Cityside Subaru To Supersize Pleasant Street Location With Big New Dealership

Photo: A preliminary design of the proposed new Cityside Subaru dealership on Pleasant Street.

Belmont-based Cityside Subaru is about to supersize itself as it will bring before the town a proposal to double the size of its location by building a nearly 40,000 square foot all-purpose dealership on Pleasant Street.

When completed, the new multi-level structure will occupy 39,900 square feet on 1.6 acres and rise to nearly 40 feet overlooking the roadway. So far no price tag has been placed on the project or when construction will commence and a proposed opening day.

While details are still sketchy, the dealership will pull the curtain back on its intentions on Thursday, Sept. 9 at 7 p.m. at a virtual Zoom meeting of the Belmont Planning Board.

One important thing Cityside does have in its hands is a variance on the proposed building’s height and the number of stories as well as a special permit on lot coverage coming from a 2020 ruling by the Belmont Zoning Board of Appeals. Those actions by the ZBA will allow the new building to reach 38 feet and three stories, an additional six feet and one floor above existing zoning requirements.

But the most significant allowance for the developer is in commercial lot coverage which doubles under the proposal from 38 percent to 73 percent.

In an effort “to create a more efficient customer experience,” Cityside’s proposes to demolish the existing building at 790 Pleasant St. – constructed in 2003 – in addition to the pair of adjacent structures on parcels Cityside purchased in the past few years. The new building will be completed in phases to allow the existing dealership to operate while the new structure – which occupies 774A and 778 Pleasant St. – is under construction.

The ground floor will have 24 service bays, pull-in spaces, parts, retail and storage. The rear of the building will be for customer and employee parking and new vehicle storage. The second or main level will be a new showroom, offices, conference rooms and customer “amenities.” The top third level will be structured parking where new vehicles will be stored.

Cityside – which is a member of the Colonial Automotive Group – is proposing hours of operation to be: Monday to Friday, 8 a.m. to 7 p.m.; Saturday, 8 a.m. to 8 p.m.; and Sunday, noon to 4 p.m.

In its application to the Planning Board, Cityside broached what will be one of the most contentious issues it will face: traffic, suggesting the redesign will “reduce unnecessary vehicle movements” along Pleasant Street.

News reports from across the country reveal the new Cityside building will be one of the larger structures constructed by a Subaru dealer.

Bidding Opens For New Skating Rink, Decision On Winning Offer In May

Photo: A new rink will replace the five decade old “Skip” Viglirolo Skating Rink.

In the same week the Belmont’s Skip Viglirolo Skating Rink was forced to shut down due to “unseasonably warm” temperatures – in January(!)– the town and schools OKed opening the bidding process to build a next-generation private/public partnership skating facility on school property west of Harris Field.

“This is actually a big moment in the development of this project,” said Jeffery Wheller, Belmont’s senior planner before a joint meeting of the Select Board and School Committee as each group voted unanimously to approve the release of the final version of the request for proposal on Jan. 15.

“Hopefully after tonight’s presentation we’ll get some exciting responses to the project,” he said.

The town’s Community Development Office also released a seven-month timeline of important milestones the RFP will undergo before a deal is struck.

  • Wednesday, Jan. 15: RFP is released to the public.
  • Wednesday, Jan. 29: Site visit and preliminary meeting with interested parties.
  • Tuesday, Feb. 25: Select Board/School Committee discuss review process.
  • Friday, March 20: Proposals are due.
  • Tuesday, April 7: School Committee/Select Board review top proposals.
  • Tuesday, April 28: School Committee/Select Board interview best proposals.
  • Tuesday, May 12: School Committee/Select Board selects the winning proposal.
  • Monday, June 1: On the second night of the 2020 annual Town Meeting, a Special Town Meeting will be convened to vote: 1). To lease school property to a private developer(s) and 2). amend the definition in the town’s zoning bylaw on municipal recreational uses.
  • Tuesday, June 9: School Committee awards a contract to the winning proposal.
  • Between June 10 to July 8: School Committee negotiates a long-term lease with the selected developer(s).

The town is predicting the design and site plan review process managed by the Planning Board will take between six to nine months. Only when that is completed can the developer seek a building permit.

The existing rink – known as “The Skip” – will remain in operation until the new facility is up and running and will be taken down by the town unless the area that the rink currently occupies will is needed to fulfill the town’s programmatic needs.

The RFP is fairly similar to earlier drafts, although a proposed tennis complex has been removed from the proposal.

The main features of the RFP include:

  • The facility – which may be expanded to be a year round operation – will need to share the land west of the existing rink and Harris Field with three athletic fields, a pair of throwing circles and 110 parking spaces (90 reserved for students on school days) that will be built at town expense.
  • The facility – with a maximum height of two-and-a-half stories – can contain a full-size and one half-size sheet of ice. The building will have at least 300 seats for spectators, public restrooms, a skate shop and food concessions.
  • The building will have a minimum of four locker rooms with two containing 35 lockers for boys’ and girls’ varsity and the other two with 45 lockers for the junior varsity teams. Each room will have a coaches room, showers and storage. The facility will also have a refs room, an athletic trainers room and wet area.
  • Two locker rooms will also be used by high school fall and spring sports, one each for the home and visiting teams. The restrooms will also have outdoor accessibility.
  • The town would “prefer” a zero-net energy facility i.e. avoiding fossil fuels to power the site.
  • The high school’s ice hockey teams will have four consecutive hours of ice time Monday to Saturday, during the 15-week season. Games will be played over two hours. Belmont Youth Hockey will have hours and times that meet its growing needs as will programs linked to the town’s Recreation Department.
  • The hours of operation will be negotiated with the winning bidder and the town.

Each candidate will be evaluated and ranked based on a matrix in which the town will grade the four comparative evaluation criteria the town has selected.

For example, those bidders that can show experience designing and building a significant number of similar rinks that have been successful and with similar goals as Belmont is seeking will receive a “very advantageous” ranking; those who have built only “some” facilities will be seen as being “advantageous” while those with no experience constructing rinks will be deemed “non-advantageous.”

Planning Board Seeking Two New Members To Join ‘Congenial’ Group

Photo: The Planning Board’s acting Chair Stephen Pinkerton.

With two empty seats on the group, the Belmont Planning Board is looking to close the gap before the start of a busy fall season, said acting Planning Board Chair Stephen Pinkerton.

“We are reaching out to residents who want to volunteer to serve with a group that is doing some important work for the community,” said Pinkerton, who took over from the previous Chair, Charles Clark, who stepped down after serving nine years on the board.

The board is seeking candidates to fill a full-time vacancy – with the departure of Clark – and an associate member’s position. For both seats, “clearly there’s a need for someone who has strategic or master planning experience,” said Pinkerton.

Those interested in applying for the positions can go the town’s “Talent Bank.”

Created to protect and preserve the character and quality of life that defines Belmont, the Planning Board will face a number of high profile cases coming before its docket in the coming months including a residential and educational development on the two last open parcels at McLean Hospital, multiuse construction along South Pleasant Street and creating bylaws on short-term rentals such as those on AirBnB.

Pinkerton said one area of expertise the board would like to add is someone with legal experience.

“We have a good representative group with planning background so it will be useful to get a lawyer on board,” said Pinkerton who said McLean specifically “will not be an easy one” to resolve as the town and hospital are working within a land management agreement created 20 years ago this November.

While the associate member is not a full voting member, Clark said it’s likely whoever is appoved by the Select Board will be the board’s representative on the 2020-2030 Belmont Comprehensive Plan, which is the framework to guide future decisions and policies governing a wide range of land-use related issues in town.

Creating a new town master plan will “not be a start from scratch” project, said Pinkerton but rather skillfully taking out what has been accomplished since the last revision and help input policies approved by the Planning Board such as the Housing Production and energy plans.

Pinkerton believes a one-time member of the Warrant Committee or the Capital Projects Committee would be ideal for the position.

The Board will be taking its time during August to find the best person to join “a really congenial group. We’re not a fire brand agency,” said Pinkerton.

Planning Board Shelves McLean Residential Project As Affordability Takes Center Stage

Photo: The Planning Board in session.

A proposed 125 unit residential development on one of the last large parcels of open space in Belmont was shelved by the Belmont Planning Board as questions of affordability, density and other issues were raised by residents and board members.

“We don’t have the time” to satisfactory review the proposal before a Town Meeting vote, said Board Chair Chuck Clark at the Thursday, March 14 meeting as the board voted unanimously to not bring six bylaw changes to the town’s annual legislative gathering.

The postponement is a victory for affordable housing campaigners who contend the McLean Hospital Zone 3 project is the one best and likely final opportunities to bring a substantial number of accessible units into the town’s housing inventory.

“Let’s slow this down so we all can get to and work together,” said Rachel Heller, co-chairman of the Belmont Housing Trust, which has been advocating for greater income diverse housing through public policy – securing the town’s Housing Production Plan – and with growing activism. 

The delay is a blow to property owner McLean Hospital and Northland Residential, the proposed developer, which were seeking a positive vote at the annual Town Meeting in May to expedite the construction of what a Northland executive called an “age directed” project on nearly 13 acres of land set aside for housing when Town Meeting approved a mixed-use development plan with McLean nearly two decades ago in July 1999.

While the proponents pointed to the success of the nearby Northland-developed The Woodlands as being replicated on Zone 3, board vice chair Stephen Pinkerton said: “there are a lot of issues in terms of density and interest in affordable housing that need to be vetted among a half a dozen entities in town.”

“This won’t pass [Town Meeting] by a two-thirds majority” as Pinkerton motioned to the residents filling the Selectmen’s Room, suggesting the process be “paused.” 

Clark told the Belmontonian the Planning Board will ask the Belmont Board of Selectmen to create a task force with “everybody” including the Housing Trust, residents in addition to McLean “to figure this out.”

“I see this come back to Town Meeting in the fall,” said Clark, referring to an anticipated Special Town Meeting that typically takes place in November. “I suspect we’ll come to an agreement, it will just take a while.”

While campaigners did not have specific numbers or percentages of units, advocates said they are available to assist McLean and Northland either by introducing established affordable developers to partner with the proponents or work independently.

“A task force will create the opportunity for all these voices to be heard and then really think how to develop something that’s beneficial for McLean meets the town’s needs,” said Heller.

The question now hanging over the stalled development is if McLean and Northland will accept a new round of negotiations that could result in a greater affordability component.

McLean and the developer both noted in their presentations Thursday night the nearly 13 acres is currently zoned to accommodate approximately 500 apartment-style units in a high-density complex that includes buildings upwards to six stories tall and generating considerable vehicle traffic.

But it’s unlikely McLean would go that route and the developer admitted the “bankability” of such large assisted living/care complexes has waned considerably in the past decade.

The development – located on the southern ridge of the hospital close to Star Market and Pleasant Street – would be a “senior directed independent living residential community” consisting of 34 large 2 to 3 bedroom townhouses with a sales price of upwards of $1.5 million similar to those in the adjacent Woodlands along with 91 “flat” 1 to 2 bedroom apartments located in four-story buildings. The complex would provide town coffers with $1.6 million in added tax revenue.

Under a revised plan, 20 apartments would be designated “affordable” for those making 80 percent of the area median income (for a two-person family, an 80 percent AMI would be $63,050), an increase from a proposed 9 units that target buyers with an AMI as high as 120 percent ($94,550 for a two-family household). 

When the meeting was thrown open to public comment, it was quickly evident that despite a doubling of the number of affordable units in Zone 3, housing advocates felt, as Heller noted, “we can do a lot better.”

With Belmont still 337 units short of the state’s goal of 10 percent affordable housing. McLean is “one of the few if the only way for the town to get to that 10 percent,” said Heller, who said that rather than townhouses, the community needs more rental units as more than 40 percent of Belmont renters are “cost-burdened” as housing costs take more than a third of their income.

Gloria Leipzig of the Belmont Housing Authority noted the 40-unit Waverley Woods, designated in the 1999 agreement for low and moderate income housing, was built on 1.4 acres, “eight times” the space being proposed for the Zone 3 development.

“Certainly more than 34 large townhouses and 90 [apartments] can be built on this property,” she said.

Squandering The Potential 

As the land was “laid aside for specific community needs,” once a development proposal is adopted, “we can’t take this zoning back,” said Joseph Zarro, pastor of Belmont’s Plymouth Church. “I think we’d be squandering the potential of this land” under the proposed project.”

One resident commented on a statement by a Northland executive who said the new townhouses that would likely sell for $1.5 million was built “for folks that look like me and you.” Elizabeth Lipson of the Housing Trust said she is sensitive to “dog whistle” comments that housing in Belmont should be built with a certain income level in mind.

“One of the objectives of many of us is to diversify our town by income and … also by race,” said Lipson, who found the comment “upsetting.” 

Throwing another wrench into the works was a legal ruling brought forth by attorney Roger Colton who noted a 2002 ruling by the state’s Land Court against the town’s Planning Board and Zoning Board of Appeals (American Retirement Corp vs  et al) limiting both boards “to make its own interpretation of what was ‘best’ for the town” which should be left “to the legislative process.”

With issues of housing diversity, density and a sticking point that the bylaw changes would benefit the current proposal but not alter the existing zoning map, leaving the possibility of a future developer to build to the approved level of nearly 500 units, Clark said there was no chance the board could resolve any of the outstanding issues by the end of the month.

“There are too many moving parts,” he said.

Nearly lost in the residential development discussion was McLean’s earlier proposal to construct a campus for children and adolescence education and a research and development center on an adjacent parcel located to the northeast. Known as Zone 4, the development will not start for upwards to five years as the hospital raises funds for the project, said Michele Gougeon, McLean’s executive vice president and chief operating officer.

Eventually, the site will include a combined academic and residential building and a “small” Research and Development building which will fit inside a 150,000 sq.-ft. envelop.

Clark noted in past agreements, due to the R&D portion is being reduced by more than half of the original, the town could be obligated to pay McLean for that change, a statement Gougeon said would need to be reviewed.

By the end of the night, Clark believed there will be a solution to the issues face all parties.

“I think McLean can do better. I think Belmont can do better,” said Clark.

Developer Proposes Senior-ish Housing At McLean; Residents Push Added Affordability

Photo: A photo/map of the “senior driven” development on McLean Hospital.
A luxury residential developer came before the Belmont Planning Board on Tuesday, Jan. 16 with a proposal to construct a major senior-ish project on the McLean Hospital property comprised of 34 townhouses and 70 garden-style units in a parcel zoned 20 years ago for comprehensive long-term elder care.
While West Concord-based Northland Residential (which developed the 121-unit The Woodlands on Belmont Hill) contends the proposal is a better fit than an earlier but failed 482 unit, 600,000 sq.-ft. project approved in 2001, several residents and members of the town’s Housing Trust are already pushing for a greater emphasis on affordability that would serve an aging Belmont population.
“There are 1,000 cost burdened seniors living in Belmont and that number is expected to grow,” said Gloria Leipzig of the Belmont Housing Authority and the Housing Trust. “There is a need for affordable senior housing and I think we need to … see this as an opportunity and try and figure out a way to increase the likelihood of more affordable housing on the site.
Flanked by Michele Gougeon, McLean’s chief operating officer, Northland President and CEO John Dawley said the yet unnamed project will be “senior directed” that is unlike the “Continuing Care Retirement Community” concept which includes independent and assisted living as well as nursing home care that the parcel is currently zoned.
“It will have a floor plan that is attractive to 55-years and older,” said Dawley.
Created on November 1999 after Town Meeting approved new zoning for the property that May, a memorandum of agreement between the town and McLean rezoned 238 acres into specific uses including housing, open space, research facilities and senior living.
Since the agreement, most of the land approved for redevelopment would become part of The Woodlands at Belmont Hill, a townhouse development. One of the two final open parcels is the senior-oriented Zone 3 consists of nearly 13 acres near the corner of South Pleasant and Trapelo and a similarly-sized Zone 4 set aside for Research and Development.
Gougeon told the board the hospital will develop Zone 4 into an 86,000 sq.-ft. child and adolescence academic center and then later add a small R&D center. But the parcel’s build-out “will take some time” as the hospital will need to fund raise before building can commence, she said.

In Zone 3, the Northland plans call for 104 independent, non-age restricted units. Thirty-four will be two-to-three bedroom townhouses like those in the Woodlands and two four-story “flat style” buildings with seven to nine units per floor consisting of either two bedrooms or one bedroom and den garden-style apartments. There will be senior or elderly care services as part of the development, just grounds and maintenance staff. Under the current plan, the affordable housing component will remain at nine percent of total units which calculates to nine units.
The development would be situated on the ridge above a proposed assisted living facility along South Pleasant Street. The location has utilities in place and will be ready to be built. As proposed, the completed project will bring in an additional $1.4 million into town coffers, not including permits and fees. 
Dawley said the demographics of those who’ll be purchasing these homes – mostly those 55 and over with no dependent children living with them –  show that they aren’t necessarily downsizing, most will be buying without a mortgage and own a second home elsewhere. Similar townhouse units in the Woodlands run in the $1.2 million range.
The project will need two-thirds approval from Town Meeting as the complex alters existing town zoning requirements. But Dawley said those changes to the bylaw will be “very modest …” as the Northland plan “comports with the zoning very very well.” 
The next step for the board will be “a deep dive” into the zoning and debate the merits of those changes, said Board Chair Chuck Clark, noting the “devil’s in the details.” He also said the changes to the zoning will be presented to the annual Town Meeting as two distinct amendments.
One area that many in the audience of the nearly filled the Board of Selectmen’s room hoped the board and developer would discuss was the project’s affordability component. For Roger Colton, a former member of the Housing Trust, Northland is seeking significant changes to the current bylaw “but for affordable housing, which stays the same.”

The nine units set aside for affordable housing and the acceptance of owners making up to 120 percent of area median income” is unacceptable,” said Colton.
Rachel Heller (who is the CEO of the affordable housing advocacy organization CHAPA) said the Housing Trust is excited by the start of the planning process “because there is a lot that we can do together. McLean wants to be able to sell this land … the town needs more affordable housing so let’s put our heads together and work on it and let us use [the state’s Local Initiative Program] and really maximize the amount of affordable homes that we get out of [the development].”
The Local Initiative helps residential developers and towns develop a plan where a certain percentage of the units are affordable so a project can obtain zoning approval.

Letter To The Editor: Planning Board’s Meeting Date Is Quite Shocking

Photo: Yom Kippur begins at sunset on Tuesday.

Dear Planning Board,

As you probably know by now, the League of Women Voters of Belmont has been studying Marijuana in Belmont since September 2017. We, as a committee, try to stay involved and aware in all aspects of planning for Marijuana in Belmont. We happened to have a meeting last Tuesday. One person heard a rumor that there was a September Planning Board meeting soon, but no one knew the date. We went online, to the Planning Board website, and couldn’t find a date or agenda. One member of our committee watched the video of your last meeting to get more information but only got the date, no specifics.

So we were all quite surprised, when we got the paper on Thursday, that the big final marijuana meeting for the Planning Board is Tuesday! And, it happens to fall on one of the two most religious days of the year for Jews, Yom Kippur, so there
is no way for me to attend. Others in our committee have multiple engagements this week, so it seems unlikely that anyone from the League of Women Voters will be able to attend in person.

Since reading [media reports], and finally finding the agenda online, it seems that this is a Public Hearing on the Adult Use Marijuana Overlay District and might be the final time the public gets to comment before the November Special Town Meeting. If true, that seems quite shocking. How can you release information so close to the date of the meeting, held the public hearing on it on such an important religious holiday?

While I am writing, you might want to be aware that the League is holding a Marijuana Info Session on Thursday, Sept. 20 at 7 p.m. in the Community Room at Chenery. We hope that someone from your committee might be able to join us, but most of the focus will be on the upcoming Special Election Ballot Question.

Bonnie Friedman (Town Meeting Member, Precinct 3) 

Belmont LWV Marijuana Study Committee

Planning Board Expands South Pleasant District With Eye On Waverley Square

Photo: Andy Rojas at the July Planning Board meeting with the proposed plans for an assisted living center.

With an eye on the future of a “new” Waverley Square that will be unrecognizable “in 10 years,” the Belmont Planning Board has expanded the overlay district along South Pleasant Street it approved in July at its meeting on Sept. 6.

Originally running from 1010 Pleasant St. to Citywide Subaru at 790 Pleasant St., the new district will be enlarged to include the land along Pleasant Street to Trapelo Road including the Getty service station, Star Market to the Belmont Car Wash. 

“It makes perfect sense to include Shaws and the Car Wash,” said Charles Clark, chair of the board, as potential development could come to the doorstep of Waverley Square, the least active of Belmont’s three business centers. He said action by the board could result in major changes in the next decade at the transportation hub of west Belmont. 

Clark said he has been receiving positive feedback from the developer of a proposed assisted living center at 1010 Pleasant, the Belmont Housing Trust and from those who have promoted mixed commercial/residential development along the stretch of land.

Zoned as a Local Business District 2 (LB2), the Planning Board is advocating overlaying more lenient LB1 zoning regulations which will allow developers somewhat greater leeway on what is constructed without the need to enter the at times laborious “special permit” process when they exceed the zoning restrictions. 

Andy Rojas, the architect for Belmont Manor which presented preliminary plans to develop the assisted living center in July, pointed out that as currently designed meets all but one of the dimensional zoning regulations – such as maximum lot coverage, minimum open space and building height – under the LB1 regulations, while missing the mark on most of the restriction in an LB2 district. 

If the board makes the change, “we’re in compliance” which will allow for the facility – a first in Belmont – to be built in a timely manner, said Rojas. It will also allow similar establishments such as independent living, nursing and full-care facilities to be proposed. 

“Yes, I can see that work,” said Clark. 

Advocates for greater construction of affordable housing are speaking up for the overlay district. Rachel Heller for the Housing Trust noted that in an LB1 district, multi-family, assisted living, and mixed-use housing would be allowed. It could also result in developers being offered increased density and height to developers in exchange for additional affordable housing units and/or affordability levels. 

The Trust also hopes the Board should consider creating a 40R district which provides financial incentives for communities that create zoning overlay districts that encourage smart growth housing development.

The Planning Board will next meet on Tuesday, Sept. 18 at Town Hall. 

Brown Bag Talk: How Marijuana Regs Will Impact Belmont

Photo: Sale of marijuana begins 

The League of Women Voters in Belmont is holding a Brown Bag discussion on local marijuana regulations with members of the Belmont Board of Health and Planning Board on Friday, March 9, from 12:30 p.m. to 2 p.m. at the Belmont Public Library’s Assembly Room.

The Massachusetts Cannabis Control Commission released draft regulations and has concluded hearings and discussions on these regulations. They are due to release final State Regulations by March 15. Licensing for facilities starts April 1 and retail businesses can open in communities that allow the sale of pot on July 1 with Belmont delaying openings until Dec. 31. How will this affect Belmont?

Bring your lunch; beverages and cookies provided. The meeting is open to the public.

Questions should be sent to BrownBag@BelmontLWV.org

Second Time A Charm: Sanderson Appointed To Planning Board

Photo: The Planning Board earlier this year.

For Edward “Sandy” Sanderson, the second time was a charm as the planning professional was appointed as an associated member of the Belmont Planning Board by a unanimous vote of the Belmont Board of Selectmen on Monday, Oct. 30. 

Sanderson’s selection came six weeks since the Selectmen voted 2-1 to deny him a seat on the Board. The change now is the Planning Board has undergone a radical transformation since the mass resignation of three long-serving members this month. 

The Planning Board Chair Charles “Chuck” Clark asked the same board that skipped over Sanderson to select two other candidates – re-appointing sitting member Raffi Manjikian and selecting Dalton Road’s Stephen Pinkerton on Sept. 11 – recommended Sanderson for the associate membership as being “the most qualified candidate” of the resumes he had seen. 

Sanderson was a city planner for the City of Los Angeles and is currently an urban and transportation planner in the Boston office of a New York-based civil engineering firm.  Sanderson matriculated at Worcester Polytech and earned a master’s in planning from the University of Minnesota. 

The change in the composition of the Planning Board occurred after former chair Liz Allison and Barbara Fiacco resigned last week, following Manjikian’s lead leaving the board earlier in the month.

Manjikian fired off a heated letter to Williams accusing Clark of creating a hostile workplace after he accused Allison and Manjikian of abusing their positions in forwarding a public/private plan which included moving the Belmont Public Library to Waverley Square without speaking the Board of Library Trustees.

In an aside, Williams criticized the three former members for leaving their positions without providing notice of their actions.

“As far as I’m concerned, if someone is appointed, not only do they have a personal obligation but they have an obligation to the town to allow a more organized departure,” said Williams. “It’s not fair to the community to do it any other way.” 

Clark told the Selectmen adding Sanderson to the Planning Board’s will allow the body to reach a quorum to vote on issues brought before them, including requests for “special permits” – which includes superseding the town’s zoning bylaws – that requires a “super majority” decision that requires four votes. Clark said his board had four applications waiting to move forward but are at a standstill until Sanderson was appointed. 

This points to the reason why we need to move on this expeditiously,” said Selectman Adam Dash. 

As for filling the remaining two members, Selectmen Chair Jim Williams suggested opening the application process to a new round of resumes for ten days as the current ones on file “are stale.” 

Applicants can send resumes to the Town Administration Office until Nov. 9. The final decision on the two positions – one will be for a single year term and the other three years – will be made at the Selectmen’s Nov. 13 meeting. 

Breaking: Two Planning Board Members, Including Former Chair, Resign

Photo: (left) Barbara Fiacco; Liz Allison

Former Chair Liz Allison and member Barbara Fiacco suddenly resigned from the Belmont Planning Board since Monday, Oct. 23.

The departure of the pair comes less than a fortnight after associate member Raffi Manjikian angerly resigned on Oct. 13 due to a “hostile work environment” created by newly-elected Chair Charles Clark. 

As of Tuesday afternoon, the board has three members – Clark, Karl Haglund, and newly appointed Stephen Pinkerton – efficiently making it redundant to make decisions as it needs a fourth member. It will be up to the Board of Selectmen to appoint replacements.

Allison, Fiacco, and Clark could not be reached at this time. The article will be updated if they decide to respond. 

Allison and Fiacco’s letters – received on Monday, Oct 23 and Tuesday, Oct. 24 – were brief statements that did not elaborate the reason for their decisions.

“I am grateful for the opportunity to have worked with some very fine people and served a fine town,” said Allison.

Fiacco was more specific for her resignation, noting her “current workload and travel schedule. I am unable to dedicate the time necessary to address … challenges [facing the board] effectively this year.”

Allison and former member Manjikian were accused by Clark of abuse of power in September after it was revealed the pair had advocated moving the Belmont Public Library to a public/private Waverley Square development to revitalize the once-vibrant business center. The scheme, dubbed the ‘Big Idea,’ turned controversial when supporters of the library said they were never informed of the project or the move.

In the past month, a group of residents submitted a citizens’ petition to be heard at the Nov. 13 Special Town Meeting to consider changing the Planning Board from an appointed to an elected body.

Professionally, Allison is a noted economist who has served on the town’s Warrant, and Finance committees and Fiacco is a partner at the Boston law firm Foley Hoag.