Touch-A-Truck Returns For A Second Year On Oct. 7 In Belmont Center

Photo: Living the dream at last year’s Touch-a-Truck event in Belmont.

It’s back: The second annual Belmont Touch-a-Truck event is on Saturday, Oct. 7, from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m.

Bulldozers, snow plows, garbage trucks, police vehicles and motorcycles, fire and EMT apparatus, and a whole assortment of large vehicles will be open for children – and their parents – to climb into and explore at the Claflin Street Parking Lot in Belmont Center.

“Last year it exceeded all our expectations, the honking notwithstanding,” said Stephen Rosales, formerly of the Belmont Select Board and a member of the board of Belmont Youth Activities, who is sponsoring the event along with the town’s D.A.R.E. chapter.

“But honking [the vehicles’ horn] is what all the kids and some of the adults wanted to do, quite frankly,” Rosales told the Select Board at a recent meeting.

According to Rosales, talks are also underway with the Belmont Lion Club to have a mobile eye examination clinic that can test kids’ vision in 30 seconds to detect early signs of problems.

Attendees can expect refreshments – it was hot dogs and water last year – and there was a request from the Select Board.

“Stephen, can Touch-a-Truck include touching a food truck? That would be good too,” said Board Chair Roy Epstein.

One More Month: Leonard Street To Remain One Lane ‘Til Oct. 25; And Free Lot Parking!

Photo: Traffic flowing on Leonard Street

Belmont residents will have four additional weeks of al fresco dining and one way traffic along Leonard Street as the Belmont Select Board voted 2-1 to extend the closure of the main thoroughfare in the town’s business center until Sunday, Oct. 25.

The board majority – Adam Dash and Tom Caputo – felt the extra time will continue to benefit eateries in the Center and across town which have been particularly hit hard due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

“I heard a lot of support from the [Belmont] community for continuing it that is addition to what the business community in Belmont Center,” said Caputo.

The sole dissent came from Roy Epstein, the board’s chair, who said he was keeping a promise made to the business community that includes retail operations that the roadway would be opened on Sept. 28 which will free up dozens of on-street parking.

“Maybe it’s going well for the restaurants but I think the harm to the other businesses is actually invisible to us,” said Dash.

“I think we should give them the best shot,” said Dash.

Along with the continuation of one-way traffic on Leonard Street, free parking will continue for residents and visitors in the Claflin Street municipal lot located off Channing Road in Belmont Center.

Belmont Center Parking Meters Back In Operation Beginning Friday

Photo: Inactive no longer as parking stations will be activated on Friday in Belmont Center.

The days of free parking throughout Belmont Center will come to an end beginning Friday, July 17, after a vote by the Belmont Select Board at its remote meeting on Monday.

“It’s a return to normality,” said Board Chair Roy Epstein as the members voted unanimously to honor an “explicit” request by the Belmont Center Business Association to reactivate the pay stations for parking spaces on Leonard Street, Moore Street, Alexander Avenue and Channing Road.

The ask from the business group came after their members observed many of the spaces being used by people leaving their vehicles all-day at prime locations. Paid parking in Belmont Center was suspended along the street and in the Claflin Municipal Parking Lot behind the center as a way to help merchants during the slow down during the COVID-19 pandemic.

The Board also decided to keep free parking in the Claflin lot through Labor Day.

As Projects Near Finish, Belmont Center Parking Plan Returns (As Does Free 2-Hr Parking in June)

Photo: Leonard Street’s newest structure.

While the daily encounters with construction equipment and traffic delays along Leonard Street may feel like an eternal visit to Purgatory, the reconstruction of Belmont’s commercial hub’s roadways is just months from completion. 

And with the finale of one task, the town has begun the next big chore, implementing the long-talked about parking plan for Belmont Center.

According to Belmont’s Town Administrator David Kale at Monday’s Board of Selectmen’s meeting, as the major work in Belmont Center comes to an end – the roadway and sidewalk component will be finished by the end of July or early August and the former Macy’s/Foodies Urban Market is now scheduled to open before Thanksgiving – now is the time for the town to begin presenting a comprehensive parking program for Leonard Street, the surrounding side streets and the Claflin municipal parking lot to residents.

“Let’s gear up and make contengency plans with businesses and others so when [Foodies] is open,” the town will be ready for a critical mass of parking coming to the 199-space Claflin lot, said Kale.

The most immediate announcement on parking is that the town, in association with Belmont Savings Bank, will provide two-hour free parking in the Claflin lot for June. 

Using as its guide the parking plan created by Nelson\Nygaard Consulting Associate in March 2012, there are several operating principles that will lead the process. The most significant of the principles, said Kale, is finding ways to increase parking spaces in the Claflin lot and on town streets.

“That become more important with retail spaces coming online,” said Kale, noting the introduction of Foodies Urban Market, the independent supermarket which caters to selling prepared foods and fresh produce. 

That need for upping the number of spaces, or just as important, freeing up spaces on a regular basis will necessitate the establishment of metered parking along Leonard Street as well as changing the current two-hour free parking in the first two rows of the Claflin lot. 

“We are looking to increase quick stops” to augment the number of total customers who can shop in the Center. One aspect of that goal will be increased enforcement of parking regulations on Leonard and Claflin, including patroling the lots and streets into the evening. 

Other areas that will need to be changed is revisiting the designated commuter parking areas – since the program began last year, only six commuter parking stickers have been sold by the town – and the location of parking for owners and employees of Center businesses.

“We may want them to be situation somewhere other than” the municipal lot,” said Kale.

Kale also said the town will work with businesses in an attempt to steamline delivery times to merchants to prevent the current backup of traffic along Leonard Street. 

“We have started a conversation with the Belmont Center Business Association” and we’ll have public meetings” to discuss the town’s plans in the next few months, said Kale.