Election for Belmont Selectman and Others: Tuesday, April 4
Compiled by John DiCocco
Each year we ask candidates for selectman about issues they will likely face in the next three years. This year Guy Carbone and Adam Dash are running for the seat of Sami Baghdady, who retired after three terms as selectman. They were allotted 1,000 words each to distribute as they saw fit.
Belmont Citizens Forum: Now that development pressure is growing again, how can Belmont improve its planning process
Guy Carbone: Belmont is a neighborhood of residences. Town committees should consider the opinions of Belmont residents concerning decisions that affect their particular neighborhood, most importantly zoning. Those affected by proposed development should be given timely and sufficient information to discuss and share common issues with the Planning Board prior to final decisions being made. We must also allow for the fact that Belmont residents have changing lifestyles and demands. There must be coordination between and among boards/committees. Development’s effect on the school system, traffic, public safety, and balancing cost/benefit ratios to Belmont, taxpayers, and tenants, are all important. I remain very concerned for the owners’ real property rights versus eminent domain exercised by government.
Adam Dash: We need to make sure that any growth is strategic, appropriate, and desired, so I recommend engaging residents in a public conversation about our shared goals for development. We want new businesses, with the services and tax revenue they bring, but we also want to protect the character of our neighborhoods and reduce our impact on the environment. Together, we must decide what type of development we want, what we do not want, where that development should go and to what extent. The result can be a set of focused and actionable goals to guide the planning process—not a study to sit on the shelf. For example, let’s discuss what kinds of uses would be appropriate for Belmont’s many underutilized properties, like defunct gas stations and abandoned buildings. As an attorney specializing in zoning matters, I was involved in a similar visioning process for the city of Somerville as a member of the mayor’s Zoning Advisory Committee that successfully aligned residents and businesses behind a shared development vision for the community. This is an important step we can take to improve Belmont’s planning process.
BCF: What recommendations do you have for the re-use of the former Belmont Light building and the town incinerator?
Dash: The former Belmont Light building will be decommissioned around 2021, after the new electrical substation comes online. Between now and then, we will explore the possibilities for the building’s re-use, whether for expansion of the police station, creation of private commercial or mixed-use development, or other uses. As part of a larger town-owned tract of land, we should look at the entire site, including the police station, and the opportunities that result from being adjacent to the train station, the planned route of the community path, and the Belmont Center commercial district.
Dash: Possible uses [for the incinerator site] include a new police station, athletic fields, or solar farm. . .
The former incinerator site is part of a larger discussion of our aging infrastructure needs. Based on the terms of the land transfer from the state, the incinerator site is restricted to municipal uses. Possible uses currently under discussion include a new police station, athletic fields, or a solar farm (either by itself or as part of one of the other possible uses). Each possible use requires a different type of cap to contain the site’s contamination, and each cap has a different cost which needs to be taken into account.
For both sites, these decisions must result from a community discussion about how they fit into the long-range plans of the town. The reuse of these sites is up to all of us.
Carbone: I spent my entire professional life in the design and construction of buildings and so-called linear construction, and built a very successful law practice involving legal aspects of architecture, engineering, and construction. My vision for the incinerator site is to use this site for parks and play areas. The interest of both boys and girls in Little League and soccer necessitates access to more play space. Further, this area has adequate space for parking and managing environmental impacts. Before the site can be used, it must be remediated.
Carbone: My vision for the incinerator site is to use this site for parks and play areas.
Regarding the Municipal Light Building, I reserve my recommendation until the Town Meeting deliberates upon the design options for both the high school and the public library. I also defer my opinion because I’ve been involved in similar buildings and recognize that the town faces costly environmental concerns irrespective of whether there is renovation and/or demolition (i.e., lead and asbestos abatement). In addition to decommissioning this substation, we’re looking at many millions of dollars and several years to accomplish that end.
BCF: What is your position on the proposed community path through Belmont, including its route?
Carbone: Public safety and security in our neighborhoods must be our first priority. Having attended presentations and being intimately familiar with the proposed courses, I appreciate the details and intricacies of locating and designing the community path. Without the benefit of the upcoming March 8 meeting* that will address the options and challenges of the easterly proposed route, it is premature for me to state a position on the final routes. As a registered professional engineer, I find the information and presentation by K3 Landscape Architecture and Pare Corporation to be cogent and thorough. I’m concerned about drainage issues from the paved surfaces, which I have expressed at public meetings. I support community paths, especially for recreation and reducing air pollution from motor vehicles.
Dash: I support the community path. The path provides multiple benefits to Belmont residents—relieving traffic, reducing carbon emissions, providing recreation opportunities and promoting physical fitness. I have seen the positive impact of community paths in neighboring communities, where thousands of bicycles replace thousands of cars. These paths create economic growth by bringing new customers to business districts who would otherwise drive through without stopping. The path route must be safe and convenient, otherwise it will not be used. While the feasibility study has explored multiple routes, I believe a path adjacent to the railroad tracks is best for achieving these goals.
Dash: The [community] path provides multiple benefits to Belmont residents—relieving traffic, reducing carbon emissions, providing recreation opportunities, and promoting physical fitness.
The community path is eligible for federal/state funding that has covered 100% of the construction costs in other towns—after the feasibility study (underway) and preliminary design (potentially a CPA project).
BCF: Belmont is under orders to stop polluting local streams with sewage. What will you do as selectman to comply?
Dash: Remedying Belmont’s stormwater pollution is not just desired, it is mandated, and failure to do so puts the town at risk of legal action. In my role on the Warrant Committee, and with my background as an attorney handling development projects, I worked with our community development department to strengthen the language of the town’s stormwater bylaw before it went to Town Meeting. We must crack down on illegal hookups to the sewer system, continue the ongoing sewer line replacement project, and ensure that any development in town handles its own runoff.
Carbone: The issue of polluting local streams with sewage fundamentally involves combined sewer overflows (CSO). Belmont has nobly identified and separated storm drainage from sewers. If there remain CSOs in Belmont, I will cooperate with the Public Works Department and the town engineer to remediate those overflows. Stormwater pollution issues also occur as a result of runoff from fertilized lawns, gardens, landscape, illegal sewer connections, etc., any one of which or any combination of which can cause backup and leak into stormwater systems, causing downstream contamination. In conjunction with the Planning and Zoning Boards and other boards and committees, I will extend my best efforts to limit contamination and educate residents about downstream impacts to our own neighborhoods as well as surrounding communities.
BCF: The Historic District Commission plans to ask Town Meeting to revise the demolition delay bylaw and make it permanent. Do you favor that?
Carbone: The present demolition bylaw will expire on June 30, 2017. Because I am a champion of property rights, nevertheless with sincere respect for the reasons we should preserve historic buildings, I do not foresee any reason why the temporary moratorium should not be extended for an additional three-year term. The present bylaw has been in operation since 2013; we need to assess its efficacy. Any and all known shortcomings should be presented to the 2017 annual Town Meeting. Nevertheless, I do not favor implementing a permanent demolition bylaw without further findings.
Carbone: I do not favor implementing a permanent demolition bylaw without further findings.
Dash: I support making the demolition bylaw permanent. In my role on the Warrant Committee, I worked with the Historic District Commission to revise the original proposed demolition delay bylaw to cover buildings of historical significance, rather than all buildings of a certain age. By working collaboratively, we were able to write language that represented a broad consensus and was supported by Town Meeting. The bylaw is working well and should remain in place so we can balance our need for responsible development while preserving our history and town character.
BCF: Will you propose any innovative ways to add to Belmont’s status as a Green Community?
Dash: I am proud of the commitment our community made to reduce greenhouse gas emissions through the 2008 ballot question that was approved by 70% of Belmont voters, and I am grateful for the work done by committed Belmont residents and town departments and officials to achieve our designation as a Green Community. There are many grant opportunities available to Green Communities—but we need to be more proactive in applying for grants and more aggressive about using grant funds. For example, in the short term, we can get quick payback through a Department of Energy grant we just received to retrofit our streetlights with LEDs. We should explore the use of idle-reduction technology for town utility vehicles, which could provide quick payback at low cost.
Dash: We should find ways to incorporate solar panels in development projects and increase the rate of recycling.
We should find ways to incorporate solar panels in development projects and increase the rate of recycling. And let’s not forget, Belmont has many experts living in town whose innovative ideas and skills we can tap. As a selectman, I want to provide strong leadership to leverage our Green Community designation and apply for grants uniquely available to Green Communities for programs that will benefit residents and help us achieve our climate action goals.
Carbone: Recognizing that an eco-friendly community is only as strong as its residents and that neighborhoods are adopting more efficient ways of living, I believe in preserving our undeveloped land and increasing recreational space for all generations. I will help to set policies that encourage more homeowners to adopt so-called “green technology” such as solar energy and electric cars. Presently, the net-metering provisions in effect in Belmont do not offset the investment into solar panels as compared to rates adopted by other Massachusetts communities.
Carbone: I believe in preserving our undeveloped land and increasing recreational space for all generations.
To encourage adoption of solar energy, we must make the conversion, to whatever extent, from fossil fuel to solar energy as financially rewarding as programs in other communities. I advocate the adoption of solar energy either as a supplement or a total conversion, depending upon the individual property owner. I will encourage and work with the Office of Community Development, Belmont businesses, and population centers (Cushing Village) to encourage all parking garages and parking lots in Belmont be made to include facilities for charging batteries in electric cars (more so than what is presently planned in Belmont Center today). As Belmont enters a period of construction on several other capital projects, plans must include Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) [standards]. Finally, I will work to remediate air pollution caused by motor vehicles during commuter hours, especially in Belmont Center.
Carbone: As Belmont enters a period of construction on several other capital projects, plans must include LEED standards.
BCF: How should Belmont prepare for the risk of flooding at the new housing in the Uplands (now the Royal)?
Carbone: Improper management of stormwater and drainage are two of my concerns. I have reviewed the design of the subsurface stormwater storage and disposal system in the Royal Complex in the Uplands. The system in the main is comprised of large, subsurface interconnected cisterns which store and when surcharged dispose of excess water into the surrounding wetlands. In my professional opinion, that design appears to be more than adequate for its intended purpose, except for extreme conditions where flooding may reach the adjacent pond during storms exceeding the so-called 100-year storm. Nevertheless, I do believe that the design by the engineers to control stormwater, if faithfully followed in construction, will provide for the concerns of the surrounding residences and buildings.
Dash: The Uplands project is required to implement measures to avoid worsening flooding in the surrounding area. We have to hold the Uplands developers responsible if their flood control measures do not work.
Dash: We have to hold the Uplands developers responsible if their flood control measures do not work.
The town must be vigilant and monitor the situation to ensure they comply. We can encourage nearby residents to report flooding changes, and if increased flooding is detected, it must be mitigated right away.