous years, 20 single-family houses were torn down and replaced by 40 attached townhouses in the area.
The article will need to win two-thirds approval from the 290-member Town Meeting. If that occurs, the BCRZ “will work with the Belmont Planning Board and others to craft new zoning by-laws that will help preserve the neighborhood’s distinctive character,” said the press release.
The BCRZ will be holding a precinct meeting in the next few weeks to discuss the moratorium.
Pinkerton said the BCRZ’s moratorium effort could start a discussion on a possible comprehensive review of the town’s residential bylaw in the near future.
“We already see interest in that. Our expectation is this sort of discussion will only grow.”