Photo: A return to one-way traffic through Belmont Center
The second “summer” of a pedestrian-friendly one-way Leonard Street – with several refinements included for this year – is being extended from mid-spring to Halloween as the Select Board OK’d the town’s blueprint at its meeting Monday, March 29.
The one-way season will begin Monday, May 3 and last to Sunday, Oct. 31.
Considered a huge success by the public – more than 300 emails were sent to the Select Board in favor of its return – many businesses, and town officials, it wasn’t a surprise the Select Board would enthusiastically approve the return to outdoor seating for restaurants while creating a haven for strollers and shoppers.
“This new proposal strikes a somewhat better balance recognizing the very different constituencies in terms of accommodates the non-restaurant businesses better,” said Select Board Chair Roy Epstein.
Glenn Clancy, head of the Office of Community Development, said the town had two guiding principals viewing the project; build on what was seen as a success of the previous year and be responsive to feedback from several sets of stakeholders.
“We should always strive to make it better than it was,” said Clancy.
As a result, there are five changes to the previous year’s plan:
- Moore Street will be made a one way from Leonard to Pleasant streets;
- The former MBTA bus stop at the former Belmont Savings Bank will become a loading zone for businesses in the center;
- The four parking spaces on Leonard Street entering Belmont Center will be short-term parking with a 15-minute limit;
- Parking will be allowed on the northside of Leonard from Alexander Avenue and CVS with accessible spaces at both ends of the roadway; and
- The parking spaces on the southside of Leonard at Alexander will become a public space where community seating, park benches, and other amenities will create “a place where if you are wandering around Belmont Center and you feel like you just want to sit and relax for a minute, there’s a place for you,” said Clancy.
The Select Board’s Adam Dash questioned the need for parking on the north side from CVS to Alexander Avenue after residents and visitors did not want any parking along Leonard Street. Clancy said last year business owners and office spaces would continually open and close the temporary metal gates to allow customers to park in front of the businesses. The new arrangement would allow a less cumbersome parking arrangement.
Epstein said his one concern would be the “unintended consequences” when traffic returns to pre-COVID levels which resulted in long-lines of vehicles attempting to navigate the Center.
“We need to be prepared to react,” he said.
But Dash took a counter view saying it’s not all that bad “if we can put up a little roadblock” in the Center, forcing commuters who cut through the town to reconsider that route. He noted that popular travel apps used by commuters to cut their time traveling home will likely send users to other towns than Belmont.
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