Vote On Proposed Hotel Delayed Until March Due to Paperwork Snafu

Photo: Developer Michael Colomba and his architect Andy Rojas before the ZBA.

To the disappointment of two dozen residents who ventured out Monday night, Feb. 1, to cheer or jeer a proposed new hotel at the corner of Pleasant Street and Brighton Avenue, the town’s Zoning Board of Appeals decided to delay by a month acting on the request of a Waltham developer seeking several zoning waivers because he and his team didn’t get their “homework” to the board in a timely manner.

Several ZBA members were a bit ticked off to receive a thick packet of documents including a traffic study just days before the meeting on a subject that is garnering a great deal of interest.

“I object opening this case and to have a public hearing on it,” said ZBA member Nicholas Iannuzzi, noting he did not have time to analyze the case or the traffic study on how many daily “trips” a hotel would generate.

ZBA Chair Eric Smith agreed that he and others received the document packet “quite late” after Jan. 22 and suggested developer Michael Colomba and his team make an introductory informational meeting for the board and residents.

The formal public meeting on the proposed hotel development will be part of the board’s March 7 agenda.

Former Belmont Selectman Andy Rojas, the project’s architect, presented an overview of the project, renovating the two-building, two-story structure at 334 Pleasant St. – the former Mini Mart convenience store and offices – and opening a boutique hotel consisting of 18 guest rooms, a cafe for guests, a fitness room, a business center and management offices on the 14,400 sq.-ft. site.

The building’s exterior will not be altered significantly in an attempt to “express Belmont’s agrarian history.”

Rojas said the hotel would have less impact on local traffic than what can operate on the site “as right” (without needing any zoning change) including a retail store, and will generate tax revenue from lodging and meals “without having an impact on the schools.”

“This is a much quieter use and will be a quiet neighbor” to the surrounding community, said Rojas.

Colomba, who purchased the property last year, said he rented rooms “to a lot of people visiting Belmont” at his first hotel, the Crescent Suite Hotel in Waltham, whether it was for a funeral, graduation parties or visiting patients in hospitals and believes there is a demand for “low key” European-style lodging: just a bedroom setting for people to rest and sleep during a stay.


ZBA members asked Colomba to bring his traffic expert to the next meeting. Smith also asked the team to have “an explanation how in your view how a hotel fits within the bylaw regardless of the merits of the proposal.”

“I’m asking them to convince the board why this rather than another use,” Smith said after the meeting.

For his part, Colomba told the Belmontonian after the meeting he understands why the ZBA will want to scrutinize the project “and we plan to follow as necessary their requests.”

If on March 7 the ZBA doesn’t agree with his belief that a hotel is the best use for the site, Colomba said his fall back plan is to lease the space to one of two firms that want to open a convenience store. 

“But I really think that this is a very good venue and the town should consider it. I think it’s a win/win for everyone,” said Colomba. 

Obituary: Richard ‘Dick’ Betts, Mr. Belmont, Passes Away at 88.

Photo: Richard Betts in 1985. 

There wasn’t a Belmont street, landmark or fact that Richard Betts seemingly did not intimately know. Betts could tell you how each of the town’s 365 roads received its name, point out the beauty of a particular house on your block and knew – down to the most minute detail – the history of all things Belmont.

Richard Boulton “Dick” Betts, a lifelong resident who was the town’s engineer, an author and skilled amateur historian who shared his knowledge of local events for present and future Belmontians, died Saturday, Jan. 30.

Betts was 88 years old. A long time resident of Woods Road, he lived at Belmont Manor when he died.

“A chapter in Belmont’s history is closed with Dick’s passing,” said Anne Marie Mahoney, who knew Betts as a resident and a member of the Board of Selectmen and the School Committee.

“He was one of a kind and a true Belmont legend. I think everyone who knew him would agree that he was indeed ‘Mr. Belmont.’ He knew everything about everything that is Belmont,” said former Selectman Steve Rosales.

Born to English immigrants Charles and Isabelle (Richards) of 165 Slade St. on Aug. 17, 1927, Betts recalled how his father, Charles, a mason contractor who was a Selectman (1940-52) and water commissioner, “instilled in me at an early age a love for Belmont, its people, and its history.”

A graduate of the Belmont High School Class of 1945 and served in the US Navy from 1945 to 1946,  Betts graduated with honors with a BBA in Engineering and Management from Northeastern University.

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Betts began working for the town in 1943 in the Light Department then was hired as an engineer in Belmont in 1946, working his way to becoming the town’s engineer in 1973. He retired on Feb. 20, 1987 after 43 years of service to Belmont.   

“As Town Engineer, he was an invaluable resource and wonderful department head. He brought in good people under him and was a great teacher for all those Northeastern co-op students who worked under him, several of whom stayed in Belmont for their careers,” said Mahoney.

After retiring, Betts would become a Town Meeting member and was a member of the Planning Board during the lengthy and contentious McLean Hospital land deal, during which he displayed a coolness despite attacks to his person and integrity.

“Dick was always a total gentleman,” said Town Clerk Ellen Cushman. 

“But it was as the de facto and eventually official Town Historian that Dick shined,” said Rosales. “He knew everything about our town, its heritage, its citizenry, streets, its lineage and its many ‘characters’ over the years,” he said.

Betts joined the Belmont Historical Society in 1965 and became president four years later. He was also one of original seven members of the Historical Commission and its first chair in 1968. In 1984, as part of Belmont’s 125th-anniversary celebration, the Selectmen named Betts the official town historian.

In 2011, Betts was honored with the Historical Society’s Lifetime Achievement Award for contributing more than four decades worth of volunteer work.

It was his curiosity about the town and love of history that led Betts to write his first book, “The Streets of Belmont and How They Were Named,” in 1974.

In researching “Streets,” Betts read every town report from the town’s incorporation in 1859 to 1972 – he had all but four years in his personal library – checked old Watertown and Cambridge reports, scoured century-old newspapers, viewed 70 years of entries in the Board of Survey record and even walked through Belmont, Watertown, and Arlington cemeteries reading gravestone inscriptions.

When asked why he went to such lengths to reveal the name of a small side street or out-of-the-way road, Betts, the true historian, said “it is a certain honor to be remembered by having a Belmont street named for you, and in the hope that someone, someday might be interested in how his particular street derived its name, I began this history so that future generations would have a place to obtain that information.”

Two years ago this month, an updated “Streets” book was published by the Historical Society.

His second book, 1984’s “Footsteps Through Belmont,” Betts compiled the articles he wrote on Belmont’s landmarks published in the Society’s quarterly newsletter into a walking tour of the town.

Betts was also the lead writer of the popular “Then & Now” and “Images” books of photos published by Arcadia.

But it was his even temperament and willingness to engage with people that fellow residents remember Betts.

“Dick was a good person who conducted himself with integrity, with a smile and always as a professional and gentleman. A person like Dick will not pass this way again. We are all better people for having known him over these many years. I know I am,” said Rosales. 

“He was a kind man who was a joy to talk to about almost anything,” said Mahoney.

Betts was the husband of the late Barbara (Campbell) Betts and is survived by his daughter Linda Hutchinson and her husband Thomas and his son Robert B. Betts and his wife Susan and his grandchildren Nicholas and Matthew Betts. He was a brother of Edmund Betts and his wife Ruth of Florida and the late Charles, Jean, Barbara. He is survived by his longtime friend and proofreader, Audrey Martin.

Visiting hours will be held at Brown & Hickey Funeral Home, 36 Trapelo Road on Thursday, Feb. 4 from 4 p.m. to 7 p.m.

A funeral service will be held at All Saints Episcopal Church on Friday, Feb. 5 at 10 a.m. Burial will be in Belmont Cemetery.

Donations may be made, in his memory, to the All Saints Church, 17 Clark St., Belmont, MA 02478 or Compassionate Care Hospice, 800 West Cummings Park, #3400, Woburn, MA. 01801.

This Week: Pizzi’s Parade Thursday, Hotel at the ZBA Monday, Cushing Village Tuesday

Photo: Parade Thursday.

This week in government:

  • The Zoning Board of Appeals will hear the appeal for four special permits by a Waltham businessman who hopes to put a hotel at the corner of Pleasant and Brighton at the former location of Mini Mart. The fun starts at 7 p.m., Monday, Feb. 1 in the Belmont Art Gallery, third floor in the Homer Building off Moore Street in the Town Hall complex.
  • The Public Library Feasibility Committee will be holding its inaugural meeting where officers will be named and the overview of the process of having a new building or renovate the existing structure will be discussed. Hopes and dreams start here; Monday, Feb. 1 at 7 p.m. at the Belmont Public Library’s Assembly Room. 
  • The Municipal Light Board will get an update from Belmont Goes Solar as well as discussing existing and new projects at Town Hall, Monday, Feb. 1 at 7 p.m.
  • It’s Ground Hog Day, Feb. 2, and it’s only appropriate that Cushing Village dominates the Planning Board‘s agenda as it has every day for the past decade. Do not be surprised if Bill Murray gives the developer’s side of why they won’t close on the municipal lot adjacent Trapelo Road. At Town Hall, 7 p.m.
  • The Belmont School Committee will discuss and vote on next school year’s Program of Studies and will hear the good news from the Massachusetts School Building Authority. At the Chenery beginning at 7 p.m., Ground Hog Day (Tuesday, Feb. 2)
  • The Board of Selectmen and the Warrant Committee are holding a joint meeting on Wednesday, Feb. 3, at 7 p.m. to discuss a proposed amendment to the new Minuteman Regional Agreement that will be before the Special Town Meeting next week.
  • The Capital Budget Committee meets right after Becca Pizzi’s parade at 5 p.m., Thursday, Feb. 4 to vote on the Minuteman Regional Agreement and discuss ongoing capital projects.

Quarterly property taxes are due Monday, Feb. 1 by 4 p.m. at the Treasurer’s office in the Homer Building.

• Music & Movement with Rubi, a movement and music program recommended for ages 3 to 5 (but 2-year-olds are welcome) will be held in the Belmont Public Library’s Flett Room on Monday, Feb. 1 There will be two sessions: 9:30 a.m. and 10:30 a.m.

• ESL Conversation Circle for beginners takes place on Monday, Feb. 1 from 10 a.m. to noon in the Belmont Public Library’s Flett Room.

• Girls Who Code will meet on Monday, Feb. 1 from 4:15 p.m. to 6:15 the Assembly Room of the Belmont Public Library.

• Tuesday is story time at both of Belmont libraries.

  • Pre-School Story Time at the Benton Library, Belmont’s independent and volunteer-run library, at 10:30 a.m. Stories and crafts for children age 3 to 5. Parents or caregivers must attend. Siblings may visit with adults. Registration is not required. The Benton Library is at the intersection of Oakley and Old Middlesex.
  • The Belmont Public Library on Concord Avenue will have preschool story time at 9:30 a.m. 
  • Story Time for 2’s and 3’s is at 10:30 a.m.

• Staff from U.S. Rep. Katherine Clark’s office will be available for walk-in office hours at the Beech Street Center on Tuesday, Feb. 2 from noon to 1 p.m.

• The Beech Street Center will be holding a Chinese New Year Dance Demonstration on Tuesday, Feb. 2 at 11:15 a.m. Come early for lunch and see a beautiful dance by the Center’s local performers in celebration of Chinese New Year, which occurs Feb. 8. Welcome the year of the monkey. Enjoy desserts from Chinatown after lunch. Cost: Free.

• Chenery Middle School students are invited to head over to the Belmont Public Library’s Assembly Room on Wednesday, Feb. 3 from 1:30 p.m. to 4 p.m., to do your homework while enjoying some hot chocolate. This is for middle schoolers only so high schoolers are on their own. This event is provided for free, thanks to the Friends of the Belmont Public Library.

• Sustainable Belmont will be meeting on Wednesday, Feb. 3 from 7 p.m. to 9 p.m. in the Belmont Public Library’s Flett Room.

Parents of Music Students will be holding a meeting in the Conference Room at Belmont High School at 7 p.m., Wednesday, Feb. 3.

Belmont Historical Society will be holding its Board Meeting on Wednesday, Feb. 3 from 7:30 p.m. to 9 p.m. in the Claflin Room located in the Belmont Public Library.

• The Friends of the Belmont Public Library will be meeting on Thursday, Feb. 4. , from 9:30 a.m. to 11 a.m. in the library’s Assembly Room.

• Belmont will come to a halt for a parade for Becca Pizzi, the first American women to finish and win the World Marathon Challenge, at 3:30 p.m. to 4 p.m. on Thursday, Feb. 4. The route will run from Belmont High School to Belmont Center ending at the Belmont Savings Bank for a presentation.

• If you love building with LEGOs, the LEGOs Club is for you. Kids in grades Kindergarten through 2nd grade will build with our LEGOs and we’ll put all the creations on display in the Children’s Room. The fun  Thursday, Feb. 43:30 p.m. to 4:30 p.m. in the library’s Assembly Room.

• Everyone is invited to Chinese Storytime which takes place in the Flett Room of the Belmont Public Library from 6:30 p.m. to 8 p.m. 0n Thursday, Feb. 4.

Thursday, Feb. 4 is Jazz Night at Belmont High School as student musicians get to show their chops. In the auditorium at 7 p.m.

• An Art Exhibit Opening Reception will be held on Friday, Feb. 5 at 10 a.m. for the artists who gather at the Open Art Studio every Wednesday afternoon at Belmont Senior Center. The exhibit runs from Feb. 5 through Mar. 18 at the Center. Art works include pencil drawing; water color, pastel, oil paintings and photography. All are invited to an opening reception with snacks. Cost: Free.

• The Beech Street Center is hosting a talk on “When an EMT Visits at Your Home” this Friday, Feb. 5 at 1:15 p.m. How can you make your home ready for safe Fire Department access in case of an emergency? How can you share pertinent medical information quickly? Join Firefighter Ross Vona from the Belmont Fire Department to learn the answers to these questions and more. Cost: Free.

Sports: Belmont Girls’ Hoops Stumbles vs Arlington, Difficult Week Ahead

Photo: Sophomore guard Alexa Sabatino heading to the basket against Arlingon home.

There is no better example of a team with a Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde persona than Belmont High’s Girls’ Basketball team.

When on their side of the midcourt line, the Marauders’ are a ball-hawking defense that makes it difficult for (most) teams to set a good shot off, holding strong teams such as Woburn, Chelmsford, and Watertown below their season point average.

But cross the line into the opponent’s end and the team’s aggressiveness evaporates and a tentative, almost timid offense emerges with the growing tendency of coming way without even attempting a shot at the hoop. With the rare exception, open shots are deferred, and the ball is passed to a player in the paint where a slew of opponents are waiting.

Beginning with a lackluster loss to an average Wakefield team when Belmont was 7-2, Belmont has fallen to a ranked Watertown squad by 12 points despite being tied with the Raiders with 2 minutes and 30 seconds left in the game, and on Friday night, Jan. 29 dropping a home game in overtime, 56-52, to Arlington, a team Belmont easily dispatched, 48-31, early in the season. 

Friday night’s loss wasted a career night from sophomore Alexa Sabatino (12 points) who scored came off the bench to spark the offense late in the game with two baskets (one off a beautiful putback of an offensive rebound) and 3 for 3 (8-8 in the game) from the free-throw line in the fourth quarter to give Belmont a chance in the final minute of regular time. 

Arlington was able to stick around through the work of senior center Mallory DeFeo (12 of her 17 points in a dominating first half as well as a three in the fourth) and junior guard Rosalie Flinn who scored 16 of her game-high 18 points in the second half and overtime.

On the other hand, Belmont would commit three 30-second violations – turning the ball over for not taking a shot –  in the game while on four consecutive occasions in the third quarter, the team came away not having a shot at the basket, losing possession via turnovers or offensive fouls.  

Belmont nearly pulled off the victory when Sabatino hit two from the charity stripe with 1:39 remaining in the fourth quarter to bring Belmont within one point, 46-47. 

An outstanding defensive stance forced a traveling call against the SpyPonders with 50 seconds left on the clock gave the ball. The ball found freshman center Jess Giorgio (3 points) – playing significant minutes with senior forward Sarah Stewart forced to the bench – in the paint, and the 6-foot 9th grader posted up and drained a bucket with half a minute remaining, giving Belmont a one-point lead, 48-47. 

Giorgio nearly won the game single-handedly with a perfectly timed block on the other end of the court. Unfortunately, the subsequent action saw Belmont foul Arlington’s Margaret Ammondson, who sank one of two to tie the game. A layup attempt by Belmont’s all-star guard Carly Christofori (11 points) was blocked as time ran out.

Knotted up at 52 with less than a minute in OT, Arlington’s Grace Caulo (12 points) drained a pair of free throws to give the SpyPonders a two-point lead. Lexington intercepted a Belmont inbounds pass with 17 seconds remaining, leaving the Marauders to wonder what-if. 

Friday’s defeat leaves Belmont at 8-5 with games this week against undefeated and 6th-ranked Woburn away (a rematch which Belmont lost in the final second at home, 51-50) and home Friday against 12-4 Lexington.

The match will see the last visit to the Wenner by Minuteman senior Anna Kelly who two years ago dropped 52 points against the Marauders (the third highest point total by a high school girl in Massachusetts scholastic history) and score 27 points including four threes and double digits in assists in a 62-43 pummeling of Belmont earlier in the season. 

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