By Martin Plass
We as the town have to decide soon on the future use of the incinerator site. The Board of Selectmen discussed this in their meeting on Thursday, June 7 and there will be a meeting for public input on June 18 at 8 p.m. at Town Hall. I urge the public to attend and voice their input and concerns.
One thing that concerns me is the temptation to find a commercial usage for the property that will maximize the income for the town instead of using the opportunity to enhance the beautiful natural conservation lands that surround the incinerator site. We as the town are already working on improvements to Rock Meadow with an agricultural consultant. With the McLean Barn upgrades being considered on the south end and the incinerator site on the north end of Rock Meadow we can further develop this area into a beautiful park and recreation land that integrates into the Western Greenway with Lone Tree Hill and Habitat to the East and Beaver Brook to the West. (By the way: I would love to see the McLean Barn turn into a café or beer garden, maybe with artist lofts spaces and a visitor information center that could provide some income to the town and would be a great place to enjoy a refreshment after a walk).
One proposal that has come up is to use the incinerator site for an anaerobic digester that would turn organic waste (food leftovers, etc.) into methane gas that would be burned on site and generate electricity (think Deer Island). I am concerned about this usage and worry that it could seriously interrupt the natural beauty of the area by bringing undesirable odors, noise from the generator, exhausts from burning methane, and heavy truck traffic to the site. While the prospect of making money with such a plant and providing renewable energy to Belmont is tempting, we need to make sure that such a use is in harmony with the areas around it and has none of these negative side effects. For the same reason, I am opposed to developing any parcels for housing. This would convert natural recreational space into private restricted space, something that could not be reversed.
Instead, I can see a community-owned solar array as a possible compromise usage which would generate some income for the town and fit with our climate action goals. Solar would not produce any noise, traffic, smells or other negative effects on the site and could be set-up to allow vegetation underneath and secondary use in combination with it. I like the proposal from one interest group that combines a community solar array with a bike park, a skateboard park, some DPW containers and a boardwalk for nature viewing as well as parking to serve as an additional access point to Rock Meadow and the Western Greenway.
I hope to see many Belmontians turn up for the June 18th meeting and look forward to seeing other proposed uses. To me, the overriding criteria should be to use the site to enhance our recreational nature areas for the enjoyment of the entire community.
Martin Plass lives on Stanley Road and is a Town Meeting Member representing Precinct 3