Does Belmont have too many tennis courts?
And who plays on them, and when?
While pondering the supply and demand of the 24 courts in town (with 22 actually available to be played on), the town’s Community Preservation Committee appeared willing at its monthly meeting held Wednesday, Dec. 10 to conduct an extensive study not just to answer those questions.
Wednesday’s meeting was to update the committee and possibly cast votes on the seven grant application seeking funding from the town’s Community Preservation Act account.
- Belmont Veterans Memorial Project: $150,000
- Wellington Station exterior restoration and rehabilitation: $26,300
- Electrical upgrade at units owned by the Belmont Housing Authority: $522,500
- Winn Brook Tennis Courts: $295,000
- Pequossette (PQ) Park Tennis Courts: $250,000
- Digitization of historic Belmont newspapers from 1890 to 1983: $25,000
- Rehabilitation and restoration of the 1853 Homer House: $100,000.
Approved by Belmont voters in November 2010, the Community Preservation Act fund is financed by a property tax surcharges and annual stipends from the state’s “Massachusetts Community Preservation Trust Fund.” The funds must be targeted towards recreation, historic preservation, affordable housing and open space.
The tennis courts at the two locations – Winn Brook is adjacent to Winn Brook Elementary and Joey’s Park while PQ is behind the VFW building off Trapelo Road – were “patched up” about five years ago and, according to the recently retired Director of Public Works Peter Castanino, are ready to more extensive reconstruction.
“We are now in the sweet spot … where the courts have reached their useful life,” Belmont Town Administrator David Kale told the committee. The renovation projects were put forward by the Board of Selectmen.
With the money available and the timing optimum, Kale said “[w]e can be proactive to reconstruct the courts so they are available for the next 30 years.”
Yet CAC member Anthony Ferrante, the Recreation Commission appointee to the committee, didn’t believe the two locations are in such desperate condition for the committee (and town taxpayers) to spend $300,000 before more is known about the courts usage and popularity.
“The sense of urgency is not there,” said Ferrante.
Kale noted that point of view is valid only if Ferrante assumes that future money will be available which in the current economic climate is a big “if.”
“Strike while the funds are available and … be ahead of the curve as we were with Harris Field and the Underwood Pool,” said Kale, referring to the $850,000 reconditioning of Belmont High Schools main field and the more than $2.2 million the committee spent on the new Underwood Pool complex.
Ferrante countered, saying the Underwood experience – in which a building committee was created to create a detailed building and financing program – would direct the CPC towards a comprehensive study before committing limited resources to a recreational facility that may or may not be used by sufficient number of residents.
“Let’s first take a look at all the tennis courts and come to a conclusion on how many are needed,” said Ferrante.
“My gut says PQ needs to be reconstructed but I need more than my gut saying this. Planning is not taking place,” he said.
While agreeing with the premise of a study, member Charles Clark said he would vote to approve funding to reconstruct the PQ courts since the nearby area has undergone renovation including the repair of Trapelo Road, the adjacent sidewalks and the construction of new housing.
But for Farrante, the lack of any hard data – unlike the Town of Lexington which compiles numbers on activity with its online permit system – results in a vote a vote based on conjecture.
“There is my opinion and your opinion but not a lot of facts for the decision,” said Farrante.
But even if the CPC decides to conduct a master plan of the tennis facilities in town, “I’ll bet you dollars to donuts that PQ will survive even if you reduced the number of courts from 24 to 16,” said Belmont Treasurer and CPC member Floyd Carman, noting the PQ court is the only town recreational site in the Waverley Square area.
While the consensus at the meeting was that PQ would be funded this year, Winn Brook’s court would be put under a study’s microscope along with the other courts in town including those at Grove Street Playground, the High School, and the Chenery Middle School.
Yet Farrante was still critical of the process of spending funds without a solid factual reason to do so.
“I’m opposed to spending money simply because of inertia,” said Farrante.
The CPC decided to wait until its next meeting in January before voting on recommending funding applications for Town Meeting approval in May 2015.