Belmont Reopens Tennis, Track, Parks; Playgrounds, BBall Will Have To Wait

Photo: Alan Palm and his son Sawyer in the newly reopened Grove Street Playground.

On a warm Tuesday with willowy clouds overhead, Alan Palm and his son, Sawyer, are on the newly installed walkway that meanders around the Grove Street Playground; Palm père on his skateboard while Palm fils is riding his balance bike.

For the first time since mid-March, Grove Street is back open to the public and the Palms are taking advantage of the return to “normal” in the park.

“I’m very happy that the park is open,” said Palm. “I think we have to find ways to be able to maintain our health and safety.”

What attracts Palms to Grove is the expansive spaces a park provides, “where it’s possible for people to be social distance apart as opposed to just crowding onto the sidewalk. People need to take advantage of that.”

In the most visible examples of a return to normalcy since the sudden closure of many activities due to the COVID-19 pandemic in mid-March, Belmont is reopening several public spaces effective Tuesday, June 2.

The Belmont Select Board voted unanimously at its Monday, June 1 remote meeting to immediately begin a restart of the town’s public parks and athletic fields limited to passive activities such as walking and running, according to Jon Marshall, the assistant town administrator and Recreation Department director. Arrangements are being made with the School Department to allow use of the track around Harris Field.

In addition, the padlocks will be taken off the town’s tennis courts to permit singles action as well as doubles as long as the pairs are from the same household.

“First off, I want to thank all the residents for their patience. I know it hasn’t been an easy time with all the parks being closed,” said Jon Marshall, the assistant town administrator and Recreation Department director who coordinated the openings with other town departments.

The Department of Public Works is working to create and place signs with new rules and what activities are allowed at each site.

While the parks and fields are now open, residents will still be under state and town orders on minimizing human contact.

“We’re still looking at public safety as our main concern and social distancing and face masks are critical at this time,” said Marshall who said people should not congregate at these locations.

Board Chair Roy Epstein said residents should follow the guidelines of putting on a mask when you’re with six feet of a person not in your household, “if you’re off by yourself or can maintain six feet when they’re outdoor, a mask is a good idea but it’s not obligatory.”

But many activities will remain shuttered for the time being. Remaining off limits will be basketball courts due to likely contact between players. The town will not be issuing athletic permits for organized “pick-up” games such as soccer. Playground equipment aimed at young children will remain closed due to the difficulty in sanitizing the apparatus.

Marshall told the board that the Recreation Commission will discuss at its next meeting on June 10 on how and when to open the courts and fields as most of these activities will be allowed under a Phase II Commonwealth’s Re-Opening Plan from Massachusetts Gov. Charlie Baker’s administration.

Marshall told the Board his department could reimpose bans if residents do not abide by state and town regulations.

“We want to keep in mind that there’s still a pandemic going on … so we need to be very prudent in terms of the decisions that are made,” said Marshall.

Easy As 3.14159 … etc, etc

Photo: Making Archimedes proud (Donna Ruvolo photos)

What occurred on the newly constructed walking path at the Grove Street Playground on Saturday morning is what happens during a pandemic when smart citizens have a lot of time on their hands.

Using chalk and a great memory, some residents set forth to notate on the walk the calculation for the ratio of a circle’s circumference to its diameter, or as it’s better known, “π” (that would be “pi” for those unfamiliar with Greek graphemes.)

Here’s all that’s known about pi.

It becomes clear why March 14 was selected by writing out the date as numbers: 3/14, the first three numbers of pi.

While most people will know pi to at least five digits – 3.1415 – of this mathematical constant (why go further?), the Grove Street folks decided to start writing … and writing … and writing the sequence of number in the calculation until, in an Shel Silverstein-esque conclusion, the sidewalk came to the end at the curve.

The impressive writing out of this list of rational numbers was accompanied by notations such as “Happy π-day” and “easy as π“. There is one hint of who the author(s) could be from a proud boast written along side Archimedes’ constant:

“all memorized by my 11yr old girl!

Smart, indeed.

Editor’s Note: Credit where credit is due: To Precinct 7’s own Donna Ruvolo for sending these photos along.

Six Projects Clear First Hurdle Towards Securing CPC Funding

Photo: The Belmont Veterans Memorial project.

More fields being restored, a “re-do” and a saving a Belmont barn have submitted preliminary applications for funding by the town’s Community Preservation Committee, according to information released by the CPC on Tuesday, Oct. 3.

A total of six applications were received by the committee by its Sept.29 deadline,  according to Michael Trainor, who this week stepped down from the CPC Admin Coordinator position after five years of working for the CPC.

While five of the six have specific dollar amounts, one – the second request for an inter-generational walking path at the Grove Street Playground – was submitted without a price tag attached.

But in the preliminary application stage, “it’s not entirely necessary since the CPC is just looking at whether or not the project would be eligible to receive funding under Mass General Law and Belmont’s specific list of criteria,” said Trainor.

With the amount for the Grove Street project to come, the total dollars requested is $748,000. While the CPC will select the projects to obtain grants, Town Meeting will have the final say which receives funding.

The projects, the amount requested and the applicants are:

  • Town Field Playground restoration $180,000 (Courtney Eldridge, Friends of Town Field Playground)
  • Payson Park Music Festival shed/hatch $50,000 (Tomi Olson, Payson Park Music Festival)
  • McLean Barn conditions study and stabilization $165,000 (Ellen O’Brien, Lauren Meier, Glenn Clancy) 
  • Belmont Veterans Memorial restoration and enhancement $103,000 (Angelo Firenze, Belmont Veterans Memorial Committee)
  • Funds set aside for the Housing Trust $250,000 (Judith Feins, Belmont Housing Trust)
  • Construction of a Grove Street Park Intergenerational Walking Path TBD (Donna Ruvolo, Friends of Grove Street Park)

The Town Field project follows other park restoration projects including this year’s PQ Park renovation and the Grove Street Park path is similar in aim and name as the one approved for Clay Pit Pond. Tomi Olson’s hatch shell project was submitted last year but rejected after Olson could not produce the written support of abutters the committee had requested. Belmont received the abandoned dairy barn, located just south of the Rock Meadow Conservation Land off Mill Street, in 2005 from McLean Hospital. And the Belmont Veterans Memorial has been raising private funds to help pay for the renovation and construction on Clay Pit Pond.

Important dates for the applicants include:

  • Nov. 8, 2017: a public meeting to discuss the applications.
  • Dec. 4, 2017: Final applications are due
  • Jan. 12, 2018: The CPC selects projects
  • March 2, 2018: Project Summary Reports Due 
  • Late April 2018: League of Women Voters Meeting
  • Early May 2018: Town Meeting

Tennis Players, Rejoice: Selectmen Backing Reconstruction of Grove Courts

Photo: The drone view of the Grove Street Playground tennis courts.

Belmont residents could soon see another set of tennis courts undergo a complete renovation as the Board of Selectmen voted at its Monday night meeting, Sept. 26, to sponsor a proposal before the Community Preservation Committee to replace the courts at the Grove Street Playground.

The project adjacent Dalton Road, which will cost $336,000, is the third of three repairs to tennis courts town-wide the board has backed in recent years. Work is set for the Winn Brook courts adjacent to the elementary school and Joey’s Park at Cross Street while the renovation of the Pequosette Park courts has been completed. 

The new courts, which will include replacing the surface and laying a new foundation, are expected to last for up to 20 years, said David Kale, Belmont town administrator.   

The project still needs the approval of the Community Preservation Committee and finally Town Meeting in May 2017. 

Less is More Appeals to Many at Grove Playground Public Meeting

Photo: The Activitas team, Jonathan Charwick (left) and Patrick Maguire, at the public meeting at the Beech Street Center.

Paths, trees, reconfigured ball fields, soccer field, exercise stations, new parking and tennis courts.

For Dalton Road’s Deborah Lockett, the question isn’t that these activities and features are “good things” (most are, she said) to be included in master plan for a renovated Grove Street Playground in East Belmont that was presented before 60 residents at a public meeting held Monday, April 13, at the Beech Street Center.

But for Lockett, what needs to be asked by the town, community, and the firm designing the new plan is if it is all too much for one park to incorporate.

“Any report that is written must identify when [the playground] reaches maximum usage,” said Lockett, a Precinct 7 Town Meeting Member.

The question and others were presented to the town’s consultants from the landscaping and planning firm Activitas as the Dedham-based company prepares to present a nearly finalized landscaping design as well as an estimated cost for revitalizing Grove Street, which has been the long-time home to Belmont Youth Baseball (with three diamonds) and Belmont Youth Soccer.

“I can be back here in about a month with an updated plan,” Jonathan Charwick, the Activitas associate who creating the landscape blueprint and design for the playground, told the Belmontonian after the meeting.

And from what he and Patrick Maguire, Activitas’ president, heard, the less, the better according to the audience.

For many of the abutters in attendance, even small improvements such as walking paths taking residents from one section of the park and formal parking, would take away the “rural” nature of the playground.

But for Maguire, “there are no issues that can not be overcome” as he presented two conceptional plans to the audience. In both, the designs were there to improve this “great” park that had become “rough around the edges.”

The first, dubbed Option 1, was the clear favorite of those in attendance. In the design (see the plan here and below):

  • the baseball fields would stay in their current location but with temporary fencing that will allow for multiple uses in the baseball off-season,
  • a removable double batting cage that is placed into the park’s prominent slope,
  • a new small hill that will create a slightly larger sledding hill during winter,
  • a reorganized playground along Grove Street.

In addition, Maguire pointed out there will be paved walking paths to be used by parents using strollers, children on bikes and older residents to transverse the playground; specified parking spaces on Dalton Road, Grosvenor Street and Foster Road; four exercise/fitness stations along the paths; and entry “plazas” that will provide seating.

The second option, which suggested more significant changes to the parkland – a 43 space parking lot at Dalton and Grosvenor, a new playground that would take two tennis courts and the ballparks would be cramped onto land that has two fields – was universally rejected by the residents attending the meeting.

Residents questioned ranged from where to store the removable fences (that will be determined in the future, according to Belmont Department of Public Works Director Jay Marcotte), how will the improvements will be paid (nothing set aside as of now, said Town Administrator David Kale, but likely it will come from a combination of funding from the Community Preservation Committee, the Capital Budget Committee and from public/private contributions) and if there could be a dedicated source of money for upkeep and maintenance.

There was also a request that the design does not have barriers such as bushes or seating as it attracts “sex and drinking” in the past.

“We will attempt to make sure there is no congregating or conjugating,” said Maguire.

A few abutters felt that adding walking paths, permanent parking, and exercise areas would bring the park “have an urban feel” that takes away from the “rural-ness” they had hoped to see.

For Charwick, a path would prevent the field from reverting to a “muddy” area.

Others suggested a stronger police presence in the area would serve as a better parking control rather than creating actual spaces.

After the meeting, Charwick said taking the residents’ suggestions (“keeping it as green as possible”) while attempting to enhance the park’s “programs” – be it youth sports or for just the casual visitor – “will take a balance of what we know works.”

Whatever the outcome, Lockett wants to see any master plan have specific language on how the town will determine when the park “hits its max” of the number of activities in Grove Street.
“And unless it’s in black and white, on paper, we will be back with the same concerns that began this,” said Lockett, referring to Youth Baseball’s initial attempt to place the batting cage on the site.

“Unless it’s written down, then there’s room for something else being brought into the playground,” said Lockett.

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Grove Street Playground Public Meeting Set for Monday, April 13

Photo: The Grove Street Playground.

Draft plans for one of Belmont’s most used playgrounds will highlight the third round of public meetings on a proposed Grove Street Playground Master Plan to be held on Monday, April 13, at 7 p.m. at the Beech Street Center, 266 Beech St.

According to the Belmont Department of Public Works, information, data and suggestions gathered at the initial public meetings on March 4 and 9 have been incorporated into several draft design concepts of the playground by consultant Activitas Inc. and are ready to be reviewed for additional feedback.

First Grove Street Playground Master Plan Meeting Tonight at 7 PM

The first public meeting on a proposed master plan for the Grove Street Playground is being held tonight, March 4, at 7 p.m. in the Board of Selectmen Room of Town Hall. 

The town’s Department of Public Works and Activitas Inc. – a Dedham-based development company that led the redevelopment of Belmont High School’s Harris Field – will speak to neighborhood residents and seek their input to better understand issues facing residents.

Tonight’s meeting and a second gathering to be held March 9 geared towards youth groups that use the field are part of the process in writing a comprehensive, long-term strategy for the heavily-used open space/playground on the Cambridge town line in east Belmont. 

Last year, the Capital Budget Committee allocated and Town Meeting approved $30,000 to fund the study of one of the most used playgrounds in town. With three dedicated ball fields, Grove Street is the home for youth baseball in Belmont. The soccer field in the lower section is used from early spring to late fall by Belmont Youth Soccer. In addition, the park has four tennis courts, a basketball court, a new playground as well as being a popular sledding site during the winter. 

Town Schedules Meetings to Discuss Grove Street Playground Master Plan

The town of Belmont has announced a pair of public meetings targeting specific audiences in March to discuss the creation of a master plan for the Grove Street Playground.

The town’s Department of Public Works and Activitas Inc. – a Dedham-based development company that worked on the redevelopment of Belmont High School’s Harris Field – will be hosting two meetings in the Board of Selectmen Room of Belmont Town Hall as they begin writing a comprehensive long-term strategy for the heavily-used open space/playground on the Cambridge town-line in east Belmont. 

The first meeting will be on March 4 at 7 p.m. when Activitas Inc. and town officials will speak to neighborhood residents as they seek their input and to better understand their issues.

The second meeting is on March 9 at 7 p.m. when youth organizations representing soccer, baseball and other sports that use the playground will give their input to their concerns.

After the meetings, Activitas and town departments will discuss the public information acquired which will be used to set a course for the Master Plan.

Further public discussions will be scheduled with neighbors, youth organizations and others at future public meetings.

Residents Group to Present Argument for ‘McMansion’ Moratorium

The newly-created Belmont Citizens for Responsible Zoning is hosting a meeting for Precinct 7 Town Meeting Members in the Flett Room at the Belmont Public Library tonight, Thursday, Feb. 5, from 7:30 p.m. to 8:30 p.m where it will present its case for  a moratorium on construction of oversized single-family dwellings in a large section of the precinct.

Last month, the residents group submitted to the Town Clerk’s Office a citizen’s petition seeking to place a one-year suspension of oversized single-family dwellings in a portion of Belmont’s Single Residence C Zoning District. The amendment to the zoning bylaws has been accepted and will be presented to the annual Town Meeting in May. The petition will need to achieve a two-thirds margin of acceptance to be approved.

The area – known by long-time residents as Shaw Estate – includes single-families within the bounties of School, Washington and Grove streets and Grosvenor, Dalton and Bacon Roads.

See the group’s flyer here.

The group believe oversized replacement homes – popularly known as McMansions – change the character of neighborhoods by excluding middle-income families from buying single-family homes as assessments and values of surrounding homes increase, crowd out sunlight and natural habitats while taking advantage of zoning that is not as strict as existing rules for renovations and additions.

 

The group will also lead a discussion on recruiting candidates to fill vacancies in the precinct’s Town Meeting delegation.

New Group Seeking Moratorium on ‘McMansions’ Near Grove Street Playground

Photo: 185 Dalton Rd. is an example of an “overbuilt” homes near Grove Street Playground which initiated a citizen’s petition.

Building on the success of those who brought a temporary halt to residential teardowns in Belmont’s Waverley Square area, a newly-created group submitted on Jan. 11 a citizen’s petition seeking Town Meeting approval to place a one-year freeze on the construction of so-called “homes on steroids” or “McMansions” in the neighborhood around the Grove Street Playground.

According to one of the leaders of the Belmont Citizens for Responsible Zoning, the initiative could become a jumping off point for a more wide-ranging rethinking of Belmont’s residential zoning laws.

“This could be farther reaching than just this moratorium. We believe this group will have a broader appeal around town to re-examine the bylaw,” Stephen Pinkerton told the Belmontonian.

The BCRZ is seeking to place a one-year suspension of “oversized single-family dwellings in a portion of Belmont’s Single Residence C Zoning District,” according to the group’s press release dated Friday, Jan. 16.

The area – at times called the Shaw Estate – includes single-families within the bounties of School, Washington and Grove streets and Grosvenor, Dalton and Bacon Roads. (See map below.)

The moratorium would set a 32-foot height limit from the average grade to the roof ridge of structures built to replace demolished homes, also known as teardowns.

According to Pinkerton, the area has seen the construction of five large teardown replacements in the past two years. (See second map below.) One example is 185 Dalton Rd., newly constructed with 4,000-plus square-feet and 34.1 feet high. It replaced a Garrison Colonial built in 1952 with 1,600 square-feet.

The press release states concerned “oversized replacement houses will:

  • change the character of the neighborhood;
  • crowd out sunlight, trees, and natural habitat for song birds;
  • exclude middle-income families from single-family home ownership;
  • undermine the value of existing homes; and
  • take advantage of zoning that is not as strict as existing rules for renovations and additions.”

Pinkerton said he and the group are not opposed to developers building in the neighborhood.

“They have a right to make a living like the rest of us. But there should be some limits on what is built,” he said.

Pinkerton attributes the successful effort by neighbors in Precinct 3 and 4 who fought for a one-year moratorium two years ago as spurring the BCRZ to seek its stay.

“They set the precedence,” said Pinkerton.

Town Meeting in May 2013 passed a moratorium on single-family homes being replaced with two-family structures in general residence zoning districts with the majority located near to Belmont’s Waverley Square. In the five previous years, 20 single-family houses were torn down and replaced by 40 attached townhouses in the area.

The article will need to win two-thirds approval from the 290-member Town Meeting. If that occurs, the BCRZ “will work with the Belmont Planning Board and others to craft new zoning by-laws that will help preserve the neighborhood’s distinctive character,” said the press release.

The BCRZ will be holding a precinct meeting in the next few weeks to discuss the moratorium.

Pinkerton said the BCRZ’s moratorium effort could start a discussion on a possible comprehensive review of the town’s residential bylaw in the near future.

“We already see interest in that. Our expectation is this sort of discussion will only grow.”

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Moratorium Flyer