Letter to the Editor: Selectmen Fail to Honor Center Reconstruction Process

Photo: Belmont Center. 

(Note: This letter was originally sent to the Belmont Board of Selectmen.)

I am disturbed and outraged to learn that Belmont Center Reconstruction Plan A was overturned at the last minute for Plan B, decreasing the size of the green space and surrounding it with traffic, just because of a small group of opponents. This group did not show up or speak out at all the many public meetings over several years.

The [Board of Selectmen] meeting on May 28th was just advertised as a discussion of beautification and conflicted with several other important town meetings that evening such as The annual
meeting of the League of Women Voters, and the forum on Criminal Justice with our State Sen. Will Brownsberger and our State Rep. Dave Rogers (I managed to attend both of these). Regardless, one meeting should not have tossed out years of planning and substituted an alternative plan without proper notice and comment period.

Over the last several years, I attended many meetings and was generally pleased with the majority of the details for Reconstruction of Belmont Center. But I was even more pleased with the process. Lots of comments were taken into consideration, and the resulting plan, Plan A, was a really good compromise of all the important features that everyone wanted. I am particularly in favor of the large, pedestrian-friendly, green space which Belmont Center has always sorely missed.

This last minute change from a plan that was already approved and supported by the larger community is completely inappropriate and does not represent the Belmont community as a whole. Town Meeting approved money in the fall for the Reconstruction with the plan that included much more green space; not a small island of token green space that is hard to utilize, similar to the current island of poorly utilized greenery.

If a change is to be made at this point, a public process must be offered once again; no last minute substitutions to appease one small vocal minority. If this is not done correctly, the whole process is tainted and will be very difficult for the Selectmen to gain the confidence and monetary support of the town again.

Bonnie Friedman
Town Meeting Member
Precinct 3

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  1. Jon Palmer says

    I’m deeply upset by this too. Is there any practice steps we can take to oppose or reverse this last minute change?

  2. Sara Oaklander says

    Thank you, Bonnie, for putting in writing what many of us have been thinking. And now? The onus is on the rest of us to speak up and let the Board members know we are in agreement with you. I know I have not yet done so, But I will now. Thank you for providing me with the impetus I needed. Will the rest of you join me?

  3. weekonthecape says

    I’m a late-comer and not a member of any vocal minority, but I do travel through this part of town several times daily. I must admit–Plan A had me in a panic because of the bottleneck it would cause. The postage stamp of a parking lot in front of Belmont Savings with both entrance and exit being the same opening (right into the bottleneck) seemed nuts.

    The street in front of Belmont Savings has allowed for good flow through town all these years, and has offered a bit of a traffic pressure release. While I understand the need for due process and green space, to me it feels like someone finally woke up and asked, “What were we thinking?!”

  4. Paul Rickter says

    A good point about going forward from here: The Belmont Center passed by a very close vote last fall. If the Board wants the Town Meeting to pass something like this in the future, they’d better find a way to fix this broken process. Otherwise, why would I as a Town Meeting vote to approve funding for anything new when the Board could simply toss out the plans at the last minute? I get it that the plans can’t be completely finalized until after the Town Meeting appropriates the money, but if the Selectmen choose to alter the plans in substantial ways after the money is appropriated, then the Town Meeting shouldn’t approve them.

  5. John Bowe says

    Nice piece, Bonnie. The BOS totally caved to the small number of vocal opponents. It degrades my confidence in the Town government in general and selectmen in particular. It is an insult to the years of work by the professionals and volunteers. Plan B is not what I voted for at TM. It is just a refresh of the car-centric 1970s approach, not the more open-space, people-centric Plan A.

  6. says

    I totally agree Bonnie. The process was done so well and was very transparent. Now, at the last minute, the selectmen are destroying that transparency in favor of a last minute bowing down to a few voices. This is a town of 25,000 people, and like myself, there are people who run businesses who have participated as well. Leave the plan as it was. It was a great improvement and included the voices of many.

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