Leonard Street Remains One Way Until Sept. 28; Free Parking In Center ‘Til Then

Photo: One way on the way out come Sept 28

The Belmont Select Board has extended by nearly a month the one-way traffic on Leonard Street allowing restaurants in Belmont Center to continue al fresco dining into the fall.

The street through Belmont’s main business hub will revert back to two-way traffic in the early morning hours of Monday, Sept. 28. In addition, licensed outdoor table service will be extended to Sunday, Sept. 27 throughout the town.

The board also approved that free parking in the Claflin Street municipal parking lot located behind Belmont Center will also end on Sunday, Sept. 27.

At yet another marathon Select Board session held Monday, Aug. 24, members acknowledged that several Center merchants have “expressed some unhappiness” with the plan that began on June 18 as it has taken valuable on-street parking spaces out of circulation, according to board member Adam Dash.

The traffic change was installed as an opportunity to provide extra outside dining areas to local restaurants which are still not allowed to use their interior dining space due to restrictions imposed by the state to stem the COVID-19 pandemic.

In addition, the Belmont Board of Health had some concerns in regards to Leonard Street being “a little congested” during the height of dinner service along with complaints that people were not diligent in wearing masks or being aware of social distancing, said Town Administrator Patrice Garvin.

“We were hoping to have an opportunity to go down there and to see if the requirements of the permits were being adhered to,” said Garvin.

While saying “the last thing we want is the community to be concerned that people are acting irresponsibly when they’re out and about in Belmont Center,” Glenn Clancy, town engineer, and director of community development, said he has been on Leonard Street “quite a bit and I haven’t really been seeing problems,” an observation seconded by Dash who is a regular diner.

The three-plus week extension of the one-way direction of Leonard Street has required the town to inform at least one resident of Moore Street – a principal detour of vehicles traveling northbound onto Pleasant Street – that the board would extend the one-way experience past a promised end around Labor Day deadline.

Clancy said he does worry about traffic in nearby neighborhoods and along specific streets – Moore, Alexander Avenue and Pleasant Street – during the expected increase in post-Labor Day traffic.

Clancy believes that it’s prudent for the town to take these issues incrementally “and I think if we’re talking about the end of September [to return to two-way traffic], I think that’s far.”

Since many restaurants made investments in furnishing and in the appearance of the outdoor space, “I’d like to give them the maximum ability” to take advantage of the money spent, said Dash.

“I think there is a great community atmosphere that been created down there,” said the Board’s Tom Caputo. “I do think that this isn’t going to last forever but certainly going through the end of September very likely makes some sense.”

Breaking: Belmont Schools Closed For Two Weeks Due To Pandemic Concerns, Joining Neighboring Towns

Photo: The Belmont School Administration Building

In an extraordinary action to stem the spreading Coronavirus pandemic in the Boston area, the Belmont School District is joining with five towns in the Middlesex County in closing their public schools for two weeks beginning Friday, March 13.

Belmont is collaborating with superintendents from Arlington, Bedford, Burlington, Lexington and Winchester after being “informed by our local boards of health, as well by expert epidemiologists who recognize that the time to act is now,” said a joint press release from the superintendents dated March 12

“We know we can have a greater and more positive impact on public health and safety if we do this together,” the release said.

The superintendents noted the joint closure may be extended or shortened at the direction of state authorities.

Belmont and the other schools are joining the rapidly growing “social distancing” movement “a term that epidemiologists are using to refer to a conscious effort to reduce close contact between people and hopefully stymie community transmission of the virus,” as described in The Atlantic.

Examples of “community mitigation strategies” include nearly all Boston area colleges and universities sending student home for the remainder of the school year, a growing number of businesses are asking employees to work from home and the cancellation of large gatherings from classical music concerts, lectures to sporting events from the professional level to high school championships.

“We do this out of an abundance of caution, particularly out of sensitivity to families and staff who have underlying conditions that make them more vulnerable to complications should they become infected,” said the superintendents.

“We also do not do this lightly, as we know that this will impose a hardship on families who do not have childcare options,” said the release.

The “timely and unified decision” to shut down public education for the fortnight comes a day after the first confirmed case of a Belmont resident infected with the Coronavirus was made public by the Belmont Health Department.