Things to Do Today: A ‘Peeps’ Show at the Library, World Book Night, Boys’ Sports

• They are holding a “Peeps” show at the library. But nothing more risqué than placing the lovable marshmallow yellow chicks into scenes as the Belmont Public Library hosts its annual Peeps Diorama Party from 4 p.m. to 7 p.m. in the Assembly Room. Peeps shows and contests are gaining in popularity across the country; the esteem Washington Post has held a contest for the past five years with great readers interest.

• Yesterday was the last day to file a federal income tax return but the Massachusetts Department of Revenue has given state filers an extension until midnight this Friday, April 18, because of delays with its electronic filing system.

World Book Night, which will occur on April 23, is an international effort in which members of the public apply to personally hand out 20 copies of a particular book (of 35 titles selected each year by a panel of librarians and booksellers) in their community to teens and adults who are light- or non-readers. Meet other World Book Night book givers and enjoy tea and cookies in the Young Adult Room of the Belmont Public Library from 7 p.m. to 8 p.m. Interested in being a WBN giver? Stop by & chat with this year’s givers. RSVP 617-993-2877.

• The boys are back: Boys’ Tennis will host Woburn on the High School’s courts at 3:30 p.m. and Boys’ Lacrosse will take on Wilmington on Harris Field at 4:30 p.m.

Get Ready Kids: Belmont’s Egg Hunt This Saturday

Hundreds of basket holding kids from toddlers to nine-year-olds will descend on the Chenery Middle School field  this Saturday to participate in the Belmont Activities Committee’s 14th annual Belmont Egg Hunt.

The dash for eggs will begin at 10 a.m. sharp – do not be late! – on Saturday, April 19, rain or shine.

This year there will be a special area for toddlers to hunt for eggs in the playground.

In addition to being the presenting sponsor this year, Belmont Savings will also be giving away 200 “gold” coins at the event. Eggs with special gold coin slips can be redeemed at the tent during the hunt. There will also be a chance to win a bike.

Entertainment will be provided by Marcie of Kids Music by Marcie. The Easter Bunny will be on hand to pose for pictures and free refreshments and live music will also be offered.  Face painting will be provided by Cultural Care Au Pair.

Other sponsors of the Egg Hunt include: Champions Sporting Goods, Cultural Care Au Pair, Dunkin Donuts, Gregory’s House of Pizza, Hammond Residential, Kendall Confectionary, Lawndale Realty, Moozy’s Ice Cream and Yogurt Emporium, Paprika Kids, Patrick Murphy, Coldwell Banker, Tokyo Joe’s, Toy Shop of Belmont and Wheelworks.

For additional information on the branch egg hunt, please visit the Belmont Savings Bank’s website. 

Things to Do Today: Jazz Tonight, Story Time at the Benton, Planning Board in the AM

• Today is the final day to file your federal and state taxes. Remember? You can always ask for an extension.

• It’s Jazz Night at Belmont High School as several great ensembles will be performing in the school’s auditorium beginning at 7 p.m. This is a “don’t miss” opportunity to hear the musical talent there is at the High School.

• The Planning Board will be meeting at 8 a.m. (yes, in the morning) in Conference Room 2 of Town Hall where they will discussing among other matters Town Meeting Article 8 and 9, an amendment to the zoning code effecting dog kennels, doggie day care and canine-related activities as a result of the rewriting on the Board of Health’s regulation on all things relating to handling and keeping of pets.

• Pre-School Story Time will be held 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 attend with adults. Registration is not required. The Benton Library is located at the intersection of Oakley and Old Middlesex.

• The defending state champions Belmont High School Rugby Club takes on Needham High School at Harris Field tonight at 7:30 p.m.

Belmont High School Girls’ Track will be hosting the Spy Ponders of Arlington High at Harris Field beginning at 3:30 p.m.

Town Meeting Articles Could Force Dog Kennel to ‘Take a Walk’

Sadie, a blue-nose bull dog, isn’t shy to say “hello” to anyone after spending a day at Crate Escape, Belmont’s “doggy day care” center at the corner of Brighton and Hittinger streets.

Her owner, Chris of Acton, said he has been taking his pet to the facility located hard by the commuter rail tracks for the past three years which is convenient as he works in neighboring Arlington.

“It’s awesome. She loves it here,” said Chris who has owned Sadie for the past five years.

“She runs around all day and comes home tired. He usually naps on the trip home,” he said, calling himself a “very satisfied” Crate Escape customer.

But Chris and Sadie along with approximately 300 customers and nearly 150 dogs on an average day will need to look for a new canine provider if next month Belmont’s Town Meeting passes a pair of articles forcing the six-year-old facility to shut down for exceeding the maximum amount of dogs a kennel can house under the new regulations.

“This will bankrupt me if this passes,” said Crate Escape’s owner Bradley Hastings, who opened his current Belmont facility last year after moving from his original location across Brighton Street on Flanders Road (which opened in 2008) that will be used for the new Belmont Light substation.IMG_3798

Chris was more succinct.

“It would [stink],” he said.

Hastings attended an informational meeting by the Board of Health Thursday, April 10 at Town Hall on the changes to the town’s health codes in Article 8 to amend the general bylaws effecting animals.

Hastings, who has 55 employees and a $1.2 million payroll at stake, said first heard about the meeting and the warrant articles that morning when clients spoke to him advising him to attend. What he heard was sobering for the Belmont resident.

“People don’t like services taken from them and this is what will happen. But it will also do such damage to a business that is successful and wants to do what’s right for everyone,” said Hastings to the Belmontonian.

Located in a 15,000 square foot single-floor commercial building, Crate Escape is a big open play space for your pooch. On a visit, some dogs were running around, others playing with plastic toys, a few napping and several extremely curious of a 35mm camera.IMG_3778

Dogs are segregated by temperament and social “skills” in one of the seven pens with a handler on hand so everyone “plays safe,” said Nikkilee Condon, Crate Escape’s general manager, who said there is also grooming and boarding at the facilities.

“There’s a lot of running around and mental stimulation for the dogs. They have to figure their way through a new hierarchy each day,” said Condon, who said their are 30 dogs in each enclosed area.

Calling the business’ clients “very loyal,” Condon said more most dogs, a half-hour walk “is not enough” activity and leaving them alone is troublesome for both pet and owner.

“We have the right balance here,” said Condon.

Yet for Hastings, the services he provides the community is just two votes away from being banned in Belmont.

On Thursday, the Board of Health’s vice-chair Dr. David Alper told the sparsely-attended meeting the language change to the existing bylaw was effectively mandated by the state’s Board of Health which issued language in 2012 in an effort to bring uniformity to the hodgepodge of hundreds of regulations existing in each of the Commonwealth’s approximately 350 municipalities.

Changing regulations, static numbers

Under the “tweaking” of the regulations, the town’s Health Department will only have the power to enforce the safety and welfare of the animals by inspection and licensing facilities; it is unable to determine where a facility can be located which is left up to the zoning bylaws, said Stefan Russakow, director of the town’s Health Department.

Yet in the proposed new bylaw, the town’s terminology for what is a “kennel” has been expanded and specified  to the determent of doggy day care facilities.

In addition to requirements on licensing pets and dealing with “dangerous” dogs, Article 8 states that “[n]0 Kennel may keep more than 25 dogs on the premises at any time.”

And under the language in Article 9, a kennel in Belmont will include “[a]n establishment used for boarding, holding, day care, overnight stays or training of animals.”IMG_3795

This regulatory double play would force Hastings’ facility to close down as he could not meet the drastically-altered licensing requirements.

“There is just no way we could do business here,” said Hastings.

Yet the new amendments were not being proposed to drive kennels out of Belmont, according to town officials, but rather an oversight when transforming existing bylaws and zoning regulations.

According to Jeffrey Wheeler, the town’s Planning Coordinator, the history of the current animal regulations goes back to 2003 when residents along Pleasant Street complained of noise coming from an animal clinic’s outdoor kennel and petitioned the town to regulate those facilities by limiting the number of dogs to 25 in any kennel.

Under the bylaw that has been in existence for the past decade, a “kennel” did not included a section for canine care facilities such as Hastings’ but will under the amendments.

“And the Board of Health did not change the number of animals in their regulations when the zoning changes were made,” said Wheeler.

If in the first week of May Town Meeting votes to amend the bylaw (Article 8) and the zoning code (Article 9 ), Create Escape will be forced to close.

Yet the articles are far from being death sentences to Hastings’ business, according to both the Board of Health and Wheeler. Crate Escape will need a little help to revise the articles with the stroke of the copy editor’s blue pencil.

One of two measures would need to take place to save Sadie’s daytime home: the submission of a so-called “amendment to the amendment” (the articles are, in fact, amendments; they do not create new bylaws or codes) doing one of two things: either excluding the terms “day care”; or change the number of dogs a specific facility can handle.

Those who hope to change the articles are required to submit an amendment to the amendment.

Town Clerk Ellen Cushman told the Belmontonian that one Town Meeting member can file the proposed amendment in writing with the Town Clerk by the close of the business three days prior to the session of Town Meeting the article is expected to be voted.

“Related to animals, [that is] expected to be heard and voted on May 5; amendments are due by 4 p.m. April 30. No additional signatures are required,” she said.

“It behoves you to go to the zoning, planning to discuss this,” said Alper to Hastings.

But for Hastings, the last-minute way and how he was informed of the two Town Meeting articles he said could do severe damage to a decade-old service with 4,000 current customers in three locations was deplorable.

“There has been this anti-business feel since I’ve been here. No one could think of calling me? I’m disappointed,” said Hastings.

Belmont Police Holding Take-Back Prescription Drug Program

The Belmont Auxiliary Police and the US Drug Enforcement Agency will host a prescription drug Take-Back Initiative to prevent the abuse and theft of old, unused and expired prescription drugs.

The Auxiliary Police will have a collection point set up at the town’s DPW yard, 37 C St., on Saturday, April 26, from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m.

Old or unused prescription drugs (no liquids) may be dropped off for free with no questions asked. You won’t even have to get out of your car. Please take some time to check your medicine cabinet and visit us on the 26th. Unfortunately, these drugs are highly susceptible to misuse by family and friends. In addition they can be improperly disposed of and end up in our environment, posing a potential health hazard.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has classified prescription drug abuse as an epidemic, according to the White House. While there has been a marked decrease in the use of some illegal drugs like cocaine, data from the National Survey on Drug Use and Health show that nearly one-third of people aged 12 and over who used drugs for the first time in 2009 began by using a prescription drug non-medically.

For more information on the Rx Drug Take Back Initiative or a list of additional collection sites visit www.dea.gov . You may also contact Lt. Kristen Daley. The Belmont Police also has a permanent Rx drug collection kiosk located in the lobby of Belmont Police Headquarters that is accessible at any time, day or night.

The Week to Come: Passover, Good Friday, Easter and Spring Recess

Passover, פֶּסַח, in which Jews commemorate their liberation from slavery in Egypt by the Pharaohs as told in the Book of Exodus, begins Monday night, April 14, at sunset. A bit of seder trivia: The Maxwell House Haggadah was first distributed with cans of coffee in 1932?

• Music lovers will converge on Belmont High School’s auditorium Tuesday, April 15, at 7 p.m. for Jazz Night at the High School. This is a “don’t miss” opportunity to hear great ensambles performing.

• The Powers Music School’s Faculty Concerts series continues on Monday, April 14 at 7:30 p.m. in the School’s Cabot Room with “The French-American Connection,” featuring clarinetist Todd Brunel and pianist Kathryn Rosenbach presenting the work of Camille Saint-Saens, Claude Debussy, Igor Stravinsky and Leonard Bernstein. Brunel and Rosenbach will premiere their own original compositions.

• The Planning Board will be meeting on Tuesday, April 15 at 8:15 a.m. (yes, in the morning) in Conference Room 2 where they will discussing among other matters Town Meeting Article 9, an amendment to the zoning code effecting dog kennels, doggie daycare and canine-related activities as a result of the rewriting on the Board of Health’s regulation on all things relating to handling and keeping of pets.

Spring recess begins on Good Friday, April 18 as there will be early release at all Belmont schools: High School 10:30 a.m., Middle School 11 a.m. and the elementary schools at 11:40 a.m. with the exception of the Winn Brook whose students will need to wait an extra 10 minutes before they are sprung free.

Easter is this Sunday, April 20, with Christian houses of worship holding extended services.

It’s Official: The ‘Old’ Underwood Pool Gets One Last Season

The 102nd consecutive summer of the Underwood Pool, the nation’s oldest community pool in continuous operation, will be its last as the Belmont Board of Health approved variances to town regulations allowing the oval-shaped facility to open in the final weeks of June.

“We approved it for one season only,” said Donna David, chair of the Board of Health at a meeting held Thursday evening, April 10.

Town officials have said they expect the state’s Health Department will go along with Belmont’s recommendation on opening the pool for 2014 with the knowledge that a new $5.2 million two pool complex is all but a certainty after town voters overwhelmingly passed a $2.9 million debt exclusion on April 1. The final piece of the pool financial puzzle is Town Meeting approval of a $2 million Community Preservation Committee grant in May.

Construction of the modern structure is anticipated to begin in September.

Get Your Hands Dirty Cleaning Up Lone Tree Hill

Known for its trails, bike paths and open spaces, Lone Tree Hill – Belmont’s newest open space managed by the Town for conservation and passive recreation – is needing a little love after a long winter.

On Saturday, April 12 from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m., residents and students seeking community service credits can come to the entrance to the land on South Pleasant Street for Lone Tree Hill Volunteer Day sponsored by the Belmont Citizens Forum. And there will be a lot to do to spruce up this section of the Western Greenway: there is trash pick up, trail maintenance and spreading woodchips. Volunteers are asked to bring gloves, water, big garden clippers, loppers and apply bug spray before coming.

Volunteers can park in the Star Market parking lot near South Pleasant Street; you’ll see the entry to Lone Tree Hill at the green and blue BCF tent.

Hard Winter on Your Car? Get It Washed and Help Kids in Need

Take the winter salt and grim off your car this Saturday, April 12 at the Belmont Car Wash in Waverley Square and  at the same time help children in need.

Members of the Belmontian Community Service Club of Belmont High School will be at Belmont Car Wash drying off your cars and all tips for their work will go to benefit Cradles to Crayons, the Boston-based non-profit that provides children from birth through age 12, living in homeless or low-income situations, with the essential items they need to thrive at home, at school and at play.

The day of service, sponsored by Belmont Car Wash, will be held from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m.

One Book One Belmont Marches Up Bunker Hill Saturday

For history buffs, participants of this year’s community-wide read of “Bunker Hill: A City, a Siege, a Revolution” by Nathaniel Philbrick or just those who want to know more about the sacrifices by local residents in securing the nation’s independence, One Book One Belmont 2014 and the Belmont Public Library will be leading a walking tour of Bunker Hill in Boston’s Charlestown neighborhood on Saturday, April 12 at 10 a.m.

Join National Park Service for a half mile, 45-minute walk to the Bunker Hill Monument, retracing the footsteps of the British soldiers and Marines who assaulted the hill on June 17, 1775, routing the patriots but losing half their troops to injury and death in the first major battle of the Revolutionary War.

After the tour, the Battle of Bunker Hill Museum is open to explore or you can climb the 294 steps to the top of the monument for a panoramic view of Boston.

Tour is free but you will be responsible getting to the Naval Yard where the tour begins on your own.

Registration is required. Where to meet and other details provided after registration.  To register, go here or call 617-993-2870.