Meet Belmont Finds A New Home At Day School’s Gym

Photo: Meet Belmont is happening at the Belmont Day School.

One of the many unintended consequences of the construction of the new Belmont Middle and High School is the loss of the school’s cafeteria for out of school activities. And one of the casualties was Meet Belmont, the end-of-summer communal get together for new residents and long-time townies.

But thanks to scrambling by the Meet Belmont Planning Committee, the annual event has a new home for 2019 as the 17th Meet Belmont Community Information Fair will be held on Tuesday, Aug. 27 from 6 p.m. to 8 p.m. at the Belmont Day School Gymnasium, 55 Day School Ln. off of upper Concord Avenue.

This event brings together Belmont’s nonprofit/volunteer organizations, Town government and local officials, and new and settled residents in a fully accessible and friendly environment.

You can expect to:

  • Meet local government and nonprofit leaders—approximately 80 organizations have registered as exhibitors to date
  • Discover recreation and arts programs
  • Find community organizations, volunteering and other activities
  • Participate in our democracy—register to vote
  • and support the Belmont Food Bank with your contribution of nonperishable items

This is an ideal event for anyone interested in our schools, enrichment programs, other local nonprofits, volunteering and town government. The committee encourage you to attend.


Mass AG Reviewing Alleged Open Meeting Violation By Planning Board

Photo: The web page of the Attorney General’s Open Meeting Law web page.

The Concord Avenue resident who fired a shot across the Planning Board’s bow a month ago concerning possible violations of the state’s Open Meeting Law is now training his aim at the board’s waterline after submitting his complaint to the Commonwealth late last month.

Tim Duncan filed his 40-page accusation with the Office of the Attorney General on Sept. 29 relative to the meetings of “working groups” in connection with the Belmont Day School project which the Planning Board OKd a site and design plan in September.

(A copy of the filing can be obtained through the Belmont Town Clerk’s office, and its new Public Records Request web page.)

“The Attorney General’s office has an enormous amount of experience in dealing with open government and meeting law issues,” Duncan told the Belmontonian last week. “I am confident that they will consider the facts, make a wise decision and determine an appropriate remedy,” said Duncan.

Duncan filed his complaint initially with the Town’s Clerk in August alleging the Board employed small “working groups” to supersede critical discussion on issues including landscaping, parking and a proposed “driveway” that he believed should have been held during the public hearing process. Also, he said there were no minutes to the meetings which is contrary to the public’s “need to know” as part of the Open Meeting Law.

In response to his earlier complaint filed with the Town Clerk’s Office, Belmont Town Counsel George Hall believes the Planning Board was within its legal right to have working groups take up specific technical issues that helped move on the review process. The Planning Board will  briefly discuss the Open Meeting challenge at its Oct. 17 meeting.

For Duncan, who would live across Concord Avenue from the highly controversial “driveway” which will allow a second entry to the school, the board’s systemic violation of the law to ensure transparency in the deliberations on which public policy is based, requires state action.

“I don’t think there is any doubt that the current structure, process, and role of the Planning Board in Belmont is dysfunctional and needs to be changed,” said Duncan.

A week after filing his complaint, a citizens’ petition was submitted by three residents as an article in the Special Town Meeting Warrant which would change the Planning Board from an appointed to an elected body. Campaigners noted alleged violations of the Open Meeting process and abuses by a former board as their reason for the change.

Duncan decided to file his complaint with the Attorney General when it appeared to him that no movement was forthcoming by the town to answer his allegations.

“When I filed the original complaint on Aug. 11, the Attorney General’s office strongly suggested that the town initiate a dialogue with me and others in the community to address the issues that were identified,” said Duncan.

“The town made no effort to contact me, and the Planning Board hired town counsel [George Hall] to respond to the complaint without allowing any public comment or discussion whatsoever. Likewise, I have heard nothing from the town about my more recent filing,” he said.

“My guess is that the town is once again going to waste a significant amount of Belmont residents’ money on legal fees to have town counsel prepare a response, vote on it without public input instead of addressing the problems that need to be addressed,” said Duncan.

Duncan said he did not move recklessly in submitting his allegations to the state.

“Before filing the complaint with the AG’s office, I spent quite a bit of time reviewing dozens of emails and documents I received relative to the Planning Board’s process, discussing the issues with a significant number of people and thinking about the next steps,” he said.

“In addition, as you know, two of the board members themselves have recently spoken out on the working group/open meeting problems and the enormous problems at the Planning Board,” he said, speaking of Charles Clark who Duncan noted in his letter to the AG demanded then Chair Liz Allison to resign due to “improprieties.” Clark was recently elected the new Planning Board chair early in October.

While he is seeking remedies to the violations he contends happened, Duncan does not appear willing to re-hear the five-month-long site and design plan review which would come at considerable cost to the Day School which is currently seeking a building permit with the town’s Office of Community Development. 

“What’s important to me is fixing what is broken so that things are better in the future in Belmont and I think the AG’s office is guided by that motivation as well rather than being punitive,” he said.


“Belmont isn’t a small isolated ‘Town of Homes’ anymore. It is part of and tied to the economy of one of the fastest growing urban technology centers in the world,” said Duncan, an attorney who worked in government and currently in financial technology.

“We need a Planning Board and a town government that is up to the task at hand. It is even more concerning that at least two out of three Belmont Selectman will not acknowledge the problems at the Planning Board and that these are symptoms of larger problems with the town,” he said.



More Than Road At Stake As Day School To (Maybe) Hear Planning Board’s Verdict

Photo: The Planning Board. 

In one way or another, the future of the Belmont Day School’s proposed development of a new gym/classroom structure and a roadway adjacent to the town’s active cemetery off of upper Concord Avenue reaches a critical crossroads at tonight’s meeting of the Belmont Planning Board to be held at the Beech Street Center at 7 p.m., Thursday, Aug. 31.

It will either be one which the private K-8 school will quickly move forward with a set of restrictions or remedies on the land and road, as it will attempt to have the new structure up and running a year from now.

Or due to a final minute legal roadblock thrown by a resident from across Concord Avenue, the school and town could begin a meandering retracing of what appeared to be agreements on contentious issues including the amount of landscaping along the road and the structure of the road itself.

Less than a month ago, it appeared the Planning Board – reduced to four members due to the recusal of Chair Liz Allison (she is an abutter to the school) and the resignation of Joseph DiStefano – was ready to end the four-month long design and site plan review as interim chair Barbara Fiacco announced that the board would “wrap up” its oversight by Aug. 14.

While the 25,000 sq.-ft. Multi-Use structure – dubbed the Barn – was relatively free of controversy, the same could not be said for the roadway which would allow the school a second avenue of access to and from Concord Avenue. Several residents making up two community groups opposed the road as introducing both traffic and safety problems to an already congested main thoroughfare. 

The school contends the new road would provide ease of entry and exit from the school which currently has just one street, Day School Lane, to access the campus.

In addition, the town’s Board of Cemetery Trustees and several people who own burial plots in Belmont’s Highland Meadow Cemetery contend the roadway will create a myriad of problems to the graveyard, including possible ground water and disturbance of the pastoral environs of peoples final resting places. The school believes that adequate landscaping will resolve the issue. 

But a final decision was rendered moot as the Board was the recipient of a local legal action by Concord Avenue resident Tim Duncan who contends in an Aug. 11 complaint he filed with the Belmont Town Clerk. He states the Planning Board violated the state’s Open Meeting Law by holding what was described as “working groups” with the Day School to resolve technical issues facing the project usually conducted between one person from either side. He contends the agreements hammered out in this setting were not legal as they were done behind closed doors, without adequate notice and without minutes of the meetings kept.

He contends the agreements hammered out in this setting were not legal as they were done behind closed doors, without adequate notice and without minutes of the meetings kept.

Tonight’s meeting will begin with the Planning Board – through the legal opinion of Town Counsel George Hall – answering Duncan’s complaint. If it continues to proceed with the meeting, the Planning Board will vote on any restrictions it believes is warranted to mitigate the creation of the road and building. Duncan has said if he doesn’t think the board or town is willing to answer the Open Meeting Law question, he will file a complaint with the state Attorney General.

But according to some who have reviewed the case, the Planning Board could delay a final resolution on the road and building to “redo” the working group sessions in a formal open meeting session. This would create a further pushing back of final order from the board and delay the building of the Barn and road possibly until the spring. 

Planning Board Accused of Violating Open Meeting Law In Day School Case

Photo: Members of the Belmont Planning Board in June.

The town of Belmont has received a formal complaint from a resident who alleges the town’s Planning Board violated the state’s Open Meeting Law during the design and site plan review of a new building and roadway proposed by the Belmont Day School.

Tim Duncan, who lives across Concord Avenue from a proposed road leading into the private school, filed the complaint with the Town’s Clerk alleging the Board employed small “working groups” to supersede critical discussion that he believed should have been held during the public hearing process.

“[W]e need to make sure the rights of citizens to open, fair and transparent government are protected and respected,” said Duncan, an attorney who filed the complaint on Friday, Aug. 11, three days before what was expected to be the Aug. 14 meeting which the Planning Board was prepared to make its final ruling on the Day School’s proposal.

“The Planning Board’s actions were intentional,” he stated in his complaint to the state, saying residents and groups “with separate and equal interests” were “completely excluded” from participating in the three working groups between the Planning Board and the Day School. 

While he has taken his complaint to the town, Duncan is threatening to file with the Massachusetts Attorney General if the Planning Board does not “do the right thing and go back as necessary to address the problems and issues created by the working group meetings.”

If the Planning Board decides without having “properly” addressed the issues, Duncan will ask the state to annul the board’s decision as provided by the Open Meeting Laws.” 

The result: “That would likely mean that the entire site plan review process begin anew if the school still wanted to pursue its plan. It would also likely leave the parties in limbo until the Attorney General’s office makes its decision –  which could take some time,” he said.

The board has 14 business days to respond to the substance of the complaint.

In April, the private K-8 school brought to the town plans to build a 25,000 sq.-ft. Gymnasium and classroom space dubbed “The Barn” and a driveway/road running from Concord Avenue to the school, traveling adjacent to the town’s Highland Meadow Cemetery.

“It’s every bit as essential on the local level as it is in Washington and no person or organization should be able [to] maneuver or dance around the rules,” said Duncan, who has lived at 699 Concord Ave. for the past seven years.

Decision on Aug. 31

The Aug. 14  Planning Board continued the meeting to Thursday, Aug. 31 at 7 p.m. at the Beech Street Center.

“I felt it was prudent under consultation with [Town Counsel] George Hall and [Senior Town Planner] Jeffrey [Wheeler] to continue the substantive Belmont Day School meeting until we address the open meeting complaint,” said acting Planning Board Chair Barbara Fiacco at an abbreviated meeting Monday at the Beech Street Center.

Fiacco said the board would respond to the claim at the beginning of the Aug. 31 meeting before moving to the public meeting.

The complaint comes as the Planning Board was wrapping up its four-month long review of the project which many abutters and neighbors are highly critical, focusing their objection on the roadway which will create a second entry to the school. Complaints include safety concerns and gridlock worries caused by the one-way driveway, while supporters and those who own burial plots in the cemetery 

A staple of many governmental boards and committees in Belmont, a working group is a small appointed ad hoc group made up of a representative of the town body and the applicant to study a particular question. In most cases, the issue is quite specific; working groups in the Day School application focused on the landscape between the roadway and the cemetery and the construction and upkeep of the road. Once completed, the issue is brought back before the entire board for discussion.

Work Group: Efficient or In The Dark

In past conversations, representatives from town governing boards told the Belmontonian working groups allows subject-matter experts to “get into the weeds” on issues. In the landscaping working group, the board’s Karl Haglund who has a masters degree in landscape architecture from the Harvard Graduate School of Design met with the Day School’s landscape designer to discuss in detail what is needed to create a natural barrier that would satisfy the demands of the board.

While the working group allows for an efficient resolution to sometimes small issues between the two parties, the question of openness has been brought up in the past. In most cases, the working group is made up of only one or two governmental officials, which is less than a quorum which is the minimum number of members that must be present at any of meeting to make the proceedings of that meeting valid.

Also, while working groups are open to the public, many are not included in the public meeting calendar.

In Duncan’s view, the working groups created to discuss Day School issues violated the state’s Open Meeting Law (MGL 30A) because there were no public notice or any official minutes and, Duncan alleges, “the group meetings were not open to the public except for specific individuals who were invited … by the Applicant.”

“What I found most disturbing and problematic about the use of the working groups was that the time and locations of the meetings were not disclosed, and the public and other town officials were forbidden to attend these meetings, while Belmont Day School was apparently welcome to secretly  invite whomever they pleased,” he wrote to the Belmontonian.

In his complaint, Duncan said the closed nature of the proceedings allowed the board member in the working groups to “strongly influence the [Planning Board] in its thinking and direction” which defeats the idea of the group making the decision.

Also, Duncan also notes that quorum requirements were not met in any of the working group deliberations. He pointed to the AG’s Open Meeting Law Guide which he alleges views all working groups as “a separate Public Body” that must adhere to state law which requires open meetings and quorums. 

‘There are a very small number of very limited exceptions to the requirement that all meetings be open to the public and procedures that must be followed before a public body can close the door on citizens and I don’t see any indication that these were met or even considered,” said Duncan.

In Duncan’s view, the Day School proposal which impacts not only neighbors and abutters but also a town asset, the new cemetery, “[t]he Planning Board can’t and doesn’t have the resources to perform their designated role while also advocating and negotiating on behalf of the town on these matters.”

“It’s essential that the town designate other officials to work with town counsel and negotiate the matters separately with Belmont Day School, provide information to the Planning Board to inform the board’s decisions and take action as necessary to protect the town’s and residents’ interests,” he said.

Day School Ready For Planning Board Vote, But When Is Up In The Air

Photo: Brit Dewey, Belmont day School’s Board of Trustees president speaking before the Belmont Planning Board.

After nearly half a year and more than a half-dozen public hearing, the Belmont Day School’s proposal to build a new athletic and classroom building and a driveway/road on its property will be decided in early August by the Belmont Planning Board after acting Chair Barbara Fiacco said that when it holds the next meeting, “we are looking at a near final if not final plan.” 

But just which day the Planning Board will vote on the 90-year-old private K-8 school plans remain uncertain as the applicant is facing a dicey choice: move quickly and risk a devastating defeat or be patient and delay the development’s groundbreaking date.

With planning board member Karl Haglund unavailable to make the next hearing on Aug. 1, the Day School will face the bare minimum of three members to form a quorum.

As Belmont Town Planner Jeffery Wheeler noted, the Day School would need a unanimous “yes” vote for approval to move on the project. That could be a risky move since “It’s much easier to get a 3-1 decision than a 3-0 vote,” said Wheeler after the meeting.

But waiting for Hagland’s return would force the school to have to wait a fortnight for the subsequent Planning Board meeting. At issue is whether the school can afford to wait an additional two weeks before gaining the town’s OK to meet its commitment to its construction firm to begin work.

The frustration of supporters of the project of the longer-than-expected approval process came to the fore last week when Brit Dewey, the school’s Board of Trustees president, spoke formally for the first time since April when introducing the project.

“This project is about children,” said Dewey, with the school’s primary goal “to make an outstanding educational experience for children even more compelling.”

Dewey said the school had “consistently engaged in good faith and as an earnest and active partner with the Town of Belmont to move this project forward successfully” adding that the Day School had reached out to neighboring residents and the elected commission that oversees the cemetery.

“It’s time to make a decision in support of the project,” she said, adding that approving the development “is a vote to support excellence in education in Belmont; it’s a vote to support children.”

Opponents continued to focus on the proposed road that will skirt the boundary of the town’s Highland Meadow Cemetery. Those owning plots said the noise of what they contend would be 1,000 vehicle trips would destroy the serenity of the location and devaluing the burial sites.

Bellevue Road’s Joel Semuels asked that if approved, the roadway running close by a pair of burial spots he and his wife own be designated for emergency vehicles use only.

“This is not your ordinary ‘Not-In-My-Backyard’ NIMBY situation,” said Semuels, asking it’s unknown what will occupy the site of the school in 100 or 150 years, “but a cemetery … has its permanent residents and visitors to those residents and is forever.”

A homeowners group believes the added entryway to the school increase traffic and set back safety on a busy section of the upper Concord Avenue. 

The remainder of the meeting centered on construction schedules and the amount and type of landscaping that should be placed in the roadway and the graveyard, with an emphasis to “ameliorate the effect on the road to the cemetery,” said board member Charles Clark, joining Haglund in saying that the landscaping must provide a “peace of mind” to the town and residents. 

Hoping to provide something of a compromise to the board, the Day School decided to sacrifice 17 parking spaces it had planned to place along the roadway to allow a greater buffer area between the road and the cemetery’s border.

By the end of the 75-minute meeting, it appeared the next time they will meet could produce a final site plan or just another delay. 

Will Belmont Day School’s Extended Stay With The Planning Board End Tonight?

Photo: Barbara Fiacco, the Planning Board’s acting chair

Amidst the months of deep-in-the-weeds technical reports and legal speculation associated with the Belmont Day School’s proposal before the Belmont Planning Board, there was a “Miss Emily Litella” moment at the most recent public hearing held on Tuesday, July 10.

A person who owns a burial plot in the town-owned Highland Meadow Cemetery adjacent to where the school, spoke of the impact the development could have on his last resting place including displacing the wildlife while creating a great place “for kids to do drugs and have sex.” 

But his concern also extended to the construction of the school’s newest structure, a 25,000 sq.-ft, building known as the “Barn.”

“I thought we weren’t allowed to have farm animals in the town, horses, and everything. Do they have permits for this type of agricultural use? Am I going to go there and hear the roosters crowing, am I going to smell the cow’s feces?” the longtime resident proclaimed, as a quiet tittering made its way around the Beech Street Center.

“We can’t have a barn in Belmont,” he said.

For residents who have been following the extended stay of the private K-8 school on Day School Lane off upper Concord Avenue during its Design and Site Plan Review, the new gymnasium and classroom space is being dubbed the “barn” because, well, it resembles from afar a large grange.

When informed by the Day School’s lead spokesperson Kelly Durfee Cardoza from Avalon Consulting that it’s just called “the barn,” the resident didn’t say “Never mind,” but quipped that “that sounds awful cute to me.” 

While likely unintentional, the resident’s confusion has been the comic outlier from what has been hours of back and forth between the board, the school, two sets of residents opposing the plan, a town board and discussions between the town’s attorney and the school’s legal rep which has extended the school’s stay before the board well past the initial date the school had hoped to have the review completed.

That may change tonight as the board, and the school is expected to come to a possible agreement on what appears to be the final two components of the project that require a resolution.

At the end of the July 10 meeting, Barbara Fiacco, the Planning Board’s acting chair, requested the school’s representatives to provide a more extensive landscaping plan in an effort to shield the proposed roadway from the cemetery and provide a more detail plan on how Shawmut Design and  Construction – the school’s general contractor – will ferry workers on the site and where trucks and other heavy equipment vehicles will be parked during the construction.

For the school, the end of the public process is likely needed soon for the school to begin construction by the fall. The school recently accepted a $15.5 million tax-exempt bond from the state’s economic development and finance agency, MassDevelopment to begin construction with a construction team waiting for the word to proceed.

While many of the technical issues – including the building and maintenance of the proposed roadway running from Concord Avenue to a school parking lot – have been argued over to some level compromise, there remains one major sticking point that could continue to hold up closing the public meeting and issuing a ruling.

State General Law 40a (3) (2) – known as the Dover amendment – protects education and religious entities from land use regulations and limiting the town to “reasonable regulations” to mitigate the development’s effect on surrounding areas.

What would appear to be a straight forward legal issue remains somewhat muddled as the school’s attorney, Robinson & Cole’s Katherine Bailey, and town counsel George Hall have differing views on whether the roadway is protected by the Dover amendment, with Hall arguing there are not enough rulings to definitely say one way or another.

How the legal issue of the roadway’s status will be resolved could put another roadblock before the school with the new academic year ready to begin in six weeks.

Belmont Day School, Residents Waiting on Dover Decision

Photo: Residents at the Planning Board meeting Tuesday night.

The Board of Selectmen’s Room in Belmont’s Town Hall was stuffed to the rafters with residents Tuesday night, May 2 as the Planning Board reopened the public hearing to hear from both sides of a now controversial development planned at a private school on Belmont Hill.

By the end of the 90-minute meeting, it was apparent the Planning Board’s next step rests on a legal interpretation by Belmont Town Counsel George Hall whether the Belmont Day School could be required to undertake a pair of potentially time-consuming and expensive independent reviews of the impact the proposed develop could have on local traffic levels and stormwater.

The Belmont Planning Board.

It is an action the Day School’s legal representative considers mute due to the state General Law 40a (3) (2) – known as the Dover Amendment – protecting education and religious entities from land use regulations; the same legal standard used more than two decades ago to build another contentious project in town, the Boston LDS Temple.

“We need to bear in mind the Dover Amendment, which means in situations like this, where there is a proposal to build a structure for an educational purpose, we are limited to imposing reasonable regulations,” said Acting Planning Board Chair Barbara Fiacco of the construction of an indoor gym/classroom space and a new road/driveway at the Day School, a private kindergarten/elementary/middle school located off Concord Avenue on Day School Lane.

The Day School has reported it would want construction on the project to begin in the fall of 2017 with a September 2018 opening.

Speaking of the Day School, Kelly Durfee Cardoza from Avalon Consulting opened the meeting telling the board the school had met with abutters and carefully attempted to address some issues immediately such as moving a dumpster away from the border with the town’s cemetery. 

Kelly Durfee Cardoza, Avalon Consulting

Cardoza also told the board the school would introduce a Transportation Demand Plan which when implemented would use a series of actions such as car pooling, traffic monitoring, establishing a commuter ride system and stagger arrival and departures to reduce the level of traffic to and from the school.

The two camps opposing the Day School’s plans – reportedly the two groups have no intention of joining their efforts due to longstanding animosity among certain neighbors – believe the construction of what is being dubbed “The Barn” will increase enrollment and subsequently bring additional vehicle traffic onto the section of Concord Avenue which residents note is jammed during the morning and evening rush to work and home.

Opponents also believe a new access road/driveway into the school off Concord Avenue will lead to unsafe driving conditions, possible drainage issues and disturb those visiting the town’s Highland Cemetery.

One group has hired an independent traffic consultant, Robert Vanasse of Vanasse & Associates, Inc. who told the board the Day School’s traffic study is insufficient in several areas of concern, including not mentioning the weekday half-mile queue of cars on Concord Avenue in the morning and afternoon, the causes of accidents in the vicinity of the school, and the high rate of speed along the roadway.

Robert Vanasse, Vanasse & Associates

Vanasse said while he was not opposed to having the new roadway to the school to be used for “emergencies only,” adding a new intersection on busy Concord Avenue.

Also, the town’s Cemetery Commission has written to the Planning Board on its concerns about stormwater, traffic and the loss of what many are calling “the decorum” of those who purchased plots in the graveyard as traffic on the new roadway will be mere feet from the site.

Stormwater management was also questioned whether the current infrastructure would be able to support a new road which would direct rainwater and snow runoff. 

But standing in the opponent’s attempts to restrict the effects of the new construction is how wide the Dover Amendment protects the Day School’s rights.

“The board should think carefully about whether they have the authority to request a peer review for the traffic study both under your site plan review bylaw and under the Dover Amendment” as both only allows for a review of “internal” traffic – within the school property – and not offsite matters, said Robinson & Cole’s Katherine Bailey.

Robinson & Cole’s Katherine Bailey

After a limited number of residents spoke mostly in favor of the school’s expansion, the Planning Board brought their own set of questions, including from the Board’s Raffi Manjikian who quired whether the school had an operation maintenance plan to ensure the previous material under the roadway will not fail after a limited number of years. 

Many of the questions posed by the Planning Board were seeking assurances from the Day School it would have plans in place and programs ready to meet all contingency issues regarding the main concerns of traffic, stormwater and being neighborly to the town’s cemetery. 

While the issue of requiring a third party peer review remained only conjecture at the meeting, Board member Joseph DeStefano asked the Day School to voluntarily submit to the second audit “as being part of this community” rather than seek legal advice from the town counsel.

When Fiacco said she wanted to hear from Hall on the board’s right to require the review, Bailey asked, “in the interest of timeliness” if the Day School could join in that discussion outside the public meeting.

If Hall decided a peer review is warranted, Bailey asked if the review could be started before the next public meeting “so to keep the process moving.” Fiacco tentatively agreed to the request if a Planning Board representative is present. 

Since the Planning Board determined at the beginning of the meeting it would not make a final decision; the next public meeting will be reopened on Tuesday, May 23.

Letter to the Editor: Belmont Day School Expansion A Traffic Problem

Photo: Belmont Day School.

To the editor:

I sent a letter to the Belmont Planning Board yesterday (April 4, 2017) from my neighbors and my wife and me.

[See letter below]

As you can see from the letter, we only learned last week that the Belmont Day School is proposing adding a 25,000 square feet buildings on its campus and constructing a busy new 1,000-foot roadway and parking lot that would border one side of Highland Meadow Cemetery into Concord Avenue. Besides disturbing the solitude of the cemetery, the new road would lead to serious traffic and safety issues.

Belmont Day School has grown from a small neighborhood grade school with a few children to a significant institution with hundreds of students. It recently added a middle school and is now planning on adding dozens of more students shortly. Four of my children attended the school, and I support its work and mission, but the school’s traffic is overwhelming the capacity of Concord Avenue leading to daily traffic jams and safety issues and, instead of facing and dealing with these issues, the school’s proposal and additional traffic will only make things worse.

The Belmont Planning Board is meeting Thursday night at 7 p.m. on the third floor of the Homer Building to review and possibly approve the school’s plan. The plan should not be approved in its present form, and it is time for the school, the town and residents to come to an agreement on handling travel to and from the school and incorporate solutions such as remote drop off and shuttle/bus services as most other hospitals and schools in the area have done to accommodate growth and reduce traffic congestion and safety hazards in the neighborhoods where they are located.

Tommy and Jane Driscoll

Concord Avenue

[Original letter]

Re: 55 Day School Lane (Belmont Day School) Development. 

Dear Mr. Wheeler, Planning Board Members, Board of Selectmen: 

Thank you for sending us the notice of the hearing on April 6, 2017, regarding the Belmont Day School Development (the “Project”). Despite the school’s claims in its application to have informed nearby residents of its plans, none of our households have been contacted, informed or otherwise given notice by the school of this massive Project before receipt of notice from the board last week. 

It is almost certainly the case that if our three households were not made aware of the Project, neither were most other residents in the nearby area. We ask that you not grant Belmont Day School the permits needed for the Project at this time – the school should explore other alternatives if it intends on continuing to grow its population and physical plant. At the very least, the Planning Board needs to delay action for at least six months while we and others in our neighborhood whose safety may be in endangered by the Project further research matters, seek legal counsel and have time to respond appropriately. There are going to be many upset people if adequate time is not provided by the Planning Board for the community to participate in this matter. 

Had Belmont Day School acted appropriately and taken reasonable measures to provide actual notice and awareness of this project many months ago to those in the community who are impacted, this would not be necessary. Given the importance of this matter, the Planning Board must delay under any reasonable interpretation of the facts and circumstances. 

Overall, Belmont Day School’s growth and ambitious expansion plans would seem to be exceeding the capacity of its location and threaten the tranquility our residential community. This is frequently occurring in the Boston area these days as schools and other non-profit organizations are driven to expansion due to growing funds and endowments. Other private schools and hospitals voluntarily acknowledge when their growth and ambitions are no longer compatible with the residential neighborhoods where they began decades earlier – one recent example is the nearby Carrol School in Lincoln which purchased an additional facility in a more compatible location to 

support adding a middle school to its existing grade school rather than expanding its footprint and imposing a burden on its local residential neighborhood. 

The characterizations and representations of the Project in the application appear to be disingenuous at best. The Cambridge Dictionary defines a driveway as a “short private road that leads from a public road to a house or garage”. What the school is proposing is hardly a driveway. It is a new roadway connecting to Concord Ave that will accommodate close to 1,000 cars per day (by the school’s estimate) and a new parking lot within 30 feet of graves in what is today a quiet and beautiful cemetery where relatives come to visit their loved ones in solitude on a daily basis. There are material safety issues and concerns that need to be fairly considered – the Planning Board cannot simply rely on one-sided reports commissioned and paid for by the School in fairness to us and other nearby residents. 

The traffic on Concord avenue today exceeds the road’s capacity in large part because of existing Belmont Day School traffic. Many mornings we are completely unable to access the road towards Belmont center because of the volume and back up in traffic. The proposed new roadway and increased volume would likely make it impossible at times for us to leave our homes when school traffic is backed up and create an unacceptable public safety risk for residents and children in the area. 

Also, the presence of the stone wall in the cemetery and plantings do not provide sufficient visibility for any roadway or driveway – especially one connecting to an extremely busy road such as Concord Ave where cars sometimes travel at over 60 MPH when the road is not backed up. Basic safety standards prescribed by law in Massachusetts for roadways with this usage and volume cannot be ignored simply by calling the proposed roadway a “driveway”. There are serious and legitimate safety concerns that need to be fairly studied and addressed impartially. The safety issues are not hypothetical – a pedestrian was struck and severely injured recently less than 300 feet of the school’s proposed roadway, and hundreds of bicyclists use the road as the main way through Belmont every week. 

Chip and Cindy Matthes, 711 Concord Ave. 

Laura and Tim Duncan, 699 Concord Ave. 

Tom and Jane Driscoll, 689 Concord Ave.

‘Anxious Kids, Anxious Parents: How to Stop the Worry Cycle’ at Belmont Day

Belmont Day School presents “ANXIOUS Kids ANXIOUS Parents: How to Stop the
Worry Cycle,” with social worker and author Lynn Lyons on Thursday, April 2
at 6 p.m. at the Belmont Day School, 55 Day School Lane. Lyons will discuss concrete strategies to manage worry and prevent the development of anxiety and depression. This event is part of the Ko Family and Wellesley Toyota Speaker Series and is free and open to
the public.
For more information, call Belmont Day School, 617-484-3078, or visit the website;