The town committee appointed to dole out community dollars for a wide-range of projects decided last night to play singles and not doubles when it comes to funding repairs to a pair of Belmont tennis courts.
The town’s Community Preservation Committee rejected a request from the town for $295,000 to reconstruct and repair the tennis courts at the Winn Brook Elementary School at its monthly meeting held on Wednesday, Jan. 14 at Town Hall.
There is good news to the tennis-playing residents in the southern end of Belmont as the committee approved sending to Town Meeting a proposal to spend the same $295,000 to upgrade and restore the Pequossette Park (also known as the PQ) tennis courts located behind the VFW building off Trapelo Road.
[Under Belmont’s charter, only the 290-member Town Meeting, which meets each spring, can allocate funds from the Community Preservation Act account.]
The debate among the eight members was not that reconstruction work is required at both sites – the group agreed the courts need repairs for their long-term survival – but whether the courts are utilized by residents to warrant the money being spent.
“I believe there’s too much capacity in the number of tennis courts,” said member Floyd Carman. “It’s a distribution problem,” said Carman.
The committee agreed a comprehensive usage survey of the town’s tennis court inventory should be conducted before the community spends another dollar on repairs.
But putting together that study will require forming an oversight group – either within the Recreation Department or as an offshoot of an existing committee – and formulating the criteria to be used will be difficult, because, as Andy Rojas of the Board of Selectmen noted, “the study is time intensive because you’ll need to carefully monitor the courts’ use.”
While voting down the Winn Brook courts, the committee agreed to move forward with the PQ repairs “because it is geographically isolated, and it’s in worse shape,” said Carman, adding the town has only a limited recreation presence in the area south of Trapelo Road.
It is hoped the study will determine the maximum number of courts required for residents and school use, and whether any current courts can be transformed into locations with other activities, such as roller hockey or a skate park, said Carman.
The committee did approve sending to the annual Town Meeting other requests:
- 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,
- Digitization of historic Belmont newspapers from 1890 to 1983: $25,000 and
- Rehabilitation and restoration of the 1853 Homer House: $100,000.
While approving to send the Homer House request to Town Meeting, the committee did attach conditions to that request. One is to have the Belmont Woman’s Club – the building’s owner – put in writing what constitutes “public access” to the historic structure in terms of hours it will be open to residents and how much of the building can be toured.
“Public access is important,” said CPC’s Anthony Ferrante. “I want more specifics.”
In addition, the committee will discuss with Belmont Town Counsel George Hall whether a clause can be written into the structure’s deed that will allow the town to recoup the money it spent on the house if the building is ever sold.
Approved by Belmont voters in November 2010, the Community Preservation Act fund is financed by property tax surcharges and an annual stipend from the state’s “Massachusetts Community Preservation Trust Fund.” The funds are used towards recreation, historic preservation, affordable housing and open space.