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Decision On Cushing Village 'By Town Meeting'

Planning Board Chairman predicts vote on Belmont's largest development in late April.

After nearly a year since first meeting, the Belmont Planning Board has sent out a tentative "save the date" for its big decision on the largest commercial development in Belmont.

Belmont Planning Board Chairman Sami Baghdady told Belmont Patch that he is pushing for a final up-or-down vote on the Cushing Village development before the annual Town Meeting set to assemble on April 29.

"I hope that we will be a position to vote on the project in a few month. My goal is before Town Meeting," said Baghdady.

Baghdady's announcement came after the chairman proclaimed that the board was prepared to move forward after 11 months of reviewing the critical "shape, size and mass" dimensions of the proposed 184,000 square-foot in the heart of Cushing Square.

"I believe that the consensus of the board is that we can move on to other issues. Read into that what you like," he said at the board's scheduled meeting held at the Beech Street Center Tuesday night, Jan. 22. 

"I think that the board needs to consider many other issues for this project to get approved. This project will never get approved if we don't move to other facets of the development," said Baghdady at the conclusion of the meeting.

Yet Baghdady would not provide Cushing Village's developer, Chris Starr of Smith Legacy Partners, with the board's "tacit" approval that other than minor "buffing" the shape and size of the $80 million project could be considered a settled matter. 

"While I think there has been considerable movement on this project in the last few months. I am not ready to give any approval on (the project's scale) because we don't know how things like economic analysis, traffic or parking will impact the density of the project. It is too early for any OK," Baghdady told Belmont Patch after the meeting. 

Cushing Village's Starr took a cautious approach to the board's willingness to move to other aspects of the project.

"I believe that after nearly a year of considering the board's suggestions and listening to its peer review consultant that Cushing Village has answered that major issues on its size and scale," said Starr at the conclusion of the meeting. 

Tuesday's meeting before 40 members of the public and the development team was the 14th meeting over nearly 11 months of discussion concerning the size, shape and mass of the three-building residential and retail complex stretching from the corner of Belmont and Common streets on the Watertown line, extending through Cushing Square to the corner of Trapelo and Williston roads. 

Smith Legacy's attorney Mark Donahue told the board that after hearing concerns and issues from the board and public, the team believes the project – with approximately 115 units of two-and-one bedroom apartments, 38,000 square-feet of retail space in the main building, restaurants, store front retail and private and municipal parking – will past the "sculpting and shaping" stage where major redesign is required.

"We are in the buffing stage," said Donahue.

Most of the meeting was demonstrating the tweaking by the development team's architects, Pat Quinn and Erik Rhodan, on areas of the project where the board and public over the past month-and-a-half expressed concerns notably on height and set backs.

The board's Karl Haglund brought up continued concerns from the Cushing Square Neighborhood Association that the development closest to the residential homes on Horne Road and Belmont Street was still visually and physically dominating. He suggested that more work be considered on the overall height of the project nearest the residents.

Barbara Siegel January 26, 2013 at 12:15 AM
I hope the Planning Board and the Neighborhood Association work out their issues quickly so the project can move forward. The eyesore on Common Street has got to go.

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