Belmont Town Meeting, First Night, Session One

Photo: Mike Widmer, Town Moderator

7 p.m.: Welcome to the first night of Belmont’s annual Town Meeting. We are waiting for Town Moderator Mike Widmer to open the town’s legislative body.

We are at Belmont High School’s Auditorium. The 290 members will spend Monday discussing and voting on non-budgetary articles on the warrant. All budget and financial reports will be discussed and voted on in the June session.

Tonight, Monday, Town Meeting will tackle Articles 1-7 in the Town Meeting Warrant. They include:

  • Article 1: Reports (there will be no reports this evening.)
  • Article 2: Authorize, the Board of Selectmen, to represent the town’s legal interests.
  • Article 3: Authorize the town to abandon an existing utility easement along Trapelo Road and Common Street.
  • Article 4: Extend the Demolition Delay Bylaw by one year to allow for the completion of the Historic District Commission Town-wide survey of historic properties.
  • Article 5: Remove the “sunset” provision from the Residential Property Snow Removal Bylaw.
  • Article 6: Limiting the size and mass of dwellings in the Single Residence C Zoning District. This article could be tabled.
  • Article 7: Individual votes on the eight projects put forward by the Community Preservation Committee.

7:22 p.m.: We are underway with the Articles. This is abandoning the utility easement in Cushing Square. Pretty straight forward. Glenn Clancy of the Office of Community Development gives his usual folksy explanation; this easement is to allow Cushing Village to move forward. No discussion? Darn, two questions. Sue Bass, Pct. 1 asks where the Cushing Village development now stands. Town Administrator David Kale says Toll Brothers, the large national developer, have until August to make a purchase and sale of the property. They are doing its due diligence to execute the sale. Don Mercier, Pct. 8, asks if the easement has economic value and why to give it away without getting paid for it. Clancy said town didn’t actually own it to sell it. The vote is unanimous yes.

7:36 p.m.: Now up is to extend the Demolition Delay Bylaw by one year. Selectmen, Warrant and Joe Cornish of the Historic District Commission said the extension would give sufficient time to complete updated town survey of historic properties and work with stakeholders in the community to draft a new bylaw by Spring 2017 Town Meeting. He said that only two properties were subject to the demolition process.

Funny moment: Just as questions are underway, the High School jazz band began to practice. “We’ll have a little interlude,” said Widmer,

No real questions, it passes 227-13.

7:40 p.m.: Now up is extending the snow removal bylaw. It’s been around for three years and let’s make it permanent. Joe White, Pct. 4, said some people have asked if a resident breaks a finger or have a heart attack while shoveling, who is liable? There is no shift of liability on civil claims if the bylaw was or was not in effect. If the sidewalk was defective, then you might have a claim, but not if the bylaw is in force. And yes, the bylaw also holds the town to shovel public walks. Mark Paolillo, Selectman chair, tells Don Mercier, Pct. 8, that the bylaw was created to change behavior, and it’s been successful. The vote is underway the bylaw is now permanent by a 230-9 margin.

7:53 p.m.: Article 6, which will limit the height and mass of single family homes in many sections of town, has been tabled due to technical changes that still need to be made. It will be brought up at the June meeting. It passes 226-8. 

7:55 p.m.: The Community Preservation Committee projects are up. Margaret Baily, CPC chair, gives an overview of what the CPA does. 

Jim Stanton, Pct. 3, made a comment saying that he knows of no grant program that approves 85 percent of applications. The town would be better served if twice as many applications were presented to the CPC and there would be a competition of ideas rather than just approve what is presented.  

For this coming fiscal year, the six projects seeking Town Meeting approval are:

  1. Construction of Intergenerational Walking Path at Clay Pit Pond: $228,350
  2. Preserving Belmont’s Original Vital Records: $80,000
  3. Digitizing Belmont’s Town Meeting Records: $85,000
  4. Town Hall Exterior Railings Improvements: $75,000
  5. PQ Park Playground Project: $25,000
  6. Winn Brook Tennis Courts: $325,000

TOTAL: $818,350

Mary Trudeau gives an overview of the Clay Pit walking path. The path will have a 6-8 foot wide compacted stone pathway, have a restored entrance to the Veteran’s Memorial Area from Concord Avenue to the flag pole and have brick pavers at points with the water’s edge. Kevin Cunningham, Pct. 4, asks what official “hoops” would this project need to pass to get an OK. Trudeau said the construction would need to get state approval because it is within wetlands protected the land. But she does not see it as a problem. Stanton, Pct. 3, said since the plans for the community path were developed, the renovation of the High School has been approved, and there could be a community bike/walk path included in the area. More comment than a question. Janet Kruse, Pct. 3, ask if the path will be wheelchair user accessible. It will be with ramps at all entry points. The Vote: Unanimously adopted.

Up now is PQ Park. It will be focusing on the one-acre playground area. A landscape architect would be hired to include a preliminary design, construction documents and position the group asking for the money to move to Phase 2, which will be actual construction. Joe White, Pct. 4, wants to know if the area will be fenced off from dogs. He then went off to doggie daycare. Jack Weis, Pct. 1, asked if approval of this article will require the town to pay for work proposed if the next phase is not done. Selectman Sami Baghdady said any Request for Proposal will go through the Selectmen’s office, and they would make sure the town isn’t liable for such non-work. The vote and the motion was adopted with a few nos. 

Winn Brook tennis courts is being debated. Lots of questions on the hole in the fence. Maryann Scali, tennis lover, Pct. 2, said since courts are disappearing, the town has to protect what’s left because tennis is a sport that people who of her age can still play. Yes with a scattering of nos.

Town Clerk Ellen Cushman said she hoped that she wouldn’t take that much time presenting her request in preserving Belmont’s original vital records and digitizing the town meeting records. Only one question, both articles passing unanimously. 

Gerry Boyle, Facilities Director, presents the town’s request to replace and refurbish the ornamental railings on the Concord Avenue side of Town Hall. Ed Kazanjian, Pct. 6, asks why weren’t this type of improvement done during the Town Hall renovation about 15 years ago. Is this the end of this sort of work? Boyle said he could not say if this was the final project at Town Hall “because all buildings are living and breathing things” which grow old and need repairs. Passes with a few nos.

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