Special Town Meeting Petition on Belmont Center Delivered to Town Clerk

Photo: Town Clerk Ellen Cushman counting signatures.

It appears Town Meeting members will have to forego one summer night on the shore or lounging in the back yard after a group seeking to reverse a last-second change to the Belmont Center Reconstruction Project has delivered what they believe is the necessary number of signatures to Belmont’s Town Clerk  this afternoon, Tuesday, July 7, to call a “special.”

Bonnie Friedman of Hay Road presented 302 signatures on a petition to Town Clerk Ellen Cushman who will begin certifying the names. At least 200 signatures from registered voters must be certified for the process to begin. 

Under Massachusetts General Law (MGL 39 §10), a special town meeting must take place by the 45th day after the date of petition is submitted. According to Cushman, with the petition was received by her on July 7, the latest a Special Meeting could take place would be Aug. 21.

The petition was created by Cross Street’s Paul Roberts after the Board of Selectmen made two major changes to the $2.8 million Belmont Center Reconstruction Project some time after major construction began. 

In May, the Board called a public meeting outside its regular schedule to hear from 96-year-old Lydia Ogilby of Washington Street who submitted her own petition that would protect a crop of trees in the center (which had already been chopped down) as well as keep a cut through from Moore Street to Concord Avenue adjacent Belmont Savings Bank. 

The board approved keeping the byway and adding four parallel parking spots next to the bank. The changes left a much heralded “Town Green” located in front of the bank to be reduced to an island surrounded by roadway.

The project design had taken four years to develop under the tutelage of the Traffic Advisory Committee who held a number of public meetings to discuss the project. 

Opposition to the Selectmen’s changes revolved around the vanishing “Green”, increased traffic and a view that the Board had overstepped its authority to make changes to a project which an earlier special town meeting in November 2014 approved the financing based on the finished blueprint. 

An attempt by proponents of the original design to discuss the matter before the Selectmen resulted in a shout-filled brouhaha in which a police officer was called to oversee the meeting.  The next day Roberts began seeking signatures.

The petition reads: 

We, the undersigned registered voters of the Town of Belmont, Massachusetts, request that the Board of Selectmen of the Town of Belmont place an article on the Warrant for a Special Town Meeting to read:

“In proceeding with the Belmont Center restoration project, as approved and funded by Town Meeting on November 17, 2014, shall the Board of Selectmen and other Town officials be directed to adhere to the plan represented in the Belmont Center Improvements design documents put out to bid by the Town in January 2015, said documents based on the conceptual plan presented to Town Meeting in the November 2014 Special Town Meeting. These documents shall be used in place of the Board of Selectmen’s revised Belmont Center restoration conceptual plan, adopted unilaterally at a meeting held on May 28, 2015.”

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