Temp HS Student Parking, Drop Off/Pick Up Locations Along Concord Get A Thumbs Up

Photo: The new stripping along Concord Avenue at Goden Street (Credit: Belmont Police Twitter account)

Concord Avenue will be just a tad busier starting Sept. 8 as the Belmont Select Board unanimously approved 100 temporary student parking spaces along the westbound (from Cambridge to Belmont Center) lane of Concord Avenue as the high school wing of the new Belmont Middle and High School opens its doors for the first time.

In addition, the board approved drop off areas for students to exit cars bringing them to the school, according to Glenn Clancy, Director of Community Develop who made the presentation at the board’s Monday, Aug. 31 meeting.

“The beautiful thing about this plan is nothing’s new,” said Clancy, noting that construction workers have been using the same spots for the past two years that students are coming to, so drivers are familiar with vehicles along the roadway.

Approved by the Transportation Advisory Committee on July 15 with guidance from the Planning Board, the parking spaces are located at three locations:

• Across from the Belmont Public Library between the two curb cuts of the familiar turn-in parking area.

• Running across from Cottage and Goden streets, and

• Along Clay Pit Pond from the school’s entrance to Underwood Street.

The spaces will be issued by a lottery system, said John Phelan, Belmont Superintendent.

The spaces will be available to students until the completion of the Middle School portion in August 2023 when on-site parking becomes accessible.

While the TAC has delayed making a recommendation for the location of drop off and pick up spots due to the view that having a travel lane, bike path and parking along the street was “too concentrated” creating safety issues especially for bikers, said David Coleman, a TAC member, Phelan told the board there was an immediate need to have those spaces identified as the school year was less than two weeks away.

The placement of the drop off/pick up spots would be:

Heading eastbound (to Cambridge): Between Oak and Orchard streets to allow students to use the newly-lined crosswalk which will be staffed by a crossing guard.

Westbound: Across from Orchard Street that allows students to get out of the right side of the vehicle onto the sidewalk.

Phelan said the school district did not want to use a new loop in front of the school’s entrance as it will be reserved for buses. “We always wanted to separate cars, buses, walkers and bikers,” he said while construction continues for the next two years. “All the cars pulling into the driveway would create a walking conflict for those … coming from Harris Field … to get on the campus.”

Phelan said an additional drop-off site could be at the turn-off area across from the library.

Once the middle school is open, “we’ll have plenty of room for a pickoff/drop off on the site,” he said.

“That does not mean that this is a perfect scenario. We all know we are in a two-year temporary phase where traffic will be extremely congested in this area,” said Phelan.

For the Select Board’s Mark Paolillo, the current plan has his “heart in my mouth” concerning the likelihood that parents will simply stop along the entire stretch of Concord as an impromptu drop-off spot when traffic is congested.

“We need to have police presence… to supervise this,” said Paolillo. Phelan said Belmont Police Chief James MacIsaac will be present for the first two weeks of school to “observe everything that’s happening.”

While saying there isn’t any way to know the demand for two drop-off locations, “I think we all just have to realize that with experience in the opening days of school we might have to make some adjustments,” said Select Board member Roy Epstein. “But I think this is the logical starting point.”

Beginning Monday, Concord Ave. Undergoing Street Construction At New High School

Photo: An image from the Belmont Police Department of the impacted location

With the high school wing of the new Belmont Middle and High School just weeks from opening in September, construction will get underway on Monday, June 28 on the new intersection and completing the road work connected to the high school on Concord Avenue, according to Belmont Police.

Police are advising motorists to avoid this area if possible.

The work will focus on the intersection of Goden Street and Concord Avenue where the entrance/exit for the new building will be located, including installing a new set of traffic lights at the intersection and modifying the center traffic Island in the location.

Indian Restaurant Opening At Former Golden Garden Location on Concord Ave

Photo: The location of the new Indian restaurant in Belmont.

His name is Sukhsimran Gill but you can call him Rusty. And if all goes to plan, you’ll be calling Rusty the owner of  Belmont’s latest restaurant to be called Spice Delight.

Gill is prepared to turn the location of a now-closed Chinese restaurant on Concord Avenue into a mid- to upscaled Indian eatery by mid-November after winning approval of a Special Permit for a change in ownership from the Belmont Zoning Board of Appeals on Monday, Oct. 1. 

“We’re hoping to bring some nice Indian food your community,” Gill told the board.

Gill is the owner of Gill Pizza of Londonderry, NH, a wholesale pizza company that services a large number of school districts (including Belmont … New Hampshire) and businesses in the Granite State and Massachusetts. But the New Hampshire resident has also had a hand in the retail end of the food industry for the past 15 years, owning both Indian and Italian restaurants. 

His last restaurant, Zaika Taste of India, was doing swimmingly at the Meadow Glen Mall in Medford. Then last year Wegmans Food Market arrived and took over 120,000 square feet of mall space, resulting in his business and all the other eateries being kicked out of the revamped development. Rusty had been seeking another site since.

And Gill and his partner who lives in Everett believed they found what they were looking for at the cubby corner locale that was home of the closed Golden Garden restaurant at 63 Concord Ave. They soon signed a lease until 2023 with two five year options. 

The menu will primarily be northern Indian cuisine – chaat, tandoor, and curries such as tikka masala and korma will be familiar to many – and will be prepared by a chef Gill has employed at numerous locations for 15 years.

“He is excellent,” said Gill.

The storefront, which has 44 seats, will be open from 11 a.m. to 10 p.m. on weekdays, and noon to 10 p.m. on weekends. He believes the business will be half takeout and the other half sitdown service. The restaurant does not have a liquor license but Gill said they will soon approach the town for a beer and wine restaurant licence 

Questions were asked about parking; Belmont’s zoning code requires one spot for every two seats. But the parking – all on- street – is grandfathered. 

 

Belmont Youth Hockey Scores On Proposed New Rink Along Concord Avenue

Photo: An overview of the proposed new Belmont Youth Hockey rink along Concord Avenue.

They patiently sat on the bench for the past two-and-a-half years since it last was action, but on Tuesday, April 24, Belmont Youth Hockey jumped over the boards to reintroduce itself to the community and the Belmont School Committee with its vision of a new skating rink for Belmont.

The structure will be a sleek single-story rink/recreation center located on Concord Avenue across from the Underwood Pools, creating with a new high school and public library a new community hub for Belmont, according to Belmont Youth Hockey representative Robert Mulroy who, along with Ara Krafian, CEO of Cambridge-based SMMA |Architects who created preliminary drawings of a new rink, who presented the plans to the School Committee.

If all goes to plan, the new rink/center could be up and running by 2020 before major construction begins on the new Belmont High School.

To make the whole thing work, the youth hockey organization is proposing a public/private partnership with the school committee and town which will allow the non-profit to take school property in a 30-year lease at zero cost with the stipulation Belmont High sports teams will have a set number of hours reserved for games and practices. That partnership agreement will need to pass muster from the school committee and Town Meeting.

A new rink that will not need significant public funding will be a small but significant capital expense removed from the town’s significant “wish list” of large projects that Belmont faces paying for which includes as new Police Headquarters, Department of Public Works facility and public library.

While reluctant to say how much the new center will cost as construction expenses have markedly increased, Mulroy quoted a price tag of $6.5 million in 2015. The construction of the new rink – which will require the demolition of both the White Field House and the Viglirolo rink, known as “The Skip”, which was built in the 1970s.

School committee members did raise questions on the impact of traffic along Concord Avenue with a brand new facility and high school just a few hundred feet from other., But Mulroy believes the nearly 180 new parking spaces and traffic pattern changes associated with a new High School project will alleviate the current demand of on-street parking on main and side streets created by the existing rink and vehicle congestion created by those seeking parking. 

Belmont Superintendent John Phelan said youth hockey was asked by the district and school committee to wait to present its proposal until the “footprint” of the new High School was determined, so not to create any interference with the design and location of the 7th to 12th-grade building.

The need for a new rink is evident once anyone enters “The Skip” which is the current home of Belmont Youth Hockey and the Belmont High teams. Built more than 40 years ago, the once open rink has one wall of corrugated steel open to the elements. (Once, a visitor from Calgary, Canada who attended a nephew’s game at “The Skip” on one bitter January night, said he had been in warmer outdoor arenas in his hometown than indoors in Belmont). The mechanical infrastructure is on “death’s door,” said Mulroy. 

“It’s not how long until there is a catastrophic failure. It’s that it will happen,” said Mulroy, whose league currently purchases three-quarters of all rental time at the rink. “But we have the capacity for a lot more,” he said.

A new rink comes as the youth hockey program has seen increased growth in participation and teams – eight developmental programs and 22 competitive traveling teams for boys and girls from 4 to 18 – in the program which started 47 years ago.

The rink/rec center would be located on school property facing Concord Avenue on the parking outcrop between the White Field House and the Mobil service station across from the Underwood Pool. It will be a short walk from Harris Field and will allow for a softball field and soccer/lacrosse pitch to be located in the rear.

The key points of a new Concord Avenue facility include:

  • A 6,500 square foot multi-use athletic/recreation center.
  • A year-round NHL-size rink with above the ice seating and a “half” rink, both can be used for ice hockey, public skating, figure skating, sled hockey and curling.
  • A field house for half the year (where the half-rink is located) for indoor tennis, concerts and a practice facility for baseball, soccer, lacrosse, field hockey, and rock climbing.
  • A running/walking track above the field house.
  • 180 parking spaces that can be used by pool patrons and a drop-off area at the rink’s entrance.
  • Eight new locker rooms that can be utilized by teams playing on nearby Harris Field.
  • A team or community meeting room for public meetings or continued learning classes.
  • Exercise/health room for yoga and exercise.
  • Food concession stand.
  • A skate shop

The facility will be funded with a private 30-year loan which requires the school committee to lease the land at no cost to the non-profit, with an agreement that Belmont High’s Boys and Girls ice hockey teams will have a specific number of hours dedicated to practice and games. Phelan pointed out with a rink, the school department would need to allocate more than $100,000 a year on rental fees at other rinks and bus transportation.

Public-private arrangements are fairly common, said Mulroy, including for recreational facilities pointing to a pair of nearby examples: the Beede Pool and Gym in Concord and the Wellesley Sports Complex which will open later this year. 

The rink will be run by a professional management company. At the end of the 30 years, the town will have the opportunity to take possession of the facility or allow the existing management contract to continue under a new agreement. 

The Youth Hockey Association has been discussing an alternative location for the rink at the former incinerator on Concord Avenue at the Lexington/Belmont line. It would be an 80,000 sq.-ft. complex with two full ice surfaces and parking. While the association has been in discussions with officials and town counsel exploring the feasibility of the town-owned location, Mulroy said the clear first option for youth hockey is the high school site.

Mulroy said the next steps will be gathering feedback from the School committee and residents before seeking support from both the committee and Town Meeting to move forward. Once it gets the initial OK, Youth Hockey will release a Request for Proposal to build the facility and finalize the lease agreement. Afterward, the final designs will be done and the financing will be secured. The final step is to go back to the School Committee and Town Meeting for final approval of the lease deal. 

Upper Concord Avenue Closed Vacation Week, April 16 – 20

Photo: Can’t go here!

A major portion of one of the main roads to and from Lexington will be closed for most of the day this coming week.

Upper Concord Avenue from Pleasant to Mill streets will be shut down from Monday, April 16 to Friday, April 20 due to infrastructure construction related to the Belmont Day School. There will be a police detail at either end of the road to enforce the closure. 

The work schedule is:

  • Monday, April 16: 9 a.m. to 3:30 p.m.
  • Tuesday to Friday, April 17-20: 7 a.m. to 3:30 p.m.

Through traffic from Lexington to Belmont will be detoured down Mill Street, onto Trapelo Road and onto South Pleasant Street where it will connect with Concord Avenue at the Belmont Police Station.

Those excluded from the ban will include Concord Avenue residents and members of the Belmont Hill Club. 

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. 

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.

More Paving! Concord Avenue Work Begins Wednesday morning

Photo: Paving on Concord Avenue. 

Just as paving begins for ten days on Trapelo Road, the town’s Office of Community Development announced the second – albeit much shorter in duration – major paving project on the main thoroughfare happen this week.

Starting at 6 a.m., Wednesday, Oct. 21, and continuing for the remainder of the week, the E.H. Perkins Construction will begin the final paving of Concord Avenue (east and westbound) from the US Post Office near the commuter rail bridge to Cottage Street.

Also, the entire length of Cottage Street, from Concord Avenue to School Street, will also be rehabbed.

According to Belmont Police, Concord Avenue will be open for traffic. However, motorist, residents, and tenants are advised that all vehicles will be traveling on one side of the roadway or the other during the working hours as delineated by the traffic cones.

On-street parking on both sides of Concord Avenue will not be allowed from Goden Street to Common Street and on Cottage Street, affecting several sporting events being held at Harris Field.

Finally, Cottage Street may not be available at brief times during the placement of the asphalt.

The Town’s contractor and the Town will make every effort to reduce any inconveniences as possible.

For any questions or concerns about the project, contact Robert Bosselman, resident engineer in the Office of Community Development, at 617-993-2650.

 

Concord Avenue Paving Commences Thursday, Oct. 1 at 6 AM

Photo: Road work on Concord Avenue.

Final preparations and paving of Concord Avenue from the intersection of Cottage Street to the US Postal Service office will begin Thursday, Oct. 1, at 6 a.m., according to Belmont town officials.

The contractor believes it will take a single day to complete the paving.

Also, Cottage Street from Concord Avenue to School Street will also be paved by contractor E.H. Perkins Construction.

Concord Avenue will be open for traffic during the prep work and paving. All vehicles will travel on either side of the roadway during the working hours as delineated by traffic cones. 

Cottage Street may be briefly unavailable to homeowners when the asphalt is being laid.

On-street parking on both sides of Concord Avenue will not be allowed from Goden Street to the intersection of Common Street.

The work on Concord Avenue is part of the $2 million 2015 Pavement Managment program. 

Residents with questions or concerns about the project can contact Robert Bosselman, the engineer in the Office of Community Development, at 617-993-2650.

Concord Avenue Repair To Take A Bit Longer Than Expected

Photo: It’s a mess on Concord Avenue.

Monday’s commute via Concord Avenue was a “hurry-up-and-wait” experience as the surface of both sides of the main thoroughfare from Cambridge and Belmont High School to Belmont Center and points west were being ripped out, leaving a lunar landscape between Cottage Street and Common Street.

The reconstruction of the roadway, part of the annual Pavement Management Program, resulted in a monumental bottleneck this morning at the intersection of Goden Street where four lanes was reduced to two with many vehicles turning across both reduced traffic lanes.

And now it appears the work will take a bit longer than initially expected.

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According to Town Engineer and Director of Community Development Glenn Clancy, contractor E.H. Perkins Construction informed him that the pulverization of the roadway “is slower than expected due to field conditions such as asphalt thickness and other factors.” 

Clancy said Perkins is aiming for the middle to the end of this week for it to put a surface “binder” on both sides of Concord Avenue and onto Cottage Street.

That time frame could be affected by a forecast of two days of heavy rain beginning Tuesday, Sept, 29, which will leave the surface too wet to apply the asphalt. 

Stay tuned.

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