Out of Gas: Dalton Road House Denied Gas Link Due to Road Moratorium

Photo: The house under construction at 151 Dalton.

The new house going up at the corner of Betts and Dalton roads will have all the modern amenities a person is looking for in modern construction: high ceilings, wooden floors, modern fixtures and major appliances, all on a quiet corner lot. 

But if the future buyer of the still-to-be-completed house at 151 Dalton Road was expecting the new abode would be heated and powered by natural gas, they will need to wait three more years before they’ll have the opportunity after the Belmont Board of Selectmen voted unanimously Monday night, Nov. 2, to reject a request by regional utility National Grid to extend a gas main down Dalton to service the new house.

The reason for the denial of service to 151 by the board is due to a by-law inspired regulation that places a five-year moratorium on any infrastructure work on a roadway after it was repaved. And Dalton Road was reconstructed two years previous under the town’s Pavement Management process.

After numerous examples of recently rebuilt roads being dug up and leaving streets with substandard patch repairs, Town Meeting passed in 2008 a bylaw granting the ability for the selectmen, through the Department of Public Works, to create a regulation preventing roads from being dug up within five years of repaving. 

According to Glenn Clancy, director of the Office of Community Development, the moratorium has not been a burden on either the town or the utilities as town departments routinely informs residents and companies what streets will be reconstructed and repaved to allow homeowner to request gas service and for services to arrange to replace and repair old mains and other equipment. 

So, why was National Grid before the Selectmen seeking to tear up a recently paved street? Apparently, “exceptions” had been made in the past to the moratorium, and the developer of 151 wanted one of his own.

According to Dennis Regan, the utility’s representative, he understood that an “agreement had been reached between the contractor and the customer (developer Ron Buck) and the Public Works Department,” to allow National Grid to dig a trench to lay the main.

In the resulting discussion, Clancy and Town Administrator David Kale acknowledge exceptions were made to the prohibition in extreme cases such as when there was no other option for a homeowner or developer after making substantial investments in a gas system.

And when the DPW did agree to the exception, the repairs were performed “curb to curb,” large repairs to an entire street to prevent such conditions as sinking roadways and loose asphalt.

The selectmen appeared weary of agreeing to the exemption.

“It would be nice to see the agreement,” quired Belmont Selectman Chair Sami Baghdady.

Selectman Jim Williams said he understood that the abutting residents were unaware of the “agreement that you speak of.” 

When asked if any of the neighbors would like to speak, Dalton Road’s Steve Pinkerton said, “You bet.” 

Pinkerton said he was speaking not just for the dozen or so residents who voiced concern about any major road construction, but also for his neighbor, Varna Terlemezian, who moved into her house at 145 Dalton Rd. when the area was a new subdivision in 1966.

“And [Terlemezian] had waited for two decades to get Dalton Road repaved. It was in shambles,” he said. 

“And now less than two years later, we’re about to rip the street up in front of her house again just for the convenience of a developer with lots of options,” said Pinkerton, who earlier this year led the charge at Town Meeting to place height limitations on new construction in the Shaw Estate neighborhood.

And with developer Buck a no show, the Selectmen voted down the request for relief, with Baghdady suggesting the house could run on propane tanks before coming back to the board in 2018

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