Planning Division staff includes Senior Planner Timothy Higgins and Planning Coordinator Jeffrey Wheeler. The Planning Division has many responsibilities which include but are not limited to responding to public requests for assistance on all land-use related questions, reviewing development proposals and plans, drafting reports, grant applications, and Request For Proposals (RFP’s), scheduling board and committee meetings, representing the town at various local and regional events, acting as liaisons to other departments and committees, working with selected consultants and being available to respond to any other planning/zoning related issues. Some
highlights and accomplishments from 2004 follow.
A major accomplishment was the initiation of construction of three affordable housing units on B Street. Working closely with the Belmont Housing Trust, the West Metro HOME Consortium and the Waltham Alliance To Construct Housing (WATCH), planners were instrumental in bringing this affordable housing initiative from Town Meeting approval to actual construction in the fall of 2004. WATCH, a non-profit affordable housing developer was selected to construct market and sell the units. The Town conveyed two lots to WATCH and two duplexes will be constructed. Three of the four units will be sold as “affordable” while the fourth will be sold at market rate. Occupancy is expected in the spring of 2005. Belmont residents will have preference for two of the three affordable units.
Planners also worked diligently on a second affordable housing initiative on Brighton Street. After Town meeting authorized the sale of the property, the Boston Habitat for Humanity was selected by the Housing Trust to construct an affordable unit on the site. Planners liaisoned between the Town and Habitat to facilitate the development of this property. Administrative work will continue into 2005 and construction is projected for late spring or early summer of 2005
Planners were heavily involved in the planning for the re-use of the Waverly Square Fire Station. Staff planners filed and received approval for a $50,000 grant with the state to fund a planning consultant to produce a planning study and citizen participation process. Staff drafted a Request For Proposals and a consulting team was selected to assist in the process. The Waverley Square Fire Station Re-Use Steering Committee was appointed by the Selectmen and met almost weekly over a five month period. Planners staffed every meeting. OCD planners worked closely with the consulting team and the Committee through a series of public forums and meetings to draft a plan to re-use the building for seven housing units. Action is expected at a Special Town Meeting in early 2005.
Planners continued to focus on implementing the recommendations within the Belmont Economic Development Plan commonly referred to as the “Corridor Study”. Staff worked closely with the Zoning Board of Appeals to amend an important section of the by-laws per the recommendation of the Study. A subsequent zoning article was successful at the 2004 Annual Town meeting. Staff worked cooperatively with the MBTA and the Cecil Group, a private consulting firm to investigate the potential to develop the air rights over the Waverley Square MBTA station. While the project was financially and structurally feasible, it required the participation of abutting private property owners which was not obtained. Planners also submitted re-writes of the Design & Site Plan Review and Special Permit by-laws to the
Planning Board for consideration. It is hoped that the Board will hold the required public hearings and report the issues out for consideration at the 2005 Annual Town Meeting.
The Belmont Uplands remained an active and controversial project for OCD throughout 2004. O’Neill Properties LLC, owners of the property, request for a second rezoning to allow a high density, multi-family, residential development was not endorsed by the Town and was withdrawn prior to Town Meeting consideration. As a result, O’Neill filed a Site Eligibility Application with MassDevelopment (a quasi-public development agency) to construct 300 units of affordable housing at the site. This request was filed under the Chapter 40B Anti-Snob Zoning By-Law which allows developers to superceded local zoning regulations. The Senior Planner was designated the Town’s Project Manager and acted as the liaison with MassDevelopment, interested citizens and the Town. The Town strongly opposed the proposal and
filed a lengthy response to MassDevelopment officials. By the end of the year, MassDevelopment had not made a determination on the Application which was filed in April.
Despite legal delays, some activity continued with the McLean Hospital redevelopment. McLean gifted land to the Town per the 1998 Memorandum Of Agreement (MOA) to construct a new telecommunications facility off Concord Avenue. As Project Manager, the Senior Planner coordinated a development team, prepared applications and received necessary approvals from the ZBA and the McLean Land Management Committee. The new tower was erected in the fall and is expected to replace the existing, obsolete tower early in 2005. The Senior Planner also worked closely with McLean, Ellen O’Brien Cushman and Town Counsel’s office to implement various provisions of the MOA and the three Planning Board approvals Building Permits for residential units to be constructed by the Northland Development Corporation are expected to be
issued in early 2005. The Planning Division expects to see substantial construction begin in 2005.
Planners received many accolades for its web page throughout the year. The site is often used as a model for other departments as it is up-to-date, well organized and comprehensive. The Planning Coordinator was responsible for the improvements and will continue this effort through 2005. The site includes information on all projects and issues currently within the purview of OCD.
Planners continued to provide staff support and attend most every meeting of the Planning Board, Zoning Board of Appeals, Belmont Vision 21 Implementation Committee and the McLean Land Management Committee. Planners also provided support and/or technical assistance to the Board of Selectmen, the Waverley Square Fire Station Re-Use Steering Committee, the Belmont Housing Trust, Business and Economic Development Planning Group, and the Historic District Commission. The Planning Coordinator continued to administer money for affordable housing through the Newton HOME Consortium. This is a federally funded, regional, affordable housing program where the Town receives approximately $100,000 each year. Currently, the money is being used for the B Street development.
The Planning Division commits to providing a high level of service to the public in 2005. The Division is located within the Office of Community Development temporarily located in the Auditorium on the second floor of Town Hall. Office hours remain Monday through Friday from 8:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m. Ms. Adriana D’Andrea can be contacted during regular business hours to set up appointments. Residents are also urged to visit the OCD web page at www.town.belmont.ma.us for current information on active projects. Comments or questions are also welcome
electronically at firstname.lastname@example.org and/or email@example.com.
Timothy Higgins, Senior Planner
Jeffrey Wheeler, Planning Coordinator