It's the largest portion of developable land in Belmont; the has the potential of adding millions of dollars in tax revenue to the town’s coffers.
And if the town’s ’s initial blueprint presented Tuesday night, June 28, to the Belmont Planning Board was adopted, a new village-style neighborhood would arise where abandoned garages and empty lots now stand adjacent the long-winding road between Shaw’s supermarket and the Belmont Police Station.
“My vision for (the south Pleasant Street development plan) is that it’s a village atmosphere as opposed to a planned unit development,” said Jay Szklut, manager of Planning and Economic Development of his draft outline.
Szklut’s report – which he concludes is only a preliminary study at this time – comes as the Planning Board anticipates presenting a new zoning bylaw for South Pleasant Street to the special fall Town Meeting in a few months in an effort to promote and control the area’s development.
Szklut said the ‘South Pleasant Planned Village Development’ – bounded by Pleasant Street on the north, Trapelo Road on the west, White Street and the southerly boundary of the MBTA lands on the south – should permit a mix of land uses, densities and building types as well as promote “a vibrant, compact, pedestrian-friendly development with the virtues of a traditional New England village.”
Under this plan, stores, restaurants and services in buildings up to 12,000 square feet would be welcome.
Not allowed would be banks and credit unions, fast food restaurants, adult entertainment establishments or storage trailers.
In addition, Szklut’s plan would permit mixed-use development consisting of a combination of stores, offices, restaurants, movie theaters, art galleries and commercial off-street parking facilities.
While most of the commercial development would be restricted to three stories, the plan would allow four-story buildings to be built to meet massing concerns.
A special permit under the authority of the Planning Board would allow any use in excess of 12,000 square feet.
Meeting market demands, protecting character
“The town of Belmont desires to encourage projects that will meet the demands of the market, improve the economic base of the community and protect the town’s character,” he wrote in his report to the Planning Board.
Planning Board members said it’s important to distinguish between properties that are on South Pleasant Street and land long associated as being part of Waverley Square.
Chairman Sami Baghdady also sees a possibility for “sub-districts” to be included in the plan, promoting more commercial construction in areas where the Planning Board can be “more aggressive” with heights.
“(Planning Board member) Andy (Rojas) is working with Jay to help develop models/illustrations of what it will look like,” Baghdady said.
“We want to make sure that what we do adopt will be reasonable and viable and that everyone will understand it.”
But one Waverley Square neighborhood resident was not pleased with the presentation.
"I'm was very troubled to hear … (the) rezoning of Waverley Square and Shaw's for up to four stories,” said Waverley Terrace resident Judith Ananian Sarno, who as a Town Meeting representative for Precinct 3, will be voting on any zoning changes.
Sarno noted that attempts two years ago to rezone portions of the Waverley Square neighborhood to allow taller commercial structures was “met with significant resident opposition to the excessive building heights and masses.”
Now, Sarno said, the town is “trying to rezone the same properties by recasting them” as part of a south Pleasant Street planned village.
“Belmont residents have consistently opposed such urban-scale building heights,” she said.
Rojas said the Planning Department’s outline is only preliminary.
“This is a brainstorm list with recommendations members of the Planning Board do not have any attachment to,” he noted
The Planning Department will be dedicating a link in the near future on its website pertaining to discussion and work on South Pleasant Street.