Ambulance Base Approved for Pleasant Street, January Start Likely

Photo: Armstrong Ambulance Service’s CEO Richard Raymond speaking before the Belmont Zoning Board of Appeals, Dec. 22.

At a “special” meeting on Monday, Dec. 22, requested by the applicant, the Belmont Zoning Board of Appeals unanimously approved a Special Permit allowing Arlington’s Armstrong Ambulance Service to open a satellite base at 1010 Pleasant St. situated between Belmont Motors and Star Market.

The five vehicles – four basic medical transports and one advanced life support unit – stationed at the Belmont location are likely be ready to roll from the company’s ninth base sometime in January, according to ZBA staffer Ara Yogurtian.

The meeting was the continuation of the discussion earlier in the month at which the board asked for information on traffic impact and possible use of sirens from vehicles at the site.

The town requires a Special Permit since the zoning bylaw doesn’t cover this use and Armstrong would need to show how their operation would benefit the town, said Eric Smith, the ZBA chair.

Armstrong officials assured the board the vast majority of the vehicles activity takes place away from the office site.

“They will only be at Pleasant Street either in the garage or at the beginning and end of a shift. Other than that, they will be away from the base,” said Richard Raymond, Armstrong’s CEO.

Once leaving the Pleasant Street site, the four transports will be located in or near area hospitals such as the Lahey Clinic in Burlington or Cambridge’s Mount Auburn, nursing homes and dialysis centers handling non-emergency trips during their eight or sixteen hour shifts.

“Many of calls are from hospitals to transport patients back home and to other facilities,” said Raymond.

The single paramedic unit – which responds to emergencies and calls for medical assistance – will also be away from the base situated in and around Watertown pre-positioned in locations such as at Target and Stop & Shop. The unit is operational 24 hours a day and 365 days a year and “is fairly busy,” said Raymond.

Raymond told the ZBA members sirens are only used to “open the flow of traffic,” which doesn’t appear to be a problem on Pleasant Street. In addition, the “backup” alarm can be turned off by a member of the crew placing the ambulances in the garage bays.

The facilities for the ambulance crews at Pleasant Street will consist of a room with couches, chairs, television and a kitchenette. Vehicle maintenance is performed in Woburn. Oxygen tanks are stored in the garage as will medical equipment which will be delivered three times a week.

A legal requirement under state law is washing the vehicles after a shift, which the site allows as it has an existing oil/water separator, said Raymond.

There will be no public access to the office nor will there be signage. Fifteen reserved parking spaces next to the building are for Armstrong employees.

Once the Special Permit is written and submitted to the Office of Community Development – which could be completed in the next few days or within the week – a 21-day review begins after which the company can being operations.

Ambulance Firm Hopes to Land Satellite Office on Pleasant Street

A regional ambulance firm is seeking to set up a satellite office in Belmont on Pleasant Street in the new year.

Arlington-based Armstrong Ambulance Service hopes to build its 10th Boston-area outpost at 1010 Pleasant St. near the back entrance of Star Supermarket, according to a presentation representatives made before the Zoning Board of Appeals on Monday, Dec. 1.

The company is seeking a Special Permit to operate the business.

The company, which began in 1946 by Marine Corps veteran Bill Armstrong, want to store six ambulances inside the existing building on the site while keeping three wheelchair-capable vans outside. There will be no vehicle maintenance or hazardous material storage in Belmont. 

The operation will be managed from a 200 sq.-ft. office in the building. There will also be 15 parking spaces for employees. 

The Belmont office will allow the company to provide 24-hour emergency response in and around Belmont; its nearest operation is in Waltham. 

While it will be a 24/7 operation, the application stated that only one ambulance will be staffed between midnight and 5 a.m. unless there are pending weather conditions that would require more vehicles on the road.

The town can issue a special permit after the ZBA determines the business’ impact on the immediate neighborhood and the greater community. Board member Nicholas Iannuzzi said he would like to see a traffic study conducted on the effect of ambulance trips on the increasingly congested roadway while Chairman Eric Smith said he would like to see a clearer staffing schedule along with a protocol on when the vehicles would use their lights and sirens.

Three residents who attended the meeting – Judith Sarno, Austin Bennett Jr. and Mark D’Andrea, Jr. – spoke in favor of the business coming to Belmont.

The ZBA continued the hearing until January.