With seeming little interest from outside sources, many believed the best use for the former Belmont incinerator and transfer station near the Lexington town line off Concord Avenue was as a new athletic field or adding it to the town's recreational land inventory.
That was until the past month when Belmont showed it was serious on putting a cap on the contaminated site.
Now with the town, a developer has contacted the town concerning a possible "private commercial use" for the site, according to town officials who discussed the matter before the Belmont Board of Selectmen's meeting held Friday morning, May 4.
The upside of a commercial operation on upper Concord Avenue could include a substantial financial windfall for the town in taxes and from emptying a stabilization fund that would no longer be necessary.
While not wishing to reveal the source of the interest, Clancy said the party could be seeking to develop the site themselves or be an intermediary for others.
"You will know soon enough as part of the process," said Peter Castanino, the head of the town's Department of Public Work.
The process of capping the site – which closed in 1972 – has been ongoing for the past 10 years under an order from the state's Department of Environmental Protection, said Glenn Clancy, director of the Office of Community Development.
Landfill capping is a containment technology that forms a barrier between the contaminated ash site and the surface. Belmont is at the beginning of that process where the town is seeking state approval to move forward with the next phase in the process, said Clancy.
There have been previous times in the decade where the town has been asked to pursue public private proposals converting the site into business uses yet "all those fell apart," said Clancy.
Since the initial commercial proposals "went away," the town moved forward on plans to use the newly sealed land for municipal uses including a park, recreational as well as the location for piling snow removed from town roads and parking, said Clancy.
But interest on the 20-plus acre site was renewed when Article 14 was approved to come before the May 14 Town Meeting. The measure requests $824,000 to be used to demolish the former incinerator building and conduct analysis and design studies.
Shortly afterwards, Clancey said "someone" approached him noting that other communities have found ways to use a private sale or a similar arrangement to sell those properties.
"And he asked if Belmont would be interested in disposing of this property for that purpose," Clancy said after the meeting.
Clancy said the inquiring party has not stated a specific use for the 17 acres of build able land.
Clancy said the best nearby example of a successful commercial use of a former landfill is Jordan's Furniture off exit 39 on Route 128 in Reading which includes a showroom, warehouse and 3D IMAX movie theater.
That is a much larger example then what could ever be placed on the Belmont site, "but it was where a municipality sold off a landfill to a private developer and demonstrating that it can be done," said Clancy.
"But even with that being successful, will the same process that worked there work here?" said Clancy.
Selectmen Chairman Mark Paolillo said it was the board's duty to "seek opportunities" for the landfill's sale that could be beneficial to the town on several fronts.
No only would Belmont receive an influx of real estate and other tax revenue, it could be possible that the developer would be responsible for the capping costs as part of the Request for Proposal process, said Paolillo.
Under those circumstances, the town would be able to close the Landfill Stabilization Fund, with nearly $5 million in reserves.
Yet Clancy told the board that as a former landfill, the mitigation and capping issues facing the town could ultimately limit the uses on the site.
"It maybe more challenging then what appears on the surface," said Clancy.
"We will be happy to look into what's possible, but we do have a process with DEP and we need to keep our eye on that ball," said Clancy.